If you’ve ever spent a day in the ballroom of your local chain hotel listening to an instructor drone on about the latest how-to topics in the world of management and leadership, you’ll welcome the new training resources available via on-demand learning.

What is on-demand learning?
This technological revolution makes training available through an Internet or software-based portal that serves as the main hub for training resources. Using this technology, courses, references, help files, documents, webcasts, audios, videos, book references and presentations are accessible at any time of the day or night — right when the manager needs them.

On-demand learning allows a rapid and flexible approach for enhancing corporate performance. With on-demand learning, formal training and performance support are made available in an integrated environment. You decide which tools to use and then develop your managerial skill set as you go.

According to Chris Howard, principal analyst at Bersin & Associates, rather than attend trainings off-site, people can retrieve useful information in the context of their workplace.

For example, if you have a performance review scheduled with one of your employees, you can access the portal before your meeting and utilize worksheets and other tools on-the-spot that will assist you during the process.

Specialized software
“This scenario works (well) for leadership and managerial training,” comments Scott McLean, president of ThinkWise Inc., a company that specializes in on-demand learning software. “Since training topics are not tied to compliance or regulatory considerations, the training can be delivered in comprehensive training segments that allow a manager to access the information he or she needs in half an hour or less.”

Limits of the classroom
Jan Powell spent more than 20 years working in HR for major corporations including Heinz, Amway and Haworth before becoming the director of customer programs for ThinkWise. “I found that traditional, classroom leadership training alone isn’t making a difference. Although managers may spend a day or more in a classroom focusing on leadership skills, when it comes time for them to take action, the learned information isn’t being recalled and put to use.”

According to the American Society of Training & Development (ASTD), a 2006 study showed a huge skill gap in managerial training. More than 55 percent of respondents reported that managerial/supervisory skills were lacking within their organizations, more than 50 percent reported a lack of communication/interpersonal skills, and more than 45 percent reported a lack of executive/leadership skills.

In a 2005 survey, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) revealed that 46 percent of manufacturers reported inadequate problem-solving skills among current employees. “This apparent skill gap isn’t necessarily from a lack of training effort on the organization’s part, but rather from a disconnect between the time the managerial training takes place and the time the learned information is applied,” comments Powell.

Improve communication
The on-demand tools provide a means of fostering communication within your organization. Sharing resources you found relevant with other managers and team leaders gives you the opportunity to improve managerial skills across the board.

With customizable worksheets and tools, you can tailor training items to the needs of other supervisors and team leaders in your department. In many applications, you are able to add your own documents, such as incident report worksheets and other safety-specific materials.

Stay competitive
The right managerial and supervisory training is critical to U.S.-based businesses that want to compete in a global marketplace. On-demand learning goes beyond the traditional learning methods to empower managers and team leaders to have the information they need at their fingertips. By becoming a better manager you will see greater employee retention, higher motivation and production, and fewer accidents and incidents on-the-job. While there will always be a place for well-designed, instructor-led courses that provide opportunities for feedback and discussion, on-demand training can transcend the classroom learning experience by providing fast, relevant, practical information that you can apply immediately.

Howard, Chris, Research Bulletin 2008, Learning On-Demand: A New Role for Enterprise Learning, March 21, 2008, Bersin & Associates