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How to Choose a Training Platform
Most HR professionals agree that investing in continued training and development of employees is necessary. They know that while corporate development programs can require a significant upfront investment, the training they provide prepares their workers to achieve the company’s performance goals faster and with less expense. Results from Brandon Hall’s 2016 Learning Technology Study suggest that companies adopting a training platform for their learning delivery will enjoy a very positive impact on their bottom line. The study showed that 40 percent of the companies that implemented learning technologies saw increased revenues, more than half saw increases in productivity and employee engagement, and 16 percent experienced lower turnover.
Clearly, more and more companies are recognizing the importance of learning technologies in achieving their business goals. According to Metaari’s Analysis of the 2016 Global Learning Technology Investment, global investments in learning technologies have more than quadrupled from $1.64 billion in 2013 to $7.33 billion in 2016. But, are companies investing in the right kind of technologies?
Despite their belief in the performance-boosting effects of learning technology, the Brandon Hall study found that many companies are not satisfied with their current learning technologies, and 48 percent of them plan on exploring new or different learning technologies in the next 12 months. The study also found that 42 percent want learning technologies that create a stronger link between learning and individual or organizational performance, and 39 percent want the ability to better measure their employees’ learning.
Statistics like these suggest that more information is needed on how to choose the right learning technology and underscore the need for training technologies that align learning goals with corporate goals. With so many software platforms now available for training and development, how do you choose the one that’s right for your company?
This is no easy task, and with the high cost associated with this kind of investment, the stakes are high on making the right decision the first time. To that end, we believe companies must begin by developing a corporate training strategy with their business goals in mind.
Developing a training strategy that drives business results
The greatest return on investment (ROI) in corporate training happens when learning goals are driven by business goals. These can include financial capital goals (such as improving sales and profitability) and human capital goals (such recruiting the best talent, and increasing employee engagement). Developing a training strategy that meets these goals requires a strategic alignment between the training you provide and specific business objectives. We call this “smart” training. Smart training connects learning objectives – the skills and information you need your people to have – with the business objectives they need to meet.
The only way to make these connections is through the development of a corporate learning strategy that identifies the following key elements:
- Specific Business Objectives – What are the specific financial and/or human capital goals your company is trying to meet? Your business objectives should provide the framework for your strategy.
- Audience – What are the roles that have a direct impact on each of these goals? Training should focus on employees in these roles.
- Delivery Method – How will training be delivered? This includes identifying the type of content needed, the medium through which it is delivered and how learning will be measured.
- Performance Support – How will performance be supported? Training must be applied and reinforced to be effective and should continually evolve to meet changing needs.
Choosing the right training platform
Once you’ve identified your business objectives and connected them with learning objectives, it’s time to start thinking about how you will deliver your training. To help you navigate the complicated landscape of learning software, we’ve compiled a list of nine key features to look for in a smart training platform – one that supports the strategic alignment between training and performance.
- Microlearning – We believe microlearning – the delivery of training in short, bite-sized pieces – is a must-have for the future of corporate learning. Microlearning accommodates dwindling attention spans and improves retention. Microlearning is ideally suited to mobile devices and can be delivered on demand. Perhaps most importantly, microlearning is how your employees want to learn. Breaking up training content into short lessons of 5-10 minutes allows them to improve on an ongoing basis without impacting their regular job duties. Content can also be adjusted according to their roles and competency levels, directing them either to repeat lessons unsuccessfully completed or to review information to reinforce what they already know. With all these benefits, microlearning is at the top of our list of the most important features to look for in a smart training platform. It should be at the top of your list, too.
- Customized training based on machine learning – The most effective, smart training drives business performance by way of individual performance. Machine learning is a type of artificial intelligence that uses algorithms and logic to find patterns in the data and then uses those patterns to make predictions. As the patterns change, the predictions change. Platforms capable of analyzing training data for individual users combined with data on their performance can help identify the impact of their training on the company’s larger business objectives. Insights such as these will allow you to create more effective training experiences tailored to the individual. Choosing a platform with machine learning capabilities is critical for the development of a truly individualized, intelligent system — one that learns as the employee learns and keeps up with his or her evolving development needs.
- Just-in-time applicability – In today’s fast-paced business environment workers want and need training that can be easily accessed and quickly consumed the moment it’s needed on the job. Employees today have little patience for training that they cannot immediately apply to their work. What they need is just-in-time training (JITT). Platforms capable of combining JITT with microlearning content allow employees to focus on training that is relevant to the task at hand and as a result, is immediately applicable. JITT also allows employees to quickly improve their performance, which can lead to greater financial rewards and recognition in the workplace for them and – when training goals are aligned with business goals – a better bottom line for the company.
- Mobile responsive design accessible anywhere, anytime – Frustration-free mobile design is another key component of any smart training platform. Mobile design extends the value of microlearning by making it available anywhere and at anytime. Mobile design is also necessary to support JITT and allows for learning across multiple contexts, through both social and content interactions. This not only makes training immediately relevant but also more engaging for workers, especially when they are able to access it at a time that works for them.
- A highly configurable digital library – Smart training platforms remove barriers to learning by providing a well-organized digital library structure and intuitive search capabilities that make finding training content easy. The platform you choose should include a library with the ability to store not only training content in multiple formats but also the training and analytics data needed to support machine learning. The library should be highly configurable to allow for different provisioning scenarios, including the ability to tailor the availability of content to different users (e.g. different teams or people in different locations), to configure access to follow sequential learning when needed, and to restrict access to learning content and/or data when appropriate.
- Smart gamification backed up with real science – Employees bring to their jobs their own unique set of experiences, skills, and expertise. And they have their own learning styles. Their training needs naturally differ and as a result, one-size-fits-all training approaches are quickly being replaced with technologies that allow people to take greater control over their learning and development. Platforms that include smart gamification – gamification combined with machine learning capabilities – address employees’ individual needs by creating personalized learning experiences. Platforms offering smart gamification are also capable of providing your employees with real-time feedback on their performance, which not only keeps them more engaged in the learning process but also offers opportunities for continuous learning and the ability to proactively change their behaviors when needed. Gamification done right is one of the best ways to engage your workforce.
- Social and collaborative learning – People learn more, are more engaged, and retain knowledge longer when they are able to collaborate. A smart training platform that facilitates collaboration creates communities within the workplace. Improving engagement among employees – with each other, their managers, and the company. Smart training platforms will offer your employees the ability to see and share their activity feeds, to comment on their progress, to give and receive feedback from each other.
- Coaching and mentoring features – Smart training platforms will not only allow your employees to collaborate with each other more easily, they will also alert your managers to issues early giving them the ability to identify those workers that need coaching and mentoring. When exploring different learning technologies, we recommend looking for platforms that give your managers the ability to recommend specific training based on individual performance and to record, upload and share video tutoring with remote workers to ensure they receive a more human connection no matter where they are.
- Analytics dashboards – Real-time tracking and analytics are important for both those receiving the training and those providing it. Dashboards that illustrate results visually allow employees see the connections between the training they receive and their performance. And for their managers and other decision-makers, they also show the connections between system performance, user engagement, and business goals, which helps to quantify the ROI in their training programs.
With so many companies looking for new options in learning technologies, it pays to begin with a solid corporate learning strategy that links learning goals with business goals before selecting your learning technology. We believe companies that adopt smart training technology that includes these nine core features will not only be able to better quantify the ROI in their training programs but will grow over the long term.
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