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Business Management

Ken Scott (Europe) - How Learning Solutions are Evolving to Meet the Needs of European Businesses

When I look back over the past decade, I am always struck by the extent to which technology has revolutionised our lives - even in the corporate learning market!

I really believe these changes have been particularly important in Europe, where so many businesses operate across borders, cultures and languages. To gain competitive advantage, companies need to deliver their services and products faster and more efficiently. And as CEO's, we know that once the best systems and processes are in place, it's our people - the organisation's biggest asset - who make the difference.

There are so many reasons why we need to train all our employees to a consistent and high standard. Staff need to have skills that are fit for purpose to do their job; to meet compliance targets; to minimise project failures; and to increase the effectiveness of cross-border teams. We also need to give our employees flexible skills that help deliver results in ever changing markets. In short, organisations can't afford to get their learning strategies wrong.

Recently, I've seen many European organisations reduce the number of trainers they employ and scale back on training budgets because of the economic climate. But they have not reduced their commitment to training their people. Instead, they have increased the use of technology in their learning strategies. And this has had an added benefit of increasing the speed and efficiency with which they can disseminate skills and knowledge.

UK and Scandinavian businesses were early and enthusiastic adopters of technology-based learning. This was consistent with faster consumer adoption of technology in those countries. So what has helped drive the growth and use of technology-based learning right across Europe?

Firstly, e-learning is significantly more user-friendly and interactive than it was even a few years ago. The use of games and social learning has made it - dare I say it - fun and engaging as well as effective. And organisations have come to realise that learning doesn't need to be an either/or decision between the classroom and e-learning. Blended learning solutions integrate essential classroom teaching with complementary e-learning, mobile learning or social learning. This reduces the overall time and cost associated with traditional classroom while delivering a high quality learning experience, equal to or even better than the strictly classroom alternative.

Technology also empowers employees to learn. A blended mix of learning solutions gives them a greater choice that meets their needs and style of working at their desk or on the move - whether it's e-learning, mobile learning or social learning. That convenience is ideal in a post credit-crunch business environments when time and resources are precious.

Finally, organisations are recognising the potential and ROI for cross-border learning. We're seeing this through the use of organisation-wide learning management systems that host learning and track progress. Social learning tools are also helping European and global teams share learning and virtual classrooms let employees participate in learning and interact with tutors online, in real time.

But this is just one part of the story. I believe the biggest challenge still to be addressed by the learning industry is delivering innovative learning solutions in local language to generate the best results -cost effectively. I know that technology can be used to automatically translate text, but even then it needs a language and subject matter expert to double-check the translation to ensure it is localised. In the coming years, I fully expect to see advances in technology that deliver smart, on-the-fly, accurate translations of multilingual learning content. Till then, technology is already making a huge difference to the competitiveness of European businesses, by giving our employees the best practice skills and knowledge they need to deliver results.

Ken Scott is CEO at the ILX Group plc. Ken won the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year London & South region 2009 award. For more information on ILX, visit their website.

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