Opportunities in difficult times

It’s hard to get management’s attention when things are going well. They’re running off to meetings, golf games, conferences and the like. However, as cash and clients become scarcer, management has to focus on the business at hand and figure out how to do things better. They might even question the role of the training department.

I’ve been in the business of virtual learning and online collaborative work pretty well since the Web entered the business world. It’s been a hard sell over the years, especially since many people would prefer a trip to Florida in the Winter to attend a training course. Everyone deserves some time away from the office, but as travel and training budgets get slashed, more companies are examining learning and working on the Web.

WWW's "historical" logo, created by Robert Cailliau.

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Recently I’ve been seeing more search phrases like – “open source social networking” and “cheap web conferencing tools” – coming to this site. Necessity is the mother of invention and people are looking for options. Luckily, many organisations have led the way in online collaboration over the past decade and there is a fair bit of expertise around, as witnessed by the range of knowledge on our Work Literacy online learning event. There are also a lot of tools to select from – some would even say too many.

I have a feeling that there will be a growing demand for innovative ways to help people in organisations work and learn together using the Web. For instance, I’m talking with a potential client who does not want me to travel on-site. Since I’m advising on how to move from a classroom teaching model to e-learning, he reasons, we should set the example and do all of our work online. I’m quite comfortable working that way, but it’s taken several years of practice.

I also see a rising interest in online performance support and just-in-time help, as opposed to just-in-case online courses. For professionals with skills in analysing business problems and finding methods and cost-effective technologies to address them, this is a time of opportunity. If people in the learning & development field complain that they can’t get management’s attention at this time, then perhaps they never will.

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6 Responses to “Opportunities in difficult times”

  1. Beth Chmielowski

    Harold, agree that there’s a clear case to be made for innovative approaches to learning, now more than ever. How do you respond to clients that may still see this as risky or experimental? Have you found that when budgets are being curtailed, there is a tendency to retreat to what is known?

  2. Harold Jarche

    The training department may want to retreat to what is known, but this is an opportunity for training & development folks to show how they can help the organisation. I’m not even talking about extremely innovative approaches here, but a shift from training delivery to performance improvement. The innovation will be in applying it to your particular circumstances. Things like – “here’s how we can save money and still get new hires up to speed” or “let’s support the sales force with web based job aids so they don’t need as much training” – might get more attention when everyone is focused on the bottom line.

  3. Jay Cross

    Responding to Beth’s observation, I think economic Darwinsim comes into play. Tough times thin the herd. Corporations that don’t find social networking compelling are living without a clue. Many lack the stamina to survive the trials ahead.


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