Computers have revolutionized almost every aspect of the modern world. Communication is now expected to be instant and global, and with this, comes the expectations of the modern employee and organization. The Internet, for instance, offers a way to reach out globally to communicate, share data, develop concepts, and train. The idea of virtual training, for instance, allows training to occur on almost any subject regardless of the location of the trainer or learner. It can be adapted to fit almost any environment, and provides both a huge cost-savings to the organization, as well as a way to both ensure viability and similarity in content and relevance and insertion of new information.
Our study consists of two basic approaches to the question of virtual training, honed for clarity to the efficacy of virtual training for new employee orientation. Qualitatively there is a literature review, buttressed with interviews from HR professionals who are in organizations that use virtual training. Quantitatively we further corroborate these results through the use of a survey instrument and analysis. We conclude that in almost every case, virtual training is superior for both the trainer and learner because it proves a better learning environment, and ability to revisit concepts and conclusions, in a more individualized manner.
The Internet offers significant impact to the modern business world. Not only is communication quicker and more efficient, but opportunities for data analysis, telecommuting, sales reporting and analysis, and especially the area of long-distance, or virtual training and staff development, far more robust than ever before. While this is particularly relevant for large multinationals with offices around the globe, it can also help streamline and professionalize smaller organizations. The cost savings are obvious, but providing virtual training can also open up lifelong learning opportunities, staff development, a larger and more professionalized curriculum, and the ability for Human Resource Managers to specialize and offer their expertise to a far larger universe (Huggett, 2010).
Virtual training is replacing the traditional method of training employees, management and executives. Certainly, everyone notices the obvious cost benefits, but many organizations are now suggesting that virtual training is far more effective because it can handle the attention span of even young people, uses interactive media to more efficiently transfer information, has a 24/7 appeal, and increases access to information and unique problem solving skills. Other organizations, accounting firms, for instance, sometimes find that if not updated regularly, virtual training can easily become outdated, too informational, and not solution-oriented enough. Still, even experienced trainers see the logistical and practical improvements of virtual training. In fact, many experts agree that to build a successful virtual training program that assures usage requires five steps: 1) short learning segments of 3-5 minutes that are validated by assessments; 2) current and relevant content; 3) use of a respected and likable presenter; 4) access to solutions in real-time; and 5) automated accountability (Cardone, 2010).
Modern organizations, from the public and private sector to non-profits and home-based entities, are drastically different because of the use of computers, new communications technologies, and most especially, the Internet and availability of information and access to far more "tools" than ever before. Of course, the economic, cultural and political paradigm of globalism has brought the world closer together -- at least in the expectation of immediate and robust communication. There are numerous examples of this, but scholars often break it down into at least six trends: 1) Tele-communication; 2) Greater automation of task management; 3) Using research and data mining; 4) Virtual teamwork and training; 5) Real-time sales and marketing reporting and expectations; and 6) Increased personal customer contact (Mowshowitz, 2002). However, it is the idea of using virtual training within the corporate structure that has dramatic implications in the field of Human Resource Management.
Obviously, one of the key advantages of a virtual workplace is cost savings for the organization. Without the expense of brick and mortar, companies can usually channel funds into R&D and slaes at a greater pace. Productivity is also critical to any organization, and in a virtual workplace employees' tend to be more focused on business projects and their best productive times (Hofstede, A., et al., 2009). Workplaces that use virtual technology can scan the world for talent and skill, regardless of location (Bullock & Tucker-Klein, 2010). They are also able to provide more intensive training and job/career development options. Employees are typically happier living in their prefered environment, keeping their own costs down, and allowing them access to things that make life more meaningful (a balance between home and work (Verbeke, 2008).
Some also find that there are some negatives to the virtual environment. At times, collaboration might be less than productive as ideas flow based on the communication standard; teams may not bond as well, and there is sometimes a feeling of isolation and lack of true team spirit. The viritual workplace also demands that an employee be more self-disciplined about tasks, focused, and not easily distracted by home issues.Typically, these issues can be mitigated or even solved depending on the type of person hired; the quality of the email and virutal meeting communication, and the development of alternative team building activities and training (Sadowski-Raster, G., et al., 2006)
Virtual solutions have also been proven to be particularly viable in organizations in which there is a need to regularly train employees on general processes and procedures. This is most effective when those employees are in variable locations and there are many occasions and many individuals who need trained. Often, to make the environment far more cost effective in the long-term, many organizations construct a training location devoted to the virtual environment. This location is a place in which the employee can view training modules and engage with traininers -- all interactively without the need to travel to another facility. The cost of setting up such a location is quite minimal -- computer, web cam, software, and, because it can be used multiple times for multiple purposes can be scheduled to be of use almost 100% of the time (Nuyens, 2009; Retain Your Customers in a Down Economy, 2009)).
Indeed, besides cost and convenience, one of the most important aspects of any training program is the ability to see an effective transferance of information to the learner. Without the context of transference, the training is not as viable (Shanley, M, et al., 2009, p. 59). While in a perfect world, there would be enough trainers to have a one-to-one ratio with learners; taking on their individual learning styles, coaching along the way, and pointing out intracieis that are focused in that particular session. Virtual environments, however, are the next best offering because they can simulate any number of issues that may occur -- from human resource encounters, to mechanical failures, to large scale military or tactical operations. In addition, the other added benefit to virtual training is in the ability for the learner to repeat the procedure until mastered, and for the trainer to continually update the material with the most current knowledge available (Sebrechts, M., et al., 2003).
Our seminal questions -- is virtual training more or less effective than regular training has a broad and multidimensional approach. At first blush, the largest conundrum becomes, "it depends." For any cogent project, then, we must refine our hypothesis from a huge universal approach to one that asks some basic, and definable questions. Therefore, we examined whether virtual training was effective (less, as, or more) in organizations that were multinational or at least multiregional, to communicate basic introductory level company and human resource training and orientation. Our criteria for the organizations studied included:
Each organization must employee over 500 people full time and must have its own training department or dedicated trainer within the HR Department.
Each organization must be multinational or multiregional, with no fewer than 10 satellite locations as well as the home office.
Each organization must provide a minimum of 6-7 hours introductory training for new hires of all levels, and that initial 6-7 hours had been typically scheduled for 1 full day of physical training.
Each organization must have its virtual training system up and running for at least 12 months.
Dynamics - The research used a mixed method approach. The qualitative portion is listed above within the literature review, focusing on the development and use of a virtual training system and the ways virtual training can improve the structure and function of a training scenario. Based on the literature, we found that in almost every situation, there was a unique and robust application for virtual training that was both viable and cost effective. In many cases, as well, the research showed that virtual training was more effective than regular training for three major reasons: 1) The training could take place anywhere and the learner could be comfortable in their surroundings, take breaks,…