ELearning in the workplace is always consistent, always available and, after the initial outlay, costs a great deal less than employing a person. So what is the place for Workplace Trainers in the Learning and Development process once eLearning is introduced?
Traditionally Workplace Trainers are generalist trainers who engage with staff at very specific events in the life-cycle of an employee; induction, new process and upgrade events. Employees first come into contact with the Workplace Trainer during the Induction phase. Workplace Trainers provide valuable information about the history, culture and expectations of the company for all new employees.
The next encounter is often when a major change in company process or policy has occurred. For example, moving to a different software platform, merging with another company, corporatizing or the implementation of newer technologies are events where the Workplace Trainer is often employed to smooth the transition from old to new.
In both situations the Workplace Trainer is principally involved in the presentation and explanation of new concepts and information. The communication of concepts and information in a consistent, standardised format is ideal for the eLearning platform; thereby reducing the hours required for face-to-face involvement by the Workplace Trainer.
“Great!” Says management, “We’ll save money by not having a Workplace Trainer.” But is eLearning enough? What are the skills of a modern day Workplace Trainer that add value in an eLearning culture?
A facilitator is someone who helps a group of people understand their common objectives and assists them to plan to achieve them without taking a particular position in the discussion. Sometimes a facilitator will assist the group in achieving a consensus on any disagreements that preexist so that they can move forward with action.
The Workplace Trainer can meet with individuals and review how the new concepts are being applied (or not). This may be a formal approach, or in a more informal floor walking style. Facilitation skills are then used to assist employees is recognising and applying their new concepts and information on the job. During these engagements the Workplace Trainer is able to gather valuable data on the degree of learning transference from eLearning to work practice.
Where it may be too expensive to cover travel costs in order to meet with employees scattered over several work locations, the webinar is a highly effective interaction tool. A webinar uses a web-based meeting system to engage the Workplace Trainer and the employee. The Australian Flexible Training Framework even includes webinars, along with email, in its definition of eLearning tools.
Through a webinar the Workplace Trainer can have a planned discussion with employees. Trainers can review and revise concepts to gauge understanding and application of the new knowledge. In addition, Trainers can display documents or files to Webinar participants to further explain concepts or processes. Conversely, when the training has been technical in nature, the employee can allow the Trainer to view their desktop so both parties can really ‘see’ what is happening at the workplace and the Trainer can provide useful feedback.
Interacting with value via webinar does require the trainer to have developed skills in the technology, managing the audience interaction and providing a structured approach. Taking the time to become proficient is very worthwhile, as even if employees are as remote as Broken Hill they can still receive the level of support (even daily) to move them over any hurdles to applying new practices, without the burden of travel time or cost for either party.
Where group webinars are held the resulting sharing of information is frequently valuable to a wider audience. The entire webinar meeting can be recorded thereby providing robust data for:
- assessing learning transference
- addressing issues
- acknowledging ideas, and
- sharing solutions
Traditional Helpdesk’s provide IT support, but the Workplace Trainer can extend this role to cover the requirements of any rollout of training delivered through eLearning. Included in the eLearning is the promotion that employees can phone the Helpdesk when they need assistance. The Trainer manning the Helpdesk does not need to have every answer, but they must be able to direct the employee through a decision tree to valuable support.
The structure of the Helpdesk needs to suit the role. Having a Trainer sitting around waiting for the phone to ring may not be the best use of their time. Twenty four hour manning is likely to be an unreasonable expectation. Set times of the day may be more practical or enquiries by email. The main success factor will be awareness of the service and quality of help provided, which includes the demeanour of the person responding.
The additional value of a Helpdesk is that calls can be logged to capture enquiry data. This data can then provide valuable insight into learning transference and augment the L&D continuous improvement process.
The new Workplace Trainer role
By blending the skills and knowledge of the Workplace Trainer and the benefits of eLearning the possibilities for improved employee learning are greatly increased. The Workplace Trainer has moved from the basic role of imparting new information (knowledge) to being engaged in higher level learning (application and analysis).
So is eLearning the end of the Workplace Trainer? No, it’s just the beginning of very exciting new learning journey!