Staying connected with employees through online training
Jane Rexworthy, Executive Director, People 1st International
Finding ways to support businesses and employees through these troubling times has pushed many to think outside the box and away from the norm. Businesses and organisations affected by the lockdown are looking for ways to cut costs, stay afloat and hold on to their employees. And with many furloughed, businesses and staff alike are concerned with what the following months may bring.
To support employees, finding ways to offer routine and structure to their day and helping them to feel productive whilst maintaining a connection with their employer will help in some way to boost self-esteem and positively affect mental wellbeing. One means of offering a link back to the workplace is through online training, benefitting both the business and employee, allowing individuals to hone known concepts or learn new skills as well as providing some semblance of job security and a reminder they haven’t been forgotten.
Remote-based learning can be an excellent training tool offering accessibility, flexibility and a way of re-establishing some much sort after face-to-face interaction. There are obstacles to consider such as variations on quality of internet connectivity across users, individual’s tech capabilities and understanding and access to hardware however, when done well, training online has many strengths.
Online training, with its variety of formats, offers itself very well to highly effective, short bursts of learning. Studies have also shown learners are five times more likely to absorb and retain information through online learning and regular testing halves learner distraction and improves overall retention. Repeating a cycle to learn, apply and test knowledge throughout training is, therefore, a very successful way to engage with learners. A module may deliver learning through webinars, podcasts and video, then bring learners together to discuss and apply understanding in a ‘real life situation’ and finally an end-of-theme online assessment. Then repeat for the next topic!
During this period of lockdown we are at least fortunate to live in a virtually connected world allowing us to communicate one to one or to the masses. This enables businesses and employees to connect with a common purpose such as training. A scheduled event for example, requires trainees to be in the same virtual place at the same time, helping them feel part of something and offering human contact. This may be taken a step further by using discussion forums, online support and communities where employees can ask questions, build expertise and share relevant stories. All excellent platforms to help the learner feel engaged and supported.
We don’t all learn in the same way. It’s highly probable that a two-hour lecture, delivered by one presenter, heavy on slides and content will quickly lose its audience. Understanding different ways of engaging with your audience and holding their attention is a balancing act. Good online training will take into account different learning styles and will be designed in a way that reaches auditory, visual and kinetic learners alike using a mix of multimedia platforms and learning techniques. Younger generations in particular will be familiar with gaming and reward based play meaning the gamification of training programmes can be highly effective using the concept of points, badges and leader boards to engage with learners, reward throughout, mark milestones and encourage friendly competition amongst peers.
A huge but necessary challenge is staying up to date with the speed of change in today’s world. Online training gives us a means of reacting quickly to change, making most updates relatively easy and inexpensive to administer and share with employees, whether office or home based. There is the option to schedule online training, bringing many of us together at the same time, but pre-recorded webinars, bite sized audio and video files and online assessments also allow individuals to learn at times convenient to them.
Irrespective of industry, enhancing and upskilling our workforce allows us to stay connected during times of uncertainty, retain a level of productivity and helps prepare for life after lockdown. Online programmes, whether delivered in-house or through a third party, are both versatile and adaptive letting us quickly and easily access and update training and distribute these changes anytime, anywhere. And when done well can play a significant and vital role in offering and maintaining a level of consistency and value, carrying a great deal of worth for both businesses and employees.