Organizations that are moving their online training program into an online space are faced with a difficult decision that will endure for the life of the program. Does it make sense to hire a new facilitator who is skilled in online work, or train an existing employee to do the work?
Pros of hiring from within
Both decisions have pros and cons, and ultimately organizations must make a decision based on their individual needs. However, there are some clear benefits and drawbacks.
One top pro is that you know your employees and what they do. You have a history with them that indicates how adept they are at change or if they have untapped skills that can be used. It can make the transition much smoother. Internal employees also know you and what you do. It takes less time for these kinds of hires to understand the details of your organization and your mission. An existing trainer also has in-depth knowledge of your material and audience.
Cost-saving might also be a factor in your decision. Hiring from within reduces hard hiring costs, such as interview time, office space, or even relocation fees.
Cons of hiring from within
Promoting a staff member into a new training position has inherent disadvantages. If multiple employees are vying for one job, it could create animosity among the whole team. This could leak into management, especially if there are individuals that are resistant to strategic change--common in organizations considering a shift to online learning.
A bigger problem with hiring for computer-based training is that you probably don't know what you don't know. How do you develop talent if you're not sure what to do? Similarly, not all organizations are structurally set up to develop internal talent. These issues combined lead to time, which you might not have to dedicate to transforming your in-person trainers into online pros.
Pros of hiring a new trainer
Those are all compelling reasons for tapping your internal talent pool, but hiring an external trainer who has detailed knowledge about online facilitation can be a great investment for your entire organization. While an external trainer won't know as much about your organization as an existing team member does, they will have critical skills in the online environment. Teaching online is different from teaching in a live classroom, and an expert will already know how to overcome obstacles.
The new skills an outside hire will bring will also move into the rest of your organization. The energy and fresh ideas a new person brings can revitalize your workforce and feed ideas to the rest of the staff. This is especially true if your new hire has experience at a competitor organization. The boost to your overall intellectual capital may bring benefits that are hard to quantify from the onset.
Cons of hiring a new trainer
Expertise aside, outside trainers come with their own host of drawbacks. They cost more. According to a study from Matthew Bidwell, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, external hires get paid 18% to 20% more than internal employees do for the same job. They also receive lower performance reviews.
They're also more likely to leave. That's difficult for an organization to handle when they've paid more and have less stability.
Verdict: which is better?
Your organization must decide if it's better to hire from within than outside, so there's no correct decision. However, after working for years with organizations in the early stages of creating an online program, I recommend hiring from outside.
For most entities, a new online-based program represents a strategic change, and strategic changes are difficult to spark from within. Most also lack staff who have computer skills and skills related to communicating online. Fear of technology is a powerful inhibitor, so it helps to have someone who feels free moving in an online classroom.
Organizations that for some reason can't hire a new staff member should at the very least hire an online education advisor. This person can coach your team through the experience of online training and help develop a structure you can use for the life of your program.
Making a hiring decisions for online trainers is hard. Contact Talance for a free consultation to understand what path might be better for you.
[Photo credit: Can hierarchy and sharing co-exist? By opensourceway on Flickr]