E-learning saves cash but a tutor will deliver results

John Burnell offers advice on training staff amid budget cuts

John Burnell
John Burnell

Q. Due to budget cuts at my charity, I'm looking at what savings we can make on training. One option is making greater use of e-learning. What should I bear in mind if we go down this route?

A. You should ask yourself whether a cut in the training budget really is the most sensible way of making savings. Progressive organisations are preparing for when they come out of the recession, and investing in the future skills of their staff is a big part of this. But if you really have to reduce your spending, e-learning is certainly one option.

This approach does have its advantages: it is cheap and increasingly accessible, and may well be attractive to a generation of computer-savvy employees used to communicating with everyone by text, email and Facebook. But there are limitations.

E-learning tends to be fact-based, often delivered through multiple-choice formats. So it can be good for areas such as basic health and safety and technical knowledge, where the aim is to impart raw knowledge. But when it comes to the need to grow understanding, or to develop and practise skills, trainee interface with a real live trainer has no rival. There is evidence that students who use only e-learning have lower attention thresholds than those with a stimulating tutor. It is also difficult for a manager, as the sponsor of the training, to know how much has actually been studied or learnt via e-learning.

So although it's one way to cut the training budget, there are other more efficient and effective ways. A starting point is a training plan for the whole organisation, so that you can identify the real training needs and prioritise them according to the available resources. Of course, you should be doing this anyway, but it's especially important when cash is short.

Then it is possible to make savings through clever moves, such as: negotiating reductions with regular training providers; bringing a trainer to your premises to run a bespoke course rather than sending staff out; sending one delegate on a course who can then offer the training to others; and even recruiting a specialist to provide most of your training in-house.

But whatever you do, don't stop expenditure on training altogether. You will soon regret it.

Send your HR questions to John.Burnell@personnel-solutions.org.uk

- John Burnell, is director of Personnel Solutions

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