Online learning options ideal for small businesses

This article was originally published in the October issue of the Business Journal (page 25). It’s a vibrant publication, check it out! 

Learning can take place anywhere, making it efficient and less costly.
Learning can take place anywhere, making it efficient and less costly.

Improve training retention and effectiveness at lower cost

Need to fix that broken shaft on your lawn mower? Or assemble a photography studio light that was shipped with sparse instructions? No worries; a quick scan on YouTube yields many results, and you can learn these new skills in a matter of minutes. When I have a home fix-it project that baffles me (happens all the time), I turn to short, concise videos made by experts, and viola—I’m all set. The same options are available for the questions we tackle in our professional experiences, and many savvy business people are starting to realize the availability and benefits of online learning.

Strong organizations are ones that seek out and offer professional development opportunities for everyone. Now options exist that allow quick, easy, and accessible training put into all hands. Literally. Mobile devices make eLearning resources even more available for busy staff who can grab a short ‘how-to’ video when they need it. Need to figure out how to make updates in your new CRM system? Or determine what questions to ask in the interview you’re conducting this afternoon? Online videos can give you the answers you need in the moment. These kinds of performance support tools allow targeted job training that can be accessed anywhere, anytime to instantly provide professionals with information and guidance they need.

Large companies are proving that eLearning has a rich place in our professional lives, but small companies are ideal users. We no longer yearn for a lack of affordable training options. A Google search can result in a myriad of solutions, many free, but most very reasonably priced and just as importantly, highly effective!

Less learning time with higher retention

Data proves the financial benefits of eLearning to an organization’s bottom line. A Brandon-Hall Study noted that eLearning requires 40% to 60% less employee time than learning in a traditional setting. But don’t mistake that for less learning; in fact, retention rates soar. The Research Institute of America found that eLearning increases retention rates 25% to 60% while retention rates of face-to-face training generally are in the 8% to 10% range. There are several reasons for this, including ease of returning to material and individuals feeling more in control of the process.

eLearning is attractive for several other key reasons, including convenience of scheduling and financial benefits. When an employee can learn in the moment, it eliminates the travel-related complexity of workshops and/or coordination with consultants. Trip expenses, including time out of office, add up to significant costs that are eliminated. When we stay close to home for our training, we impact the environment in a positive way, too.

Customized consulting services will always be needed, but today’s workforce needs options for learning. Microlearning, a learning strategy that focuses on delivering content in short bursts, is an effective solution that’s gaining momentum.  The aim is for learners to learn, apply, reflect on, and revise strategies in rapid cycles by approaching learning in bite-sized chunks. When offering employees a consistent and accessible means to receive material, the training experience yields a bigger impact.

Millennials embrace this learning model

Today’s workforce is ready for this delivery method. According to data gleaned by Google, 67% of millennials agree that they can find a YouTube video on anything they want to learn. Impressive options exist with an incredible variety of offerings. For example, CreativeLive.com brings more than 1,500 curated courses to entrepreneurs looking for all kinds of business support. LinkedIn’s training platform, Lynda.com, is a testament to the demand of professionals who are hungry for learning. The site’s offerings include 1,140 choices in the business category and more than 1,400 in technology. You can learn how to conduct an effective meeting and how to develop project management skills, to name just a couple.

I’ve seen a strong response so far and continue to research and experiment with different strategies to develop content that will serve my clients best. While this is a whole new world for me, I’m motivated to stick with it and keep adapting because it is clearly the kind of learning that today’s business leaders are asking for.

When you — or your employee — are faced with a perplexing question or you simply want to expand your knowledge or develop new skills, incorporate online solutions into the mix of learning methods. It’s as easy as grabbing your phone and a cup of coffee. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll achieve in a few minutes!

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