3 things you MUST DO before investing in online staff training

Written by: Dr Cheryl Whiting

As an employer you will recognise that well trained, capable employees are critical to the success of your business; aware of the value of training and the benefits of investing in some form of continued personal and professional development for your employees. Good training enhances proficiency, efficiency, and productivity. It reduces the likelihood of mistakes, critical incidents, and accidents. Moreover, it increases levels of professionalism, motivation, job satisfaction and staff retention. Factors which are significant to your organisation’s reputation and ultimately its success. 

Covid 19 has rapidly transformed how technology is used to inform, educate, and train others. Not surprisingly the pandemic will have brought about changes to your business and working practices, and no doubt produced some financial challenges. In the last few months, the number of online training (e-learning) courses has risen. Where training budgets are limited online courses do seemingly offer an appropriate and cost-effective way of developing employees. Online learning certainly has many merits; however, it also has its limitations and is not always the best option. In the world of training not all training companies are created equal, and when it comes to training, no one size fits all.  There are certainly many factors to consider before you invest, the wrong choice can be costly in terms of time, money, and the tangible benefits it brings to your business. Here’s some guidance and pointers to help you make the right decisions.

1. Identify your training priorities, the types of training available and the benefits it brings

Explore what’s on offer, and how this meets your current training needs as well as your longer-term business goals. Online training utilises a range of multimedia internet-based platforms that may include live or recorded lectures, videos, podcasts, games, webinars, webchats, & text-based materials, with varying levels of face to face interaction, individual coaching, tutor and peer led support. Online learning facilitates access to an assortment of learning tools to meet a range of competencies that improve performance, support growth, innovation, and customer service needs. As with all types of training it requires the support of others to influence its success. If your goal is to change with the times, widen access to learning opportunities and build a culture of lifelong learning in the most cost-effective way then you will need to harness commitment across your organisation and introduce broader strategic and operational changes.

Think about what you want staff to be able to do competently, to what level, by what date. Know what it is you are looking to develop, for example are you wanting to raise awareness, develop knowledge, advance skill sets, improve performance with tasks, promote compliance with regulations?  The richness of the experience depends upon the teaching methods used, course structure, the depth in which the subject is covered and the level of opportunity for personal interaction with others. So, for example if you are seeking to enhance communication skills look for training that offers face to face interaction, and simulated activities, like role play. This will optimise the opportunity to practice and develop skills, reflect on performance, and receive feedback on development.

Be open to the idea that you might need to take a blended approach to meet specific training needs.  Not all subjects lend themselves well to online delivery and you might need to access and incorporate traditional classroom-based methods alongside online provision. Activities within the classroom provide opportunities for practical ‘hands on’ training which helps build confidence and ensures people gain an appropriate level of experience. In some cases, where training is undertaken to comply with Health and Safety, certification of competence is typically awarded through practical hands-on training and assessment. Online training may appear an attractive option but if it is not endorsed or recognised by relevant authorities it could mean your company fails to satisfy statutory legal requirements.

2. Take time to research companies offering such services

Explore the credentials of those delivering the service. Check whether the training programmes offered are accredited, this provides some assurance of expertise, alongside quality and standards in relation to management, delivery, and technical support throughout. In addition, locate customer reviews for insight into other people’s experiences and thoughts on overall value.

Take advantage of free no-obligation consultations. This way you get to know the person who is designing and delivering the training. It is a great way of ascertaining their passion, knowledge and know-how, approachability, and willingness to listen and learn about your business. This gives you some assurance of their capacity to provide a flexible training solution that meets your business needs and addresses the challenges you face; ensuring you access the right kind of training, that develops the right knowledge, skills and competencies.

Ask for a free trial. This enables you and your staff to discover how engaging and how up to date the training course is. It offers the opportunity to appreciate what you would be getting for your money.  In addition, it brings the opportunity to pilot this type of training with staff and evaluate its acceptability, usability, and effectiveness in facilitating learning and development within your organisation.

3. Establish additional resource requirements and the commitment needed to achieve success

Consider the proficiency of staff in using information technology. By its very nature, online learning develops and enhances IT and other transferable skills. To engage and effectively learn, a good command of technology, and the capacity to navigate your way around an online system is a requirement. Online learning is not something every employee will have experienced or embrace eagerly. This unfamiliarity has the potential to cause anxiety and frustration which can lead to disengagement quite early on. Learning online requires a different set of information processing skills and people need time to adapt and adjust to such dynamic methods. Some provision for induction into the online learning environment may be required to help employees evaluate their skill set, and learn how to approach this type of training to maximise personal development. Consider also if further investment in your technological infrastructure is required to support reliable access and effortless use of the online training programmes and applications you wish to purchase.  

Take account of the time online training will take to complete. Online training offers flexibility; self-paced it accommodates different learning styles and allows people to time to consolidate learning and revisit aspects. Depending on the structure of the training and the activities it incorporates employees will need to regularly set time aside to engage with materials, resources, and tutorials. Independent online learning thus requires self-discipline, good time management and organisational skills if it is to be completed successfully to the required standard within a particular time frame. On a day to day basis there are many demands on time and other competing priorities, consequently, training becomes less of a priority and soon slips off the radar. Adjustments to policy and procedures may be necessary to support staff to balance their work alongside training so they succeed in attaining new skills and insight, and you achieve a return on your investment.

Have a plan for monitoring learning and development. Assumptions are made that in using technology, information gained will be converted into knowledge, and applied with practice. Although online training brings access to a wide range of information and resources it does not mean employees will engage with it in a meaningful way in the manner anticipated. Some process of mentoring or buddying is favourable when initially introducing online training into the workplace. Mentoring helps employees to build connections between knowledge and experience. This provides the platform for monitoring progress and permits early intervention to resolve problems and overcome obstacles to learning. Mentoring can reduce the isolation often felt during online training and mitigates against several of its limitations. It provides an opportunity to build social connections and explore alternative views and opinions. This augments active learning; through discussion, it is possible to appreciate the relevance and value of content. Moreover it facilities examination of the application of knowledge to one’s own situation and opens up the opportunity to explore the impact training has had on working practices and individual performance.

How Veda Education and Training can help you

Are you are looking to develop your workforce using online training methods? If you’re unsure of the right questions to be asking to be certain you invest in the right kind of training, that develops the right knowledge, skills and competencies and gets you the right outcomes – then please do get in touch. As an independent consultancy, we are happy to help you discover and explore a range of training options and can even liaise with training companies on your behalf.  We also offer training to support workplace trainers to integrate, facilitate and support online learning within your organisation.

For more information or to arrange an initial consultation, please contact us at info@vedaconsultancy.co.uk

Comments in relation to the content and debates presented within the blog are welcome too via the contact page

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