Not many eLearning initiatives originate in the training department of an organization. In most cases, eLearning initiatives are driven by the same functional head that training departments report to. However, the eLearning responsibility may be given to a specially assembled team of specialists or maybe outsourced to vendors who specialize in eLearning strategy, implementation, and development.
When planning an eLearning implementation, one of your most invaluable allies could be your organization’s training department. Conversely, if not handled correctly, they could yet turn out to be your sternest critics and negatively impact the success of your eLearning initiative. To be able to devise and plan for an enterprise-wide eLearning solution, this is one department whose inputs are critical for shaping your strategy, scope and implementation radically. And you sure need them on your side.
Before you go all out to win them over, you need to understand why most training departments may not be wildly enthusiastic about an eLearning implementation. A couple of reasons – they have seen the effectiveness of traditional classroom training and might not be keen on new-fangled ideas such as eLearning (you’d be surprised at how many professionals still view it as new-fangled). And they genuinely are skeptical about the application of technology to something as dynamic as learning. Resistance could also stem from a fear of technology (this is more common than we’d imagine).
Another reason is to do with moving out of the comfort zone (as is our own typical reaction to change). Having been steeped in a classroom training environment, they would rather tackle known challenges such as arranging logistics and infrastructure rather than maintaining and enrolling learners into online training programs, typically though a Learning Management System (What?! Now you want us to be LMS administrators as well?). With eLearning being adopted as a key strategy to meet an organization’s training goals, it almost always would result in a re-haul of existing roles and responsibilities within the training organization. And that could translate into a fear over job-redundancy, loss of position or power, and relinquishing control over tested and tried ways of doing things (classroom training programs). Little wonder then those most training departments are cautious critics rather than starry-eyed supporters.
So how do you win them over? A good start would be to rollout a pilot eLearning program to the training department, solicit their feedback, take that feedback seriously, address their concerns, communicate the changes you may have made based on their feedback, and continue to communicate with them at all stages of the process so that they feel like valued partners in the new initiative. Once they begin to see how their inputs are valued (with suitable credit given wherever called for) and that in the long run, this is going to be a win-win situation for all concerned, they will be onboard en masse. Another strategy would be to map their existing strengths to parallel roles within the eLearning context. For instance someone with a proven skill in enthusing learners could still continue to play a key role in the kick-off live eLearning sessions.
One thing is for certain – to garner the support of training departments, they need to see that you view them as partners rather than rivals going after the same piece of the training pie.