learning and education manager Paul Dent believes a major benefit of e-learning
is its capacity to provide access to learning around the world, even in
countries which do not have a strong history of employee development. By
former apprentice instrument technician Paul Dent, technology-based training is
a godsend in facilitating the training of chemical conglomerate ICI’s global
now ICI’s learning and development manager, says his passion is to narrow the
gap between employees in western Europe and North America with those in South
America, Asia-Pacific and India when it comes to access to training.
employees in the developing countries have not had the same levels of training
as Europe or America, which is why CD-Roms and intranet learning are so
valuable,” he says.
has been overseeing a major ICI programme to unify IT training worldwide, a
major part of which has involved putting in place an e-learning infrastructure
that can be accessed from Holland to Harare.
want the worker in Sao Paulo, Brazil, to have the same IT training
opportunities as someone in Slough or Naarden, Holland,” he says.
of the main drivers of the programme was the acquisition by ICI of several Unilever
speciality chemical companies four years ago, which transformed the company
from a predominantly UK enterprise to a truly global corporation.
communication between the different parts of the company was problematic.
“Often I couldn’t send simple information to the new businesses because we had
different computer applications,” says Dent.
years ago, ICI decided to harmonise all IT applications across the company and
put in place an international training programme for all PC users – 27,000 of
the company’s 60,000 employees.
knew he wanted TBT to play a major role in the programme. He says, “We looked
at about 20 providers and had a number of criteria, including ability to
provide training in different languages, international communications
capability and ability to provide training on both CD-Rom and intranet,” he
contract was awarded to NETg, but from early on Dent knew that the programme
would have to be a mix of e-learning and traditional face-to-face training,
particularly for employees in Europe and North America.
my passion for technology-based training we realised the programme would have
to offer a portfolio of classroom and e-learning styles to suit the learning
cultures of different countries.”
Teessider has been with ICI for over 30 years and in the early 1990s completed
an Open University psychology degree.
experience helped me understand what distance learning is like and also
prepared me for management as it involved a lot of time away from my family,”
Dent has found employees in places like South America and India extremely
enthusiastic about TBT, in the West there is still a widespread culture of
the fact that face-to-face training has been shown to be relatively
ineffective, people in the west feel comfortable with it and would feel lost if
you told them it was just going to be TBT.”
that culture is changing, he believes. “It’s like any big shift. It takes a few
years before people adapt and feel comfortable with the new technology and
there will always be a major role for mentors and tutors.
programme was designed for CD-Rom and intranet but the company intranet was not
large or powerful enough to handle the training effectively, so most of the
training to date has been CD-Rom-based.
that the company has set up two learning servers – one based in Europe and the
other in America – the corporate intranet will become increasingly important.
are great because they are so fast and you don’t have to wait 15 to 20 seconds
for information to be delivered, as on the CD-Rom.”
learning servers were developed with the help of IBM, which has been extremely
useful, says Dent.
have been excellent in terms of helping us to develop the programme and
particularly the servers and they obviously have the global reach that you
Dent is clearly excited about the intranet, he emphasises that the CD-Roms have
been hugely successful.
have distributed about 15,000 worldwide, which is pretty impressive even if you
assume that not all of them have been rigorously used.”
company has stressed to employees that the CD-Roms can be taken home and used
in the employee’s own time.
have made a big point about saying they are not ICI property that cannot be
removed from the office, but can be used as the employee sees fit.”
particular effort was made to include all 19 courses in the programme on one CD,
as Dent argues that providing two would have put many people off sampling the
company, along with NETg, arranged for the translation of the training material
into the languages staff would need worldwide to access it.
had it translated into French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and
some of the material was translated into Japanese.”
take-up by staff has been heartening, he says, particularly in countries where
training has traditionally been given a low priority.
remote areas of the world people aren’t worried about ICI in London but about
their own costs, and that has often meant training has been the first area to
be hit by budget cuts.”
IT at least, Dent says he has been trying to ensure equal access to training
and that e-learning has been providing the mechanism.
was in India a few months ago for a workshop on the programme and I’ve never
seen people appreciate training so much. Staff in those parts of the world just
don’t get much development.”
have been several business benefits of the programme, he says. A key benefit of
using TBT has been the cost saving compared with a traditional classroom-based
traditional programme would have cost us £18m worldwide when this programme
cost £2m,” he says.
benefit has been that staff’s IT literacy levels have been raised as a result
and many more employees are confident using new technology.
new knowledge and confidence is helping us with the development of e-commerce
programmes,” he adds.
company is also encouraging those employees going through the training in
Europe to undertake the European Computer Driving Licence course, the main
qualification that recognises IT skills.
lot of employees have gone through it internally, through NETg, but haven’t
been going to a local college to do the ECDL foundation course yet, which is
something I think we will see happening more.”
programme has now covered about 80 per cent of the PC users in ICI and the next
stage is to use the infrastructure set up for soft skills training, says Dent.
are piloting a marketing course at one of our subsidiaries that will be
delivered over the intranet.”
main message, drawn from the experience of the TBT programme, is the need to
concentrate on the marketing of new training initiatives, particularly if they
have an international element.
have learned that you need to put as much effort into marketing the training as
developing and delivering the product.
can put out the best product possible but people won’t take it off the shelf
unless you market and promote it, and that means mailshots, posters and
stresses that it is also important to build good relationships with HR staff in
the various global offices.
is the IT function that has been involved in the early stages of this
programme, but HR will end up with a lot of the responsibility for managing it
so it is essential to have good relationships with them.”
– Paul Dent
Apprentice instrument technician, ICI
1987 HR manager at ICI Petrochemicals
1990 HR manager at ICI Acrylics
1990-95 Open University degree in psychology
1997 Learning and education manager, ICI