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Top 5 methods for training employees in today’s workforce

From mobile learning to microlearning, these five methods for training employees are some of the most effective in the modern world of business.
training employees
Credit: Lena Kay; cherezoff / Adobe Stock

Between remote working trends, historic turnover, and impending skills gaps, learning and development professionals can’t overstate the importance of training employees to help their organizations successfully navigate change. 

Studies demonstrate that employee training helps improve business performance, and many employees would be more likely to stay with their current employer if they offered development opportunities. But not all training is created equal. 

5 methods for training employees

Today’s always-connected, on-the-go culture brings with it a set of expectations. Millennials – the largest generation in the U.S. labor force – count on technology ecosystems in their workplaces to match that of their personal lives, while Gen Z demands more mobile learning experiences. 

The following training methods are ideal for the modern learner’s preferences, helping L&D teams meet their people where they’re at. 

On-demand learning

Although it’s been around for some time, on-demand learning is back in the spotlight. This is partially due to learner trends – a recent study revealed that 74% of employees want to learn during their spare time at work. And another shows more than half of employees prefer learning at their own pace. 

On-demand learning can be accessed anytime, anywhere. It includes almost any kind of content – videos, podcasts, games, blog posts, elearning modules, job aids, and more. The key is how it’s being delivered. 

74% of employees want to learn during their spare time at work.

One of the key benefits of this method of training employees is that it removes barriers to learning. For example, L&D might typically host an in-person lunch-and-learn that requires employees to be available when the event is scheduled. An on-demand lunch-and-learn, however, would be recorded, cataloged within a video delivery service, and made available for employees to access at their convenience – on the weekday of their choice during a break, or even during their subway commute to the office. 

Offering a relevant training experience in the moment, when a learner most needs it, means they’re more likely to take the opportunity to engage with the content and remember the information. Another benefit of on-demand learning is that it can be very cost-effective, especially for globally-distributed teams. It eliminates the need for a venue, meeting rooms, and travel-related expenses, and it often decreases instructor costs.

On-demand training minimizes losses to productivity.

Because employees don’t have to spend time rearranging their calendars to accommodate it, on-demand training also minimizes losses to productivity. Overall, on-demand training helps L&D teams improve employee satisfaction as it gives learners the freedom of choice to further tailor their learning journey to their individual needs.

L&D teams should be strategic about the structure of on-demand learning programs. Although the flexibility of this delivery method evokes a sense of freedom, it isn’t necessarily a free-for-all. Designers can sequence curated content into learning pathways that present employees with a clear series of steps to reaching their goals. 

mLearning 

With people relying on mobile devices for more tasks than ever – the average person looking at their phone roughly 221 times each day – mLearning is no longer simply “nice to have,” but a necessity. Mobile learning is training that’s accessible from a personal device such as a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. It can include videos, podcasts, games, custom apps, eLearning courses, and more. 

Mobile devices can be leveraged to make learning more interactive and personalized. For example, a smartphone’s GPS and push notifications can be used to offer relevant content based on a learner’s specific location. Learners can also use their cameras to capture real conditions in the field and share them with others.

Mobile devices can be leveraged to make learning more interactive and personalized.

Certain LMSs allow learners to pre-download content to their devices for easy access later, when they’re away from office WiFi. This is a convenient option for field salespeople and executives who often use air travel. It’s also great news for organizations that are adopting hybrid work environments. 

In one survey, 70% of respondents said they were more motivated to learn when completing courses on mobile devices. Another study showed that mobile learners completed courses almost twice as fast as non-mobile learners, and were more productive in daily job responsibilities as a result. 

And it’s not just beneficial for employees – after introducing mLearning, more than half of business leaders in a Skillsoft survey reported growth in their business. L&D leaders should be asking themselves if they’re ready for a mobile-first future and how their organization can best take advantage of the technology that learners carry with them everywhere.

One study showed that mobile learners completed courses almost twice as fast as non-mobile learners.

Training employees on mobile devices often requires an ongoing partnership with the IT team. Organizations with a bring-your-own-device approach must consider the resources needed to support an open-ended list of devices, and that bandwidth/connectivity issues tend to create the biggest challenges when delivering mLearning. 

Additionally, mobile-first development software and learning management systems are a necessity. A recent study led by the app-development company ArcTouch shows the importance of well-designed mobile experiences in the workplace. The reality is that many employees are tolerating mobile experiences rather than enjoying them, so it’s vital that L&D teams consider the user experience of mLearning interventions. 

Microlearning

Microlearning is a key learning strategy because in a typical work week, most employees only have about 20 spare minutes to dedicate to learning and development. What is microlearning? This trending (and Gen Z-friendly) strategy breaks training content into bite-sized yet pertinent chunks that are easy to access. 

Instead of lengthy seminars or endless eLearnings, microlearning means training employees in shorter but more frequent bursts. Microlearning can include five to 10 minute videos, brief podcasts, eLearnings with short modules, infographics that convey information quickly, and more. 

Most employees only have about 20 minutes to dedicate to learning in a typical week.

There are many benefits of microlearning, but one that often piques interest is its cost-effectiveness. Considering that it costs $22,178 on average to develop an hour of eLearning content, L&D teams must strive to maximize ROI wherever possible. Those that invest in microlearning can burn through less resources while still packing a punch.

The human attention span is getting shorter and shorter, but typically employees can find five minutes of uninterrupted time to spare. The Big Think+ video below, from executive coach and author Alisa Cohn, is one example of a bite-sized lesson a learner could complete between other tasks. Short lessons like this make for learning with minimal distractions and are easier to incorporate into a daily routine.

The brevity of microlearning allows an employee to take breaks from learning and return to the information at a later time, which aids in their natural comprehension of the content. And when learners are able to progress through material more easily, they often experience greater feelings of achievement. This can motivate them to pursue additional training. 

Since microlearning experiences are shorter in length, learning designers should focus on including only one objective per module. In other words, avoid trying to maximize the learning time by putting as many different ideas into the module as possible. If designers overload that time with too much content, the core objective can get buried.

Blended learning

A recent poll showed that 45% of full-time employees in the U.S. work from home, whether all of the time or part of the time. For L&D teams, this means blended learning cannot be ignored. Blended learning is the use of different methods of training employees over time, both digital and traditional.

Research shows “effective blended learning programs for workplaces are those that provide opportunities for learners to engage through human interaction with facilitators, other learners, and colleagues.” So it’s important to incorporate social learning elements and opportunities for collaboration.

Blended learning also means training employees more than once to help them learn incrementally, for instance, by breaking up training into smaller sessions. This is effective because it reflects how people learn and develop naturally every day, through various inputs over time – a video lesson here, a book chapter there, some feedback from others, and so on. 

Blended learning reflects how people develop naturally – through various inputs over time.

Because instructional designers aren’t limited to just one medium or delivery channel, blended learning allows them to tap into a variety of resources for bringing the best learning around a particular topic to their people. However, this does require L&D staff to become well-acquainted with the technologies involved in blended learning, such as making the most of a learning management system, creating and editing video, facilitating interactive virtual classrooms, etc.

Blending together multiple types of learning interventions on different timescales and with various technologies, is truly an art. Jennifer Hofmann, founder of InSync Training, suggests ensuring the medium is appropriate to the learning objective – “If learners are going to use the skills at their desk, then we should probably teach them the skill at their desk.” Another best practice is to keep in mind that both in-person and technology-based learning are valuable components. 

Soft skills training

The demand for soft skills is growing fast – 91% of talent professionals think soft skills are “very important” to the future of work. In fact, Deloitte predicts that “soft skill intensive occupations will account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030.” This is, in part, due to advancements in technology. The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report predicted that technology will displace roughly 85 million jobs by 2025. 

But that same report also estimates that “97 million new roles may emerge that are more adapted to the new division of labor between humans, machines, and algorithms.” In essence, technology is humanizing work. Code and circuitry have yet to replicate those uniquely human capabilities such as empathy and emotional intelligence.  

These abilities are quickly becoming vital skills in business and there is a wealth of resources available for developing them. Soft skills training comes in many different formats including elearning courses, coaching sessions, and instructor-led workshops. The most impactful interventions will be ongoing and regularly accessible, so learners can reinforce the habits they’re learning over time. 

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Whichever modality you choose, soft skills training is a solid investment for developing transformation-ready employees and equipping an entire organization to adapt to a business world that is rapidly evolving. The previously cited Future of Jobs Report estimates that by 2025 “the time spent on current tasks at work by humans and machines will be equal.” 

However, integrating technology is never a one-to-one exchange, where a human worker is substituted with a compatible machine. Roles will gradually shift until the work of humans and machines is complementary. Training employees in soft skills like creativity and innovation can help reveal new ways to integrate technology for a more competitive edge. Additionally, employees that strengthen their critical thinking skills will become vital for challenging the assumptions that may hinder a new technology from achieving its potential.

Final note

With many options to choose from when it comes to employee training and development, these are five of the most effective methods in the modern world of business. But being aware of the various methods is only the start. An effective L&D strategy requires choosing the best approach for a program’s unique objectives and the intended audience.

With the right approach, developing and training employees can lead to increased retention, productivity, and help build a stronger organizational culture. 

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