Cutbacks are a reality for most public services today, and this is bound to have an impact on workplace training. So with tough budgetary constraints in place, how can elearning play a role in helping public sector organisations modernise their approach to learning and development?
"In the coming years, there will have to be very substantial savings in public spending,” said the Chancellor of the Exchequer as he presented his Autumn Statement to the House of Commons on Wednesday, December 3, 2014. George Osborne’s warning could mean more austerity and deeper spending cuts for the UK’s public services.
A further squeeze will intensify the challenge facing those working within Learning & Development in the sector. Measuring accountability and return on investment will become even more important as every pound spent on training has to count. This is coupled with the need to help and support public sector staff to keep pace with unprecedented levels of change.
Some organisations are tackling this ‘perfect storm’ by modernising their approach to learning and finding new ways of working. So what can elearning bring to the table to help the public sector modernise in tough times? Here are three suggestions:
Flexible or agile working is on the increase in the public sector and in particular local government, as councils seek to save money by cutting overheads. But increasing learning access and flexibility requires investment in the right technologies. Traditionally, organisations wishing to provide elearning on a variety of devices would need different versions of a course to maintain functionality on smaller screens.
Now responsive technologies such as Adapt are available so a single elearning course will automatically adjust to work as well on a smartphone or tablet as it does on a PC. Adapt is an open-source framework developed by Sponge and other industry leaders to provide an easy to use, fully responsive, elearning tool. For the public sector, it is a cost-effective way of providing multi-device learning.
Given the financial challenges facing the public sector, there is a temptation to use off the shelf elearning. But it could be a false economy if it fails to address specific and complex training needs. According to the Learning and Performance Institute’s Learning Survey 2014, custom elearning remains the fastest growing media sector, and for good reason. It allows organisations to deploy training which is tailored to the requirements of staff and entirely relevant to a particular workplace.
Relevance is crucial here as generic training simple does not have the same impact. Only bespoke elearning can deliver individualised challenges and highlight real life consequences.
Making every learning penny count has always been important but perhaps more so for public services facing a ‘substantial’ financial squeeze. Investment in training which is ignored or quickly forgotten by the workforce is a waste of money the public sector can ill afford. Taking a campaign approach to elearning can help. By using some tricks from the world of marketing, it is possible to increase awareness and engagement.
This could involve promoting the training before it starts so staff are clear that it is coming up, what it is meant to achieve and how they can get involved. Reminders are also a good idea and an element of competition such a leader board showing who has completed the training can build momentum.After an elearning course is finished, staff may benefit from refresher questions or micro-learning quizzes to embed and test their knowledge. By using these campaign tactics, organisations can maximise their investment in online training solutions.
The public sector mantra of doing more with less is likely to be amplified if spending cuts continue. Elearning could offer some help in meeting the challenge of providing high quality workplace training in a world of tight budgetary constraints.
Sponge has worked with a range of public sector organisations including NHS Wales, Norfolk County Council and HM Treasury. Get in touch for a demo.