Workforce training has never been exciting. Employees are given a handbook they need to read, a course to complete or a workshop to sit through. It’s not an effective method, but time and budget constraints restrict employers from improving their educational processes.
Technology is removing these barriers. New tools are changing the way employees learn on the job and are improving the process for both employees and employers.
Here are some of the ways technology is causing employee training to evolve:
In the past, integrating technology into workforce training meant using online courses and videos.
Employees would sit by themselves and read through materials online, or watch videos. The traditional classroom instruction model was removed from the equation.
This type of passive learning is convenient since a company doesn’t need to involve other employees in the learning process. But this type of education also lacks engagement and interaction and, therefore, isn’t as effective as it could be.
Forward-thinking employers are taking a step back from the all-tech approach. In fact, a report published by Accenture in April 2015 found that some Canadian companies are increasing their ROI of workplace training, by blending in-person and technology-based training.
This teaching method is more interactive and experiential for employees. For example, in the past, employees may have watched a video about communicating with clients.
With a blended learning style, employees watch a video with background information on client communication, observe a co-worker in action, and then tackle a client email or call with direction from that co-worker.
With a mixed approach, employers can cut the costs and time of classroom-style learning, while employees benefit from both independent and interactive instruction.
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Training is no longer limited to work hours. With mobile devices and apps, employees can access educational materials anywhere, at anytime.
With mobile learning, employees can start training before their first day on the job.
Employees can watch video introductions from company leadership on their tablets, get familiar with their project management system and other programs on their smartphones, and read through basic company policies on self service portals.
These portals allow employees to access educational materials on their own time. With some basic knowledge under their belts, employees feel more comfortable walking through the door on their first day and take less time to train on the job.
Portals also allow employees to refresh their knowledge after they have been on the job for a few months. They can always access training files so they can review their skills and knowledge at any time.
On-demand training allows employees to learn new skills or keep old ones sharp, making education and growth a continuous process.
In the traditional model of workforce training, new employees spend their first few days on the job sitting through orientations, completing courses, and processing a vast amount of new information. They must learn a great deal in a short amount of time.
In fact, a 2014 report from Aberdeen found that one-fifth of companies surveyed dedicate only a week to on-boarding new employees.
After this initial period, employees are expected to know everything they need to know to be successful in the position.
This kind of rapid learning is unrealistic and ineffective. But evolving educational tools are making it cheaper and easier for employers to invest in many short training courses and programs, instead of one massive course.
Creating, uploading, and accessing short videos on company portals is becoming easier.
Short online courses are more available and less costly than they once were. And free resources, like podcasts and webinars, make education easily accessible.
This new model is called micro-learning. In this system, employees learn a skill or process at the time they need to use it.
This way, professionals immediately put their knowledge to practice, making them much more likely to remember the information.
This approach also encourages employees to continue learning and improving throughout their career, not just during the onboarding phase.
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As the focus shifts from individual to more collaborative working environments, technology is allowing training to be a more social activity. Internal social media platforms enable team members to offer help, advice, and show their support to new employees.
Discussion boards allow new employees to gain insight from their co-workers and learn effectively.
A study conducted by Towards Maturity in 2013 found that 86 percent of employees surveyed learn what they need to know from work by collaborating with others. In addition, in a 2014 study conducted by researchers from the Harvard Business School, employees who reflected on their performance and shared their experiences with others learned more and improved their performance.
Instant messaging, video chat, social media, and other social tech tools allow employees to build their job skills and valuable peer relationships at the same time.
Technology for employee training has existed for years, but companies are still developing the best ways to use them. The more sophisticated technology becomes, the easier and more effective workplace education will become.