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The cusp of the Internet generation is entering the workplace - a group used to the instant gratification the World Wide Web brings.

That's why the co-founder of an online human resources consultancy said self-directed, web-based training will improve the retention of information by today's employees.

Steven Lloyd, sales director and operations manager for Irving, Texas-based Ethos HR Online, led an educational session at the recent CUNA Human Resources Training and Development Council conference here. He said trainers are "frustrated" by young employees who want things now, have little or no sense of loyalty to a company, and have become less responsive to supervision.

"When I started my career, I never would have said the things I hear from my employees," Lloyd said. "They challenge me. But that's because the way I do something might not be the right way. Then again, they don't always say it in a polite way."

To reach this new type of employee, Lloyd recommends placing human resources and training functions-from vacation forms to the employee manual-online. By giving employees instant and constant access to this information, CUs can gain numerous advantages, he said.

Besides the credibility gained by offering instant availability of information and forms, expectations are communicated clearly, and employees are held accountable for prompt and timely completion of tasks assigned to them or to their job position. And, he added, self-directed, online training eliminates the "I didn't know" excuse.

"With a web-based employee manual, management can make changes easily. Have employees click a button to acknowledge receipt of the manual. If there are any changes -such as if a company changes its smoking policy-instead of having to recall hundreds of paper manuals and switching out a particular paper page, the page can be updated online in minutes and an e-mail sent to all employees."

An online HR system promotes consistent training processes between the human resources department and each department manager, Lloyd said.

Employee access to forms for sick leave, vacation, medical and dental benefits, and retirement plans reduces HR personnel efforts by 25% to 30%.

Improved Training, Learning

Lloyd cited a study that found seminar-style training with no visuals yielded a retention rate of just 12%. For text-based training documents that employees are required to read, the retention rate rises to 27%. Text-based reading followed by testing saw a retention rate of 54%.

In addition to new employee training, self-directed learning also is applicable to existing employees. Lloyd said training levels should progress as people progress in their jobs.

While online training and testing is good for job-specific information, Lloyd said it is even better for "affirmative defenses" on such topics as sexual harassment, diversity, the company's Internet and e-mail code of conduct, the Americans With Disability Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act to Include Fair Pay, the Family Medical Leave Act and the HIPAA Notice of Privacy Practices.

"These things protect companies from lawsuits," he said. "The Supreme Court ruled that if companies train, have set polices and procedures and follow through, that is all a company can do."

Overcoming Objections

While new employees will accept web-based training and HR as a thorough orientation process, Lloyd urged patience and offered "good luck" when dealing with existing employees.

"This is where the challenge is for management," he said. "The majority of current employees will view this as yet another burden. Employees not complying with current processes will be vocal in their dislike. Give existing employees an adequate and fair amount of time to complete the training-not a week or two weeks, but about 30 to 60 days. Let them know training is mandatory, not optional, and, with a bit of coddling, you'll get them in 60 days."

For credit unions and other companies that adopt online training and HR, Lloyd predicts improvement in several areas.

He said that his company has worked with 62 businesses in the past two years and has seen employee turnover decrease, morale improve, job expectations increase over time, and manager and employee accountability levels rise.

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