Online resources

A recent survey suggests that senior managers across the engineering sector are missing opportunities to hone their skills online.


Senior managers across the engineering sector are missing easy opportunities to hone their skills, as they fail to make use of the online resources available to them.


Figures published recently show that technological and cultural barriers have hindered widespread uptake of online learning in the sector, despite recognition of the business benefits it brings.


The findings, published by the Chartered Management Institute and Centre for Applied Human Resource Research, confirm that internet access is readily available for the majority of senior managers in the engineering sector.


However, 72 per cent admit they spend 30 minutes or less using company intranets, the internet or e-learning materials to solve any one problem. Only 51 per cent have made use of online management resources in the past year and 13 per cent in the sector have participated in a structured e-learning programme.


The research, outlined in a report called ‘Realising Value from Online Learning’, is based on the views of 998 respondents.  It also includes in-depth interviews with 12 large employers.


Fifty seven per cent in the engineering sector suggest online learning is a powerful resource for today’s busy executives as they can ‘dip in and out as time allows’. Forty per cent also believe the ‘constant availability for reference’ is a benefit and 19 per cent focus on the cost-effectiveness of online resources.


Over half of respondents in the sector claim resistance to e-learning is caused by the ‘loss of the human touch’.  Seventy three per cent still prefer face-to-face conversations and 31 per cent suggest ‘tutor-led’ development is most effective


Forty eight per cent say they have ‘too many distractions’ diverting them from PC-based development and 26 per cent argue the content fails to ‘engage’ them. Sixteen per cent say they lack the motivation to complete online courses, with 26 per cent also blaming lack of ‘appropriate support’.


The most common goal employers had for introducing online-learning was to enable cost-effective, rapid and regular updates to employees. A key driver in this process was the need for compliance training, with core topics including discrimination and health & safety.


Jo Causon, director, marketing and corporate affairs at the Chartered Management, said, ‘There are clear business benefits to adopting e-learning models, but until organisations provide engaging development tools and support alongside these, uptake will continue to be slow.  However, the integration of social networking with other online routes is likely to help this process, particularly as personal development will go beyond the boundaries of organisations.’


Analysing the online methods used by seniority level shows that more junior managers use blogs, e-books, e-learning modules and social networking sites than higher-level managers. Sixteen per cent of junior managers rely on blogs compared to 10 per cent of directors and more use e-learning modules than their senior counterparts.


Causon added: ‘The results mean that those planning online learning need to carefully consider their audience. Rather than rely on online learning for all, they should use it as an extra resource to traditional development programmes. In the medium-term richer content will widen the use of e-learning, but only as part of a dual blended solution.’