Companies making the transition to digital technology agree on the importance of their employees learning the basics of computer programming and finding out how digital tools work in general. It remains to find the best way(s) to train staff in these areas.
The French postal service group La Poste is gradually introducing digital technology training for all its staff, even though skills transfer from the more to the less digitally-savvy employees is already taking place, explains Sylvie Joseph, a senior executive who heads up the internal digital transformation programme at La Poste. The purpose of the training is to “enable staff who use information systems to grow their skills and transform their capabilities by making use of the new technologies, to help them keep up to date or even get a step ahead” – without, however, changing the balance between external service providers and in-house staff. This kind of training helps to speed up in-house project development, strengthens the company’s overall appeal to potential recruits and also improves the employability of staff who move elsewhere, argues Jean-Marc Tassetto, the former CEO of Google France who has founded Coorpacademy, a firm that develops training services for company staff through the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) approach. MOOCs meet the needs of firms undertaking cultural and technical change management and which need to train a large number of in-house staff, sales people, and also customers, fast.
Engendering a common culture
MOOCs help to “provide the company with a common digital culture and eliminate disparities between different departments,” underlines Jean-Marc Tassetto. He argues however that “issues around IT development should not be tackled by teaching non-IT staff to code but rather as an aspect of general culture, giving them the opportunity to find out what programming is all about.” Meanwhile Sylvie Joseph points out that good training avoids the waste of money and time due to poor communication between staff. Logically, an understanding of computer languages and how they are structured will raise awareness of the technical constraints of a given project. Sylvie Joseph thinks that ways of collaborating in-company are likely to shift towards a “multi-disciplinary team” system, more like what happens at startups or young companies with digital cultures such as Google, where the boundaries between IT people and Marketing and Communication teams tend to dissolve.
Digital training support for companies
Jean-Marc Tassetto argues that the MOOCs approach is the best way to teach company staff what the digital culture is all about. Moreover, MOOCs “are also unique from the point of view of the teaching experience of the trainer,” stresses the Google France ex-CEO. With their digital format, MOOCs break with the old vertical processes that used to be central to teaching: with MOOCs you choose to do your coursework when convenient, in the order that suits you best, and so on. “The Internet revolution as applied to education is making learning methods more horizontal, more collaborative and more ‘social’, claims Tassetto. He does not however see MOOCs as an end in themselves but as a complement to traditional training in class-groups led by an expert. He thinks that learning via a MOOC before attending a traditional training session will encourage a wider exchange of ideas between the company staff and the external expert who is sent in to train them. In this way MOOCs can amplify the impact of any given training sessions. Such arguments appear to be finding favour with companies, judging by the major firms already on Coorpacademy’s books. The firm’s clients include Nestlé, Renault, French telecommunications company SFR, Axa, GDF Suez, plus the French Football Federation.