How employee training has changed forever

a year ago   •   5 min read

By Sean Delaney

The events of 2020 have changed the way we learn forever. Sean Delaney, Managing Director of Cobblestone Learning, explains the benefits of eLearning and discusses why companies need to adapt to the new learning methods that are here to stay.

Before last year, working from home looked like an attractive proposition for many of us but was not seen as a realistic option for all employees. Covid-19 has changed our minds as both, SMEs and larger companies, have adapted to remote working.

How do we collaborate and replicate our best practices from the office?

Unlike typical changes to our working practices, companies had to act first and plan later. Moving to our kitchen tables and spare rooms, we got acquainted with remote working, only catching up with working-from-home policies, information security training and all the other policies and procedures that needed updating after remote working became the norm. Taking care of kids, worrying about our health and missing the comfort of our social interactions now prove more challenging as compared to normal times.

How we work together is still being figured out, trying to make sense of what functions and what does not. How do we collaborate and replicate our best practices from the office? We stopped doing certain things in our teams that made us question their value in the first place. We can take the good with the bad.

Like many parts of a business, marketing, or sales production, how we train our staff and support their learning changed. The classrooms are closed. Asking the person beside you or meeting your mentor cannot be done in person. As companies moved to fully remote working, a unique opportunity came up for digitally focused businesses, such as eLearning providers.


What exactly is employee eLearning?

eLearning is a broad term for learning digitally or online. It can be delivered live via an instructor or on-demand, provided through reading materials, video content, or experiences such as games, online activities, or eLearning courses.

We learn online every day, we read news sites, look at YouTube, and listen to podcasts and audiobooks. When we talk about eLearning for employees, we tend to be more performance-focused than everyday learning and design educational experiences that develop staff in areas related to their existing or future job roles. We try to remove the nice-to-know information and focus on what people need to do in their jobs. People are busy, so we provide focused learning experiences that are meaningful and relevant to their roles.

Learning experiences can be created using existing materials or resources and curating them or creating custom eLearning content and experiences when necessary. Often the topic, industry and experience levels of staff will dictate the curriculum design. For instance, sales staff may like to hear sample calls, and production staff may want to see video demonstrations or create user stories to bring some compliance requirements to life.


What is involved in creating online learning experiences?

Start with what people need to do, then what they need to learn, and finally, how they might train. It is only then that we create learning materials. It sounds simple, but you would be surprised how many initiatives do not follow this order.

Some of us have our best learning experiences in a classroom, on a field trip, or maybe on a sports pitch. Face-to-face training is planned, but we rely on the trainer to bridge the gaps between what is taught and the learner’s experience level. The trainer can adapt in real-time to get the experience just right.

With online learning, especially on-demand, we have less scope to adapt as we go and must be more focused on designing a consistent experience. We need to know upfront who will be taking the training, what they need to do and their current competency gaps. This may sound like extra work, but it provides a more consistent experience for learners, ensures nothing important is missing from the training and can benefit from experts’ input in the area.

Once we understand the need, we map out the individual parts of the learning experience, including video, animations, graphics, scenarios, or knowledge checks. We often create blended courses, which could involve zoom calls or face to face sessions too.

With the design in place, we build out the content by writing a storyboard with the text and visuals we need and then create the various multimedia assets.


What has changed in terms of how we train people?

We do more online in general, and learning is no different. Let’s take a look at a few areas that have changed since the start of the pandemic.

The move to zoom, or whatever your online meeting platform of choice is, has exploded. Moving to zoom training was initially embraced more by companies, as existing trainers could deliver the sessions with less lead time required to design on-demand courses. Many trainers have learnt that it is difficult to coordinate an online classroom with the old curriculum and need to upskill on how to deliver online lessons and efficiently use the technical tools available.

On-demand sessions are typically shorter than their face-to-face counterparts, by up to 50%; this can lead to more efficient time management for those taking the training. It also helps minimise the time we spend in front of our screens.

Training experiences are more structured and reliable. With the need to design the experience, get input from experts and ultimately sign-off, our content ends up fit for purpose and consistent. We can iterate the training and improve it based on learner feedback while always keeping the best bits.

We have seen an increase in the use of video within online courses. Talking-head type videos are often used to explain concepts, especially from subject matter experts and management. We have also seen more acceptance of self-recorded video in courses, procedures and demonstrations when live demonstrations were impractical.

The most expensive part of training is employees’ time, so designing learning experiences that are efficient and fit for purpose will be appreciated.


eLearning: A win-win digital solution

eLearning has seen a growth in popularity for several years. Covid-19 has accelerated this growth.

L&D (Learning & Development) or HR managers can continue to train employees in a safe environment and deliver to hundreds of people at different times and locations in a shorter period than a face-to-face equivalent. The training is always available for onboarding new staff or when people are promoted or change roles.

All this, and it can be good for the environment, too. Being sustainable is not optional anymore, and eLearning can be included as a part of corporate social responsibility initiatives. Employees appreciate that the training schedule can work around their work schedule and not the other way around.

The way forward

An accelerated move to online learning can only prove to be good for the industry. It will increase innovation and competition, and we will all benefit from meeting new expectations from companies. Face to face training is not gone; it is valuable and will continue to be part of companies’ training strategies. However, it will not always be the default option, where and when it is used will be more considered.

The most expensive part of training is employees’ time, so designing learning experiences that are efficient and fit for purpose will be appreciated.

Whatever the path they choose, the benefits that companies will obtain from eLearning, will help them face the post-pandemic world’s upcoming challenges.

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