With an increasing number of enterprises and organizations adopting eLearning, or extending their existing online training programs, eLearning has now become an essential tool for business development.
Merely deploying an eLearning solution and hoping for the best, however, will just not do.
To really leverage the benefits of online training, businesses need to identify their corporate training & development needs, develop a corporate training and development plan, and (more or less) stick to it.
In this post we’ll examine the six most important things to consider while building your online corporate training strategy.
Building a training strategy starts by you. So, you first need to know yourself. And by yourself, we mean your company.
Sure, you need to have an employee training program; every enterprise does. But do you know in advance what it should cover, how long it should be, what it would cost, and even what technologies to use to implement it?
Similarly, you may have some specific department’s training needs in mind, but could there be other departments in that vast enterprise of yours that might also benefit from an online training program?
Brainstorming it out yourself is not enough. It’s time to assemble the Avengers.
And by Avengers we mean your company leaders, department heads, human resource leaders, employee representatives and other stakeholders. Arrange a few meetings to discuss (and determine) the scope, goals and objectives of your employee training program. Keep detailed notes and try to get a clear view of each department’s employee development needs.
Your online corporate training programs will only be successful if you can pinpoint how your business operates, what it needs and how it can grow.
Know thy old training
If you already had an existing corporate online training program, whether it’s merely a pilot of smaller scope or has even failed, now it’s time to do a postmortem. See how your training strategy plan was designed, implemented and run, and whether its goals were met.
Ask your instructors and your learners to evaluate its success (or lack thereof) from any aspect that can help you improve upon it for your new online training strategy (e.g. course quality, user engagement, instructor performance, LMS suitability, skills enhancement, etc.).
You should, of course, do the same with any traditional employee training regime that you might have had — e.g. classroom-based seminars. Just because your old training was done offline doesn’t mean it is obsolete.
Some parts of employee training, especially those that concern physical skills (like operating some complex machinery), are better done as real-time, hands-on courses, and modern LMS systems offer support for this with “blended learning” or “instructor-led training” courses and webinars.
Questions you should be asking: Were they effective? Should you maintain some elements of them in your new online training program (e.g. in the form of instructor-led training)? Does it make sense to re-use existing content (PowerPoint presentations, printed handouts, etc.) from them?
One thing is certain: You’ve got a lot to learn from your past corporate training strategy examples and you should not forget to make use of them!
Long vs Short-term needs
After you’ve gathered your company’s training requirements, evaluated earlier training programs, and solicited, significant feedback from all the relevant stakeholders, it’s time to put all these together and formally develop your corporate training strategy.
A lot of the information and feedback you will have gathered (especially from “brainstorming” style meetings where everybody goes off on tangent), will be incomplete, conflicting, or even completely out of scope.
Do a first pass and remove anything that doesn’t seem helpful for developing your online training strategy, then use the remaining material to identify your company’s real training needs — which will be of course based on its business and development goals.
Some training needs, especially those that are associated with explicit or short-term needs, will be easy to identify. If for example you run a factory and are introducing some new assembly line machinery, you’ll obviously need to train your employees into using it. Or, if your employees are having trouble with some particular skill, that will be another example of an evident training need.
Other training needs, especially those that depend on long-term business development goals, might not be so easy to determine — though they might prove the most crucial ones for the company’s feature. If you worked on intranet-focused IT services in the early 2010’s for example, it would make quite a lot of sense to start schooling your employees in Cloud-based technologies and support, because that’s where the market was heading.
Separate those two cases (concrete and short-term training needs vs long-term business development training needs), and try to come up with a mix of them that works. Don’t try to fit everything in your online corporate training strategy from day one — it will probably turn out very hard to develop, costly, and overwhelming for your employees.
After all, the beauty of eLearning management systems and online training is that you can introduce new training courses piecemeal.
Balance it all
In general, your role as the corporate training strategist will be to balance a number of variables, including breadth (scope), cost, employee availability, etc.
Of course if you work in a Fortune 100 company and have been given an unlimited training budget, by all means, go wild. But most corporate training strategies are better off with a balanced approach — and some resources, like your employees’ availability and learning capacity, cannot usually be improved by throwing money at the problem.
In the end, it all comes down to taking into account all your pressing needs and constraints while still keeping an eye on the big picture (long term corporate development).
The end result of the design stage should be a, still abstract, corporate learning and development strategy that defines a number of training courses, each with a clear scope and specific learning objectives.
Make it concrete
Now it’s time to make your online corporate training strategy concrete. This means filling in all those tricky to calculate numbers and figures, and delivering a final plan, with specific timelines and associated costs, to the big bosses that will sign off on your training program.
With your finalized training courses listing, you should meet with department heads and company leaders again, and discuss employee availability to come up with a viable training schedule.
Key word here is viable. While understandingly training will be your number on priority, this won’t, also understandingly, be the case for department heads, who will be more concerned with meeting their deadlines and deliverables.
This is where, for example, you’ll find out that your suggested 4-hours per week/one month training regime is just not possible under your current workload, and you need to make it into a 2-hours per week/2 months one.
It’s also a good time to talk to your IT department and a couple of eLearning solutions providers (such as, *ahem*, Epignosis), discuss with them the desired specifications for your eLearning management system, and decide upon a specific LMS platform, deployment strategy (e.g. self-hosted, private Cloud, public Cloud, etc), and pricing plan.
Your goal at this stage is to minimize business disruption, and ensure that all corporate stakeholders are OK with your corporate training schedules. This is crucial, because not only you don’t want them to sabotage or downplay your training program’s importance, but you also need their full support in getting the employees they manage engaged and fully cooperative with their training.
Make sure you have the departments’ leaders support and agreement even before you start deploying your eLearning program, by filling them in with all the details, answering their questions and concerns, and making any adjustments necessary to get their approval — before you finalize your employee training and development plan and start deploying.
Rinse and repeat
Just because you’ve deployed your online training program doesn’t mean you’re done developing your corporate learning strategy.
A corporate learning strategy is not meant to be static — after all, neither the markets nor your business needs are. What worked for 2013 might be old news by 2016 — or even faster if you work in a high velocity industry, such as fashion or IT.
While your overall online corporate training strategy and eLearning program structure might be good for a while, you’ll need to re-examine employee training needs, course and timelines often. This is for things like adding a new course, updating your training materials, adjusting training schedules, etc. Depending on the rate of change in your particular industry you might also want to re-evaluate your overall strategy once a year or so, too.
In general, your goal should be to incorporate all the wisdom and feedback you’ve got from running your eLearning training program to make it better in its next iteration.
Reporting tools let you have an overview of the progress your employee are making in their training over time — and make it easy to notice any problematic spots, e.g. lots of employees faring badly at some particular course or lesson.
Talking to your employees and conducting online surveys is another great way to solicit feedback from them — provided that you ask concrete questions that can lead to actionable changes to your training program.
If you’re just starting out, and are worried about the completeness and effectiveness of your proposed corporate training program, you might want to consider launching it in pilot mode (e.g. for only a few specific departments), watching how it goes, gathering feedback, and then finalizing your overall corporate training strategy.
Building Your Own Online Corporate Training Strategy
A successful corporate training and development program requires a well thought-out training strategy.
Such a strategy must reflect and address the company’s training needs and development goals, both in the short and long-term, and much be created with the involvement and support of all relevant stakeholders.
Finally, your online corporate training strategy, just like every other business strategy in a changing market, must be iterated upon and re-evaluated constantly.