Letters of the week: CBT not just like any other training

I write in response to a letter from Julian Birch (17 October) regarding computer-based training (CBT).

While I largely agree with his comments, I believe it is not enough just to have professional trainers on board. Any serious e-learning content provider will also employ a substantial number of professional trainers who understand the theory and practice of learning via a computer or over the Web.

Learning via your computer is completely different from learning via any other method. The content and the way in which it is delivered must have been specifically designed for the way it will be used. Just transferring written material from a textbook on to a web page, for example, isn’t effective in developing even basic skills. There are a number of principles to follow when designing computer-based or web-based training, and even different subjects require different models.

To develop professional skills, the learner needs to model the attitudes and actions of others. Therefore, computer-based or web-based training must provide the learner with content that allows them to make choices about behaviours – but they must be able to do so with pictures of real people (not stick figures or cartoons) that change when the scenario changes. And for business skills, the content should contain proportionately more facts and be based on case studies and problem solving, requiring the learner to analyse a situation and then make choices.

This may sound obvious, but as Mr Birch’s experience shows, not all CBT providers can demonstrate this.

Kay Baldwin-Evans Head of HR SkillSoft International


Turnover should ring alarm bells

"Staff turnover of up to 26 per cent is recommended", (HR works wonders on share price, News, 31 October) – get real! Employees leaving at this rate should ring serious alarm bells at any organisation. On what analytical evidence does Watson Wyatt base this ridiculous statement, or is this another example of a superficial, consultant’s report drafted to grab cheap headlines?

Richard Bonnie John Crane-Lips


Direction is the real challenge

I think the CIPD should act as a political body influencing government and business with all the tools of PR, lobbying, advertising, policy, training (News, 31 October). Professional standards etc should be an integral part of the organisation’s function. Its choice of issues on which to speak, and the direction or opinion expressed is the real challenge.

Richard Coombes Director of human resources Starcom Motive Partnership


Sexist managers are not all male

As a male manager, am I being unreasonably sensitive in taking offence at the article "Female staff are still second in the promotion stakes" (News, 26 September)?

Having spent the past 10 years promoting equality in my organisation, I am painfully aware of the obstacles. But your article began, "Male managers promote other men because they see them as having greater financial responsibilities than women". Later it states, "Women managers also share this view", so why not begin the article with, "Managers promote men because…"?

I have been told some tabloids structure articles in this way because it makes for a good "girlie story". It antagonises readers of both genders, such as Sue Watt Pringle (Letters, 10 October), but retains readers’ interest. Surely a professional magazine need not resort to this.

Also, I can’t help wondering whether this stereotyped reason for women not being promoted is the result of a rather biased single issue research finding.

In my own organisations (smaller rather than larger), irrespective of people’s supposed views on women’s financial responsibilities, many managers – male and female – seem to be nervous about promoting women of childbearing age to managerial positions due simply to the potential disruption that this can bring.

This may not be an acceptable reason, as I am sure there are always ways to cope with any situation, but it is at least a matter of strategic consideration, not sexual stereotyping (by men).

This is why I welcome initiatives such as the Government’s recent proposal of paying "baby bonuses" to help me counter some of the practical arguments I hear for not favouring the promotion of some women. It may also help reduce the number of times men get cast as villains in this struggle of equality – it may not seem like it, but we have moved a long way in 10 years.

Clive Stride Personnel manager Address supplied


CIPD conference town rips us off?

The CIPD conference at Harrogate is not only the premier human resources event of the year, but clearly, with so many participants, is an important event to a conference resort.

The organisation in the town – its hotels and the Harrogate International Centre – is decidedly lacklustre and it doesn’t deserve our event. Perhaps we should rotate the venue like our admired political parties.

Accommodation charges are close to London rates, but the hotels are in need of investment, a lick of paint and, in my view, vastly improved customer service skills.

I feel Harrogate is about bringing in maximum money for the council, hotels and residents, but with minimal outlay in forethought and service to exhibitors.

For me, the greatest frustration is the loading and unloading arrangements at the conference centre. The organisers, in a bid to bring even more money into the town’s coffers, have built hall M, thus removing the car park altogether and quadrupling the pain for an exhibitor in either of these halls. It’s all very well putting in a new hall, but what about some loading facilities? With space for only three vehicles and demand from over 200 exhibitors, it was close to a free-for-all. The sight of exhibitors packing up stands and lugging kit and trolleys across the busy junction to their cars, parked 200 yards away on double yellow lines, was ludicrous. Then comes the usual two-hour haul getting out of Harrogate by car.

Exhibition space at £230 a square metre is a lot to pay. Not all of this goes to the site owners, but a large proportion does, and with the Harrogate International Centre now proudly boasting to having 16,500 square metres available, plus all the other delegate-spend in bars, room rates and restaurants, Harrogate can and should do better.

Why does it always take two hours to drive out of Harrogate post-event? Why can’t the centre organisers work with the police to close off the road for two hours to facilitate quicker unloading and help vehicles leaving the town? Why were loading facilities disregarded in the building of hall M? Why can’t the taxi stand outside the hall be commandeered for three hours to help with quicker loading?

I think Harrogate is ripping us off and we and the CIPD could do better. The council, hoteliers, conference centre owners and police all need to work together, put in some serious investment, think about the users’ needs, and not their own desires to get maximum income at minimum disadvantage to exhibitors, otherwise it may not be just the annual CIPD that will go to another venue.

Kevin McGrath Business development manager Assessment and Development Consultants Godalming, Surrey


NVQs for MPs?

It’s funny how a conversation will drift over a given time. You start by debating the weather, get on to petrol supplies, moan about politicians and end up at NVQs.

My question to my fellow professionals is whatever happened to the planned NVQ for MPs?

Steve Owen Via e-mail


Lawyers with an eye for a bargain

Having read the article on individual work rights on the front page of Personnel Today (24 October), I would like to suggest a further reason for the expansion of litigation in the UK.

We now have solicitors touting for business, even in shopping precincts people are approached and asked if they have any happening which might entitle them to make a claim against someone.

The rate of settlement of claims to tribunals mentioned in your article hides a cost to industry. Cases are frequently settled on an "economic" basis, ie at a cheaper cost than a day at tribunal.

I suppose there have always been people with an eye for any opportunity, but they do now seem to be supported by a variety of organisations that believe everything that some of these applicants tell them.

Keith Fieldhouse Group personnel director CSFM (holdings)


Don’t expect a flood of applications…

I bet the poor old managers in the Environment Agency are wishing for 20/20 hindsight.

At the time when most of the country is under water following the highest rainfall ever and, if the weather forecasts are to be believed, worse still to come, a smile briefly passed my lips when I saw in the New Civil Engineer a full page-and-a-half of adverts for flood defence engineers, and a capital programme manager for flood defence.

My sympathies go out to all those affected by the flooding, but imagine my thoughts as I settle down on the roof of my water-filled house, whiling away the time reading my NCE while waiting for the helicopter rescue team to pluck me to safety. I am sure that "stable door" and "bolted" would be in there somewhere.

Frank Bailey Personnel manager/health and safety adviser Kent County Council

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