Before the coronavirus pandemic, you likely herded your employees into conference rooms at least once a quarter for an instructor-led training session or a lunch-and-learn. And you probably saw good returns on those efforts. After all, professional development opportunities directly impact your employees’ on-the-job satisfaction, productivity, and retention.
All that changed in March 2020. Suddenly, you couldn’t hold traditional in-person professional development sessions because much of the working world switched to remote work and would only be in the office to perform essential duties. What’s more, you probably had bigger emergencies at hand that took your attention away from creating a comprehensive professional development curriculum.
So you, like many other HR departments, made quick investments in virtual resources, tools, and materials to keep corporate training going despite the circumstances. And for the time being, they probably worked just fine. But now that it’s almost 2 years later, you need to analyze the return on investment (ROI) of your eLearning investments.
Are Your eLearning Materials Working for You?
Let’s say you use a subscription-based learning management system. To determine the system’s merit, you need both quantitative data (e.g., the number of hours logged in, minutes of videos watched, etc.) and qualitative data (e.g., how people feel about the training, whether they find it useful, etc.).
Quantitative data is usually easier to interpret because it’s expressed using numbers. If less than 50% of your employees are logging in to the platform, for instance, it might not be useful. However, hard data shouldn’t be taken at face value. Keep in mind that some employees will take an active role in their career development, while others will never log in to the system. Given that fact, try to get more granular to establish patterns or themes. For example, what kind of training content are different teams seeking out? Is there any departmental overlap?
Qualitative data, on the other hand, is descriptive and conceptual. To gather your employees’ anecdotal opinions about eLearning materials, send out brief surveys. Many off-the-shelf solutions offer process-oriented content, but that might not be a good fit for your unique way of doing business. So look out for red flags in survey responses. If multiple people tell you the material isn’t specific enough or they don’t understand how it relates to your business, you need to return to the drawing board.
Finally, don’t forget about your managers and other company leaders. Are they championing the eLearning resources? Are they cultivating a culture of learning? No matter how useful and engaging the material is, employees will follow your leadership’s lead. If managers and executives aren’t advocating for the platform, employees are unlikely to use it.
Taking Matters Into Your Own Hands
If a generalized solution isn’t working, it’s time to explore creating your own eLearning materials to fit your specific systems, workflows, databases, processes, or culture. Perhaps you need content that’s unique to your company’s founding story or a strategic initiative at your organization.
To create valuable eLearning materials, follow these tips:
1. Start with a clear objective, and establish measurements for success.
You’ll reap the most benefits from custom eLearning materials by starting with your business goals in mind. Ask yourself: “What do I want to communicate?” and “What do I want employees to take away from the module or course?”
Next, think through how you’ll determine success. Do employees need to take a small pop quiz at the end of each module? Can you make use of Zoom breakout rooms, multiple-choice polling, or even Google Jamboard? Do you need to record the session for repeat viewing? How will you track attendance? Answering these kinds of questions will help you deliver genuinely impactful content that drives business results.
2. Craft your message.
Training sessions are often organized into three parts or steps because that structure is easy to follow, remember, and take action on. When crafting your eLearning messaging, tell a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. If you’re moving employees through a companywide change, for example, explain the past, describe the present situation, and propose a future solution. To present product and operational improvements, state the problem you need to solve, present your hypothesis, and describe the results.
3. Ensure the material is engaging and accessible.
You won’t hold employees’ focus for long with eLearning materials that are robotic and text-heavy. In fact, research shows that audiences rate text-heavy presentations poorly and are less apt to make positive decisions following text-heavy presentations. So make sure your material is concise, efficient, engaging, and visually appealing. It’s also a good idea to set timing parameters. For instance, if the session involves a slide deck, plan to spend about 2 minutes on each slide.
You should also tailor the material to its unique audience. For example, you’re going to communicate differently to customer service representatives than you would to your IT team members. Finally, prioritize making your eLearning materials accessible to all people. For instance, add supportive accessibility text so employees who are hard of hearing or deaf won’t miss important content.
4. Increase your content’s longevity.
Too many companies focus on training for the issue of the moment, which traps them in a cycle of updating outdated content every 6 months. To get a good ROI, your training materials should provide genuine value for at least 2 years.
One way you can increase the longevity of your corporate training material is to resist the temptation to add fun, timely pop culture references. If you can, avoid mentioning years because doing so automatically dates the content. The same goes for numbers; your business will grow and change, so saying something like “100 employees in 5 years” might not age well.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost 2 years since the COVID-19 pandemic sent everyone home, but it definitely changed job training and professional development for years to come. As you prepare for the next normal, reassess the eLearning materials you invested in at the height of the pandemic to make sure they’re still working for you.
David Ciccarelli is the founder and CEO of Voices, the No. 1 creative services marketplace with over 2 million registered users. David is responsible for setting the vision, executing the growth strategy, creating a vibrant culture, and managing the company on a day-to-day basis. He is frequently published in outlets such as The Globe and Mail, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal.