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Q&A: Author Laurie Pickard on Low-Cost Training Options to Engage Workers

Massive open online courses, commonly referred to as MOOCs, offer a low-budget way to train workers and foster employee development.

Q&A: Author Laurie Pickard on Low-Cost Training Options to Engage Workers

Laurie Pickard. Credit: Crystaline Randazzo

By: Anne Fisher
 
Massive open online courses, or MOOCs , have thrown open the doors of higher learning to millions of people around the world.  And now MOOCs are doing the same for companies and their workers.  
 
According to Laurie Pickard, author of Don’t Pay for Your MBA: The Faster, Better, Cheaper Way to Get the Business Education You Need, MOOCs  are creating no less than “an Educational Revolution that will transform the world and work opportunities every bit as much as the Industrial and Information Revolutions did.”
 
Since their arrival in 2011, the number of MOOCs has exploded, with over 6,800 courses now offered by more than 700 universities worldwide, as well as by firms like Coursera and Udacity. Nearly 40% of these courses cover business and technology topics—making them especially attractive to employers. 
 
MOOCs have been front and center for Pickard. Following a stint in the Peace Corps, she used her own self-made MBA to launch a career in international development consulting. Her blog, nopaymba, chronicles that journey, and offers a wealth of other information on MOOCs, including a directory of top graduate business courses. 
 
For business, MOOCs are a cost-efficient way to train workers and an inexpensive means to foster employee development—particularly for career-minded Millennials
 
Monster recently spoke with Pickard about how employers can tap the power of MOOCs both during the recruiting process and post-hire.
 
Q. How are employers using MOOCs to develop talent within organizations?
 
A. Many employers are encouraging high-potential individuals—who may or may not already have a traditional MBA—to use MOOCs more or less continually, to keep updating and sharpening the skills that the company needs, or will soon need, to stay competitive. 
 
From both the employer and the employee's point of view, the ideal approach is to prepare someone for their next step up by combining a MOOC with hands-on experience. 
 
For instance, let's say you're grooming someone to become a brand manager. You would have him or her take an online course in brand strategy while also helping to roll out a new product, so that the theoretical knowledge gained in the MOOC is applied right away in real time.
 
Q. When evaluating a job candidate’s resume that lists MOOCs, or an MBA equivalent earned via MOOCs, what should hiring managers look for?
 
A. HR people and hiring managers should look for three things. First, rigorous course work that goes beyond the introductory level. Then, certificates showing that the candidate completed the courses he or she started. And third, look for evidence that the candidate put the new skills into practice.
 
Q. Since there’s no transcript of grades, how can you tell what someone learned from a MOOC, or a series of MOOCs?
 
A.  In my opinion, even if you have a transcript from a traditional degree program, you still can’t tell what someone absorbed or how they applied what they learned. So it’s really no different.
 
A few questions you could ask, for candidates with either a traditional or a MOOC education, would be: 
 
Why did you choose the courses you chose? 
What are you able to do now that you weren’t able to do before completing your studies? 
How have your new skills and knowledge benefited your current employer, and how will they contribute to your success in a new role? 
Can you tell me about a time when you put what you learned into practice in the real world?
 
Q. In companies that are using MOOCs to fill training and development gaps in their current workforce, do you recommend bringing that up in interviews with potential new hires?
 
A.  Yes! I think it’s a great idea. Talking about ongoing professional development in an interview lets the applicant know that there are opportunities for growth, and that the company is open to employees’ seeking out relevant training. 
 
The nice thing about MOOC-based training is that there is such a vast diversity of course offerings. You can learn practically anything you might need on the job.
 
Q. Anything else you would say to hiring managers and HR professionals about MOOCs?
 
A.  Two things: First, I think it’s a great idea for hiring managers and HR people to take a couple of MOOCs themselves. By doing so, they can really understand what kinds of courses are available, how they vary in terms of difficulty, how much work it takes to complete different courses, and so on. Having this kind of familiarity can make you much savvier about what you see on a resume.
 
Second, I’d suggest keeping in mind that there are big wins from hiring people who have pursued continuing education on their own. Not only are people who do this highly motivated and self-directed, but there may also be financial benefits. Someone who didn’t go the traditional MBA route, for instance, doesn’t have a huge debt to pay off, so they may be able to take a slightly lower salary.
 
Does your company offers employee development opportunities? Then shout it from the rafters! Monster’s Branded Job Template  can help you share your employer brand story with top talent.