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Tailoring Blended Learning To Corporate Cultures


Unfortunately, many initial promises of extended training turn out to be little more than that but does it need to be like this? Find out how to weave your training programme into the fabric of the businesses corporate culture.

Most companies are extremely proud of their corporate culture. From the small details that make the company unique, such as answering the telephone before the third ring or ‘dress-down’ Fridays, to the larger and more strategic decisions, such as a corporate social responsibility or mobile working policy, most employees should be able to tell you what makes their company different.

These qualities are key in attracting staff to the business and keeping them there. In a commercially astute society, modern companies are often looking for the kind of policies that can differentiate them. With many jobs going unfilled for some time and skills gaps regularly appearing in multiple sectors particularly for jobs that require ‘hard’ skills organisations can face a problem with keeping staffing at capacity.

An important selling point that companies can use to attract employees is the training they offer as part of a joining package. However, it has almost become a corporate cliché for companies to boast about their induction training programmes, giving them elaborate names and promising new starters ‘fast-track’ schemes and rewards at the end of the learning process.

The empty promise
Starting a new job is often a busy time for new employees, involving inductions and training on HR policy, IT equipment and corporate structure. However, while this initial learning is a crucial first step for personnel joining the company, new process or equipment training doesn’t deliver skills that can be mapped onto returns or staff development.

Unfortunately, many initial promises of extended training turn out to be little more than that. While perks such as extra holiday, a company car or benefits are often written into employment contracts, in-depth training can quickly fall by the wayside once a member of staff joins the business and is up to speed on the basics. It is often far too easy just to say that ‘work got in the way’.

But it doesn’t need to be like this. Companies shouldn’t be put off making a training programme part of the fabric of the corporate culture – if anything it is one of its most crucial aspects.

Businesses can often be discouraged from formalising a training process due to the time it could take out of employee schedules. A culture of suspicion can form around training, with management frequently thinking that it reduces staff productivity while improving their transferable skills that are all-too-easily transferred elsewhere.

There are ways in which organisations can get round this negative view of training. Building education into the ongoing development of every member of staff should be the ultimate goal. Some tactics could be:

  • Include learning as part of employee contracts.

Incorporating training time into the contractual obligations of staff not only underlines a commitment to training that a company is prepared to put in writing, but also ensures employees and their managers can never use the excuse of being too busy to train.

  • Add training requests to regular appraisal meetings.

The appraisal process is a key time for employees and line managers to discuss strategic issues. A direct question from management on what courses or specific skills the employee would like to add to their knowledge fosters a culture of learning and creates shared goals.

  • Put dedicated time aside in the year for staff training.

Similar to adding training to a contract, dedicated learning days demonstrate a corporate commitment to education. In addition, putting something in the calendar that can be planned for, and around, means there won’t be any
last-minute crises that get in the way.

  • Ensure training is tailor-made.

Training is often talked about in generic terms. Employees have either had it, or they haven’t. But the key to a good training programme is in choosing the right courses for individual roles, and providing the best method for administering that training. Each job role should have training associated with it that ensures progression in the right disciplines. When a new role is created, a new programme should be designed to match, utilising a blend of classroom and online training that fits perfectly with the job.

  • Feed the value of training back into the business.

A good reporting mechanism to feed the benefits of training back into the business is crucial in keeping the momentum of a learning strategy up. An updateable roster of skills, or a report of increases in productivity or revenue as a result of individual training would be best, but anecdotal information or staff/customer testimonials can help.

A special blend
Training can often mean time out of the office, which can annoy busy team members or leave mangers with a depleted workforce. While
classroom-based learning is valuable, it is often most effective when blended with online learning for maximum reach and recall.

There are many options for different learning techniques out there that use technology to deliver compelling course content. Online seminars, some of which can be delivered live so students can interact with tutors in real time, can be mixed with classroom-based learning and offline material to create extremely efficient training programmes.

For some roles, a purely online approach might be suitable, whereas for others the skills needed would be best suited to a classroom session. In the most part, blended learning is the most effective way of training, and gives businesses the ability to both tailor the right package to their staff’s needs and plan costs and time well in advance.

We are the champions
Once it has been decided that a training strategy needs to become part of corporate culture, a team needs to be put in place to nurture the strategy and monitor the tactics. In some businesses, there is already a Chief Learning Officer that can drive the processes from above, ensuring the HR team includes training tactics in overall staff development. For others, training champions need to evolve often naturally from the HR team to push the benefits of learning and minimise time and costs.

As a training strategy matures, however, the benefits will soon become obvious. From increased productivity and lower staff churn, to happier customers and improved revenue, once learning is allowed to flourish the opportunities will become clear.

All it can need is for the long-term benefits to be effectively communicated, and training will quickly evolve into the cornerstone of corporate culture in any modern enterprise. For many, it could even become as popular as
dress-down Friday.

Joe Marcelle is UK managing director at Thomson NETg.


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