IBM wanted to avoid continually churning people through classroom training and make training more readily available. Its solution, a blended e-learning initiative called Basic Blue, gets top marks from new managers.
Fully realising how critical management development was to its long-term success, IBM used to routinely get new managers together for an in-class, five-day training program. Sure, five days was clearly inadequate in an increasingly complex managerial environment where huge amounts of information needed to be transferred effectively to every manager. Sure, the training was expensive, didn't cover nearly enough content, provided inconsistent results and imposed a huge burden on managers routinely working 10 to 12 hour days. But with people more and more becoming the differentiator in an economy increasingly built on knowledge, it was decidedly better than nothing.
That's no longer the case. For the past two years, IBM has been drinking its own e-learning champagne, via an innovative internal program for developing the skills of new managers. They still get their five days in class; but now those five days are sandwiched between a host of other learning activities designed to provide compelling, effective training to thousands of managers around the world. The blended approach allows them to learn online via simulators, tutors, virtual collaboration and individual study, with judicial amounts of classroom experiences thrown in.
Known as Basic Blue for Managers, the program reaches more than 30,000 managers in more than 50 countries and provides ongoing access to learning.
IBM tapped its own technologies and expertise when devising Basic Blue. Under the 12-month program- built on the Lotus LearningSpace learning management system- managers experience both e-learning and a traditional face-to-face workshop. The result is a program that covers five times as much content at one-third the cost.
And Basic Blue, according to Asia Pacific executive for management and executive development Ian MacDonald, is achieving fantastic results.
Since the program's inception in 1999 there have been more than 15,000 participants enrolled internationally. In that time IBM has taken the student-day cost from $US400 to $135. According to Nucleus Research, a firm specialising in return on investment (ROI) analysis of technology, the initiative achieved a spectacular 2284 per cent return on its investment. Direct reductions in travel expenses along with reductions in other training costs delivered rapid returns for the company.
"We've come up with a way of designing and deploying a much richer and much more extensive learning experience for managers worldwide. They are actually experiencing what is recognised as best-in-class worldwide in terms of e-learning," MacDonald says.
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