Some enterprises are building their own online training programs to ensure that employees have appropriate skills for the business. But it's not easy. In many cases, they don't have experience in developing online courses that map to corporate goals or in finding internal mentors and educational guides. Nevertheless, some organizations have done an extraordinary job of tailoring online education to meet the needs of their businesses. Here are 10 "necessary ingredients" that successful online programs have.
1: Training curriculum and educational qualifications are mapped to position descriptions
If you are an entry-level programmer and your goal is to one day become a database administrator, you can should be able to log into a corporate intranet and research both the prerequisites and the online courses that are needed to prepare and to qualify you for a DBA position.
2: Corporate culture supports an in-house training environment
Beginning with C-level executives, the enterprise must see the value of committing dollars, time, and people to training. Departments (e.g., HR and IT) collaborate on training development, and there is a willingness to commit the time and energy of some of the enterprise's most valuable (and expensive) employees to the task. Training participation is also linked into employee performance reviews.
3: There is an internal mentor system
No matter how good online training is, companies using it most productively recognize that human interaction is needed for best results. Companies that do training well assign senior-level mentors to employees, and these mentors guide students in their learning.
4: The goal of training is knowledge transfer
Great internal training programs aim for immediate knowledge transfer into business projects and workloads. This is done by creating training assignments that can be applied directly in real projects. In other words, if the student's goal is to become a DBA and he or she is taking database training, an assignment might be to develop a schema for a new database that the enterprise actually plans to place into production.
5: Employees take responsibility for their training and career development
The company can commit time to develop and monitor courses — and even give employees time at work for training — but the most successful companies also demand a commitment from students to do training on their own time and to actively participate in course selections.
6: Students get prompt feedback
Since online learning tends to be self-directed, students can go for considerable lengths of time without feedback. Great corporate training programs don't let this happen. If employees are progressing well, their efforts are recognized. If they're having difficulty, mentors and managers are there to help realign expectations and if necessarily, revisit career goals with them.
7: A 24/7 intranet training portal is available for training administration and tracking
Students can access their training progress and results anytime from anywhere, with total visibility of their training and how it fits with individual career goals and company expectations.
8: There is a dedicated training function for curriculum development
Enterprises with top-notch training have a dedicated core of internal training professionals who develop and administer training. Often, this group is part of HR. But specialized areas (like IT) might also have their own training functions.
9: Employees are rewarded and recognized
Companies with successful training programs reward and recognize employee training success. They issue certificates of course completion and in some cases, salary increases and job promotions.
10: Training is annually evaluated to ensure continued alignment with corporate goals
Like budgeting and project prioritization, training-competent companies evaluate training on a regular basis to ensure that it continues to map to the skills that the enterprise feels it is most in need of.
Does your organization have a successful online training program in place? What other aspects of corporate training do you think should be on this list?
Mary E. Shacklett is president of Transworld Data, a technology research and market development firm. Prior to founding the company, Mary was Senior Vice President of Marketing and Technology at TCCU, Inc., a financial services firm; Vice President of Product Research and Software Development for Summit Information Systems, a computer software company; and Vice President of Strategic Planning and Technology at FSI International, a multinational manufacturing company in the semiconductor industry. Mary is a keynote speaker and has more than 1,000 articles, research studies, and technology publications in print.