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The Importance and Prevalence of Modern Forms of Staff Training in the Corporate Environments of Transition Countries: The Case of Slovenia

The Importance and Prevalence of Modern Forms of Staff Training in the Corporate Environments of... Compared with traditional forms of education and training, e-learning is gaining increasing importance not only within the academic setting of formal education, but also in the corporate environment. Concerning the latter, it is evident that with increasing pressure on cost efficiency and competitiveness, in addition to the current harsh financial and economic conditions, companies are being challenged and this tends to change their behaviour patterns. In this article, the results of a survey are presented. The survey focused on the current status and possible future trends of cor- porate e-learning methods in Slovenia, which is among the so-called transition countries. This survey brings more than one aspect of this issue to light. The findings show increasing rates of acceptance of the e-learning education model by the local corporate environment. Nevertheless, significant gaps are evident when compared with the most advanced European and worldwide economies in terms of the widespread use of comprehensive e-learning models and the latest e-learning technologies, such as LMS systems. Furthermore, the survey reveals that e-learning is perceived by compa- nies as cost efficient and flexible, but on the other hand it is not yet perceived to contribute to a higher quality level of staff training when compared with traditional methods. Keywords: staff training, e-learning, corporate environment, transition countries JEL: O33, P20, M53 1. INTRODUCTION Good training is crucial in the successful development of this research was to establish the current situation and of any society, business or institution. However, challenged possible trends to expect in future years. Companies were by the current crisis, companies are inclined to rationalize included in the survey regardless of their size or activity. The and optimize their budget, which often includes changes survey was distributed to 423 corporate and institutional to the crucial area of employee training. In addition to fi- addresses in Slovenia, of which 70 responded and partici- nancial issues, employees have a lack of time due to busy pated. The survey was carried out in November 2012. schedules, as well as an increasing amount and complex- The following section is focused on the concept of e- ity of work. Highly dynamic business and macro-econom- learning itself and the scope for the use of this term. Recent ic environments require flexibility in all of these aspects. Consequently, companies face the challenge of optimizing employee training. E-learning is gaining in market share, * Tanja Markovič-Hribernik, Ph.D with increasing relevance as a training method. Associate Professor In the US particularly, but also in major European econo- University of Maribor, Faculty of Economics and Business, mies, e-learning appears to be widely promoted, advanced E-mail: tanja.markovic@uni-mb.si and gaining in popularity in corporate environments. Much less is known about how widespread the use of e-learning is Bostjan Jarc in transition countries and their business environments. For e-learning consultant this purpose, the present survey was conducted and focused B2 d.o.o. Maribor on companies and other organizations in Slovenia. The aim E-mail: bostjan.jarc@b2.eu; bostjan.jarc@gmail.com 16 Copyright © 2013 by the School of Economics and Business Sarajevo The importance and prevalence of modern forms of staff training in the corporate environments of transition countries: the case of Slovenia largely unrelated in terms of their process. A video relevant studies are listed and reviewed in section 3. Section conference allows communication among a smaller 4 reveals the methodological framework used for this study, number of “equals”, while a webinar is available for a while in section 5 data concerning the characteristics of the larger number of participants, and features primarily included companies is presented. Section 6 is dedicated to one-way communication from the lecturer towards the research results and comments. The final conclusions the audience; are presented in section 7. – E-courses include learning material that is distribut- ed to users electronically. For the purposes of issuing and distribution, an e-learning management system 2. THE CONCEPT OF E-LEARNING is required, usually referred to as a LMS (Learning In both literature and everyday practice, the term “e- Management System); learning” is not always used in the same way (see for exam- – Guided e-course or e-learning, where a mentor ple Bachman (2000); Elearning - What is E-learning (2012); guides the learning process; this model makes use Defining e-learning (2012)). Terms like distance learning, of different e-learning formats and is supported, e-learning, Web Based Training (WBT ) and Computer Based counselled, motivated, supervised and guided by a Training (CBT) are often used synonymously. The European mentor; e-Learning Action Plan (Commission of the European – E-mail: As an educational tool, this format expe- Communities 2001) defines e-learning as a form of edu- rienced great expansion at the time the Internet cation that uses the latest multimedia technologies and emerged; its prevalence on the global market is now internet to upgrade the quality of education, allowing ac- negligible; cess to new sources and services, as well as knowledge ex- – E-books: This tool is intended for the transfer of in- change and collaboration (see also Gardner and Bryn 2006, formation and independent training. Nevertheless, p. 14). The Utah Training Network sourced Ed Technology it does not qualify as a very advanced e-learning Glossary of Terms (2012) defines e-learning as simply “edu- product; cation by means of electronics.” This latter concept encom- passes a wide range of applications and processes, such as – Mobile learning is carried out using mobile devices Web Based Training (WBT), Computer Based Training (CBT), (Unesco 2012); Virtual Classrooms and Digital Collaboration. It also includes – E-testing: although it cannot be qualified as an edu- web-based data transfer (LAN/WAN), audio and video me- cational model directly, it may be considered a viable dia (CD, DVD), transmission by satellite, interactive TV, etc. supportive or complementary service to traditional With so many definitions and concepts of e-learning in training methods and/or e-learning; both professional literature and everyday practice, we have – Comprehensive e-learning supported by an LMS sys- opted for the widest possible definition of e-learning to be tem: systems that also enable the production and used for this research. In the list below are some of the con- development of e-learning content (usually in the cepts described in literature that are relevant for the objec- form of an e-course), are called LCMS, which stands tives of our research: for Learning Content Management System. The com- – learning via websites. This is self-directed searching prehensive e-learning concept, use of an L(C)MS and for knowledge and learning through ordinary web the integration of e-learning with other business pro- pages and represents the lowest level of e-learning; cesses is the most advanced form of e-learning for – learning using CD or DVD media and similar; this corporate environments. This applies not only to the model is not usually supported by tests of under- technology it incorporates but also the way in which standing nor does it enable communication among the e-learning is organized and processed. These fea- participants; tures enable this model to become an integral part of any corporate training system. By itself, an LMS – Blended Learning, combining traditional meth- represents only the basis of the comprehensive cor- ods and different forms of e-learning; it combines porate e-learning system. It is complemented with the benefits of both traditional methods and e- e-learning content (e.g. e-course) and supporting learning. According to past surveys, such as the (organizing, mentoring, etc.) services. CrossKnowledge Survey (2012), this is the most common form of e-learning, with as many as 76% of – Social e-learning is a relatively new concept but has European companies using this form; already achieved significant progress, especially in the US corporate training market. Social e-learning – A Webinar combines what the name suggests: the is both designed and distributed by using web tools, World Wide Web with a seminar. Internet technolo- most often blogs, bookmarks and social networks. gies are usually accessed for this form of e-learning Special tools (Yammer, Mzinga, etc.) dedicated to and they can also enable assessment of the candi- corporate social e-learning are currently in the pro- date’s level of understanding (Howstuffworks 2012); cess of development (Hart 2009). – Video conference; although this appears closely matched to the concept of a webinar in terms of the technologies used, these two forms of e-learning are South East European Journal of Economics and Business 17 The importance and prevalence of modern forms of staff training in the corporate environments of transition countries: the case of Slovenia 3. REVIEW OF RECENT RELEVANT STUDIES, KEY survey by Overton and Dixon (2011), as our assessment of the situation in Slovenia will later be compared primarily CONCLUSIONS with these findings. However, it should be noted that the In recent years, several studies on these topics have been comparison is difficult in some respects. In particular, when undertaken within major markets where e-learning has al- considering the most advanced e-learning technologies, ready gained its place as an established form of corporate such as Learning Management Systems, usage rates depend training. Among the most recent work, research done by very much on average company size. The average Slovene Adkins (2011) is worth mentioning. This global study looks company is far smaller than those of Western Europe and at e-learning products and services for self-paced e-learn- this has an influence when assessing how widespread the ing, their current situation and future trends on the global use of these methods might be. e-learning market. Although the aspects of the focus of this It is also worth mentioning a recent survey by Cox eL- research are not directly relevant to our aims, a number of earning Consultants, LLC (2011), who analyzed companies key conclusions reveal some interesting facts about global and organizations from 55 countries worldwide, regard- trends. The study reports that the total global e-learning less of their size or activity. The purpose of this study was market reached US$32.1 billion in 2010, but will increase to to examine staff training solutions and methods utilized by $49.9 billion by 2015. The highest growth rates should be businesses and other organizations, and what trends were achieved by markets in Asia (28.4% yearly), which are set to expected for the near future. The survey was limited to so- pass the Western European market by 2015. The next high- cial learning, video training, mobile learning and web con- est growth rate is in Eastern Europe, which should reach ferencing e-learning techniques. Findings show that organi- growth rates of above 20% per year. The study also found zations are increasingly using web-based CPC conferencing that e-learning is thriving in academic environments, with systems, as well as learning methods supported by video market shares here higher than in the respective corporate (CPC video based training). However, the biggest shifts are environments of all countries except the US. expected in mobile learning and social media supported More closely related to our aims is the research of training. Overton and Dixon (2011), which looks at the use of train- With regard to our research aims, the findings of the ing technologies by European companies. The study was study by CrossKnowledge (2012) - 1st European e-learn- carried out for one of the world’s largest e-learning confer- ing Barometer - should also be considered. The work was ences, Berlin Educa. The findings revealed that the most fre - conducted in 2011 with 511 companies from 6 European quently used technologies by European companies are web economies: the UK, France, Spain, Italy, Belgium and the questionnaires (81%), e-learning courses, virtual meetings Netherlands. The following is a summary of the key findings: and training portals. More than 60% of participants used a – In the UK, Spain and Benelux nearly 40% of com- LMS and more than 50% were using it integrated with their panies train more than 50% of their employees via internal human resource systems. The study also reported e-learning (in France only 17%). E-learning is most that Cloud based e-learning and mobile training are both used within the services sector (43% of service-based expected to have the brightest futures. The authors find companies train more than 50% of their employees that generalist and IT-oriented content is predominantly via e-learning). British companies, despite having what companies demand for staff training. More specific used e-learning for less time than other countries, content is related to company business analysis, customer are quickly developing their application of e-learn- relations management, social responsibility, and sales and ing (in 2011, 51% of companies delivered at least one marketing. As expected, use of content related to communi- training via e-learning to over 50% of their employ- cation skills, teamwork and collaboration is lagging behind. ees compared to 39% in 2010). Regarding size, large When asked about the main benefits of e-learning methods, companies have been using e-learning the longest European companies report: more efficient implementation (68% of the European sample of companies that use of the latest IT systems; a wider range of available educa- e-learning have a headcount of over 10,000). tional content; easy access to relevant content; considerably – The factors that motivated large companies to devel- reduced rates of absenteeism; greater flexibility in educa- op an interest in e-learning ahead of the rest include tion; shorter response time to changes in the business envi- the challenge of training large numbers of employ- ronment; and, last but not least, cost efficiency. Half of com- ees, the need to align competencies in real time over panies also state that e-learning has done much to improve increasingly competitive global markets and econo- their customer satisfaction and productivity. The survey also mies of scale. exposed some of the main obstacles for implementation of – The vast majority of companies surveyed spend less e-learning models: employees in organizations appear to than 10% of their total training budget on e-learning. lack the knowledge and skills to design their own training The main goal of e-learning is training cost optimi- process, while their training managers lack the knowledge zation – delivering a consistent quality of training to and skills needed for the implementation of these methods large numbers of employees accounts for 37% of use. in their companies; executives generally appear to be reluc- – 75% of companies use e-learning to deliver train- tant to introduce new methods; the costs of arranging an ing on core professional skills, e.g.IT and desktop e-learning system, etc. training, as well as Health and Safety or Compliance In this section, a lot of attention has been given to the 18 South East European Journal of Economics and Business The importance and prevalence of modern forms of staff training in the corporate environments of transition countries: the case of Slovenia training. In large companies there is a clear rise in essentially absent from the process. Traces of this idea, with themes such as management, leadership, commu- the teacher in an authoritarian role, remain present when nication and personal development. The study also speaking of modern e-learning methods. Therefore, for suc- underlines the link between the length of time that a cessful implementation, a combined model of education company has been using e-learning and the sophis- featuring both traditional and modern e-learning processes tication of the modules and delivery methods that it will be necessary (Vehovar 2007, p. 25). makes available. – For 76% of companies, the most popular delivery method for e-learning is Blended learning (47% of 4. METHODOLOGICAL FRAMEWORK those already using this approach are planning to intensify usage). A questionnaire was produced for the purpose of this study, supported by the FluidSurveys.com online survey – Regarding the near future, many companies an- tool. Its modelling was based on other questionnaires al- swered that they are seeking to maintain or cut back ready used for similar research (e.g. Overton and Dixon 2011; their overall training budget and to reduce cost per Eizobraževanje.net 2011). The questionnaire consists of 19 learner in order to be able to train a greater num- questions, divided into four segments (see the Appendix for ber of employees without increasing spending on details): training. 1. General information on the company – company char- The history of e-learning in Slovenia is considerably acteristics, industry, number of employees, number shorter than in the major US and European economies, so of branches and locations, etc. the record of past research is rather modest. To date, stud- 2. Company staff training system – training resources, ies have focused mainly on formal education and school tools, responsible persons, frequency, etc. related e-learning methods, rather than corporate environ- 3. E-learning – e-learning resources, tools, existing e- ments. As an example, Vehovar (2007) analyzed the e-learn- learning techniques, benefits, comparison to tradi- ing systems of the new EU-members, including Slovenia. tional training methods, obstacles to implementa- Although the research covers e-learning in relation to both tion, impact on business development, etc. formal and non-formal education, most of its findings are 4. Future trends – planning of e-learning development related to the academic industry (schools) rather than the corporate environment. The questionnaire was mailed to 423 employees of small, One of the few surveys to focus on the corporate envi- medium and large enterprises and organizations in Slovenia. ronment was that of the Eizobrazevanje.net portal, conduct- The survey was conducted in November 2012. Included in ed in the first months of 2011. The sample consisted of 73 the database were mainly: human resource managers and participating companies. However, this survey was limited personnel; IS/IT managers and experts; training manag- to companies in a few selected industries that had a work- ers; managing directors; and other company executives. force of at least 100 people. The survey did not provide in- This web survey aimed to obtain answers from the relevant formation on the impact of the use of e-learning methods persons responsible, i.e. those who were embedded in the on business development. educational processes of their respective companies and Use of e-learning in the Slovene corporate environ- organizations. As previously discussed, there was a poten- ment was investigated by Arh, Kovačič and Jerman-Blažič tial risk from different interpretations of e-learning by the (2006). The authors write that the recent rise of e-learning in respondents. For this reason, we decided to use the broad- Slovenia is the result of a growing choice of various e-learn- est possible definition of the e-learning concept, which not ing services and systems, their use elsewhere in Europe, only includes use of the most advanced forms of e-learning and the availability of financial resources from the EU and (such as LMS), but also its more basic forms, including the its Structural Funds. The authors state there is increasing use of e-mail for training purposes. use of independent e-learning models using e-content as A branching scenario was applied to the questioning well as combined e-learning models supported by a men- procedures of this survey, as demonstrated by question 8: tor. The findings also revealed that e-learning is still mostly “How long have you been using the e-learning methods in your reserved for larger companies, despite the evidence of ben- organization?” A decision loop was included here to steer efits for small and medium businesses. Like the study by additional questions according to the respondent’s answer. Vehovar (2007), this study shows that, in general, the role of If this was “We do not use e-learning at all”, no further details the mentor is considered crucial for the e-learning process. were asked and participants were directed toward ques- According to Vehovar, the educational approach in Slovenia tions on future plans. is closely associated with social, cultural, economic and his- torical factors. Historically, for over 500 years, the Habsburgs ruled the Slovenian territory. This influence can still be seen in the cur - rent approach to education. In the past, teachers had a large- ly authoritarian role, lecturing their disciples who remained passive as learners. Communication and collaboration were South East European Journal of Economics and Business 19 The importance and prevalence of modern forms of staff training in the corporate environments of transition countries: the case of Slovenia 5. SAMPLE DATABASE AND FUNDAMENTALS Segmentation of companies by size and activity Data source: Web Survey Figure 1: Companies by their principal activity (Standard Sectorial Classification, 2008) The database features organizations of all sizes and in- companies (24%) employed between 101 and 250 people dustries. As seen in Figure 1, 70 companies and other organ- at the time of the survey. Companies with less than 50 em- izations participated. The majority were from the manufac- ployees accounted for 10% of the sample. From our point turing industry (13%), followed by financial and insurance of view, the latter could prove to be the least suited to inte- services, education and other sectors (11% each). Companies grate the most advanced forms of e-learning. from 16 different industries participated. Therefore, the Nineteen percent of participating companies (corre- sample can be considered adequate and sufficiently diverse sponding to 13 subjects out of 70) employed over 1,000 to represent the entire corporate environment of Slovenia. staff. In comparison to the overall number of companies of Both private and public sectors were included. this size, these 13 participants present a highly weighted As shown in Figure 2, most of the participating sample; following 2010 statistics, there were 26 business 20 South East European Journal of Economics and Business The importance and prevalence of modern forms of staff training in the corporate environments of transition countries: the case of Slovenia companies of this size in Slovenia (Delo. si 2010). As the current financial crisis has proved to be fatal for many large companies, especially from the civil engineering sec- tor, this number might now be even lower. When we include public administration or- ganizations and institutions with over 1,000 employees to this statistic, the weighting of this sample can still be considered great. As expected, the analysis shows that most companies featuring external branch- es and business premises (e.g. retail subsidi- aries, branch offices, production sites, etc.) belong to the category of 1,000 or more em- ployees (Figure 3). Thirty one percent fea- tured 50 or more locations. Only 8% of com- panies this size (corresponding to 1 in our Data source: Web Survey sample) have no off-site business premises. The applicability of the most advanced Figure 2: Companies by size e-learning technologies (such as LMS) is largely dependent on company size and the geographical dispersion of its premises. Data source: Web Survey Figure 3: Number of locations by company size South East European Journal of Economics and Business 21 The importance and prevalence of modern forms of staff training in the corporate environments of transition countries: the case of Slovenia Therefore, these large companies may be considered most suited to the use of advanced e-learning models. Characteristics of respondents As shown in Figure 4, most re- sponses came from human resource managers (42%), followed by “other positions” (30%) and heads of de- partments (23%). Considerably fewer responses were from IS/IT managers, managing directors or board mem- bers, representing 5% combined. The category “other positions” includes the following profiles: staff training member; assistant director; responsible for organization training; advisor; joint services staff members; training manager; project manager; Data source: Web Survey and staff responsible for the remu- Figure 4: Respondents by function neration system. 6. SURVEY OUTCOME ANALYSES Training planning and resources The multiple choice question: “Who is responsible for departments appear to be mostly absent from the planning planning employee training in your company?” allowed mul- process. Their active participation might be expected due tiple replies. The outcomes shown in Figure 5 reveal that to the intense use and development of information systems this planning is mostly performed by the department head and technologies. (39%) or human resources staff (28%). Surprisingly, IS/IT In terms of funding, 64% of participating companies Data source: Web Survey Figure 5: Planning of employee training 22 South East European Journal of Economics and Business The importance and prevalence of modern forms of staff training in the corporate environments of transition countries: the case of Slovenia reserve an annual budget of €500 or less per employee Use of e-learning (Figure 6). Only in 15% of cases did the budget exceed €1,000 per employee (corresponding to 11 respondents). The survey revealed that 44% of respondents make use Among these, the financial and insurance industries were of e-learning (Figure 7). most prominent, followed by the IS/IT sector and, remark- The e-learning training models are mostly used by com- ably, trade, maintenance and servicing of motor vehicles. It panies with over 1,000 employees (as many as 77% of the may be concluded that the intense development and fre- respondent companies in this category of size). quent appearance of new products and services encourag- It may be concluded that e-learning is considered to be es these industries to invest proportionally more in training. comparable to traditional training models by these larger 12% of respondents provided no answer or were not famil- companies. However, surprisingly, only 11% of companies iar with the matter. with 500-1,000 employees use e-learning methods. Data source: Web Survey Figure 6: Yearly training budget per employee Data source: Web Survey Figure 7: Use of e-learning by company size South East European Journal of Economics and Business 23 The importance and prevalence of modern forms of staff training in the corporate environments of transition countries: the case of Slovenia In contrast, the number of small businesses (50 people financial crisis and shortages in training budgets. Thus, e- or less) using e-learning methods is remarkably high. These learning is also gaining popularity due to its greater cost companies appear to be encouraged by its flexibility and efficiency. relative low costs. 75% of the 32 companies using e-learning invest less 75% of companies who are currently using e-learning than 20% of their training budgets toward this method methods (Figure 8) have been doing so for up to 5 years (Figure 9). Although lower, these figures are quite compa- (less than a year in 19% of cases). It is evident that this rate rable with the European corporate average. From existing is growing. Many companies view e-learning as an increas- surveys, e-learning budgets account for an average share of ingly viable alternative to traditional training methods. The less than 10% of the entire training budget (CrossKnowledge relatively large proportion of companies that have only re- 2012). With these percentages being rather low at the mo- cently started using e-learning (one year or less) revealed ment, their growth may be predicted in the years to come. that this has probably been encouraged by the current Note: From this point, only those respondents who declared they were using e-learning methods are included. Data source: Web Survey Figure 8: How long have e-learning methods been in use? Note: From this point, only those respondents who declared they were using e-learning methods are included. Data source: Web Survey Figure 9: Companies by allocated share of total training budget toward e-learning 24 South East European Journal of Economics and Business The importance and prevalence of modern forms of staff training in the corporate environments of transition countries: the case of Slovenia Note: From this point, only those respondents who declared they were using e-learning methods are included. Data source: Web Survey Figure 10: Prevalence of e-learning methods in companies Of the different e-learning methods available, Slovene interesting when compared to other European countries companies mostly (75%) use e-courses (Figure 10). This can (Overton and Dixon 2011, p. 5), where up to 45% of compa- be considered a positive sign because this form is consid- nies already use mobile e-learning technologies, with this ered to be one of the more advanced options. Self-directed share expected to increase further, up to 80%, within the learning through websites accounts for up to 69%, while, next two years. blended learning covers 34%. Concerning the latter, a re- From this survey, only 8 of the responding companies markable fact is that the European average is much higher; make use of an internal e-learning system (LMS). Half of no less than 75% of companies use blended learning meth- these companies employ over 1,000 people (Figure 11). ods (CrossKnowledge 2012). Most of the companies that already use LMS feature In Slovenia, 25% of respondents use LMS. This might a large number of branches or locations (more than 50). be due to the companies’ long-term interest in promot- Hence company size and the dispersion of its premises ap- ing an e-learning concept. Again, this rate is far beneath pear to be influential factors when deciding whether or not the European average, where 60% of companies use LMS to implement LMS. (Overton and Dixon 2011, p. 5). In our view, the main rea- Twenty-seven percent of the responding companies that son for such a discrepancy lies in average company size and already use e-learning methods declared that they have not dispersion of business units, with the average European only implemented the system but they also promote its use company much larger in size when compared to Slovenian (Figure 12). Ten percent of these companies also integrate companies. As stated earlier, company size is definitely one their comprehensive e-learning functions with several oth- of the key factors for investing in LMS. er business processes. E-learning is constantly and actively Surprisingly, not a single respondent uses social or used by their staff. mobile e-learning methods. This outcome grows more South East European Journal of Economics and Business 25 The importance and prevalence of modern forms of staff training in the corporate environments of transition countries: the case of Slovenia Note: From this point, only those respondents who declared they were using e-learning methods are included. Their structure is as follows: Total = 8 (of which 3 are from the category of over 1,000 staff members and more than 50 locations; 1 with over 1,000 staff and 1-10 loca- tions; and 1 in each of the categories 0-50, 51-100, 251-500 and 501-1,000 of employees. Data source: Web Survey Figure 11: Companies using LMS by their size and number of locations or branches Note: From this point, only those respondents who declared they were using e-learning methods are included. Data source: Web Survey Figure 12: Companies by stage of e-learning 26 South East European Journal of Economics and Business The importance and prevalence of modern forms of staff training in the corporate environments of transition countries: the case of Slovenia Rating What is the impact of e-learning on your business? 1 2 3 4 5 1 3 7 11 3 Employees’ skills upgraded (4%) 12%) (28%) (44%) (12%) 3 3 9 7 2 Improved customer satisfaction (12%) (12%) (38%) (29%) (8%) 2 2 7 7 6 Improved efficiency in compliance of operations (8%) (8%) (29%) (29%) (25%) Decreased number of accidents, misuses and risks 6 4 7 5 2 (safety at work area) (25%) (17%) (29%) (21%) (8%) Decreased number of accidents, misuses and risks (infor- 3 2 8 8 2 mation security area) (13%) (9%) (35%) (35%) (9%) 3 3 3 7 7 Easier access to information on new products and services (13%) (13%) (13%) (30%) (30%) 0 3 3 7 11 Training costs reduced (0%) (12%) (12%) (29%) (46%) 4 5 6 2 8 No measuring / data not available (16%) (20%) (24%) (8%) (32%) 8 8 4 1 1 No impact (36%) (36%) (18%) (5%) (5%) Rating (1 - do not agree, 2 – partly agree, 3- mostly agree, 4 - agree, 5 – very much agree) Data source: Web Survey Table 1: Impact of e-learning on business However, many companies that use e-learning methods approximate estimations of the e-learning effects have use it sporadically (in 37% of cases), or are in the course of been provided in place of measured values. development within the project (10%), or have just started When asked to compare e-learning to traditional train- using it (27%). These three groups of users represent 74% of ing methods and to name the most evident benefits, com- all companies who already use e-learning. Experiences from panies responded: reduced cost of training (78%); improved the US and other major markets indicate that the Slovene user flexibility (78%); improved access to training content e-learning market is in a growth stage and that its potential (72%); and less absenteeism (69%), is still high. However, when predicting future trends, market On the other hand, e-learning is not perceived as lead- specifics must be taken into account, such as the structure ing to higher quality levels when compared to traditional When asked about the impact of e-learning on their methods. Studies of other European companies show the businesses and outcomes (Table 1), almost half of the re- opposite: in 61% of cases they claim e-learning has indeed spondents (46%) agree that e-learning is keeping their cor- improved the quality of their training processes (Overton porate training costs down (rating = 5 out of 5), while none and Dixon 2011, p. 10). Recalling the research findings by of the respondents stated the opposite. Vehovar (2007, p. 25) might help to explain this point, given Many companies (79% of all rating 3 or more) described the predominant role of the teacher in education systems improved IS/IT-security, i.e. decrease in accidents, misuse in Slovenia. However, e-learning is mostly performed as and risks effected by e-learning. Companies also attributed self-paced learning, with a more or less passive role on the their improved efficiency to the better compliance of opera- part of the teacher and by using an asynchronous concept tions (83% of those who rated 3 or more) and upgraded skills of communication. To achieve success, participants are re- of employees, with both being positive effects of e-learning. quired to act autonomously. As an additional comment, it should be stated that an Therefore, the increasing popularity of e-learning ap- over-proportionate number of the companies do not sys- pears to be based primarily on two characteristics, location tematically measure such kinds of effects, and were un- independence and cost efficiency. It should also be stated, able to obtain the necessary data, or had none available. that only 2% of the respondents confirmed that e-learning Following the experiences of the developed markets, such had no benefit at all. as the US, where such metrics are integrated in all busi- Of the major obstacles in implementation of e-learning ness processes, this result is quite surprising and could and related technologies (Figure 14) stated by the compa- lead toward further questions over how far the users’ own nies, issues related to human resources were considered to South East European Journal of Economics and Business 27 The importance and prevalence of modern forms of staff training in the corporate environments of transition countries: the case of Slovenia Data source: Web Survey Figure 13: Main benefits of e-learning compared to traditional methods Data source: Web Survey Figure 14: Main obstacles to implementation of e-learning technologies 28 South East European Journal of Economics and Business The importance and prevalence of modern forms of staff training in the corporate environments of transition countries: the case of Slovenia be the most important. Forty- one percent of cases stated their own in-house production of content. an insufficient number of staff were available to work on Remarkably, many respondents indicated that the im- e-learning. This claim was confirmed also by the outcome plementation of e-learning technologies was “simply not of the “Sources of e-learning content” section. Most com- considered to match the company’s strategic goals” (33%) or panies seem to use products that are already available or claimed that there was a lack of skills necessary to use these outsourced these services and to a much lesser extent, had new technologies (31%). Surprisingly, the latter statements Data source: Web Survey Figure 15: E-learning content by current use versus planned use Data source: Web Survey Figure 16: Training methods today versus the next 2 years by hours of training a growing share to blended learning and e-learning methods. South East European Journal of Economics and Business 29 The importance and prevalence of modern forms of staff training in the corporate environments of transition countries: the case of Slovenia do not match at all with the outcomes of recent studies on The results also showed that Slovene companies use ICT-literacy in Slovenia. On the other hand, they are sup- different e-learning methods, but not all that are currently ported by experience elsewhere in Europe. An even higher available. Particularly surprising was the almost complete percentage of companies analyzed by Overton and Dixon absence of e-learning through mobile technologies, which (2011, p. 13) found these factors to be obstacles; as many as are achieving high growth rates elsewhere in the world. 60% described a lack of skills from the employee to manage Acceleration in this area can be expected in Slovenia within his/her own training process. a few years. In Slovenia, only 2% of the respondents cited any kind In some parameters, Slovenia seems to compare reason- of bad experience. This could mean that all companies have ably well to the European average. This can be said when mostly good, if not excellent, experiences with e-learning. speaking of the widespread use of the e-learning concept, In response to the area of application, most (24%) com- its content and to some extent the trends of traditional panies use e-learning methods for IS/IT-related content methods giving way to e-methods. Lagging behind the in- (Figure 15). Content related to compliance in operation rep- ternational trends is the use of comprehensive e-learning resents the second most important area of application, in- methods and Learning Management Systems (LMS). Small cluding health and safety at work, information security and to average company size, dispersion of business sites and “other legislative content.” a lack of adequate experts seem to be the most plausible Companies tend to rely increasingly on e-learning meth- explanations for this. ods and it may be expected that this trend will increase fur- Arguments reinforcing use, such as recent trends and ther in the future. This can be expected for all fields of cor - especially cost efficiency during the current financial crisis, porate training, except management, sales and acquiring provide strong signals that point to the great potential for formal education. The greatest growth can be expected for e-learning in the corporate environment of Slovenia. content related to compliance training. Thirty three percent of companies intend to use e-learning for staff health and safety training in the next 2 years (today: 10%). Information REFERENCES security, “other legislative content” and foreign languages follow. Stable or slightly downward trends are expected for Adkins, S. S. 2011. The Worldwide Market for Self-paced eLearn- the areas of communication, management and sales. The ing Products and Services: 2010-2015 Forecast and Analysis. reason might be that electronic knowledge transfer is rather Ambient Insight. (database online) http://www.ambientin- more difficult in these areas. sight.com/Resources/Documents/Ambient-I nsight-2010- It is interesting that only 10% of companies have decid- 2015-Worldwide-eLearning-Market-Executive-Overview.pdf. ed not to use e-learning during the next 2 years and 40% (accessed November 5, 2012). have no plans as yet. Nevertheless, more companies are ex- Arh, T., Kovačič, M. and Jerman-Blažič, B. 2006. Struktura ponudbe pected to use e-learning methods at the end of the next 2 e-izobraževanja v Sloveniji. Ljubljana: Institut »Jožef Stefan«, year period than the current one. Laboratorij za odprte sisteme in mreže. (database online) Comparing the hours of training invested in e-learning http://uploadi.www.ris.org/editor/1164734009Arh_Tanja.pdf. today and in 2 years (Figure 16) confirms a growing trend (accessed October 25, 2012). in e-learning compared with traditional methods. Therefore, Bachman, K. 2000. Corporate e-learning: exploring a new frontier. companies expect that time invested in traditional training (database online) http://www.internettime.com/Learning/arti- will drop to 78% on the basis of cles/hambrecht.pdf.pdf. (accessed October 16, 2012). Therefore, it can be assumed that traditional learning Commission of the European Communities. 2001. The eLearning methods will gradually give way to various e-learning meth- Action Plan: Designing tomorrow’s education. (database on- ods, either pure e-learning or blended learning. line) http:// ec.europa.eu/education/archive/elearning/annex en.pdf. (accessed October 30, 2012). Cox eLearning Consultants, LLC. 2012. Industry Buying Plans&Trends for 2012: Social Learning, Video Training, Mobile 7. CONCLUSIONS Learning and Web Conferencing. Cox eLearning Consultants, E-learning has become a generally accepted form of LLC. (database online) https://news.citrixonline.com/wp-con- training in Europe and worldwide for both formal educa- tent/uploads/2012/02/Industry_Buying_Plans-Trends_2012. tion and corporate training. Traditional learning methods pdf. (accessed November 28, 2012). are giving way to e-learning. Growth rates are of particular CrossKnowledge. 2012. 1st European e-learning Barometer. (data- interest in emerging markets. base online) http://www.crossknowledge.com/en_GB/elearn- Trends in Slovenia are comparable to those of the ma- ing/media-center/news/elearning-sur vey-barometer.html. jor markets. This means that e-learning is gaining status as (accessed November 28, 2012) a viable alternative in Slovene companies who appreciate Defining e-learning. 2012. (database online) http://www.nwlink. benefits such as cost efficiency and flexibility. However, e- com/~donclark/hrd/elearning/define.html. learning is not yet perceived to give better quality training. (accessed November 6, 2012). Such a perception is rather remarkable, with companies Delo.si.. 2010. Podjetja z največjim številom zaposlenih. (database elsewhere in Europe observing improved quality of training online) http://www.delo.si/assets/media/other/20110606//06 through e-learning methods. 01__66SteviloZaposlenih.pdf. (accessed November 22, 2012). 30 South East European Journal of Economics and Business The importance and prevalence of modern forms of staff training in the corporate environments of transition countries: the case of Slovenia Ed Technology Glossary of Terms. 2012. (database online) Appendix 1: http://www.uen.org/core/edtech/glossary.shtml (accessed List of questions for Web survey November 24, 2012). (Note: options not shown, as seen from the responses): Eizobraževanje.net. 2011. Raziskava o e-izobraževanju v slovenskih podjetjih. (database online) http://www.eizobrazevanje.net/ 1. What is the main activity of your company? raziskava-o-e-izobrazevanju-v-slovenskih-podjetjih/ (accessed 2. How many employees work in your company? October 12, 2012). 3. What is your function in the company? Elearning – What is E-learning? 2012. (database online) http:// 4. How many locations or branches does your company www.cognitivedesignsolutions.com/ELearning/E-Learning1. have (local, international business units, subsidiaries)? htm (accessed November 30, 2012). 5. What is the budget allocation per year per employee Gardner, J., and Holmes, B. 2006. E-Learning: Concepts and Practice. invested in training (including fees, travel costs, daily London: Sage Publications Ltd. allowances)? Hart, J. 2009. Social Learning. (database online) http://www.slide- 6. Who is responsible for planning employee training in share.net/janehart/the-future-of-elearning-is-social-learning your company? (multiple answers are possible) (accessed November 26, 2012). 7. How often are the employees of your company trained? Howstuffworks. 2012. (database online) http://money.howstuff- 8. For how long have you been using e-learning methods works.com/business-communications/how-web-seminars- in your company? work.htm. (accessed March 28, 2013). 9. What percentage of your entire training budget is allo- Overton, L., and Dixon, G. 2011. Learning technology adoption cated for e-learning? in European Businesses 2011. Berlin: Online Educa Berlin, 10. What forms of e-learning do you use in your company Towards Maturity. (database online) http://www.icwe.net/ (multiple answers are possible)? oeb_special/OEB_Newsportal/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/ 11. What content is supported by e-learning methods for Online-Educa-towards-Maturity-report-2011-v6-PDF_FINAL. employee training in your company? (multiple answers pdf. (accessed November 5, 2012). possible)? Unesco. 2012. ICT in Education. (database online) http://www.un- 12. What proportion of time is used for the different forms esco.org/new/en/unesco/themes/icts/m4ed of e-learning in your company (in terms of hours (accessed March 7,2013). invested)? Vehovar, V. 2007. eLearning in Slovenia. Ljubljana: Fakulteta za 13. Who performs e-learning in your company? (multiple družbene vede. answers are possible) 14. What impact does (did) e-learning have on your busi- ness? Please rate each of the statements from 1 to 5 (1 – I don’t agree at all; 5 – very much agree) 15. Which stage of use of e-learning methods is your com- pany in? 16. What are the main benefits of e-learning compared to traditional methods for your company? Please select the best matched answers. 17. What are (were) the main obstacles for implementing e-learning technologies in your company? Please select the best matched answers. 18. Which content do you plan to integrate in your e-learn- ing process in the next 2 years? (multiple answers are possible) 19. In terms of training hours, what proportion of time for each of the training forms (methods) do you plan for your company? South East European Journal of Economics and Business 31 http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png South East European Journal of Economics and Business de Gruyter

The Importance and Prevalence of Modern Forms of Staff Training in the Corporate Environments of Transition Countries: The Case of Slovenia

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de Gruyter
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2233-1999
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2233-1999
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10.2478/jeb-2013-0005
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Abstract

Compared with traditional forms of education and training, e-learning is gaining increasing importance not only within the academic setting of formal education, but also in the corporate environment. Concerning the latter, it is evident that with increasing pressure on cost efficiency and competitiveness, in addition to the current harsh financial and economic conditions, companies are being challenged and this tends to change their behaviour patterns. In this article, the results of a survey are presented. The survey focused on the current status and possible future trends of cor- porate e-learning methods in Slovenia, which is among the so-called transition countries. This survey brings more than one aspect of this issue to light. The findings show increasing rates of acceptance of the e-learning education model by the local corporate environment. Nevertheless, significant gaps are evident when compared with the most advanced European and worldwide economies in terms of the widespread use of comprehensive e-learning models and the latest e-learning technologies, such as LMS systems. Furthermore, the survey reveals that e-learning is perceived by compa- nies as cost efficient and flexible, but on the other hand it is not yet perceived to contribute to a higher quality level of staff training when compared with traditional methods. Keywords: staff training, e-learning, corporate environment, transition countries JEL: O33, P20, M53 1. INTRODUCTION Good training is crucial in the successful development of this research was to establish the current situation and of any society, business or institution. However, challenged possible trends to expect in future years. Companies were by the current crisis, companies are inclined to rationalize included in the survey regardless of their size or activity. The and optimize their budget, which often includes changes survey was distributed to 423 corporate and institutional to the crucial area of employee training. In addition to fi- addresses in Slovenia, of which 70 responded and partici- nancial issues, employees have a lack of time due to busy pated. The survey was carried out in November 2012. schedules, as well as an increasing amount and complex- The following section is focused on the concept of e- ity of work. Highly dynamic business and macro-econom- learning itself and the scope for the use of this term. Recent ic environments require flexibility in all of these aspects. Consequently, companies face the challenge of optimizing employee training. E-learning is gaining in market share, * Tanja Markovič-Hribernik, Ph.D with increasing relevance as a training method. Associate Professor In the US particularly, but also in major European econo- University of Maribor, Faculty of Economics and Business, mies, e-learning appears to be widely promoted, advanced E-mail: tanja.markovic@uni-mb.si and gaining in popularity in corporate environments. Much less is known about how widespread the use of e-learning is Bostjan Jarc in transition countries and their business environments. For e-learning consultant this purpose, the present survey was conducted and focused B2 d.o.o. Maribor on companies and other organizations in Slovenia. The aim E-mail: bostjan.jarc@b2.eu; bostjan.jarc@gmail.com 16 Copyright © 2013 by the School of Economics and Business Sarajevo The importance and prevalence of modern forms of staff training in the corporate environments of transition countries: the case of Slovenia largely unrelated in terms of their process. A video relevant studies are listed and reviewed in section 3. Section conference allows communication among a smaller 4 reveals the methodological framework used for this study, number of “equals”, while a webinar is available for a while in section 5 data concerning the characteristics of the larger number of participants, and features primarily included companies is presented. Section 6 is dedicated to one-way communication from the lecturer towards the research results and comments. The final conclusions the audience; are presented in section 7. – E-courses include learning material that is distribut- ed to users electronically. For the purposes of issuing and distribution, an e-learning management system 2. THE CONCEPT OF E-LEARNING is required, usually referred to as a LMS (Learning In both literature and everyday practice, the term “e- Management System); learning” is not always used in the same way (see for exam- – Guided e-course or e-learning, where a mentor ple Bachman (2000); Elearning - What is E-learning (2012); guides the learning process; this model makes use Defining e-learning (2012)). Terms like distance learning, of different e-learning formats and is supported, e-learning, Web Based Training (WBT ) and Computer Based counselled, motivated, supervised and guided by a Training (CBT) are often used synonymously. The European mentor; e-Learning Action Plan (Commission of the European – E-mail: As an educational tool, this format expe- Communities 2001) defines e-learning as a form of edu- rienced great expansion at the time the Internet cation that uses the latest multimedia technologies and emerged; its prevalence on the global market is now internet to upgrade the quality of education, allowing ac- negligible; cess to new sources and services, as well as knowledge ex- – E-books: This tool is intended for the transfer of in- change and collaboration (see also Gardner and Bryn 2006, formation and independent training. Nevertheless, p. 14). The Utah Training Network sourced Ed Technology it does not qualify as a very advanced e-learning Glossary of Terms (2012) defines e-learning as simply “edu- product; cation by means of electronics.” This latter concept encom- passes a wide range of applications and processes, such as – Mobile learning is carried out using mobile devices Web Based Training (WBT), Computer Based Training (CBT), (Unesco 2012); Virtual Classrooms and Digital Collaboration. It also includes – E-testing: although it cannot be qualified as an edu- web-based data transfer (LAN/WAN), audio and video me- cational model directly, it may be considered a viable dia (CD, DVD), transmission by satellite, interactive TV, etc. supportive or complementary service to traditional With so many definitions and concepts of e-learning in training methods and/or e-learning; both professional literature and everyday practice, we have – Comprehensive e-learning supported by an LMS sys- opted for the widest possible definition of e-learning to be tem: systems that also enable the production and used for this research. In the list below are some of the con- development of e-learning content (usually in the cepts described in literature that are relevant for the objec- form of an e-course), are called LCMS, which stands tives of our research: for Learning Content Management System. The com- – learning via websites. This is self-directed searching prehensive e-learning concept, use of an L(C)MS and for knowledge and learning through ordinary web the integration of e-learning with other business pro- pages and represents the lowest level of e-learning; cesses is the most advanced form of e-learning for – learning using CD or DVD media and similar; this corporate environments. This applies not only to the model is not usually supported by tests of under- technology it incorporates but also the way in which standing nor does it enable communication among the e-learning is organized and processed. These fea- participants; tures enable this model to become an integral part of any corporate training system. By itself, an LMS – Blended Learning, combining traditional meth- represents only the basis of the comprehensive cor- ods and different forms of e-learning; it combines porate e-learning system. It is complemented with the benefits of both traditional methods and e- e-learning content (e.g. e-course) and supporting learning. According to past surveys, such as the (organizing, mentoring, etc.) services. CrossKnowledge Survey (2012), this is the most common form of e-learning, with as many as 76% of – Social e-learning is a relatively new concept but has European companies using this form; already achieved significant progress, especially in the US corporate training market. Social e-learning – A Webinar combines what the name suggests: the is both designed and distributed by using web tools, World Wide Web with a seminar. Internet technolo- most often blogs, bookmarks and social networks. gies are usually accessed for this form of e-learning Special tools (Yammer, Mzinga, etc.) dedicated to and they can also enable assessment of the candi- corporate social e-learning are currently in the pro- date’s level of understanding (Howstuffworks 2012); cess of development (Hart 2009). – Video conference; although this appears closely matched to the concept of a webinar in terms of the technologies used, these two forms of e-learning are South East European Journal of Economics and Business 17 The importance and prevalence of modern forms of staff training in the corporate environments of transition countries: the case of Slovenia 3. REVIEW OF RECENT RELEVANT STUDIES, KEY survey by Overton and Dixon (2011), as our assessment of the situation in Slovenia will later be compared primarily CONCLUSIONS with these findings. However, it should be noted that the In recent years, several studies on these topics have been comparison is difficult in some respects. In particular, when undertaken within major markets where e-learning has al- considering the most advanced e-learning technologies, ready gained its place as an established form of corporate such as Learning Management Systems, usage rates depend training. Among the most recent work, research done by very much on average company size. The average Slovene Adkins (2011) is worth mentioning. This global study looks company is far smaller than those of Western Europe and at e-learning products and services for self-paced e-learn- this has an influence when assessing how widespread the ing, their current situation and future trends on the global use of these methods might be. e-learning market. Although the aspects of the focus of this It is also worth mentioning a recent survey by Cox eL- research are not directly relevant to our aims, a number of earning Consultants, LLC (2011), who analyzed companies key conclusions reveal some interesting facts about global and organizations from 55 countries worldwide, regard- trends. The study reports that the total global e-learning less of their size or activity. The purpose of this study was market reached US$32.1 billion in 2010, but will increase to to examine staff training solutions and methods utilized by $49.9 billion by 2015. The highest growth rates should be businesses and other organizations, and what trends were achieved by markets in Asia (28.4% yearly), which are set to expected for the near future. The survey was limited to so- pass the Western European market by 2015. The next high- cial learning, video training, mobile learning and web con- est growth rate is in Eastern Europe, which should reach ferencing e-learning techniques. Findings show that organi- growth rates of above 20% per year. The study also found zations are increasingly using web-based CPC conferencing that e-learning is thriving in academic environments, with systems, as well as learning methods supported by video market shares here higher than in the respective corporate (CPC video based training). However, the biggest shifts are environments of all countries except the US. expected in mobile learning and social media supported More closely related to our aims is the research of training. Overton and Dixon (2011), which looks at the use of train- With regard to our research aims, the findings of the ing technologies by European companies. The study was study by CrossKnowledge (2012) - 1st European e-learn- carried out for one of the world’s largest e-learning confer- ing Barometer - should also be considered. The work was ences, Berlin Educa. The findings revealed that the most fre - conducted in 2011 with 511 companies from 6 European quently used technologies by European companies are web economies: the UK, France, Spain, Italy, Belgium and the questionnaires (81%), e-learning courses, virtual meetings Netherlands. The following is a summary of the key findings: and training portals. More than 60% of participants used a – In the UK, Spain and Benelux nearly 40% of com- LMS and more than 50% were using it integrated with their panies train more than 50% of their employees via internal human resource systems. The study also reported e-learning (in France only 17%). E-learning is most that Cloud based e-learning and mobile training are both used within the services sector (43% of service-based expected to have the brightest futures. The authors find companies train more than 50% of their employees that generalist and IT-oriented content is predominantly via e-learning). British companies, despite having what companies demand for staff training. More specific used e-learning for less time than other countries, content is related to company business analysis, customer are quickly developing their application of e-learn- relations management, social responsibility, and sales and ing (in 2011, 51% of companies delivered at least one marketing. As expected, use of content related to communi- training via e-learning to over 50% of their employ- cation skills, teamwork and collaboration is lagging behind. ees compared to 39% in 2010). Regarding size, large When asked about the main benefits of e-learning methods, companies have been using e-learning the longest European companies report: more efficient implementation (68% of the European sample of companies that use of the latest IT systems; a wider range of available educa- e-learning have a headcount of over 10,000). tional content; easy access to relevant content; considerably – The factors that motivated large companies to devel- reduced rates of absenteeism; greater flexibility in educa- op an interest in e-learning ahead of the rest include tion; shorter response time to changes in the business envi- the challenge of training large numbers of employ- ronment; and, last but not least, cost efficiency. Half of com- ees, the need to align competencies in real time over panies also state that e-learning has done much to improve increasingly competitive global markets and econo- their customer satisfaction and productivity. The survey also mies of scale. exposed some of the main obstacles for implementation of – The vast majority of companies surveyed spend less e-learning models: employees in organizations appear to than 10% of their total training budget on e-learning. lack the knowledge and skills to design their own training The main goal of e-learning is training cost optimi- process, while their training managers lack the knowledge zation – delivering a consistent quality of training to and skills needed for the implementation of these methods large numbers of employees accounts for 37% of use. in their companies; executives generally appear to be reluc- – 75% of companies use e-learning to deliver train- tant to introduce new methods; the costs of arranging an ing on core professional skills, e.g.IT and desktop e-learning system, etc. training, as well as Health and Safety or Compliance In this section, a lot of attention has been given to the 18 South East European Journal of Economics and Business The importance and prevalence of modern forms of staff training in the corporate environments of transition countries: the case of Slovenia training. In large companies there is a clear rise in essentially absent from the process. Traces of this idea, with themes such as management, leadership, commu- the teacher in an authoritarian role, remain present when nication and personal development. The study also speaking of modern e-learning methods. Therefore, for suc- underlines the link between the length of time that a cessful implementation, a combined model of education company has been using e-learning and the sophis- featuring both traditional and modern e-learning processes tication of the modules and delivery methods that it will be necessary (Vehovar 2007, p. 25). makes available. – For 76% of companies, the most popular delivery method for e-learning is Blended learning (47% of 4. METHODOLOGICAL FRAMEWORK those already using this approach are planning to intensify usage). A questionnaire was produced for the purpose of this study, supported by the FluidSurveys.com online survey – Regarding the near future, many companies an- tool. Its modelling was based on other questionnaires al- swered that they are seeking to maintain or cut back ready used for similar research (e.g. Overton and Dixon 2011; their overall training budget and to reduce cost per Eizobraževanje.net 2011). The questionnaire consists of 19 learner in order to be able to train a greater num- questions, divided into four segments (see the Appendix for ber of employees without increasing spending on details): training. 1. General information on the company – company char- The history of e-learning in Slovenia is considerably acteristics, industry, number of employees, number shorter than in the major US and European economies, so of branches and locations, etc. the record of past research is rather modest. To date, stud- 2. Company staff training system – training resources, ies have focused mainly on formal education and school tools, responsible persons, frequency, etc. related e-learning methods, rather than corporate environ- 3. E-learning – e-learning resources, tools, existing e- ments. As an example, Vehovar (2007) analyzed the e-learn- learning techniques, benefits, comparison to tradi- ing systems of the new EU-members, including Slovenia. tional training methods, obstacles to implementa- Although the research covers e-learning in relation to both tion, impact on business development, etc. formal and non-formal education, most of its findings are 4. Future trends – planning of e-learning development related to the academic industry (schools) rather than the corporate environment. The questionnaire was mailed to 423 employees of small, One of the few surveys to focus on the corporate envi- medium and large enterprises and organizations in Slovenia. ronment was that of the Eizobrazevanje.net portal, conduct- The survey was conducted in November 2012. Included in ed in the first months of 2011. The sample consisted of 73 the database were mainly: human resource managers and participating companies. However, this survey was limited personnel; IS/IT managers and experts; training manag- to companies in a few selected industries that had a work- ers; managing directors; and other company executives. force of at least 100 people. The survey did not provide in- This web survey aimed to obtain answers from the relevant formation on the impact of the use of e-learning methods persons responsible, i.e. those who were embedded in the on business development. educational processes of their respective companies and Use of e-learning in the Slovene corporate environ- organizations. As previously discussed, there was a poten- ment was investigated by Arh, Kovačič and Jerman-Blažič tial risk from different interpretations of e-learning by the (2006). The authors write that the recent rise of e-learning in respondents. For this reason, we decided to use the broad- Slovenia is the result of a growing choice of various e-learn- est possible definition of the e-learning concept, which not ing services and systems, their use elsewhere in Europe, only includes use of the most advanced forms of e-learning and the availability of financial resources from the EU and (such as LMS), but also its more basic forms, including the its Structural Funds. The authors state there is increasing use of e-mail for training purposes. use of independent e-learning models using e-content as A branching scenario was applied to the questioning well as combined e-learning models supported by a men- procedures of this survey, as demonstrated by question 8: tor. The findings also revealed that e-learning is still mostly “How long have you been using the e-learning methods in your reserved for larger companies, despite the evidence of ben- organization?” A decision loop was included here to steer efits for small and medium businesses. Like the study by additional questions according to the respondent’s answer. Vehovar (2007), this study shows that, in general, the role of If this was “We do not use e-learning at all”, no further details the mentor is considered crucial for the e-learning process. were asked and participants were directed toward ques- According to Vehovar, the educational approach in Slovenia tions on future plans. is closely associated with social, cultural, economic and his- torical factors. Historically, for over 500 years, the Habsburgs ruled the Slovenian territory. This influence can still be seen in the cur - rent approach to education. In the past, teachers had a large- ly authoritarian role, lecturing their disciples who remained passive as learners. Communication and collaboration were South East European Journal of Economics and Business 19 The importance and prevalence of modern forms of staff training in the corporate environments of transition countries: the case of Slovenia 5. SAMPLE DATABASE AND FUNDAMENTALS Segmentation of companies by size and activity Data source: Web Survey Figure 1: Companies by their principal activity (Standard Sectorial Classification, 2008) The database features organizations of all sizes and in- companies (24%) employed between 101 and 250 people dustries. As seen in Figure 1, 70 companies and other organ- at the time of the survey. Companies with less than 50 em- izations participated. The majority were from the manufac- ployees accounted for 10% of the sample. From our point turing industry (13%), followed by financial and insurance of view, the latter could prove to be the least suited to inte- services, education and other sectors (11% each). Companies grate the most advanced forms of e-learning. from 16 different industries participated. Therefore, the Nineteen percent of participating companies (corre- sample can be considered adequate and sufficiently diverse sponding to 13 subjects out of 70) employed over 1,000 to represent the entire corporate environment of Slovenia. staff. In comparison to the overall number of companies of Both private and public sectors were included. this size, these 13 participants present a highly weighted As shown in Figure 2, most of the participating sample; following 2010 statistics, there were 26 business 20 South East European Journal of Economics and Business The importance and prevalence of modern forms of staff training in the corporate environments of transition countries: the case of Slovenia companies of this size in Slovenia (Delo. si 2010). As the current financial crisis has proved to be fatal for many large companies, especially from the civil engineering sec- tor, this number might now be even lower. When we include public administration or- ganizations and institutions with over 1,000 employees to this statistic, the weighting of this sample can still be considered great. As expected, the analysis shows that most companies featuring external branch- es and business premises (e.g. retail subsidi- aries, branch offices, production sites, etc.) belong to the category of 1,000 or more em- ployees (Figure 3). Thirty one percent fea- tured 50 or more locations. Only 8% of com- panies this size (corresponding to 1 in our Data source: Web Survey sample) have no off-site business premises. The applicability of the most advanced Figure 2: Companies by size e-learning technologies (such as LMS) is largely dependent on company size and the geographical dispersion of its premises. Data source: Web Survey Figure 3: Number of locations by company size South East European Journal of Economics and Business 21 The importance and prevalence of modern forms of staff training in the corporate environments of transition countries: the case of Slovenia Therefore, these large companies may be considered most suited to the use of advanced e-learning models. Characteristics of respondents As shown in Figure 4, most re- sponses came from human resource managers (42%), followed by “other positions” (30%) and heads of de- partments (23%). Considerably fewer responses were from IS/IT managers, managing directors or board mem- bers, representing 5% combined. The category “other positions” includes the following profiles: staff training member; assistant director; responsible for organization training; advisor; joint services staff members; training manager; project manager; Data source: Web Survey and staff responsible for the remu- Figure 4: Respondents by function neration system. 6. SURVEY OUTCOME ANALYSES Training planning and resources The multiple choice question: “Who is responsible for departments appear to be mostly absent from the planning planning employee training in your company?” allowed mul- process. Their active participation might be expected due tiple replies. The outcomes shown in Figure 5 reveal that to the intense use and development of information systems this planning is mostly performed by the department head and technologies. (39%) or human resources staff (28%). Surprisingly, IS/IT In terms of funding, 64% of participating companies Data source: Web Survey Figure 5: Planning of employee training 22 South East European Journal of Economics and Business The importance and prevalence of modern forms of staff training in the corporate environments of transition countries: the case of Slovenia reserve an annual budget of €500 or less per employee Use of e-learning (Figure 6). Only in 15% of cases did the budget exceed €1,000 per employee (corresponding to 11 respondents). The survey revealed that 44% of respondents make use Among these, the financial and insurance industries were of e-learning (Figure 7). most prominent, followed by the IS/IT sector and, remark- The e-learning training models are mostly used by com- ably, trade, maintenance and servicing of motor vehicles. It panies with over 1,000 employees (as many as 77% of the may be concluded that the intense development and fre- respondent companies in this category of size). quent appearance of new products and services encourag- It may be concluded that e-learning is considered to be es these industries to invest proportionally more in training. comparable to traditional training models by these larger 12% of respondents provided no answer or were not famil- companies. However, surprisingly, only 11% of companies iar with the matter. with 500-1,000 employees use e-learning methods. Data source: Web Survey Figure 6: Yearly training budget per employee Data source: Web Survey Figure 7: Use of e-learning by company size South East European Journal of Economics and Business 23 The importance and prevalence of modern forms of staff training in the corporate environments of transition countries: the case of Slovenia In contrast, the number of small businesses (50 people financial crisis and shortages in training budgets. Thus, e- or less) using e-learning methods is remarkably high. These learning is also gaining popularity due to its greater cost companies appear to be encouraged by its flexibility and efficiency. relative low costs. 75% of the 32 companies using e-learning invest less 75% of companies who are currently using e-learning than 20% of their training budgets toward this method methods (Figure 8) have been doing so for up to 5 years (Figure 9). Although lower, these figures are quite compa- (less than a year in 19% of cases). It is evident that this rate rable with the European corporate average. From existing is growing. Many companies view e-learning as an increas- surveys, e-learning budgets account for an average share of ingly viable alternative to traditional training methods. The less than 10% of the entire training budget (CrossKnowledge relatively large proportion of companies that have only re- 2012). With these percentages being rather low at the mo- cently started using e-learning (one year or less) revealed ment, their growth may be predicted in the years to come. that this has probably been encouraged by the current Note: From this point, only those respondents who declared they were using e-learning methods are included. Data source: Web Survey Figure 8: How long have e-learning methods been in use? Note: From this point, only those respondents who declared they were using e-learning methods are included. Data source: Web Survey Figure 9: Companies by allocated share of total training budget toward e-learning 24 South East European Journal of Economics and Business The importance and prevalence of modern forms of staff training in the corporate environments of transition countries: the case of Slovenia Note: From this point, only those respondents who declared they were using e-learning methods are included. Data source: Web Survey Figure 10: Prevalence of e-learning methods in companies Of the different e-learning methods available, Slovene interesting when compared to other European countries companies mostly (75%) use e-courses (Figure 10). This can (Overton and Dixon 2011, p. 5), where up to 45% of compa- be considered a positive sign because this form is consid- nies already use mobile e-learning technologies, with this ered to be one of the more advanced options. Self-directed share expected to increase further, up to 80%, within the learning through websites accounts for up to 69%, while, next two years. blended learning covers 34%. Concerning the latter, a re- From this survey, only 8 of the responding companies markable fact is that the European average is much higher; make use of an internal e-learning system (LMS). Half of no less than 75% of companies use blended learning meth- these companies employ over 1,000 people (Figure 11). ods (CrossKnowledge 2012). Most of the companies that already use LMS feature In Slovenia, 25% of respondents use LMS. This might a large number of branches or locations (more than 50). be due to the companies’ long-term interest in promot- Hence company size and the dispersion of its premises ap- ing an e-learning concept. Again, this rate is far beneath pear to be influential factors when deciding whether or not the European average, where 60% of companies use LMS to implement LMS. (Overton and Dixon 2011, p. 5). In our view, the main rea- Twenty-seven percent of the responding companies that son for such a discrepancy lies in average company size and already use e-learning methods declared that they have not dispersion of business units, with the average European only implemented the system but they also promote its use company much larger in size when compared to Slovenian (Figure 12). Ten percent of these companies also integrate companies. As stated earlier, company size is definitely one their comprehensive e-learning functions with several oth- of the key factors for investing in LMS. er business processes. E-learning is constantly and actively Surprisingly, not a single respondent uses social or used by their staff. mobile e-learning methods. This outcome grows more South East European Journal of Economics and Business 25 The importance and prevalence of modern forms of staff training in the corporate environments of transition countries: the case of Slovenia Note: From this point, only those respondents who declared they were using e-learning methods are included. Their structure is as follows: Total = 8 (of which 3 are from the category of over 1,000 staff members and more than 50 locations; 1 with over 1,000 staff and 1-10 loca- tions; and 1 in each of the categories 0-50, 51-100, 251-500 and 501-1,000 of employees. Data source: Web Survey Figure 11: Companies using LMS by their size and number of locations or branches Note: From this point, only those respondents who declared they were using e-learning methods are included. Data source: Web Survey Figure 12: Companies by stage of e-learning 26 South East European Journal of Economics and Business The importance and prevalence of modern forms of staff training in the corporate environments of transition countries: the case of Slovenia Rating What is the impact of e-learning on your business? 1 2 3 4 5 1 3 7 11 3 Employees’ skills upgraded (4%) 12%) (28%) (44%) (12%) 3 3 9 7 2 Improved customer satisfaction (12%) (12%) (38%) (29%) (8%) 2 2 7 7 6 Improved efficiency in compliance of operations (8%) (8%) (29%) (29%) (25%) Decreased number of accidents, misuses and risks 6 4 7 5 2 (safety at work area) (25%) (17%) (29%) (21%) (8%) Decreased number of accidents, misuses and risks (infor- 3 2 8 8 2 mation security area) (13%) (9%) (35%) (35%) (9%) 3 3 3 7 7 Easier access to information on new products and services (13%) (13%) (13%) (30%) (30%) 0 3 3 7 11 Training costs reduced (0%) (12%) (12%) (29%) (46%) 4 5 6 2 8 No measuring / data not available (16%) (20%) (24%) (8%) (32%) 8 8 4 1 1 No impact (36%) (36%) (18%) (5%) (5%) Rating (1 - do not agree, 2 – partly agree, 3- mostly agree, 4 - agree, 5 – very much agree) Data source: Web Survey Table 1: Impact of e-learning on business However, many companies that use e-learning methods approximate estimations of the e-learning effects have use it sporadically (in 37% of cases), or are in the course of been provided in place of measured values. development within the project (10%), or have just started When asked to compare e-learning to traditional train- using it (27%). These three groups of users represent 74% of ing methods and to name the most evident benefits, com- all companies who already use e-learning. Experiences from panies responded: reduced cost of training (78%); improved the US and other major markets indicate that the Slovene user flexibility (78%); improved access to training content e-learning market is in a growth stage and that its potential (72%); and less absenteeism (69%), is still high. However, when predicting future trends, market On the other hand, e-learning is not perceived as lead- specifics must be taken into account, such as the structure ing to higher quality levels when compared to traditional When asked about the impact of e-learning on their methods. Studies of other European companies show the businesses and outcomes (Table 1), almost half of the re- opposite: in 61% of cases they claim e-learning has indeed spondents (46%) agree that e-learning is keeping their cor- improved the quality of their training processes (Overton porate training costs down (rating = 5 out of 5), while none and Dixon 2011, p. 10). Recalling the research findings by of the respondents stated the opposite. Vehovar (2007, p. 25) might help to explain this point, given Many companies (79% of all rating 3 or more) described the predominant role of the teacher in education systems improved IS/IT-security, i.e. decrease in accidents, misuse in Slovenia. However, e-learning is mostly performed as and risks effected by e-learning. Companies also attributed self-paced learning, with a more or less passive role on the their improved efficiency to the better compliance of opera- part of the teacher and by using an asynchronous concept tions (83% of those who rated 3 or more) and upgraded skills of communication. To achieve success, participants are re- of employees, with both being positive effects of e-learning. quired to act autonomously. As an additional comment, it should be stated that an Therefore, the increasing popularity of e-learning ap- over-proportionate number of the companies do not sys- pears to be based primarily on two characteristics, location tematically measure such kinds of effects, and were un- independence and cost efficiency. It should also be stated, able to obtain the necessary data, or had none available. that only 2% of the respondents confirmed that e-learning Following the experiences of the developed markets, such had no benefit at all. as the US, where such metrics are integrated in all busi- Of the major obstacles in implementation of e-learning ness processes, this result is quite surprising and could and related technologies (Figure 14) stated by the compa- lead toward further questions over how far the users’ own nies, issues related to human resources were considered to South East European Journal of Economics and Business 27 The importance and prevalence of modern forms of staff training in the corporate environments of transition countries: the case of Slovenia Data source: Web Survey Figure 13: Main benefits of e-learning compared to traditional methods Data source: Web Survey Figure 14: Main obstacles to implementation of e-learning technologies 28 South East European Journal of Economics and Business The importance and prevalence of modern forms of staff training in the corporate environments of transition countries: the case of Slovenia be the most important. Forty- one percent of cases stated their own in-house production of content. an insufficient number of staff were available to work on Remarkably, many respondents indicated that the im- e-learning. This claim was confirmed also by the outcome plementation of e-learning technologies was “simply not of the “Sources of e-learning content” section. Most com- considered to match the company’s strategic goals” (33%) or panies seem to use products that are already available or claimed that there was a lack of skills necessary to use these outsourced these services and to a much lesser extent, had new technologies (31%). Surprisingly, the latter statements Data source: Web Survey Figure 15: E-learning content by current use versus planned use Data source: Web Survey Figure 16: Training methods today versus the next 2 years by hours of training a growing share to blended learning and e-learning methods. South East European Journal of Economics and Business 29 The importance and prevalence of modern forms of staff training in the corporate environments of transition countries: the case of Slovenia do not match at all with the outcomes of recent studies on The results also showed that Slovene companies use ICT-literacy in Slovenia. On the other hand, they are sup- different e-learning methods, but not all that are currently ported by experience elsewhere in Europe. An even higher available. Particularly surprising was the almost complete percentage of companies analyzed by Overton and Dixon absence of e-learning through mobile technologies, which (2011, p. 13) found these factors to be obstacles; as many as are achieving high growth rates elsewhere in the world. 60% described a lack of skills from the employee to manage Acceleration in this area can be expected in Slovenia within his/her own training process. a few years. In Slovenia, only 2% of the respondents cited any kind In some parameters, Slovenia seems to compare reason- of bad experience. This could mean that all companies have ably well to the European average. This can be said when mostly good, if not excellent, experiences with e-learning. speaking of the widespread use of the e-learning concept, In response to the area of application, most (24%) com- its content and to some extent the trends of traditional panies use e-learning methods for IS/IT-related content methods giving way to e-methods. Lagging behind the in- (Figure 15). Content related to compliance in operation rep- ternational trends is the use of comprehensive e-learning resents the second most important area of application, in- methods and Learning Management Systems (LMS). Small cluding health and safety at work, information security and to average company size, dispersion of business sites and “other legislative content.” a lack of adequate experts seem to be the most plausible Companies tend to rely increasingly on e-learning meth- explanations for this. ods and it may be expected that this trend will increase fur- Arguments reinforcing use, such as recent trends and ther in the future. This can be expected for all fields of cor - especially cost efficiency during the current financial crisis, porate training, except management, sales and acquiring provide strong signals that point to the great potential for formal education. The greatest growth can be expected for e-learning in the corporate environment of Slovenia. content related to compliance training. Thirty three percent of companies intend to use e-learning for staff health and safety training in the next 2 years (today: 10%). 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(multiple družbene vede. answers are possible) 14. What impact does (did) e-learning have on your busi- ness? Please rate each of the statements from 1 to 5 (1 – I don’t agree at all; 5 – very much agree) 15. Which stage of use of e-learning methods is your com- pany in? 16. What are the main benefits of e-learning compared to traditional methods for your company? Please select the best matched answers. 17. What are (were) the main obstacles for implementing e-learning technologies in your company? Please select the best matched answers. 18. Which content do you plan to integrate in your e-learn- ing process in the next 2 years? (multiple answers are possible) 19. In terms of training hours, what proportion of time for each of the training forms (methods) do you plan for your company? South East European Journal of Economics and Business 31

Journal

South East European Journal of Economics and Businessde Gruyter

Published: Nov 1, 2013

Keywords: staff training; e-learning; corporate environment; transition countries

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