Increased productivity has been a constant goal for modern economies ever since the early days of the Industrial Revolution. Up to the late 20th century, however, increasing employee productivity either involved technological innovation (going from the steam engine to electricity, moving from the telegraph to the telephone, inventing more efficient materials, etc.) or, more often than not, plainly working harder.
These days, on the other hand, well into the era of the Knowledge Economy, increased productivity mostly means working smarter.
You see, while still important, it’s not the machines or industrial processes that produce the most value in the present economy, but people.
Lots of companies could buy the same datacenters as Google, for example (it would “only” need an investment of few billion dollars, the kind that goes on all the time). But without the smart people operating them, designing new algorithms, building new business models, and creating a slew of IP in the process, those machines will be worse than useless.
This is also why corporate training and online learning have been so important in this last decade (apart from being two of the main factors affecting employee productivity) — building up to a hundred-billion-dollar industry. Enterprises can’t afford to not invest in training employees properly.
In this post, we will delve a little into this “work smarter” thing, giving you a tried and true list of online training practices destined to increase employee productivity.
1. It all starts with the content (and the learners)
Corporate training, like every other kind of training, is as effective as the quality of its course content. If your training material is bad, or hastily created and leaves learners in the dark, then don’t expect much from your training program.
That doesn’t mean you should aim for academic-level material and deep analyses of the subject matter. If anything, that would make things worse.
You need to strike the right balance regarding how deep, content-wise, your business needs you to go, and what’s the proper difficulty level to match employees’ educational background and learning capacity. So, talk to them, do “test drives” and try out early drafts of your content, have them take some assessment tests, and, in general, experiment and listen.
Sure, you might still not come out with the perfect content the very first time around, but you will be much closer than if you just started writing without paying attention to these things.
2. Follow andragogical best practices
As a corporate training content writer, you might not be called a teacher, but you still kind of are one. This means that all kinds of andagogical (which essentially is pedagogical, but for adults) wisdom that applies to teachers and educational practice, apply to your case too. Or at least, most of them.
Buy a few books to learn the basics of teaching, and learn tricks and techniques for effectively delivering learning content to learners, and try to apply them to your online content. Let’s not forget, we base many of our very own blogposts on the transference of this kind of traditional knowledge to the eLearning realm.
Even techniques that are meant for the physical classroom can be of use, especially if your corporate training involves instructor-led training, either through blended learning or online webinars and such.
3. Accommodate your learners
The key characteristic of online training is that it is flexible and asynchronous. Learners can study at their own pace, and at their own place (or any other place, like on their daily commute).
Embrace that flexibility, and employees will be much more open to online learning, and as a result, gain much more from it, something which will immediately result in increased productivity.
In fact, by embracing asynchronous online learning, you also avoid the hit in your company’s productivity that would have come from having employees take time off work to attend a training class, as well as the negative effects that would have in your daily workflows.
For industries with heavy workloads and hectic time schedules, microlearning, with its emphasis on short learning bursts and low friction training, can also give a big boost to the effectiveness of their training program.
4. Make it personal
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to treat all your learners as equally capable.
If you pace your training program based on your more capable learners, you will confuse the less capable ones (which might even be the majority). If, on the other hand, you pace your training based on the needs of your less capable learners, then you will hold back your best performers.
You might think that a middle ground is your best course of action here, but this, again, while better than either of the aforementioned plans, still shares their shortcoming.
Instead, use your Learning and Talent Development Platform to personalize courses and serve them at the appropriate level for each audience. You don’t have to go too far with this, just a basic, medium and advanced course will do just fine. At the start of the training program, use aptitude and skills-gap tests to determine which course each employee should follow.
This way, you both teach the basics in plenty of detail for your average learners, and still get to go beyond the basics, preparing your more apt employees to be productive earlier and even lead the others on the field.
Blended learning is the practice of combining online learning with traditional classroom-based learning (or real-time online lectures, like webinars and teleconference sessions).
While we sang the praises of online and web-based training previously, blended learning or instructor-led training, as it’s also known, can still be a very powerful tool for increased training effectiveness and employee productivity.
This is because some subject matters are inherently visual and physical, and are more properly (and faster) conveyed to your learners with a direct physical demonstration and some hands-on training, than with an online lesson, no matter how good.
These include things such as operating machinery, working on the assembly line, interacting with customers, performing certain safety procedures, and more.
With a capable training platform like eFront, you can strike a balance between the elements of a course that can be delivered online, through learning and microlearning, and the elements of a course that are better suited for a real-time, in-person delivery, all the while using the same intuitive management interface for both kinds.
6. Measure all the things!
In training, as in business, performance data are key.
One of the key benefits of online training, especially with a tool like eFront, is how easy it is to get detailed reports on your learners’ performance (and, by extension, on your training program’s efficiency).
These kinds of metrics will serve you in multiple ways and give you an insight on how to measure employee productivity:
a) They will let you know whether your learners are comfortable with (and absorbing well) what’s in their courses. If the numbers show that they’re not (e.g. poor tests results all around) that would be a signal that you need to adjust or improve your content.
b) They will show you which of your employees are the more capable, and thus can be trusted with positions where they will lead others, assigned to work with new technologies and products first, etc.
c) They will help create a performance-oriented culture in your company, where employees try to outperform each other and keep their metrics high. This will extend beyond the training program itself, to their general productivity, especially if you give the right signals that the two are connected (as suggested in point b).
This way, measuring employee productivity will become a real breeze!
Do you remember much of your high school history or chemistry?
I didn’t think so.
See, having been taught something is often the best way to forget about it. The trick to learning something for good, and to keep remembering it, is in actually using it in practice combined with periodical retraining. That’s why the most important jobs like pilots, air-traffic controllers, and doctors require practitioners to re-train periodically if they want to keep their license.
The same holds true for your employee’s skills too. Online learning is not here just to deliver new skills to them; it’s also a perfect way to re-train them in their supposedly already existing skills.
A lot of the things that they have been trained for back in the day, especially those that are least frequently used (but still important), you’ll discover that they have forgotten all about. Others you’ll find out that they have learned and practiced the wrong way all these years. And for some tasks, there would be new and improved techniques to teach them.
Whatever the case, re-training programs are a great way to keep your employees sharp and boost their productivity, and with a platform such as eFront making content readily available at any time and from anywhere (and even enforcing periodic training with e.g. expiring certificates), they are easy to deliver too.
In this post, we highlighted 7 ways to increase employee productivity by boosting your online training program.
Some are basic guidelines that can boost the general effectiveness of any training program (like writing high quality and relevant content that follows pedagogical best practices). Others, like the importance of specializing your courses for different employee groups and embracing asynchronous learning, are especially applicable to online training. Some, like the importance of blended learning in certain training scenarios, might come as a surprise, especially for those with the impression that online learning totally surpasses in-person training.
There are, of course, many more ways that online training can increase employee productivity (some generic, and some tied to eFront and the unique capabilities it offers), and we have been covering, and will continue to cover, those, from this blog.