By Anthony Lye, Chief Product Officer of Red Book Connect
Training has become a high risk, high cost and low value proposition for many companies. New employees often go through rigorous hands-on and in-classroom training only to leave the job three months later. Training manuals cost a lot to produce and cannot keep up with the evolution in company processes and practices. Managers are also forced to dedicate long hours to training programs that often don’t engage, motivate or develop employees to their full potential.
Thanks to YouTube, Khan Academy, eHow and many other educational resources, we’ve seen that e-learning can be much more effective at imparting knowledge and skills than traditional learning environments. However, the business world has been slow to integrate technology into training. Until recently, the upfront costs of launching an e-learning program and the availability of computers were a problem in many business—particularly the restaurant and hospitality industries. Today, the e-learning costs of entry have plunged, and anyone with a smartphone or tablet can train anywhere at any time.
It also helps that e-learning allows mobility. Mobile applications have minimal risk when it comes to adoption and use. According to Nielsen, more than 65% of Americans now own a smartphone, and the Pew Research Center found that more than a third of Americans own tablets. Cisco predicted that by the end of 2013 there would be more mobile devices on earth than people. This gives new employees that ability to take their required training anywhere at any time.
In hands-on professions, managers want to get new employees into action and serving customers as quickly as possible. I would argue that technology can accelerate training, lead businesses towards a higher standard of service and simultaneously bring down costs. Technology is also the key to training tech-savvy, social Millennials who now dominate entry-level hiring in every industry.
For companies of all types — from restaurants and hotels to accounting and law firms — here are 7 tips for integrating technology into training:
1. Mobile First.
Make the assumption that your new workers have mobile devices and enjoy using them. For the purposes of training, accept that the PC is in decline and will soon be even less relevant (depending on who you ask).
From a technical standpoint, this means that you need to create content that is mobile compatible. You don’t have to pigeonhole learning onto iOS or Android devices with mobile apps. Just avoid Flash and optimize your training platform to work on any device.
2. Keep it Fun.
Create e-training lessons the way one might create a BuzzFeed article: keep the text light, videos short and images entertaining. Make the user experience consumer-oriented and intuitive. In addition, I would recommend gamifying the experience with unlockable badges and a leaderboard to spark some friendly competition. This will carry new recruits through the drier parts of training. Also, integrate with existing consumer tools that employees are already familiar with, such as YouTube, and use their content when it makes sense.
3. Reach for the Cloud.
A cloud-based learning platform will cost much less than an on-premises solution and scale better. Whether you have to train employees at two local restaurants or thousands spread across the globe, a cloud-based learning system can offer better reliability, lower maintenance and faster performance.
4. Make it Personal.
In-class training can actually be less personal and flexible than online training. In a classroom, students are stuck with one teacher, one pace, one time of day and one training manual. In contrast, online training can deliver the same ideas in video, images, text and audio for different types of learners. Trainees can slow the pace, spend more time on tricky lessons, re-read or re-watch content and choose to learn when they feel energized and motivated.
5. Use Analytics.
Study how trainees interact with your learning platform. Data can show weaknesses and gaps in the knowledge of your knowledge as well as faults in your training methods and courseware. With an online learning experience, you can sub in new videos, revise written content and modify your tests and quizzes without reprinting a training book. As your processes evolve, analytics will help you maintain and continually improve the quality of your training program.
6. Go Social.
A social learning environment will help people share and absorb information faster. Create an open discussion board for asking questions, sharing knowledge and passing along helpful websites and blog posts. In this setting, trainees will learn to communicate, work together and get answers without going to management.
7. Change Attitudes Towards Training.
In many companies, training is seen as an obligation. When the content is boring, time-consuming or impractical for on-the-job success, it’s difficult to see training in any other light. Overall, your e-learning platform needs to change perceptions towards training. Trainees should see the e-learning as opportunity to improve their career. To do this, offer training that goes beyond the standard curriculum. Give your most ambitious employees a chance to earn certifications that will let them stand out and take on more responsibility.
With digital training, a restaurant could hire five new servers and have them blaze through knowledge-based training before their first day of work. A franchise could hire 500 and accomplish the same without any additional effort. Ultimately, technology-powered training overcomes geography and time while minimizing the risks and costs that deter companies from investing in training. What companies will eventually find is that integrating technology is not simply step to improve training—it is a step towards fostering a culture where employees take responsibility for their personal development help their co-workers do the same.
Anthony Lye is the chief product officer at Red Book Connect and is responsible for leading product development and cloud operations for all products, which include hiring, training, scheduling, business intelligence, shift communication, loyalty programs, labor and inventory management software and tools. Red Book Connect is a global mobile technology solutions company providing innovative technology for the restaurant, retail and hospitality industries.