|In this article:|
|At a glance: Citibank, N.A.|
|Web-based training vendors|
|Lessons learned about intranet training|
To Austin Zullo, it was a perfect union. As architect of training programs for Citibank's newly minted E-Citi division, part of New York City-based Citigroup Inc., which carries out the organization's e-banking and e-commerce initiatives, Zullo needed an easy, high-tech way to get learning materials and courses on professional development into the hands of the 1,200 employees of the banking giant's Internet operations. These courses included productivity software and programming as well as management training. With Web-based training programs starting to appear on the market, what could be a more natural fit for modern professionals already immersed in the dot-com world? If only it could be that simple. Zullo had tried Web-based training once before in the early 1990s for Citibank's telecommunications division. Rather than enjoying a smooth ride, though, the effect of courses distributed over the network was more like bouncing around in a jalopy: There were fits and starts followed by the screech of brakes. After stumbling over issues of bandwidth and desktop PC configuration, a couple of pilot programs had shown promise. But they eventually sputtered when the training software balked at crossing the WAN links connecting multiple locations. But Zullo continued to dream big over the pairing of education and the Net. His real goal was to run professional development programs smoothly and securely right over E-Citi's intranet--no physical telecomm connections, no breach of the firewall--so employees could improve their skill sets.
Shutrump expects soft-skills training to lead to more innovation in online teaching methods. "IT training is IT training: There isn't much differentiation," she says. "But when someone is learning coaching or communications, there's tremendous opportunity for innovation in course techniques, mentoring, testing, case studies, simulations--different kinds of learning tools."
A new way of work and business
After four decades in traditional employee training, Zullo knows what works and what doesn't--kind of. Classic classroom teaching will always be an important component of training. "But it's not the only one," he says. "Just as Web-based training isn't the only way. To me, they're symbiotic. You can't have one without the other." To serve a mobile workforce, training has to be available anytime, anywhere, he theorizes. As head of training for Citibank's telecom division with employees in 30 countries, Zullo's early Web-based training efforts were unsuccessful. "The system kept crashing, and a lot of people didn't have the bandwidth." He wound up handing out the training programs on CD-ROM.