Too Much Technology
Olson, Barney, Workforce Management
IN THE MAIL | from our readers
IN THE JANUARY 29, 2007, edition of Workforce Management, there is an article about collaborative technology ('Tour co-worker, your teacher: Collaborative technology speeds peer-peer learning"). One area of the article particularly caught my eye, and I just had to put my two cents in based on my experience with company cultures.
Although blended learning is discussed, the majority of the article is on e-learning and the advantages of choosing electronic methods for delivering your learning. There is certainly a growing opportunity for e-learning, specifically, as the article stated, for the traditional required training, such as safety or harassment. There are opportunities for people in smaller communities to reach out through their computers to obtain degrees and add value to their lives through the learning of new ideas.
I do not agree, however, that there is a use for electronics when it comes to "virtual meetings" or "water cooler" discussions. This type of environment, unless necessary due to distance (across continents, for example) fosters a lot of bad habits, and I am surprised that as HR professionals, more people do not recognize this issue.
People divided by distance and the "safety" of a computer or electronic screen feel much more free to say anything, without regard to the feelings of others, which is harmful to teamwork. They are able to turn off and tune out much more easily in an impersonal setting. Ideas may be shared, but listening is squelched. It is much easier to ignore a telecast than a live person in front of you. Don't rule out the value of body language-it is also very important when meeting with others.
Don't sell short the seeing, tasting and touching of mentoring and a traditional learning environment. Hands-on with another person is still essential with many businesses. In many cases, we find these to be more effective for long-term learning than learning in an electronic environment. We have not all become cold and impersonal, nor so concerned with the future that we forget what is going on in the here and now. I believe in a good blended learning environment, based upon the needs of the business and the people that make up that business. I believe there is a future and place for e-learning; however, your customers-those you serve-are most important, and in the end, you have to understand that before you do anything else. …