Shortlisted team for the easycando Award for e-learning: Personnel Today Awards 2000
After the declaration in July 1999 by British Telecom chief executive Sir Peter Bonfield that the firm must become an e-business, the human resources function was one of the first to act. The result was a collaboration with Andersen Consulting to produce an Internet College and in January 2000 - six months after Bonfield's declaration of strategic intent - the first BT staff were beginning a module in the virtual learning zone, part of an Internet-awareness course.
Such is the magnitude of the Internet that what appears to be a "one-size-fits-all" approach to staff training is justifiable. Although the level of the basic Internet Awareness course is too basic for many, the purpose was to ensure that all 130,000 employees were thoroughly familiar with the Internet, a medium in which the company has invested heavily.
A survey in August 1999 had revealed that just over half BT's staff were uncomfortable with the medium.
Although much of the information was familiar to employees, many of them found it useful to have the information laid out in a systematic, accessible format. Users also found value in being able to pitch in at a level suitable for themselves, and not always start at the beginning.
Some of those grateful for a stronger awareness include senior executives. Frank Douglas, project manager of the Internet College, quips that this is "their last chance to ask stupid questions".
The course is made up of six modules and two further elements - Orientation and Foundation - are due for rolling out next month. The advanced modules - Functional, Expert and Strategic - will follow.
BT has increased the number of staff with access to the Internet from 70,000 in summer 1999 to 100,000, and aims to ensure that all 130,000 have access by the end of 2000.
BT and Andersen put considerable effort into making the course lively, with interactive features such as quizzes. It also awards a certificate for those completing a module, something highly valued by employees. Despite being voluntary, around 40,000 have completed the Awareness module.
Following the establishment of e-Peopleserve by BT and Andersen, an outsource provider of HR services, the modules will be available to staff of other employers.
Company fact file
Team BT HR team
Team Leader Alan Davis, HR director, BT Retail