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Break With Tradition to Achieve Success


Organisations must move away from traditional forms of e-learning, training and development and embrace new approaches if they are to move ahead of their competitors, according to cotoco chairman Colin Coulson-Thomas.

Speaking in Edinburgh to members of the Large Organisation Network Group, he illustrated how using a new generation of support tools, which integrate learning and working, can generate returns of over 30 times the costs involved within months.

Coulson-Thomas demonstrated the benefits to organisations of adopting these tools. He explained that by combining learning, the critical success factors for winning business and the knowledge of how high performers operate, support tools can rapidly boost workgroup productivity. Returns of over 20 to 30 times the costs involved can be achieved, tools are bespoke to each customer.

Job support tools are particularly useful in the field of Human Resource Management. They can incorporate many different areas of expertise including training, development, learning (self and corporate), evaluation models, the management of Intellectual Capital and so on.

In particular, he gave examples of what pioneering companies are already doing and presented the returns on investment they have achieved. "In one case a return of over 70 times the cost of the tool developed by cotoco was obtained in the first year alone."

Return on investment was the theme of the day-long event hosted in Scotland. The cotoco chairman explained: "While there may be an association between training and development and higher performance, establishing a causal link is often difficult.

Effective management teams endeavour to do well in areas such as corporate governance and training and development, but their superior performance overall is often the result of many other things they get right. Evaluation needs to get specific."

A two-year investigation of corporate learning plans and priorities by Coulson-Thomas revealed that while large sums are spent on grandiose initiatives, fashionable concepts such as empowerment, and general 'quality', 'teamwork' and 'leadership' training, far too little is being done to help people to actually do difficult and important jobs.

The study involved corporate visits and 69 structured interviews with those responsible for the training and development of some 460,000 people. The results are summarized in a report entitled 'Developing a Corporate Learning Strategy'.

Coulson-Thomas found that "Many trainers and human resources teams 'follow fashion' and buy 'off the shelf' rather than think about what would be most appropriate in specific situations. They provide standard programmes regardless of individual interests and workgroup needs.

"They expose people working on very different activities to common experiences that have little relevance to their particular requirements and priorities. Key workgroups lack what they need to be effective."

The cotoco chairman explained: "Much of what is presented in traditional courses is quickly forgotten, while people find e-learning boring. Many e-learning centres are like chapels of rest.

"The largest returns on investment result when organisations use bespoke support tools to make it easy for important workgroups to understand complex issues and do difficult jobs. The focus is on vital areas like winning business and building customer relationships. Learning and working are integrated."

According to Coulson-Thomas, "Simply providing knowledge is not enough. People may also require skills and tools to apply it. Evaluations of tools developed for sales teams reveal improved win rates, increased cross and up-selling, shortened sales cycles, lower staff induction, reduced training costs, and less time out of the field. Many organisations are missing a historic opportunity to boost workgroup and corporate performance."

Professor Colin Coulson-Thomas is the chairman of cotoco, which provides services to help business' grow. For more information go to

'Developing a Corporate Learning Strategy' and a related report 'Managing Intellectual Capital to Grow Shareholder Value' are available from Policy Publications:


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