Enter into an alliance with an e-learning provider as carefully as you would enter into a marriage. That's the advice Siemens' performance development manager Tony Smailes gives to John Robinson.
Electronics and communications giant Siemens has placed 104 e-learning courses on its intranet. The courses are divided into two categories, IT skills development and telecoms technology, and have been made available initially to 1,000 employees in the company's customer services division.
The move was backed by the department last year by a £1m investment in instructors and five new classrooms.
Tony Smailes, performance development manager for customer services, says the fast pace of change in the telecoms industry was the reason for adding e-learning to other methods of training delivery.
"The product training modules have grown phenomenally in recent years and, as a result, it now takes far longer to educate staff via traditional means," he says.
In choosing a supplier, Siemens obtained courseware samples from two e-learning vendors and asked a cross-section of staff to download and trial material that was deemed relevant to their job function.
To review the courses, the sample group was asked to consider a range of issues including presentation, ease of use, perceived value, interactive qualities, subject matter, testing procedures and relevance to individual learning requirements.
Two further stipulations - enough flexibility to allow third-party courses to be integrated and an agreement which will ultimately enable Siemens to resell courseware to their suppliers - were demanded of the supplier.
"When you are looking to appoint an e-learning provider, you must choose the one that is willing to establish and develop a relationship," advises Smailes. "It is not an impulse purchase; what you are buying should amount to a lifelong relationship.