Technology in the Training Environment
By Melynda Lee
Your organization’s greatest asset is its human capital. As business leaders we all know that. The question is, how do you protect and nurture the investment in your employees to ensure professional growth and ultimately, return on that investment through productivity and longevity? It all starts with building your education program to provide on-going staff training and development.
For a glimpse into the state of the training and development profession, we look to the experts. According to the American Society for Training and Development, U.S. organizations spent nearly $165 billion on direct employee learning in 2012. That investment includes training dollars spent largely on internal learning activities, while a small percentage went toward tuition reimbursement.
Reflecting the changing times, after 71 years, the ASTD is changing its name to the Association for Talent Development, bolstering its new identity with a savvy branding campaign reflecting the contemporary impact and delivery of its mission in a global work environment heavily dependent on technology.
Stepping Away from the Classroom
Training delivery methods have become as diverse as our workplaces. During 2013, 39 percent of professional training was delivered using technology according to ASTD.
While virtual classrooms have been around for a while, the technical tools and delivery methods available for training continue to improve learning in the workplace. It’s likely you’re already using many of these techniques, either as stand-alone or blended elements in your education program.
Webinars or web conferences give trainers the ability to reach groups of various sizes at remote locations, saving time and travels costs, and allow real-time communication. A distinct advantage of this delivery method is the ability to record and edit the training material for other purposes such as a digital training library.
Podcasts are recorded audio programs made available in digital format downloadable over the Internet and give listeners the ability to play the content at their convenience as many times as desired.
Learning management systems (LMS) are computer-based instructional applications that not only provide infrastructure to house and deliver training content, but manage course registration, track the progress, test comprehension, and produce analytics for managers. Companies using LMS technology have the ability to add and update training content as often as needed with no disruption to the overall facilitation of their education programs. Training is self-paced and can be done using any computer or mobile device at the user’s convenience.
Wikis are web applications giving users a place to post, modify, or remove content in collaboration with others outside the classroom or work environment, creating a much less academic presence while continuing to foster learning and engagement.
Games promote changing user behavior in a role-play situation, while carrying out the actions and feeling the accomplishments or discourse of another person or job. This type of training gives both the employee and the organization a chance to test a new position or assignment early in the relationship.
A recent report from ASTD noted the heightened use of gamification and serious games in learning for adults, with one out of four companies surveyed using these techniques to motivate and engage people while promoting change in behavior.
What this means is that “games” are applied to real-word scenarios or tasks to promote behavior change, while serious games simulate elements of games like stories, play, feedback, and goals. If you use social media to build a network of followers, a fitness app to track your steps or calories against goals, or if you use any apps to check in at restaurants and earn badges, you’ve used the same types of games that are now available as training applications in the workplace.
According to Adam Penenberg, author of the book Play at Work, How Games Inspire Breakthrough Thinking (Portfolio, 2013),several Fortune 500 companies including Google and Microsoft use games to boost employee morale, quality control, and productivity by giving users incentives that translate into scarce resources like server time. Cisco uses gaming strategies to give its employees the opportunity to role play as CEOs of service providers, which has led to a decrease in call center time spent on the phone and a significant increase in sales.
Though rated highly effective, this type of learning technology has yet to become mainstream. Researchers and experts in the entertainment software industry predict gamification is here to stay and expect its presence in corporate training to quickly expand. The takeaway for employers interested in this trend is employee engagement first, and content second.
Maximizing Technology in the Learning Environment
At HomecareCRM we apply a blended approach to our education program. Adult learners participating in training represent a wide range of professional and life experiences and, in the agencies we serve, varying levels of tech savvy. Because of this, we direct our clients to follow a well-mapped process to teach users and management how to use the HomecareCRM solution.
Our preferred training delivery method is the LMS. Because the learning content already exists in digital format on a website, it can be quickly administered, is cost effective and time efficient for our clients, and users can complete course tracks specific to their line of business and operating system – on their own schedule using a PC, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. We feel so strongly that the LMS experience is effective, we’ve made it a requirement prior to any classroom or webinar training we provide. All learning content is in video format, recorded using the HomecareCRM system to walk users through various tasks and activities. A short quiz is completed at the end of each video lesson, and users may print out a certificate of completion at the end. The value of this experience is that each person learns the system’s basic functionality at a pace that works for the individual and can be repeated as many times as needed to reinforce the information before entering a subsequent training environment with colleagues.
Following completion of the LMS courses, we typically provide webinar training to our clients’ sales teams, teaching users how to apply what they’ve learned to their day-to-day activities to grow census and increase profitability. While some of our clients prefer classroom training on site, most of the agencies we serve want to minimize the down time required to take salespeople out of the field for classroom training at a central site. Webinars are delivered live, but recorded to provide client material for refresher training and to accompany LMS course tracks when new hires come on board.
Whether delivered by live webinar or in the classroom, we incorporate games and role-playing in training to give our clients experience applying the HomecareCRM solution and sales strategies to real-world scenarios they’ll encounter in day-to-day selling.
Best Practices for Learning in the Workplace
Whether your organization has a professional education program or you choose a third party for employee training, the four key tenets of learning must be present as you incorporate technology into your delivery techniques:
Active engagement inspires problem solving and the ability to see practical application
Participation in groups gives adult learners the opportunity for collaboration
Frequent interaction and feedback are critical to success because adults are goal oriented
Connection to real-world experts provides the relevancy and validation adult learners demand
Focus your educational content on what employees are expected to do with the information presented to truly engage your audience and bolster retention once your staff finishes training. Delivering content for the sake of meeting compliance requirements and passing tests does little to develop your staff.
Avoid using PowerPoint presentations except for your agenda or outline. Make the learning content real, whether it’s in a demo environment, on-the-job training, or a mobile application in a game format. Supplement the learning experience outside the classroom with user-only tools like an online forum or wiki on your training topic.
Learning and development should be essential components of your organizational culture, not just reserved for annual compliance events or requirements when new software is installed. Be sure your employees are applying what they’ve learned to their day-to-day work. Reinforce and retrain frequently to ensure continuity in practice. If you expect a consistent customer experience, your training content must be consistent. Just be sure you make it engaging and challenging enough to be successfully retained and applied.
And, finally, keep in mind that organizational success gives credibility to your education program. Measure the impact of your education program by aligning your training activities with your key business metrics.
Join us next month for the final article in this series, when we’ll share industry insights on how to navigate and thrive in the changing healthcare environment.
About the Author: Melynda Lee is the Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations with HomecareCRM and a former hospice executive. HomecareCRM is the leading premier growth partner of post-acute care providers. Melynda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 404-314-0431.