Publication: International Journal of Training and Development
Article: Electronic human resource management: Organizational responses to role conflicts created by e-learning.
Author: E. Oiry
Featured by: Benjamin Granger
Originally, e-learning (which includes web-based or computer-based training) was introduced to overcome certain disadvantages of traditional face-to-face training programs such as securing a physical training cite, paying a trainer, etc. While an effective method of delivering information, e-learning has its imperfections too.
In a recent article published in the International Journal of Training and Development, Ewan Oiry (2009) describes his investigation into one such imperfection: role conflict. In his article, Oiry explains that when trainees are put through e-learning courses at work, there is the potential for conflicts to arise.
Specifically, a trainee’s roles as “learner” and “employee” can be muddled. For example, managers may require that employees deal with customers during time set aside for training. This becomes problematic for an employee’s direct manager or colleague who may be uncertain as to the current role being assumed by the employee.
Interestingly, blended learning, which aims to overcome the shortcomings of e-learning by combing e-learning and face-to-face training, might suffer from the same problem. To explore the issue of role conflict during e-learning and blended learning, Oiry selected 4 banks in France that differ substantially in size (ranging from 58,000 to 14,000 employees) and ownership structure.
Several of the interviewees recognized the possibility of role conflict in both e-learning and blended learning. Specifically, it was noted that e-learning or blended learning during work time can be problematic especially when the employee’s direct manager interferes with the employee’s role as a learner.
Some specific examples include managers forcing their employees to deal with customers while involved in training. Importantly, across all four banks, training managers agreed that employees’ direct managers generally do not approve of training during work time.
Ultimately, Oiry suggests that these situations can lead to the deterioration of relationships among trainees and their managers, coworkers, and even clients. To address this problem, Oiry suggests designating separate computers or work stations for employees engaged in training to ensure that employee and learner roles do not conflict. Ultimately, this can help maintain good relationships among employees and their managers.