Bridging the gap between technology and commitment to workforce learning needs

by | Apr 16, 2013 | Articles

Organisations are rapidly moving towards a ‘cloud’ of consolidated talent management solutions. But is technology superseding usage? A global commitment to a centralised learning platform requires local support for unlocking its potential for end consumers.

Contents

  1.  Executive Summary
  2. The changing learning landscape
  3. Opportunity to embrace integration
  4. Closing the gap between opportunity and usage
  5. Benefits to students and end users
  6. No one size fits all – the need for local support
  7. Conclusion

Executive Summary

As more and more organisations are discovering the distinct link between language skills and business profitability, language learning is quickly becoming a vital component of their global talent management strategy.

And with the rise of globally deployed ERP systems with integrated talent and performance management suites, organisations face enormous opportunity to use all the systems available within a cloud of consolidated training and talent management resources.

Despite this trend, many organisations have a long way to go to embrace the full potential of the latest solutions. Methodology-based L&D staff may be deterred by the requirement to understand and implement technology and miss the expanse of opportunities which new systems offer in the learning space.

On a global level, organisations may cut back local support, mistakenly assuming that global commitment to one centralised system is sufficient. As a consequence, end users are disadvantaged and unable to reap the rewards of a fully integrated learning solution. Delivery of an integrated, unified talent and performance management system that is supported by local experts is the key to achieving both short-term and long-term talent mobility goals within an organisation.


The changing learning landscape

The recent M&A activity in the learning space signals the start of an exciting revolution, with large vendors moving towards the cloud at high speed. In December 2011, SAP announced its takeover of SuccessFactors and Salesforce followed, buying social performance management software company Rypple. Oracle has since integrated Taleo, giving it a powerhouse set of products for human resources and talent management. More recently, in August 2012, IBM announced the acquisition of Kenexa to help ramp up its analytics service, specifically in the identification of workforce skills. These significant changes have meant that multinationals are able to disseminate any type of information within the structure of their organisation in more ways than ever before.

With the rise of enterprise resource solutions, companies now have greater opportunity to work across borders, using all systems available within the ‘cloud’ of consolidated training and talent management resources. Companies are also able to integrate their talent management systems within their overall IT structure, especially those wishing to operate on a global scale. This is a relatively new trend, which is opening up opportunities for organisations looking at innovative talent management solutions to disseminate training that will deliver sustainable growth for their business.

In late May 2012, dp’s own cloud-based blended online language learning solution Speexx gained global recognition in delivering improved business communication skills, receiving the “2012 Golden Engine Award for Strategically and Sustainably Driving China’s Education Industry” which demonstrates a continued appetite for improving workforce agility and drive towards globalisation of business.
Opportunity to embrace integration

Despite the trend towards cloud-based technology, many organisations still have a long way to go to embrace its potential, particularly when it comes to language learning. According to a recent McKinsey report , in China barely 2 million managerial employees out of a population of over 1.3 billion could communicate in English on a management level, which is a startling skills gap in China’s labour market. The survey also found senior managers in global organisations switch companies at a rate of 30-40 per cent a year, which is five times the global average.

One of our largest global customers for instance, has forty-two different learning management systems. Obviously, this is both difficult to implement and maintain. On the opposite side of this, we have systems such as SAP, Oracle or Salesforce, which are typically sitting on top of any organisation. These systems already integrate different learning technologies and talent management systems into one cloud, opening up new opportunities for delivering, monitoring and developing an organisation’s learning space.

A harmonised system that can provide one message, a single set of learning resources and one philosophy is a powerful opportunity for organisations to embrace within their talent management strategy, especially communication skills training and language learning. Gone are the days when language learning was perceived as best learnt informally and in the country in which it is spoken. For the first time, technology can encompass all aspects of language learning, and has now become a vessel through which organisations can provide an effective training programme and determine what, when and how their staff learn.

There are enormous opportunities for organisations to grasp the full potential of technology and apply it to the broader context to how staff can learn, yet many of these are being missed by organisations. The recent Towards Maturity survey,  a report based on 8 years’ research involving over 1800 organisations, cited the top three barriers to the implementation of learning technologies by those related to L&D to be lack of knowledge about its potential use and implementation (62%), lack of skills to implement and manage the learning system and reluctance by staff to implement new technologies (61%).

These figures reflect how relatively new it is for HR and L&D staff to be confronted with the sort of data mining involved with implementing cloud technology in the learning space. We have companies that are now entering the L&D space such as Oracle and SAP who specialise in structuring data for large corporations. On the other hand, L&D is very much about methodology and how to teach, but suddenly L&D staff are faced with systems where it is possible to run statistics and operate sophisticated methods of learning deployment and monitoring. Very quickly, L&D staff are realising that they also require an understanding of technology. Organisations need the right people to run, deploy and maintain the technology to reap the long-term benefits.
Closing the gap between opportunity and usage

Many organisations are still resorting to classroom-based training, even when operating on a global scale, because this is what they have traditionally understood. At the same time, they are buying into systems that are able to analyse any sort of global activity and to support diversity by providing relevant language learning content according to the gender, language and cultural dynamics of the organisation.

This means that there is a significant gap between usage and opportunity, which can result in a real risk of the technological system to become a redundant investment. It is this gap which organisations need to close in order for students and end users to make the most of new talent management systems.

When it comes to implementing a training strategy, from our experience, we have seen most of an organisation’s budget tends to go towards bricks and mortar. At the same time, however, organisations are expecting to have a 360 degree view of the progress and output achieved from global training programmes. For this reason, there is a pressing need for organisations to take on board the benefits of new learning systems and to educate and train the managers running the L&D sectors of their organisation. This is something that is not happening as fast as the recent M&A activity.

 

Benefits to students and end users

Traditionally, students learning at a corporate level are bound to one teacher, in one classroom environment. Today, the ‘perfect blend’ of combining virtual classrooms, mobile learning and e-learning is revolutionising the way in which organisations approach communication training and development. With the ‘perfect blend’ approach, companies can combine self-paced learning, assignment tasks and classes, which can be attended virtually or over the phone. These learning tools can then be customised to suit staff learning needs and level of skill – and companies should encourage staff to use and develop their skills in ways that are both motivating and compatible with the demands of the workplace.

The implementation of the perfect blend within a learning program gives students the opportunity to study whatever, whenever and wherever they choose. According to the Towards Maturity survey, 32% were using e-Learning at a location other than at work in 2011, compared to only 7% in 2006. E-Learning was also being used more frequently while travelling in 2011 at 52%, compared to 22% in 2006.

What students can expect is more specific content and knowledge tailored to their learning needs. The exposure to greater content, combined with more accurate ways of monitoring and assessing learning through the perfect blend, means that the quality of learning can also be improved compared to traditional methods. For end users working in a multi-national corporation, being visible to the company on a global scale in the e-learning environment provides the employee with much greater potential to be recognised as valuable to the organisation and have the opportunity for greater career mobility.
No one size fits all – the need for local support

Implementing the correct learning and development strategy is critical to attracting retaining and developing talent. However, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. With the ever-evolving learning landscape, it is important that organisations be aware of recent developments and can be both adaptable and confident in embracing change.

A global technology platform is a good way to disseminate information, but it does not teach anything on its own accord. Many organisations make the mistake of assuming that, just because they have one global system, it can be applied to simply everything, but this is not a pragmatic approach and most often does not work. The objective in wanting to learn how to communicate, regardless of how it is achieved, can vary strongly among individual users. An organisation needs people to run the system, to support it from the ground up on a local basis. It is this combination of global delivery and local support which is crucial, especially for language training. At Speexx, we refer to this as the “Need for Glocalisation”.

Organisations often make the costly mistake of relying solely on one central system and demolishing or cutting down local support, thus overlooking the fact that end users need to have onsite help at hand. Local support starts with a technical help desk, who can implement the technology and the methodology. Local tutors are also necessary, who can teach in a way that is suited to the cultural and learning needs of the particular set of students.
Conclusion

Although we are still in the early innings of adopting cloud-based learning solutions, it is evident that a strategic combination of methodology and technology is critical in both the consistent delivery of language learning and building talent from the ground up. No longer can one section of an organisation operate in a silo. Nor can organisations assume a “one size fits all” approach. The key to a successful talent management solution is developing one streamlined, global solution which is complemented by local support. In this way, organisations can effectively embrace the opportunities that new technologies have to offer and unlock the full potential of talent within their workforce.
About Speexx

Speexx helps large organisations everywhere to drive productivity by empowering employee communication skills across borders. Speexx offers an award-winning range of cloud-based online language learning solutions for Business English, Spanish, German, Italian and French with ongoing support in 13 languages. Speexx is easy to use and scales to the needs of users and training managers in organisations of any size.

The Speexx branded Perfect Blend integrates online business communication skills training, mobile and social learning, expert coaches located throughout the world and personalised live online activities into one fully standardised, globally consistent learning experience. More than 7 million users in 1,500 organisations – including Ericsson, ArcelorMittal, UNHCR and Credit Suisse – use Speexx to learn a language smarter and deliver results on time. Speexx was founded in 1994 and is headquartered in Munich, London, Madrid, Milan, Paris, Sao Paulo and Shanghai. For more information, visit www.speexx.com.
Author: Armin Hopp, Founder and President of Speexx
www.speexx.com Twitter: @speexxtweets

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