“We have to go online!” Heard it before? Yes us too, it’s generally the opening statement of most training companies that start talking to us.
And ok, so life has been a little differently recently and the conversation around moving training online has been driven by different needs than before, but for some their motivations still very often circle back to the cliché of cutting costs, keeping up with others and the pressure of learners wanting more flexibility.
These may be valid drivers, but success will not be driven by fear of the future, competition or of losing business (although this clearly is very much top of mind) To be successful online will only work if you consider it an opportunity to reach more learners (remember the blog on Identifying the needs of different learners) and to help your clients achieve their objectives and improve performance.
But surely online is cheaper? Well, if this is your reason, think carefully. Things are usually only cheap these days if…
- It is MASS PRODUCED and the high number of users split the costs into low costs per head, for example e-learning
- SOMEONE ELSE pays for it, for example a charitable foundation or it’s free, think Wikipedia where contributors give up their time.
Yes, of course there are savings to be had from digital training when you consider it against the traditional face to face learning and there is no harm in reminding ourselves and our clients from time to time:
- No costs associated to travel and accommodation for the trainer (you)
- No costs for the learners travel and accommodation
- No cost for hiring room space, or refreshments and food costs
- No cost for printing and transporting the documentation or learner packs
- Reduction in cost/time of staff (sometimes a large group) who are away from the office and unable to do their work.
This should all be factored in and can lead to a huge saving especially in large organisations but the most important metric is the return on investment rather than the initial outlay. If a small amount is spent but no measurable impact is made on the business then it will be counted as a loss.
On the other hand, if a larger amount is spent, but measurable savings are made in the long run then you have delivered real value to your client. Ways in which this may be measured could be:
- Increase in sales
- Lower recruitment costs
- Higher quality services
- Happier customers
- Less ‘sick leave’
- Lawsuits avoided
Many trainers fear moving to online, often they assume that once the content is available in a digital format that they won’t be needed anymore and that learners will simply watch the existing content, absorb it and see instant progression.
In our experience nothing could be further from the truth. Learning is not just absorbing information, otherwise we could leave it to Wikipedia and google! Most trainers these days are not lecturers, they are facilitators that enable creative thinking through activities, self-reflection and emotional awareness. Most trainers take pride and joy in enabling new skills through experiential learning and the beauty of online is that you can go even further in doing this.
Let go of the content!
As a digital trainer you want to be valued as much more than a facilitator. If it was simply about the content you could hand over a book! Do not be tempted into a 45 min webinar information dump! If you have to do a 45 min webinar, mix it up a bit. Use the opportunity to create a 35 min activity and record a video, write an article about the content required for the live session or, be even smarter and curate existing content:
Maybe look at YouTube videos, expert blogs, free e-learning.
Remember your role is to facilitate, without lecturing. Start lecturing and the countdown begins until the time your learners start multitasking…
Create a valuable learning environment online
Does it matter that when you share content from others that you become a little less visible? No! What matters is that you able to give value to your learners and with that in mind, here are our top tips to creating an environment that works.
Size Matters: Keep your group size under control. The more people that are on a face-to-face course means the less personal advice they will receive – it’s exactly the same in the online world.
Take Time: It takes time to learn something new and it would be unrealistic, in fact, negligent to think that a 5 day programme can be squeezed in to a 45 min webinar. It’s equally not a great idea to think that being online 9am-5pm will work for your learners and improve their performance! It’s not a sprint but better to manage the course over a few weeks or even months.
Personalise it: You will add untold value to your learners if they can get direct access to you and the ability to share their concerns. Plan for it and encourage it. For a group of 8-10 people, it’s wise to add on 30 mins for Q&A or follow up via social media, chat sessions etc. But this is added value, so make it clearly visible in your quote to the client.
The changing landscape
Even before the pandemic where lockdowns changed the everyday way of working, flexible and remote working was already in the pipeline for many organisations, but the rapid change will lead to some of the new ways of working sticking.
Teams are no longer physically located, they could be in various countries, there’s a mix of employees and freelancers and no one is really working the 9 to 5 anymore. We’re all having to adapt and so are businesses large and small all around us. This has led to an explosion of new digital skills, apps, collaboration tools and complex new inter and intra company working relationships.
The demand for trainers is that they can fit around the business structure, communication channels and culture. The value in this instance is less about ‘can we run a valuable training session to reach the needs of our learners and the organisation’ but more ‘Can you afford not to?’