Developing a Custom eLearning Strategy

Companies with a learning culture have employees who continuously search for, share, and apply new knowledge and skills to improve their personal performance and organizational performance. Your organization needs a workforce consisting of people with the desire and ability to learn, whether it’s about the importance of staying union-free, skills upgrading, Human Resources policies, department procedures, safety procedures, leadership strategies that increase employee engagement, or any other topic. 

The issue that so many organizations face is how to continuously deliver the learning opportunities for improved compliance, productivity, career advancement, technical and social skills development, and a myriad of other topics like labor unions and leadership. What your leaders and staff know is important, but what they may learn is equally or more important. Implementing the right custom eLearning strategy to promote learning behaviors has become a business imperative for maintaining high productivity, employee retention, filling the leadership pipeline, protecting brand reputation, and enabling people to acquire new knowledge and skills to maximize potential. 

Implementing a custom eLearning strategy has become a business imperative for maintaining high productivity, employee engagement, retention, and more! #elearning #customtraining Click To Tweet

eLearning Best Practices

Projections, Inc. discussed many eLearning features that make it successful in the blog The Future of eLearning Post-Pandemic. Following are a few more best practices to keep in mind.

Introduce eLearning 

You can’t just say, “Okay, employees, here’s the new eLearning platform. Go for it.” An eLearning system is most successful when employees are given an introduction to its purpose, how it works, the goals, and management expectations. The introduction of basic training on the system or program can be included on the eLearning platform or instruction provided separately via videos or even podcasts to engage employees. The main point is to not just throw a new platform at the workforce and hope it sticks!

Get Proactive

Make eLearning proactive, and don’t wait until there’s a problem. Reacting to an unexpected development (i.e., a union organizing campaign, new labor law, or pandemic) is necessary at times, but many areas of importance need regular attention within the context of a learning culture and in alignment with corporate goals. They include things like safety compliance, benefits instruction, positive organizational culture reinforcement, harassment and diversity training, and leadership training.  

Acknowledge Different Tech Skills Levels

In a previously written eLearning post, we mentioned that using optimal delivery methods for the specific workforce is crucial, especially since so many companies have permanently transitioned to a hybrid workforce of onsite and remote employees. However, it’s just as essential to remember generational differences in tech usage if you have a multi-generational workforce. 

Younger generations embrace features like gamification because they regularly gameplay online. However, an AARP survey found that more and more people over the age of 50 are playing games in some capacity, and 73 percent in 2019 used phones, tablets, and other mobile devices, 92 percent report playing alone. If you utilize gamification, which requires your older employees to participate in gameplaying with peers, remember they may not be as practiced as younger generations that regularly play games online with people they don’t know.

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Don’t Overwhelm

Along the same lines, advanced eLearning program technologies will enhance platforms, but the implementation needs of these sophisticated technologies can be overwhelming for some people and for all people if too many changes flood the platform. A best practice is this: Don’t overwhelm. Train, show patience, and accommodate different comfort levels with certain technologies. It’s an important element of a successful eLearning strategy.

Make Revisions as Needed

Be prepared to make revisions as needed. The revisions could be for purposes of fine-tuning the program to better meet employee needs, amending the program to accommodate new corporate policies, addressing job requirement changes, addressing organizing efforts of a specific labor union, and so on. Of course, metrics play a primary role in determining whether the eLearning system is meeting expectations. If you do a pulse survey or request feedback, and employees indicate they are having problems or would like something added, then revisit the eLearning platform. 

Determining and Defining Your Training Needs

This covers a lot of territory because eLearning can inform, train and develop leaders and their employees. The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) discussed conducting a training needs assessment as a 4-step process.

  • Identify the business need – The first step in implementing eLearning is identifying employee needs in relation to the required competencies needed to carry out organizational goals and promote career development.
  • Perform a gap analysis – Assess the current state of employee performance or skills and the desired state. The difference is the gap. There are many ways to identify gaps, including analyzing Human Resources records, conducting employee interviews and surveys, and making observations.
  • Assess training options – There are a variety of factors to consider to determine if training is a viable option for meeting needs. The training approach and prioritized training should consider the following.
  • Whether training will close the performance gap
  • Cost of training in each area identified
  • ROI of training and development expenditures
  • Importance of legal compliance
  • The urgency of building organizational capacity in a particular area, like safety training or onboarding, could point to utilizing an external eLearning company like Projections, Inc.
  • Need to remain competitive by improving employee knowledge of a new product or service
  • Develop a training and development plan which answers critical questions – Doing a thorough analysis to get the custom eLearning course positioned for success is crucial. 
  • What training will be provided?
  • Will the training be conducted in-house or externally?
  • What is the most efficient and cost-effective way to train the employees (optimal delivery method), i.e., interactive eLearning program, instructor-led training, etc.?
  • Does the organization have the expertise needed to conduct the training (content requirements)?
  • What is the learning style of the employees (audience characteristics)?
  • Are employees in one or multiple locations?

By thoroughly answering these questions, you are pointed to the right path for establishing an effective training program and determining if you have the necessary internal resources and expertise. In most cases, custom eLearning developed by external talents, like Projections, will be the best option because an experienced company can satisfy all the training factors. 

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Developing a Custom eLearning Strategy

Developing an eLearning strategy began with two things: 1) identifying areas of organizational need to improve workforce capacity, and 2) employee needs to close performance and development gaps—the next steps in the eLearning strategy dive into developing the program. 

Assuming custom eLearning content is the preferred delivery method, the whole strategy will include the following steps.

  • Identify business goals and needs.
  • Identify the learner demographics and learning preferences.
  • Assess employees to determine performance gaps or actual knowledge
  • Define the program objectives
  • Align the program objectives to business goals
  • Define the eLearning deliverables
  • Identify the design approach, i.e., interactive, gamification, simulations, etc.
  • Develop the eLearning content
  • Identify the metrics for outcomes measurement.
  • Implement the eLearning program
  • Analyze outcomes
  • Make revisions as needed.

One of the nice features of eLearning is that it is appropriate and effective for all employees, from the CEO to frontline workers. However, you should address the good, the bad, and the ugly of training to ensure you’re on the right path for your organization. Projections discussed the pros and cons of online leadership training for this very reason. 

Cost Breakdown for Custom eLearning

The cost of training is one of those subjects that organizational leaders struggle with because there’s a need to experience a certain ROI to justify resources’ commitment.

You have three choices for eLearning. One is to buy off-the-shelf courses with generic information about a topic. This may not be the best choice for many employers because the content is not specific to the organization. It’s a good way to lose the interest of employees. However, it depends on the subject matter. For example, harassment training covers information applicable to every workforce.

A second option is to develop an eLearning course in-house, using staff expertise. While possible, it is a costly option because it means you’re dedicating in-house resources to an ongoing project. There are many estimates made by various companies, and they all have one thing in common. Developing a custom eLearning course does require an investment, and most organizations underestimate the true cost. 

A third choice is to hire a company like Projections, Inc. to develop custom eLearning solutions. 

Tracking Time to Get to Cost

The training and development membership association ATD does regular surveys to track the time it takes to develop individual training products. The organizational people surveyed have responsibilities like needs assessment, learning design, training delivery, and project management. In 2020, the average hours the in-house developers took to develop one eLearning module was significant. 

  • Passive eLearning (user only receives information) – 38-79 hours for a 20-minute module
  • Partial engagement (drag & drops, rollovers, simple animations, some gamified elements) – 65-115 hours for a 26-minute module
  • Moderate engagement (few game, activities, or simulations) – 74-194 hours for a 20-minute module
  • Full engagement (immersive games, scenarios, or simulation) – 70-694 hours for a 17-minute module
  • Microlearning (podcasts, videos, and eLearning) – 10-31 hours for a 6-minute module

The very wide range of hours in each category reflects factors like how many people are working on the project and the level of expertise. 

The survey respondents were also asked what slowed down eLearning development. 

  • Limited resources, which included time, budget, or talent development team headcount (67%)
  • Scope creep (41%)
  • Lack of standardized process (37%)
  • Lack of availability of stakeholders (37%)
  • Limited learning infrastructure like authoring tool, systems, and/or networks (35%)
  • Lack of skills on the talent development team (25%)
  • Lack of accountability (23%)
  • Lack of leadership or management support (19%)

As the author of the survey results mentions, the data doesn’t address the quality or effectiveness of the products! You can invest resources and not get the quality product desired. 

The wide range reflects the fact that many factors are involved in eLearning development. They include, but are not limited to:

  • Needs assessment
  • Length
  • Complexity
  • Conversion of classroom content
  • Content design
  • Technologies included
  • Access to employees
  • Frequency of revisions

In 2017, ATD predicted that soft skills training would experience greater demand, and the organization was right. The need for employee training in areas like collaboration, business communication, and active listening lends itself to opportunities for real-time learning opportunities. 

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Cost vs. Saved

Due to the complexity and levels of eLearning development, it’s impossible to say there is one average price. When developing in-house, a long-term commitment must be made to program maintenance, debugging, and current technologies and revisions. You must commit resources that include ongoing payroll costs for a development professional or team and their training on new technologies, upgrading technologies, making revisions, and so on. They must also stay current on messaging designed to produce the highest level of engagement for leadership training and staff training.

Given the long-term commitment required for the in-house development of a custom eLearning program, it makes more sense to consider the money saved by utilizing the services of a company like Projections, Inc. that has a team of experts dedicated to producing high-quality eLearning products. For example, Projections can help your company avoid costs:

  • Up to $250,000 per union campaign
  • 1.5 times salary per lost employee due to turnover
  • $3,400 per every $10,000 in salary paid to a disengaged employee

The cost-effectiveness of using external resources for eLearning development comes from:

  • A developer has the ability to offer a full range of technologies, including videopodcast, and website development, interactive eLearning, simulations, gamification, custom music, digital communications, etc.
  • Experts have experience across industries from automotive to retail to healthcare and more. You also get the added advantage of staff knowledge of what works and what doesn’t work, based on experiences with hundreds of companies over decades.
  • The ease of doing business makes the process efficient.
  • You gain access to a network of experts cultivated over decades.
Given the long-term commitment required for the in-house development of a custom #eLearning program, it makes more sense to consider the money saved by utilizing the services of a professional. #learninganddevelopment… Click To Tweet

Solutions for eLearning Development

What type of topics best fit eLearning? The answer is that any topic works. Following is just a sample of the solutions that eLearning programs can address.

Within each eLearning program, there are numerous features to choose from. For example, a custom employee-facing UnionProof website can include informational training on topics like the management open-door policy and employee benefits, podcasts, videos, and a FAQ page where employees can also anonymously ask questions. 

Choosing the right eLearning vendor

Developing custom eLearning programs is part technical ability and part art form. The skills needed include instructional design, content writing, expertise in technologies, graphic design, program development, data collection, and outcomes metrics production, to name a few. 

The right eLearning vendor for developing a custom eLearning course has, as a minimum, the following characteristics.

  • Demonstrated success meeting client needs
  • Been in business for a long time
  • Has a qualified and proven development team 
  • Knowledgeable of and has expertise in utilizing available technologies
  • Can offer eLearning modules in multiple languages
  • Offers scalable eLearning options so training can grow as your company grows
  • Offers efficient strategy development and program implementation
  • Delivers verifiable high-quality customer service 
  • Transparent pricing
  • Good communication with management during the project from beginning to end

There is so much involved in eLearning solutions development. Projections, Inc. offers the easiest way to deliver the ideal training to your leaders and staff. You could go it alone, but why would you when an affordable, high-quality option is available? Want proof? Check out the Projection’s Trader Joe’s eLearning success story

About the Author Walter Orechwa

Walter is IRI's Director of Digital Solutions and founder of UnionProof & A Better Leader. As the creator of Union Proof Certification, Walter provides expert advice, highly effective employee communication resources and ongoing learning opportunities for Human Resources and Labor Relations professionals.