• House of Fraser has been trialling e-learning solutions as a means of boosting management skills and providing staff with self-development opportunities. A total of 30 modules supplied by Xebec McGraw-Hill are being made available in two separate pilots across the HoF intranet.

New managers at six stores are working with on-line modules that cover motivation, feedback, delegation, time management and leadership. Topics being offered to first-level buying managers at head office include managing people, communication and presentation skills, and coaching. If successful, the full roll-out will follow later this year for up to 1,000 users across all 51 stores.

The company is investing £8,000 in 30,000 individual chunks of training, each lasting around half an hour. The full roll-out is expected to cost around £50,000, which management development manager Colin Robinson views as highly cost-effective.

“Staff don’t have to travel to regional training centres and can do the work in shorter times, which increases productivity,” he says. “The value of this training is that we can reach more people. We would like to reduce staff turnover, and the feedback from leavers is that they want more opportunities for development.”

Another advantage of on-line learning is to provide consistency, which is difficult to achieve using different groups of trainers around the country. Also, course material can be tailored to the company’s existing training and competencies.

A key element in the company’s choice was the existence of an intranet. A hot-key on store tills already enables staff to access up-to-date product information. It provides a platform which users are familiar with and eliminates the need to install costly infrastructure.

Robinson anticipates that consolidation workshops will be needed to reinforce the on-line work and is keenly awaiting users’ feedback. “We do have a number of training and development advisers who have regional responsibility, so could use that framework as the basis of a support mechanism,” he says.BOX

• Ensure early buy-in from senior management, line managers and IT, as well as the employees who will use it.

• If you opt for external consultancy choose a firm with a track record in other forms of training besides the Internet.

• Personalise the training to the individual as a means of encouraging retention.

• Choose a course with plenty of interactive content.

• Make the most of the Internet’s support mechanisms such as e-mail and chat rooms.

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