Some Companies Just Aren't Ready for CBT

February 29, 2000
Everyone seems to be searching for the latest high-tech gadget to solve their training problems.

Given the host of training solutions on the market high-tech and otherwise-the decision to implement any technology, such as Web-based training, distance training or computer-based training, can appear to be an overwhelming task. And in some cases, rapid implementation of new and unfamiliar high-tech solutions can alienate some employees.

The truth is that the decision to implement a high-tech solution relies on the same basic rules as implementation of any training program; companies must assess their needs as an organization, determine their desired outcomes, and create a means in which to measure the outcomes.

Using only high-tech training solutions may not necessarily be the answer to your prayers, but infusing technology with your overall training program can help build the best training program for your company's needs.

Identify needs
The key to using technology in training is to choose which technological solutions are most appropriate for you, your organization and employees. A transition into high-tech learning might begin with mixing technology into a current curriculum.

For example, Company A might have its employees go online and take a short quiz or even reply to a pre-training questionnaire via e-mail.

Conversely, the option to follow-up on a day of live training with a Web-based course critique would be an excellent way to begin to blend technology into a current program.

Organizations like Web-based testing instrument Cyber Exam offer simple programs for creating tests, quizzes and surveys, and even offer to host the program for corporate trainers.

Additionally, tracking and reporting on training programs within your organization are critical functions. This process can be made easier by use of a learning management system. Such a system can be used very effectively to create, track and report on entire programs within your organization without forcing dramatic changes in your current programs. These programs vary greatly in price, features and ease of use.

Top-end systems like Saba Systems are intended to work across entire enterprises and manage every aspect of training within an organization. Saba Systems' programs carry a price tag at six figures and beyond.

At the other end of the spectrum is Allen Communications' Manager Edge, which can be purchased and deployed for as little as a few dollars per employee, while accomplishing many of the same things more expensive systems deliver. In this scenario you don't have to force a high-tech training solution onto an unsuspecting workforce. You can rely instead on traditional methods like video and live presentation to leverage technology without alienating your workforce.

Know what staff is capable of doing
The dizzying growth in the area of technology-based training solutions is causing a kind of backlash. Many companies are waiting to see which solutions are being adopted and which are unable to fulfill the promises they represent before making a commitment that may be outdated or inappropriate in a year or two.

A simple analysis of your organization's current technological infrastructure, including multimedia equipped computers and video conferencing systems, as well as a meeting with your IT department, can provide guidance for those unsure of their commitment to technological growth.

The time to start implementation for any high-tech training solution is now. The method depends on your goals.

If your organization's workforce is comfortable with using computers, start combining Web-based elements into current programs. If video or role-playing is the best way to train someone, work with your IT staff to offer streaming video to the desktop. This allows you and your workforce to move thoughtfully toward high-tech learning solutions.

Even if you're committed to full implementation of a technology-based training solution, you will need to roll it out in appropriate phases and will most likely have to continue mixing methods until you find the right balance. No solution in and of itself will conform completely to meet everyone's learning styles and needs.

However, if your goal is to create an organization based on continuous learning with the ability to track and manage your workforce's growth over time, show significant return on investment, and maintain employee retention, all within the confines of your budget and staff, then technology-based training will help to get you there.

Remember that these computer programs and systems are only tools, and are meant to provide faster, better, more complete training solutions when used properly.

The basic principles for managing an organization's training program will never change. We will always need to access the training needs and goals of our workforce; procure the proper programs, methods and people to deliver the training; generate tracking and reporting to provide continuous effective programs, as well as calculate the value or return on investment of training programs. Finally, we need to manage the company's most valuable assets-its workforce.

Technology will undoubtedly enable us to do our jobs better, faster and smarter when carefully applied with thoughtful planning, guidance and common sense.

Workforce, March 2000, Vol. 79, No. 3, pp. 123-124.