Over the last few decades, the pros and cons of employee education have become far more well known across the world of business. Whether you are dealing with completely green hires or experienced workers looking for opportunities to upskill themselves, a structured learning program has always been more conducive for success than simply chucking employees in at the deep end. Sure, you might find the odd shining star who will turn into an ideal hire with little effort on your part, but more often than not this approach will instead make a horrible impression on your staff, which in turn can encourage them to search for opportunities elsewhere.
Corporate learning is all about getting the most out of the human element of a business. Not only should it provide employees with the information they need to become productive, but it should also help to shape their habits, as well as their morale. Taking an active approach towards this process can bring about a huge boost in the quality of your staff, while failing to do so will simply keep you ticking along at best.
More recently, the corporate training market has become dominated by ‘elearning’ providers. As the name implies, these companies offer online courses and training content as an alternative to traditional learning. While in the past a company may have had to hire a trainer and take hours out of an employee’s schedule in order to upskill them effectively, online resources can be accessed any time on virtually any device, making it a far more convenient option for both employers and busy workers.
Still, actually making use of online corporate learning is not free, and successful businesses must always consider the bottom line. Taking that into consideration, do the benefits of corporate elearning outweigh the potential costs?
What are the Benefits of Corporate eLearning?
Cheaper and more convenient than classroom training
Let’s take a second to consider the costs of traditional training. In order to effectively upskill employees in this way, a company may have to invest in:
- Physical assets (textbooks, printouts, stationary and so on)
- Booking spaces for teaching
- Travel for students
- Hiring an expert instructor
Worse yet, these costs will repeat themselves over time, especially for companies that have to deal with high rates of employee turnover.
While elearning is by no means free, it is often a far more cost-effective option for corporate customers. Companies can save on transport, instructors and other assets while also benefiting from content and tools which can be used repeatedly, even over several years. Not only will this mean lower long-term costs, but it will also ensure that the teaching is consistent, an advantage that is often lost when using more than one trainer.
Another important part of this is convenience. Studying is far easier to fit into a busy schedule when the necessary materials can be accessed from anywhere, especially with the potential add-on of mobile-compatibility. This will ensure that employees can focus on making money as much as possible, without having to skip meetings or take time out of busy days for the convenience of an instructor.
In short, not only can elearning be cheaper than traditional training, but can also allow employees to focus more on doing their jobs and boosting the bottom line.
Rapid content deployment
An advantage of a digital resource such as a PDF, training video or even an online learning game is that it can be deployed instantly; say, as soon as an employee accepts a job!
If you want your training program to be effective, there can be no time-wasting. Many companies even utilize onboarding and induction programs which begin immediately after an employee’s initial interview, ensuring that they are ready to get started as soon as they arrive on the first day.
One of the best ways to press this advantage is to utilize a Learning Management System (LMS). This software will allow you to rapidly post or update your elearning content, ensuring that students will always have access to relevant training materials. More importantly, an LMS can also track user metrics, allowing you to check the effectiveness of an online training course or even create unique learning experiences to suit the needs of individual employees.
Improved knowledge retention
As impressive as it can be to create an expert-textbook, walls of text do not tend to help with learner engagement. Employees may struggle to find the information they need, let alone retain it for down the line. The experience can be even worse if employees are expected to learn solely via text or lectures, as they will often struggle to stay engaged for more than a few minutes.
One of the biggest advantages of corporate elearning is the sheer amount of variety that it has to offer. Effective online courses are far more than Powerpoint slides or video lectures; many also incorporate interactive graphics, virtual reality, social learning and even gamification. This can create a more varied and engaging learning environment, as well as one where students can apply their new knowledge with exciting simulations and team exercises.
Even before the internet, it has always been common knowledge that the more engaged a student is, the more information they will take in. Even if your employees forget an important tidbit or two, the convenience of elearning assets will ensure that they can relocate the information they need without any trouble.
Something that any experienced teacher will tell you is that students often have their own preferred learning styles. Many may prefer a structured approach, while others will do a better job when they can study in an environment of their choice.
Allowing employees to learn in a way that suits them may seem inconvenient, but it is actually a lot more feasible than a completely traditional uniform approach. Full-time employees are not school children – they have their own responsibilities and deadlines, most of which may take precedence over training. Some may also be far more eager than others and will want to access additional training materials without having to wait.
Online courses allow students to study whenever it is convenient for them, whether they have ample time to spare or just a few minutes between crucial meetings. That is not to say that you will have to leave them to it, however; with an LMS, you can track user data to make sure that employees are devoting a sufficient amount of time to their training. As long as they are meeting these key requirements, why should you need to bother forcing them into a classroom?
Improving instructor-led training
As much as we like to talk about the benefits of elearning, there is no denying that instructor-led training can still have its advantages. Experienced teachers will be able to answer any questions your employees might have, as well as offer a more personal approach that many students will find highly beneficial.
Because of this, many businesses pursue ‘blended learning’, mixing digital courses with traditional training. This approach can allow you to get the best of both worlds; for example, employees could cover the basics via digital resources, so that by the time they arrive in class they can devote more time to training exercises and asking relevant questions. You will also be able to collect feedback from both your instructor and LMS in order to assess the progress of individual learners.
Easier to update your business practices
Any business must be prepared to update and improve its core practices, whether they relate to strategy, production, technology, compliance or anything else. Meeting new challenges can present a range of potential difficulties, however, especially for industries which are in constant flux.
Luckily, online learning content can be created, updated and disseminated far more quickly than traditional resources. If your company ever reached a point where it started using new software, or if there were suddenly new compliance issues to take into account (let us not forget the slog that was preparing for GDPR), you would need to provide your employees with the necessary learning content as soon as possible.
This kind of fluidity can be particularly useful as a business starts to scale up. Even experienced employees may need to take on new skills and responsibilities as a company diversifies, automates or expands its core processes. With rapidly deployed elearning, this experience can be easier and far less disruptive.
Improved induction and onboarding
For businesses that employ a ‘sink or swim’ approach to employees, it is easy to forget just how much it can cost to bring a new hire’s productivity up to a reasonable standard. The overall cost of recruiting, interviewing, hiring and training a new staff member can quickly surpass their annual salary.
In order to avoid this kind of unprofitable slog, many businesses instead utilize well-structured induction and onboarding processes. Not only can this give employees everything they need to get started, but it can also introduce them to the culture, drives and KPIs of their new workplace.
This is where online course content can be particularly advantageous. For one, digital resources can be sent out to employees even before their first day on the job. A digital onboarding process can also prevent key managers and executives from having to take time out of their schedules for the sake of introductions. Perhaps most importantly, a streamlined and well-branded approach to new employees will set an excellent impression, making it more likely that the best hires will want to stick around.
Of course, scale is also an important factor when considering induction and onboarding. Many companies take on multiple hires at once, especially during busy seasonal periods. Instructor-led training can be even less effective in large groups, whereas an LMS-based training process can create personalized experiences for individual employees.
Reach a multinational audience
Nowadays it is becoming easier than ever to market products and services to international customers. Employers are also increasingly outsourcing key departments, such as development and customer service, in order to save money.
However, this can present a number of challenges. For one, employees in one location may have an entirely different learning culture to what you are used to, or the time zone differences may make it infeasible to schedule training sessions even via digital communication.
Because online courses can be quickly customized and deployed, it is simple to rework them in order to suit a multinational audience. Language will be a large factor here, but you may also need to encourage different behavior in employees depending on the character of their customers. Whatever the requirements might be, you will find it far easier to fulfill them with easily customizable digital materials.