trainingIf you ask anyone in any company why their organization has a training and development program, you will probably be met with a look of confusion—obviously the purpose of T&D programs is to provide employees with the learning experiences necessary to perform their jobs at the highest level possible. But for MOOCs, it’s a different story. Certainly, they can be used for traditional knowledge transfer and skill building. But these are not your traditional training courses, and as massively open digital learning environments, they are proving to have applications way beyond employee training and development.

In his SlideShare presentation “Putting MOOCs to Work,” Josh Bersin identifies seven ways companies are using MOOCs, starting with identifying and training new hires all the way through to customer relations and facilitating innovation. In this article, I’ll explore the first two uses: building talent pipelines and on-boarding new employees.

Building Talent Pipelines

Organizations are currently having major problems finding and retaining qualified employees. The challenge to building talent pipelines comes in two forms: 1) there is a widening gap between the skills companies need and the skills job candidates have and 2) employees are no longer staying at the same company for the duration of their career. In fact, they aren’t staying very long at all—in the United States, employees work for the same company on average for only four years. This presents an additional challenge as many companies report it takes between three and five years for even a seasoned employee to become fully productive. This lack of reliable pipelines is hurting businesses. According a recent study, a majority of UK companies are failing to adequately identify and fill even the positions most critical for their success.

MOOCs offer a way for companies to build talent pipelines by collaborating with MOOC providers both to design curriculums and to identify top students. Bersin identifies three main ways companies can do this:

  1. Candidate Screening. Both Coursera and Udacity have career placement services through which companies can connect with top students.
  2. Sponsorship. Companies can sponsor MOOCs or even full programs. For example, company-sponsored MOOCs are available for learning both SAP and MongoDB, and AT&T is sponsoring Georgia Tech’s $6,600 Computer Science MOOC Master’s program.
  3. Consortium. The Open Education Alliance is a consortium of tech companies including Google, Autodesk, and AT&T, who in partnership with Udacity develop curriculums and project-based learning tracks, and have pledged to hire students who successfully complete them.

Through these types of programs, companies can announce job openings, identify promising new talent, and offer special courses and products to select students. In a December Harvard Business Review article, Jeanne Meister identified MOOCs as one of the top three social media tools companies are using to find job candidates. And students are starting to respond—the Open Education Alliance’s first programs were sold out prior to their launch in late January.

Onboarding New Employees

After identifying new employees via MOOCs, companies can also use the courses for onboarding. The process of onboarding typically lasts for about 90 days and can include everything from formal training courses to job shadowing, mentoring, and so on. The costs of onboarding can be significant. According to the Center for American Progress, the cost of replacing employees ranges from 16 percent of annual salary for those making less than $30,000 to more than 200 percent for those in highly paid positions like executives. Especially since employees may stay with the company for only four years, organizations can benefit significantly from cutting costs and increasing efficiency in their onboarding processes.

As interactive digital learning environments, MOOCs can provide ways for companies to onboard new hires quickly and regardless of where in the world they are located. Because once a MOOC is developed, the marginal cost of adding learners is essentially zero, this method can be particularly beneficial for onboarding a large number of employees all at once. The benefits become even more striking when the employees are spread across different departments, locations, or even countries. For new hires not located the same geographic area, MOOCs can provide levels of interaction not found in traditional elearning (i.e., isolated in a room with a computer) or even in many instructor-led onboarding programs. This immediate interaction can promote social engagement and, with any luck, reduce the chances they will jump ship early on in the process.

The most high-profile example of a company using MOOCs for onboarding is McAfee, which used a flipped classroom model to decrease the time and cost associated with its new hire orientation program, which before the switch required more than 80 hours of training, including pre-work, intensive onsite training, and post-work. According to the company, the new format resulted in not only cost savings, but also significant increases in sales productivity.

Labeling MOOCs as just a new format for training and development misses the full potential of the courses. Jeanne Meister had it right in her article for Harvard Business Review—MOOCs can be considered a form of social media. As such, they provide ways for companies to interact with potential employees, long before any hiring decisions are made. The next article in this series will explore two uses of MOOCs that are probably more familiar: self-directed development and workforce training.

Copyright 2014 Bryant Nielson. All Rights Reserved.

Bryant Nielson – Managing Director of CapitalWave Inc.– offers 25+ years of training and talent management helping executives, business owners, and top performing sales executives in taking the leap from the ordinary to extraordinary. Being a big believer in Technology Enabled Learning, Bryant seeks to create awareness, motivate adoption and engage organizations and people in the changing business of education. Bryant is a entrepreneur, trainer, and strategic training adviser for many organizations. Bryant’s business career has been based on his results-oriented style of empowering the individual.

Learn more about Bryant at LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/bryantnielson

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Bryant Nielson is heavily involved in the Corporate Training and Leadership and Talent space. He currently is the Managing Director for CapitalWave Inc and the training division, Financial Training Solutions. He brings a diverse corporate experience of organizational development, learning and talent development, and corporate training, that also includes personal coaching of top sales individuals and companies of all sizes.

For the prior 4 years, Bryant was the Managing Director and Leadership and Talent Manager for Lengthen Your Stride! LLC. In this position, Nielson was the developer of all of the courses for MortgageMae University (MMU), the Realtor Development Center (RDC), and of Lengthen Your Stride! (LYS). In that position, he developed material, refined over many years of use and active training, and condensed the coursework and training to be high impact, natural learning, and comprehensive.

Bryant has over 27 years of Senior Management experience encompasses running his own Training and mortgage firm, in New York City.

He strongly believes that the corporate training is not to be static but should ‘engage and inspire’ students to greater productivity and performance.

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