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e-HR Conference 1-4 October 2001


The conference organised by Linkage International took place at the Commonwealth Institute last week. The first and last days were pre- and post-conference learning sessions. The main conference days consisted of 2 or 3 keynote presentations per day, combined with four parallel tracks covering e-HR Executive Strategy, e-Learning and Development, e-Recruitment and Retention, and e-HR Applications. There were also themed tables over lunch and an evening reception on the Tuesday.

It was definitely a conference with a few trade stands attached, as opposed to many of the current conferences which are trade exhibitions with a few presentations attached. For delegates looking to listen to a variety of speakers and network with other professionals on these topics it hit the right note. For those looking to browse trade stands, or for those exhibitors looking to gain many leads, it may have been less useful. Attendance was between 100-150 people, with 57% originating from the UK, 35% from continental Europe, and the remainder from the rest of the world, some having travelled very long distances. The small size provided excellent opportunities for discussion. Although just over half the attendees were from HR functions, there did seem to be a large group of consultants present, but maybe that is because they were more willing to be outspoken in discussions!

The conference agenda had been carefully thought out, and it is obvious that effort had gone into attracting notable speakers such as Stéphane Garelli and Elliot Masie. Lynda Gratton, Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School provided the opening keynote speech, and there was a buzz of conversation for the remainder of the day on her ideas on mass customisation and employee choice, although some delegates felt that implementing them in their own corporations would be a challenge. Many were very interested in the findings of the e-learning survey recently conducted by Linkage (see below).

Breakout sessions were generally well-presented and thought-provoking. The value of the sessions varied depending on individual needs, but those which supplied lessons learned or practical hints and tips, as always, were popular, as were those from companies with similar size/budget/structure to those of the delegates. A general comment was that organisations have now moved on from a few years ago. Although many may not have implemented major e-HR or e-learning initiatives, they were no longer “beginners” in the level of understanding of the e-world, and are looking for stimulating ideas they can take back to the office. Finding UK-based case studies is still a challenge, but hopefully over the next few years there will be a wider choice from which to select.

The only big issue with this conference was the venue. Delegates had to walk long distances past miles of scaffolding to find the conference area, and the various rooms were spread out across the site. The Linkage staff did their best to act as guides, but it reduced time people could network and added some confusion.

Overall for delegates who want a small, specialised conference with good speakers, and chances to network, it appeared worthwhile. For those looking for a bigger opportunity to discuss a wider range of HR issues and to browse a number of exhibition stands, then a larger conference such as that of the CIPD may be more useful. For those with the right budget, attending both types of conference provides the best of both worlds.

e-learning survey
Linkage International completed an e-learning survey of 2000 senior and middle level staff in the second quarter of this year, and a summary of the results were presented at the conference by Todd Langdon, President. Some key points from the survey are:

People view e-learning as Web-based training (94% of respondents) or CBT/CD-ROM (90%), with two-thirds including portals and video-conferencing as constituent delivery modes for e-learning.

The most important drivers behind e-learning are the cost of training (74%) and geographic challenges (72%), with employee demand and competitive market trailing a long way behind with 45% and 44% respectively.

Certainly senior management demand or demand from the customers were not key drivers, which is concerning in some cases for those trying to sell an e-learning strategy internally.

Most people use e-learning for IT training (57%), skills training (50%) and management/leadership (40%).

These subject areas reflect the fact that cost and geography are the main drivers. Certainly IT training and skills training are the types of subjects that can show cost benefits because of the high volumes of students.

e-Learning currently only occupies between 0 and 10% of the budget for most (61%) of the respondents, and in general this number does not change when looking out 5 years. The remaining 40% of the population do plan on increasing their expenditure, with a jump from 5% to 24% expecting it to be between 41 and 60% of the longer term budget. At the moment however, face-to-face training dominates and only 10% of the people use the Web for learning.

The full (chargeable) report can be obtained from Linkage International.

Contact details:

Tel: +44 (0)20 8977 9277

Linkage International


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