Did you recently set up a corporate online training program expecting it to set the world alight, only for it to turn into a damp squib? Don’t panic. Most staff training and development programs are a process of evolution and many fall flat at first attempt. It doesn’t suddenly mean that eLearning for employee development is ineffective.
You need to assess what went right, what went wrong, and make the necessary tweaks (or wholesale changes in the worst cases) to make sure that the next one dazzles.
This post focuses on what went wrong. We see many common mistakes repeated over and over and we can help you solve or avoid them in your online training program.
If you’re including any of the following mistakes in your course design and delivery, consider whether your next online staff training program could do with a re-think to improve its chances of success.
1. Inadequate needs assessment
It sounds obvious but all programs need to train on the right topics. So it’s surprising how many don’t quite manage it.
Where are the knowledge or skills gaps? What do your people want or need to know? What will develop them either as employees or as human beings?
Conducting adequate research and needs assessment underpins every successful course because it is based upon actual observation AND what employees tell you.
Unless you are putting time into this up front, you will almost certainly struggle to hit the right notes.
For employees, nothing’s worse than being made to do training that feels unnecessary, too easy, too stressful, or a waste of time that could be better spent learning something else or just working.
Remember this before designing your web-based employee training program; because what you discover about employees’ needs will help to inform everything that follows.
2. It’s pitched too generally
Online training programs suffer from some of the same constraints as traditional training. Unless they are pitched correctly, they may end up being too difficult for some people and too easy for others.
Trying to please everybody is impossible; but one of the beauties of online training for employees is that you’re not all stuck in the same training room, working at a single pace.
So it’s possible to add optional modules into your program to cater for both less advanced and more advanced employees.
If a particular module is not applicable to a particular employee, it can be skipped. That way, nobody is left bored and wondering why they are going over old ground or feeling that it’s pitched way above their heads.
3. The basic design methods are not up to scratch
Got an old PowerPoint presentation that worked wonders 15 years ago?
While the information may still be relevant and it may still be used to produce a killer online training program, it will take some work to get it there.
Employees expect much more than simply an online version of an old presentation. For starters, they expect a high degree of readability, interaction, and visual engagement – just as they do when they visit a website or ecommerce store.
Many millennials, for instance, have shorter attention spans than their Gen-X bosses. They have grown up playing Candy Crush and watching Netflix – and want to be wowed visually and aurally.
Bear this in mind when designing your employee training programs. Don’t make them simply a string of bullet points – or they may be greeted with a string of yawns.
4. Lack of engagement with the actual content
This one follows on from the above point. Millennials are hungry consumers of media – so unless you’re including video as well as graphics and images, your content may lack a critical ‘edge’.
Take a lesson from marketers – they understand that video ‘sticks’ and that’s why it’s used extensively in product marketing. The same goes for teaching: video can be an effective way of engaging your staff and getting important messages to stick.
If your online employee training and development program is too ‘traditional’, it may be overly static and one-dimensional – and fail to hit the right notes with employees.
Are you including storytelling? If not, try it as it can be an effective way to learn. Adding this via short videos can save your content from causing employees’ eyes to glaze over.
5. It’s not broken down into enough modules
Online training programs for employees have saved many people from having to sit through long and arduous training sessions. You know, the ones when the training manager squeezes the most out of the allotted time because the room has been paid or booked for a day or half, for instance.
Is your online training program is trying to do the same? Squeezing too much into sessions?
Breaking it down into manageable chunks works best. Design your program with short attention spans in mind; make each lesson short, impactful, and with regular recaps and tests so your employees can check comprehension and progress.
6. A perceived lack of real-world application
This is another problem that could plague your online training program and crosses the divide into traditional programs. Unless the training is perceived as having real-world application, it may not be highly valued by employees and it will fall on deaf ears.
This means you need to demonstrate how to use the skills learned. In the training room, this would traditionally include role plays but online programs need to be smart with their design to incorporate ways to practice the skills in real-world situations.
There are online programs that include simulations. Or you can use videos to show how a particular skill is used in the real world, then give employees the time to practice it before reporting back about their experiences online.
7. A lack of perceived progression and achievement
It’s human nature to want to see progression in everything we do. We like to feel a sense of achievement. Employees are no different when it comes to training and development programs.
Unless you have built in tests and ways for your employees to check their learning and to see progression, they may feel that they are not getting anywhere; that they are simply going through the motions with no end product.
So, make sure that your online training program allows your people to test what they’ve learned: make it a little competitive if need be. Tests, quizzes, and games all help to reinforce what’s learned and provide a sense of progress for employees.
8. You’re assuming it works – not proving it!
One of the most common problems with online employee training systems is that employers set and forget.
They assume that because people are learning online, it is effective – as that’s how people like to learn nowadays, right?
Wrong! eLearning can be a superb medium by which to learn but the best programs have been extensively tested, measured, and adjusted before they become part of the corporate ecosystem.
Check that all the design elements work; that the content resonates with your intended audience; that the testing elements are suitable; and that feedback systems are adequate.
Don’t assume that you’ve got this right first time – it often takes several attempts to perfect all the elements of successful online staff training.
Last but not least!
Just because your last online training program failed, there’s no reason why your next one can’t be a resounding success – if you make the necessary adjustments.
Know what your people need, design the course to engage them, and measure progress. Then gather feedback to find out what can be improved – because it nearly always can!
If you do, you won’t be counting the cost of your next training program. Instead, you’ll be making it part of your regular employee training schedule.