Making time for learning

Training and HR managers are well used to a financial squeeze on their budgets, but as they plan this year’s learning allocation, they’ll be aware of another factor they need to consider: time.

A survey of employers by Learndirect found that time now rivals money as the main factor holding back learning. While nearly half of HR professionals said their training budgets had increased over the past year, seven out of 10 believe their employees have trouble making time for training and more than one third agreed that time pressures resulted in staff failing to complete courses.

The Training Magazine Transatlantic Blended Learning Survey 2004 also highlighted the problem facing many training managers who want to reduce the duration of programmes – in some cases by as much as half. We asked readers for their views about how to plan learning in today’s time-poor environment.

Gillian Ince, training and resourcing manager, Claire’s Accessories

Where time is precious, it is important to give ownership for learning to the individual. In the past year, we have had a big push on coaching and self-development, and in 2005, we are aiming to put more money into the learning resource centre in our corporate office.

Employees are given base skills and knowledge, and the idea is they take that and grasp it, delve into it even more – whether through reading, videos, observing others and so forth.

We have also produced a personal development plan guide for store managers, which contains useful management tools and gives them top line information about things like assertiveness, leadership and ‘SWOT’ analysis. It is giving them a taster for development they can carry out for themselves.

Malcolm Westgate, company secretary and deputy chief executive, ABRO

When planning our training activity we take time into account, both in terms of how many events we run and at what time of the year we run them. E-learning is an element of our strategy, although most of our workforce does not have access to IT due to the workshop environment.

We can and do, however, access e-learning via local MoD training facilities and we are looking into installing IT training suites at each ABRO workshop in the near future.

ABRO seeks to promote initiatives such as work-life balance.

Caroline Thorpe, employer delivery manager, Learndirect

Employers need to look at which bits of learning are best delivered how. For instance, some might benefit from a pre-e-learning element to a course. Employees would complete that, do an in-house course and finish off with more e-learning.

That blended approach enhances the e-learning. It works well to have that e-learning element because of the struggle to get time away and it works well when there is a flexible approach.

Organisations need to look at their training budgets, what IT facilities they have in place, what level their employees have achieved and what learning objectives they have.

David Goodson, director of training UK EMEA, Marriott Hotels

At a management level, as a company we have said that all managers should have 40 hours of off-job training a year. At an operational level, we have ‘short takes’, which are daily 15-minute training sessions. The aim is that they should happen every day in every Marriott hotel in the world.

There are some basics that are done everywhere, but as long as they are doing something that is relevant to their own business or department, that is fine. It might be something generic or something relevant to that department; they are designed to be short, punchy training sessions.

Phil Goodfellow, manager, learning technologies group, Xerox Europe

In 2004 we started making some courses mandatory for managers – for example a business ethics refresher. We have had success with that. Around 6,500 people have completed that course in the past three months.

We have moved into e-learning, and find chunking it up into manageable learning activity is the best way to do it. I do not think anyone wants to stare at a computer screen for four or five hours continuously. The other thing we do is to make all our content available on the internet and intranet, so if people do not want to study in the office, they can do so at home.

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