As technology has advanced over the years, and society has become more adept at incorporating technology into everyday life, it makes sense employee training follows this same path and makes the digital transition.
While not every team or organization may feel like they are fully prepared to switch to online learning, the process does not have to be as overwhelming as it sounds. Plus, the numerous benefits to you and your workforce should make the decision to transition an easy one.
What digital learning offers
Though different companies across different industries will naturally have their own unique experiences when incorporating online training courseware into their safety programs, here are a few general benefits this type of forward-thinking content provides.
Training in native languages
One powerful benefit of mobile training is the ability to offer important safety and HR topics in a way that works for all employees. A common issue with conventional methods is delivering training courses only in English even if that is not the native language of all trainees. Unsurprisingly, many studies have found limited English proficient (LEP) workers not only understand less of English-language training, but they also do not have the skills to convey their lack of understanding.
Spanish might be the obvious first thought when it comes to multiple language options — especially considering Spanish is spoken by roughly 1 in 7 Americans — but don’t forget things like German, French, Portuguese or even Mandarin.
Regularly updated and compliant
One of the most important aspects of any training course is that the information presented must be current to applicable regulations or laws. With standard in-person training, there will almost certainly be times the material is out of date, whether that is regarding official regulations, industry standards or even simply topical references.
With mobile training, course content can be updated whenever it is deemed necessary, typically either via a manual course update from the provider or simply an automatic content refresh.
Keeps safety in mind
Think about the last time you took a safety training course. It’s likely for the next few days, you were more aware of the hazards mentioned in that particular lesson than before. Toolbox talks, which provide a quick meeting to discuss a certain relevant safety topic, do the same thing as a full training course but can be implemented on a more regular schedule.
A short, engaging toolbox talk is more likely to have a lasting effect on workers. Additionally, a toolbox talk could spark a conversation within management regarding the way something is done. Having a regular “safety chat” creates a new opportunity to see, and review, certain procedures.
Gives employees what they want
While the majority of employees may want on-the-job training, that doesn’t mean they want to spend hours or even days in training sessions. In 2020, the average company provided 55.4 hours of training per employee, up from 42.1 hours in 2019. That may not seem excessive, but it is more than one week of normal working hours. And remember this is the average, meaning many companies will be well over 55 hours.
Online training courses allow the topic in question to be presented in a more efficient manner because employees can access a short training module on their desktop, laptop, phone or tablet when it best fits their schedule and immediately get on with their day.
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You must provide for a changing workforce
Over time, no matter what events are happening in the United States and beyond, the American workforce is always evolving. Generations age out of the workforce, younger employees take over and the way people work changes. But perhaps now more than ever, employers are having to deal with changes in the look and expectation of their employees.
More remote workers than ever before
Before COVID-19 hit the United States in early 2020, nearly half (47%) of employees in the U.S. reported never working from home. At the peak of the pandemic, almost every employee, aside from essential on-site roles, was working remotely. Now, more than two-and-a-half years later, more than 60% of employees still work remotely at least one day per week, and roughly 1 in 6 companies are fully remote.
Of course, there are numerous jobs that simply cannot be done remotely, such as construction, manufacturing, or oil and gas, but an evolving workforce means employers need to find new ways to keep employees safe. Online courseware means training is fully accessible to employees at any location.
And even if a team has resumed fully on-site operations, online training can still be extremely beneficial. Taking training online can save a company time and money, as online training does not require a physical classroom setting or bringing an in-person trainer to the jobsite.
Technology is king
The generation raised on technology and smartphones has now become the largest segment of the workforce, so it makes sense that learning and development techniques have changed accordingly. One of the most significant changes is the increased use — and near requirement — of mobile-optimized content.
The popularity of mobile phones has increased since their technology and accessibility has improved, but ownership has recently become truly universal. According to the Pew Research Center, 93% of Millennials, 90% of Gen Xers and a whopping 98% of Gen Zers, now own a smartphone. The pervasiveness of always-connected mobile devices means learning should be available at all times and accessible from anywhere.
A key part of offering mobile-ready training is that the content must not only be accessible on a mobile device, but it must function just as well as it would on a desktop computer. Think about when you visit a website on your computer versus on your phone. The look, feel and overall usability need to match in order to provide the best experience. The same can be said of learning and development.
Keep it short and sweet
Along with the popularity of smartphones, there has been a corresponding proliferation of social media apps such as Snapchat and Instagram. In the U.S. alone, Snapchat has almost 108 million users while Instagram has an astounding 170 million. Even the relatively new app TikTok has 100 million monthly users in the U.S. All of these platforms, and many others like them, are popular for the short videos users can upload and share.
Because we have become a mobile-first society and have developed an affinity for short interactions, it is necessary for training to be fully engaging from beginning to end. Users are far more likely to stay actively present in a 5-15 minute training video than in a full lecture lasting anywhere from 30 minutes to well over an hour.
Microlearning, the common name for these short learning modules, suits the reality of today’s learners very well. You can find them as short as three minutes, meaning they get directly to the point without any unnecessary “filler” content that may distract from the key information. This also means training can be completed without taking hours out of an employee’s day.
It’s not just about employee safety
Understandably, employers tend to focus only on safety topics when creating a training curriculum, leaving soft skills overlooked because it is believed they don’t directly correlate with company performance or contribute to the bottom line. However, this is an inaccurate assumption.
A study by researchers at Harvard University, Boston University and the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business found employees who received training on a variety of soft skills, including communication, time management and problem solving, helped grow productivity by 12%. Almost one year following training, the company’s return on investment was up 256%.
So what soft skills should you be training your employees on? There are a wide variety that can be useful, but here are a few universal soft skills that can help boost individual, team and company-wide performance.
It likely goes without saying time management is a crucial skill every employee should learn. Perhaps more than any other soft skill, this is one that can most directly affect a company’s bottom line. If workers cannot manage their own time well, they will likely be unproductive and waste the company’s time and resources.
Similar to time management, employees at any level should be able to demonstrate problem-solving skills. The basic tenets of problem solving are being able to assess a situation and find a solution. While some people are inherently good at creative thinking and others excel at critical thinking, problem-solving skills can be cultivated no matter what.
Strong communication skills are important both on and off the job. Think about all the interactions you have each day, from grabbing a morning coffee to meeting with clients or going out to eat. Speaking, body language and active listening are crucial for these encounters, but don’t forget about electronic communication as well, which is becoming increasingly common, even for formal communication.
You may consider positivity as relevant only to public-facing employees, such as those in customer service or hospitality roles, but positive attitudes throughout the company help keep employee morale up and create a healthy working environment.
As many employees have taken on fully remote or hybrid roles, these soft skills become even more crucial, not only due to adjusting to new and potentially changing schedules, but also adjusting to less direct managerial oversight. Ensuring your employees have solid time management and communication skills, for example, will be imperative moving forward.
Including both hard skills and soft skills in your company’s training curriculum makes for well-rounded, satisfied employees, which leads to an efficient, productive company.
How to transition to digital learning
Whether you are new to online training, just need a refresher or are looking to improve your virtual training program, here are a few steps that can help you get on the right track toward transitioning to a more digital environment.
Find the best platform for your needs
One of the biggest decisions you will need to make is determining how to manage, deploy and track your training efforts. This is where a learning management system comes in handy. A good LMS will make this transition — and training moving forward — easy for your team. Keep reading to find more specific tips on choosing an LMS.
Assign and deliver the training
With a fully equipped LMS, this step will be simple. Your employees can see what training they need to take, access all the materials from the platform and complete their courses as they can (or by a previously determined due date).
Track course progress
Of course, you can assign and hand out all the training materials you want, but if your employees are not completing their courses, or are simply clicking through slides to be able to check off training boxes, then your training will not be effective. Make sure you follow up on course completions and, when possible, course failures so you know your employees and your company are safe.
What to look for in a training platform
If your organization decides an online learning management system is the right direction for you, then you need to select the best LMS for your needs. With hundreds of platforms available, there are many different features you should look at to compare and contrast to find your ideal match.
To be effective, training material must keep the learner’s attention. Illustrating interesting visuals, implementing user-friendly navigation and utilizing relatable scenarios can help keep the training content fun and engaging, which in turn increases knowledge retention.
While training courses need to be engaging, they would be worthless if the content is outdated. Make sure any training content you use is regularly reviewed and updated by the creators to be consistent not only with industry trends but also with changing requirements and regulations.
Flexible pricing models
As with any software, pricing for LMS platforms can be somewhat confusing. Look for a system that not only offers a package that works for your needs but one that is transparent in their pricing and does not carry hidden fees for unneeded extras.
Typically, high-quality learning management systems will offer pricing levels per user, per course, or for course licensing. You may also find additional costs for things like implementation and support, but just be sure you are aware of every service you will be paying for.
Unmatched customer service
One aspect often overlooked — until you need it — is quality customer service. Most, if not all, of us have had an issue we needed resolved and can appreciate the importance of a quick, effective customer service team.
Now, this isn’t something every company will talk about on their website or in their sales pitch. But it may be something you want to ask about. Do they have quick response times? Are agents available at all hours? Will you be added to a long service queue every time you call? This may not be the most important aspect of an LMS, but it just might tip the scales toward one competitor over the other.
Partner with a professional
Taking training online is convenient and can save your company time and money, as online training does not require a physical classroom setting or bringing an in-person trainer to your jobsite. Employees can complete virtual training from anywhere with internet access.
However, remember some in-person training may also be required for certain roles or specific safety regulations. For instance, anyone can take an online forklift safety training course, but until an employee has gotten in a forklift and demonstrated how to safely operate the machinery, they could be considered a liability.
In the end, it simply comes down to what your organization is trying to achieve and what makes sense for your needs. For more than 20 years, SafetySkills has provided award-winning content, a powerful learning management system and unsurpassed customer service. Visit SafetySkills.com today to learn how we can help you comfortably and confidently make the switch to online safety training.