A global godsend

E-learning can play a major part in successful corporate globalisation,
believes Dr Mark Dorgan, but only if it’s linked to business strategy

E-Learning is used by a number of companies as an enabler to effective
globalisation. It is consistently seen as part of the collaborative ecosystem
that delivers speed and cost-efficiency in internal and external interactions –
a facilitator of consistent business performance. It is a business process
facilitator, communications tool and a learning platform.

Instead of defining e-learning as ‘online training’, these companies see it
more as ‘online access’ to skills and information that support and enhance
business performance and development. This includes ongoing access to knowledge
repositories, prompt routines, training media, courses and live webcasts, as
part of daily work. These cross the company’s boundaries to include suppliers,
partners and customers in the learning and work processes. For best results,
e-learning is jointly designed and managed by line managers, HR and IT
professionals based on identified user group needs.

Cisco is trying to streamline operations through e-learning, for example,
particularly in field sales and partner training for the hundreds of new
products introduced annually. In the past, each product team conducted new
product roadshows in multiple locations at high cost. By deploying e-learning
technology, it delivers live training e-broadcasts to sales and partner staff
at low cost, while achieving global consistency and enhanced sales performance.

Italian tyre maker Pirelli derives 90 per cent of its revenues from outside
Italy, so the consistent and co-ordinated dissemination of values, ways of
working and product information is key to its success. It has deployed a global
e-learning facility, as part of an integrated e-business strategy, to achieve
the fastest introduction of new products and projects to its own and partner
staff, supported by an online query facility.

Successful applications of e-learning work best when they focus on content
and process knowledge or where they facilitate ongoing transfer of skills
through collaboration. What they don’t do as well is develop interpersonal and
leadership skills of the management group. This is best achieved in combination
with face-to-face interaction.

Where it has been designed and deployed as an integral part of the core
business strategy and processes, with regard for different user groups’ needs,
e-learning has been very successful as an enabler of globalisation. But an approach
that simply attempts to replicate central training activities in isolation from
other business processes delivers limited value and can even cause harm if it
ignores cultural differences.

Dr Mark Dorgan is a member of the Management Group at PA Consulting www.paconsulting.com

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