Technology has changed different aspects of Human Resource Management (HRM) and employee training is not an exception. The concept of e-learning, which refers to the use of electronic means of training and developing employee skills, has emerged from this trend and is slowly reshaping how instructors develop, communicate and supervise their training programs. This trend means that how training procedures are conducted in organizations has changed, thereby creating a debate regarding the efficacy of traditional and e-learning opportunities in the workplace.
A key part of the debate is understanding how electronic and traditional learning techniques affect employees with different learning styles. There are four major types of learners in an organization: activists, theorists, pragmatists, and reflectors. Activists are comprised of employees who learn best by completing a specific task by themselves. Comparatively, theorists are those who learn by understanding the assumptions and concepts behind key operational procedures (Honey and Mumford, 1986). Typically, they use models and ideas to take part in debates involving learning processes.
Comparatively, pragmatists learn best by understanding how newly learned concepts fit into the present reality of an organization. Lastly, reflectors are made up of employees who learn best by analyzing past situations and experiences to understand what happened then and how learning outcomes could be changed. They often gather information from the sidelines and refrain from taking part in daily active operations to conclude a set of observations.
The presence of these varied learning styles portends different implications for employee training programs because their efficacy depends on maintaining consistency with different learning styles. In this regard, the method used to train employees is important in determining the effectiveness of training programs. Particularly, managers have to decide whether to use traditional or online training techniques to achieve optimum results. These methods both have their strengths and weaknesses that are directly related to the different learning styles highlighted above. For example, the flexibility associated with electronic training is one of its strengths and it appeals to firms that have vast operations and are present in multiple countries. They find this feature useful in reaching different groups of employees located in multiple locations.
Comparatively, traditional training methods require all employees to be located in one place and an instructor to be at the same location for training to occur. Based on the difficulty of achieving this goal due to conflicting schedules or other reasons, traditional training methods appear less appealing to big firms compared to online training methods. Another strength associated with online training is the ability to standardize training procedures across various departments of a company and groups of employees.
Online training opportunities can be designed using a standard format via a computer or electronic device and the same is conveyed to multiple groups of employees. It is difficult to achieve the same levels of standardization using traditional training methods because they are subject to human bias. For example, an instructor may be enthusiastic about training a group of employees in one location and less motivated to do so with a different group of employees in another location. Therefore, it becomes difficult to achieve standardization in this kind of setup, thereby making it difficult to realize the same level of competence across various training platforms.
One of the major weaknesses associated with online training is poor communication quality between instructors and employees. Linked training programs are often impersonal in the sense that an instructor is indirectly communicating with an employee. Comparatively, traditional training models do not share this weakness because, by design, employees and trainers are in the same location. Therefore, they would naturally feel comfortable asking questions because they would get an instant reply. Similarly, traditional training models are associated with more effective communication styles because employees and their instructors seamlessly exchange information because they can read each other’s facial expressions and body language directly.
Based on the above insights, traditional teaching methods can be designed to suit individual learning styles because tutors can prepare their training programs to suit different preferences. Comparatively, online training programs are often standardized and have little room for including variances that do not fit within the predesignated structures. Relative to this finding, Barrenechea-Méndez, Ortín-Ángel, and Rodes (2020) admit that most employees are not aware of their learning styles. Traditional learning programs could help them to understand their skills, thereby enabling them to make smarter decisions concerning their careers, including their ability to make adjustments to exploit emerging career opportunities.