British Telecom

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


Number in HR team Four


Number of employees responsible for 130,000


Main achievements With 40,000 having completed the awareness course and positive feedback from users, BT can be more confident that its workforce is more ready for e-business. There is no quantifiable impact on the bottom line as yet


Judge’s Comment “There is evidence of top-level commitment and of a thoroughly well researched programme which has been professionally implemented and communicated. Set against the history of technology-based training, when so many excellent programmes were produced and never integrated, this is aimed at the heart of the business and is a topic that is fundamental to the organisation’s survival. That is the way to make e-learning happen. There are arguments for and against making e-learning voluntary. In this case, sufficiently strong motivation is obviously present because 40,000 have already done the programme. People are proud to achieve the certificate”

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