Why companies should plan to succeed in elearning

Tony Glass explains why companies need a successful plan to benefit from elearning.

There needs to be a plan: a clearly defined rationale that brings together your people, your process and your technology. Photo credit: Fotolia 
Since elearning arrived on the scene, it has become a juggernaut. It has transformed the way we train employees and which continues to grow at phenomenal rates. According to the latest market study released by Technavio, the market size of the global corporate elearning market is predicted to reach close to USD 31 billion in revenue by the end of 2020. 
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In Western Europe alone the elearning market size was valued around USD 6.5 billion in 2015 and is anticipated to be second largest industry for online learning solutions, with expected gains of over 5.5 per cent throughout the forecast period. 
Given that smartphones have overtaken laptops as UK internet users’ number one device, it is estimated that the worldwide mobile learning market will reach $12.2 billion by 2017.
The driving forces behind this extraordinary growth is due to: business agility and continuity, the democratisation of learning access, quality assured and consistent education delivery, talent retention and technological advances. In short, elearning just makes good business sense. However, despite the ubiquity of online training, many companies still struggle to achieve the full benefit of elearning. 
They are not getting the optimal business impact, the staff motivation and take-up of elearning that can deliver bottom line results. Experience shows that elearning without a sophisticated employee induction and roll out plan is often a barrier to adoption.
There needs to be a plan: a clearly defined rationale that brings together your people, your process and your technology in such a way that it enables and facilitates elearning implementation. This must be implemented as part of an ongoing L&D strategy that maps back to delivering the business maximum ROI; whether investment in technology or headcount.
So which considerations are necessary to draw the insight needed to inform the components of your strategic L&D plan?
1. Align your L&D plan  to organisational goals 
elearning needs to support the organisational agenda, demonstrating a clear strategic match between elearning activity, business goals and targets. This includes understanding the business growth objectives, in which verticals, its product roadmap innovation and strategy plan. 
Once these are understood, you are in a better position to pinpoint current and future skills gaps in the business, and how to provision for them. 
The next step is to personalising your L&D and skills plan to the individual and their performance objectives. As an example of best practice, a Skillsoft health informatics customer defined the training requirements for each job role as a precursor to creating training pathways, pathways that would then give individual staff members access to the appropriate skills development and training they needed to perform.
Today, these pathways are mapped to staff personal development plans, and every learner’s training journey is monitored and recorded in the learning platform.
2. Market your learning programmes 
The key to creating a ‘critical mass’ of users is by raising awareness of elearning and its benefits among top management, line managers and – above all – employees. This often means taking a highly personalised approach to helping explain its benefits – by rolling out an adoption plan that inducts, informs and creates regular touch points with employees – such as promoting learning opportunities through internal newsletters or events. In doing so, learning stays front of mind. 
One Skillsoft customer explains:  “Certainly, the ‘marketing’ of your elearning package is key. The most successful way for us to showcase Skillsoft was on open days, which we marketed through emails and posters.” 
Learning also needs to be championed by those at the top: senior decision makers need to be brought on board to communicate learning as a priority working then with each business lead to include learning plans as part of the business’s annual business planning process. This priority should roll down to line and review managers, so they are brought into benchmarking employee progress against completion of learning courses, as directed by the business.
3. Management support is key to success 
Cooperation with key stakeholders is vital. Managers can support and direct employees to find the right time to learn, help align content to business need to increase elearning effectiveness, and give learning and development (L&D) important insights into the skills their people need.
For some, training sessions and courses are written specifically to mirror policy, procedure and practice which extends above and beyond regulatory standards and requirements. 
4. Perceived usefulness and ease of use
elearning should be ‘people-centred’ rather than ‘learning centred’ and it’s critical that employees understand the personal and professional benefits to be gained by engaging with elearning.
Driving a cultural shift from manager-led training to a more self-directed approach is important as employees have to want to learn.
This can be done innovatively: quick employee questionnaires that are run through software programmes can help to understand and track and analyse simple behavioural changes or working habits, enabling individuals and their managers to develop through learning and reflection. 
5. Change the organisational learning culture
From helping people understand how to ‘elearn’ to the design and launch of learning interventions that complement the work environment of your learners, implementing the right blend of learning methods and tools is critical to success.
‘Show and tell’ sessions which explain learning programmes can help to engage employees and set best practice for learning. The sessions can be made available to all employees, and the process used to address disparities in access to learning across multiple locations and time zones.
6. Motivate everyone  to learn 
You can employ a carrot/stick approach to encourage take-up or you can position elearning as a visible manifestation of your organisation’s desire to encourage learning, career advancement and personal development.
’Lunch & Learn’ sessions for employees who feel they don’t have time to learn during work hours can help to reinvigorate learning programmes when they are flagging. 
These types of project often run by Skillsoft customers, includes lunch, brings digital learning to employees in an informal and relaxed setting and stimulates the exploration of highly engaging themes such as ‘Cultures of Engagement and Building Winning Teams’ and ‘Karaoke Capitalism: Reenergising the Corporation’ through the use of video, slides and debate.
The appeal of elearning is that if done well, it is a win-win for both employer and employees. But getting it right begins with careful and deliberate planning, and setting clear goals.
Organisational change is not going to happen overnight, but a step by step approach that incorporates some of the ideas outlined above may help to trigger and inspire a ‘big vision’ innovation appropriate for your organisation’s unique aspirations or workplace learning vision.
How have you successfully embedded elearning into your organisation? What are your tips? Download our Whitepaper here.  
About the author 
Tony Glass is the VP Corporate Sales at Skillsoft EMEA.


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