smb-tech-trendsTraining your employees does not have to involve a day or more out of the office. The wealth of online training tools, including webinars, videos, apps or even e-books, available today makes it easy and affordable to provide your small business team with the ongoing training they need to hone their skills or acquire new ones and stay motivated to help meet your company goals.

Not only are online course more cost effective than offsite instructor-led training because of the savings in travel costs, they can be more engaging since they generally provide an interactive environment with a variety of content – video, audio and text.  Also your employees conveniently can learn at their own pace from their desktop or mobile device, whether they are in the office or working remotely, because the content is available at all times. (Some online courses, however, are live and interactive.) If there is a need for guidance, many of the courses provide access to an instructor or consultant or online mentor.

As you consider online training for your staff, keep the following in mind so your employees – and in turn your small business – get the most out of the training experience:

elearning.2Evaluate need: Establish what the goals for the training are. Determine what additional or improved skills or knowledge your employees need to grow professionally and meet the future needs of your small business. Also at times there may be a new development within your small business that requires someone to come up to speed quickly – possibly a team member leaves and you need someone to take on the job until a replacement can be found or a customer has a new requirement. Evaluate course options based on meeting your long-term goals or more immediate specific needs.

Conduct research: Key in the type of online training you are seeking into your search bar and hundreds if not more courses and training companies may come up. But just as in the offline world, not all courses and instructors are equal. In evaluating options, find out what you can about the trainer or instructor and the training company. Check online to see if there are reviews or if comments are posted in a forum.  Call a company’s customer service department and ask questions about the coursework and instructor. Make sure the company has email support, online chat or a phone number for technical assistance if a problem comes up during the training.

Consider formats:  Let your employees choose the format that works for them. Some individuals learn best by reading text; others need to hear the instruction and watch a video. Some are more group oriented and enjoy forums and online discussions; others are geared more for individual, self-paced learning.

Create an optimal learning environment: Once you and your employees decide on the training, make sure the environment and technology aid and don’t detract from the learning experience. IT consulting firm TC Computer found that wired headsets that came with the online training packages for their technical team restricted movement creating an unsatisfying learning experience. The company eventually used the predecessor to the Plantronics Voyager Legend UC Bluetooth headset to enable their technical team to move around freely in the office – whether to get a cup of coffee or stretch – and continue their training uninterrupted. In other cases, headsets are needed to cancel background noises. Also be sure that the training environment – in the office or at a remote location – is well lit and well ventilated and has little distractions. And give your employees the time needed during the work day to complete the training.

How much of your employee training is online?