Classroom trainings do have their charm. You get to meet peers, interact with them about challenges faced on the job, discuss politics and economy… There is a certain bonding that happens during in-person training sessions that online training or e-learning cannot match. Yet, companies are moving towards e-learning steadily. The entire training program is seldom moved online but the number of online training hours has been steadily increasing in organizations. According to ATD’s State of Industry 2015 report, about 41% of learning was delivered using technology; it was 38% in 2014 (a steady increase over the years). There are good reasons for this. Let’s see what they are.
Need to update skills to match growing business needs:
Companies have to constantly innovate and react to market needs and demands. This means the introduction of new products, improvements to production processes, and keeping up with new regulations or compliance guidelines keep happening almost continuously. Let’s take a typical scenario. You have just concluded training your new sales team on a particular product. Your competitor introduces a product similar to yours that could capture your market share. To avert the potential threat, you need to quickly train your salespeople to be prepared for customer objections and re-orient the selling strategy, taking into account the new market situation. How do you do it? It is not practical to arrange for classroom trainings at such a short notice and therefore, online learning solutions are more practical. You will have similar needs when you introduce a new process or security procedure and need to update employees almost immediately. It is such needs that compel organizations to explore online training options.
Compulsion to keep training costs low while not compromising on training hours:
Classroom training programs cost money – cost of travel, hotel accommodation, logistical arrangements, and so on; the expenses are repetitive for each event. However, in the case of online training, once you have a Learning Management System (LMS) in place, develop and host online courses on the LMS; you can have several people take the course on an ongoing basis. It means, you have a one-time investment, but recurring benefits. According to a research by Caterpillar University, e-learning provides a clear cost-benefit as against instructor-led training, irrespective of how large or small the learner base is. Their research proves that the cost-advantage is pronounced even for as low as 100 learners. In organizations with a high turnover or large number of temporary employees, this works out to be the best option.
Need to train a large and dispersed workforce:
Another motivation for organizations to turn to online training is when they have a large and dispersed workforce. Organizing traditional, instructor-led classroom training would be a nightmare in terms of logistics and coordination. Either select instructors have to travel to different cities to train the workforce, or employees need to travel to a central training venue – both take time, and cost money. With the online medium, training can be rolled out simultaneously across all regions so that employees will be on same page, at the same time. It means, if the organization has to implement a new software system, train employees on new compliance regulations, it can be done quickly as all employees can be trained at the same time with e-learning options.
Demand for flexibility in knowledge transfer:
Employees may have varying learning styles and preferences. Online training provides employees the space and time to complete courses at their own convenience. After all, there is no point in forcing an employee to sit through a classroom training program when she has a project deadline and is mentally pre-occupied with it. With online training, learning can happen when the employee is most receptive to knowledge transfer. A good example of a company that has put this to good use is Greyhound Lines Inc., which primarily has a mobile workforce. It moved from classroom training to the e-learning format for leadership and customer service courses. As a result, not only did the training costs reduce, there was a marked reduction in the number of complaints regarding customer service.
Need to track training completions and effectiveness:
Certain trainings such as compliance and safety need to be tracked and evaluated as per regulatory guidelines. With courses on an LMS, it becomes easier to monitor who has started the course, who has completed, and who are taking an unduly long time to complete. Employees can also be tested and certified and it becomes logistically and administratively easy to man the whole process via an LMS when courses are taken online. This is one of the main reasons organizations are moving from classroom to e-learning.
We are living in a knowledge economy where only those who constantly update themselves with new knowledge and skills survive. Companies that provide this option thrive and enjoy the benefit of a skilled workforce. Online training is one of the ways companies are helping employees upgrade their knowledge and skills.