It’s tempting to think about employee training in terms of “You” and “Them”. The former being your L&D team and the latter being the learners.
You identify the training needs. Gather relevant content. Craft a presentation or guide. Send it to employees or upload it to your training portal. And set a deadline.
Learners, on their side, attend the presentation or read the guide. Complete the course. Absorb the knowledge. And use it to become better at their jobs.
Simple, right? But in the real world, things are rarely so simple or go so smoothly. You might struggle to find the right training content. Or, learners might not have time for training and rush through the course.
Then what? Do you ignore those hiccups and simply mark “employee training” as done in your to-do list? Or, do you try to improve the experience for everyone involved so it’s more than just a box you tick?
In this article, we’ll discuss some of the possible challenges both learners and L&D professionals face. Then, we’ll share some quick ‘n easy ways to optimize employee training and development programs and offer a truly valuable learning experience—for everyone.
Training challenges & solutions for learners
Employee training programs have always been a necessity—even more so in this post-pandemic, hybrid work world. But how do employees actually feel about it? What training challenges are they facing? And are they happy with the training they’re getting?
A 2022 TalentLMS and SHRM survey on the state of L&D showed that among employees who have received training from their current company, 75% are satisfied with it. While this stat is optimistic, there’s still room for improvement.
TalentLMS ran a poll on LinkedIn regarding the challenges learners face—and the responses were illuminating. Here are some of the things learners struggle the most with, and what you can do to help.
Challenge #1: No time for training
Everyone is busy. Employees have to deal with an already full work schedule, let alone navigate the possible complexities of their new hybrid workplaces and the way these changes affect their work-life balance.
Blocking time consistently in their schedule every week to focus on training may feel impossible. Yet asking them to complete their training in their free time may lead to them resisting, or even resenting the whole process.
Solution: Focus on microlearning & mobile learning
Microlearning, aka bite-sized training that consists of short videos, infographics, quizzes, and checklists, will be a game-changer for busy learners. Using a microlearning approach on your employee training programs will allow them to find time for training—as a few minutes on a daily basis is much easier to plan for than blocks of hours every week.
Also, learning things in small doses is a better fit for the brain’s working memory ability. This way, microlearning improves knowledge retention.
Mobile learning is also fundamental for your employee training and development programs. Delivering your content through an app your learners can download and have on their phones makes it infinitely easier to study or watch courses even on the go—especially when combined with microlearning.
Challenge #2: Difficulties understanding the content
One of the main reasons learners disengage with a training program is because the language used is too technical. Particularly when the subject matter is complicated, using abstract concepts or technical jargon is only going to turn learners off and decrease comprehension.
This becomes even more of a problem if your team includes non-native speakers, who already face more challenges understanding jargon, acronyms, and buzzwords.
Another aspect of this is that different people learn differently. Many of your employees may have difficulties processing long stretches of text and prefer getting their content in video format—or vice versa.
Solution: Use plain language & variety of materials in training
Using plain language in training makes the content more accessible to everyone, and saves your learners time and effort. If the language used is simple, they are more likely to understand what they read (or hear) the first time around, without having to go back and decode it.
They’re also likely to remember it better.
Another way to aid comprehension and memory retention is to cater to your learners’ learning habits by providing a variety of content types. From videos and instructor-led training sessions to quizzes, infographics, and PDFs.
You could also run a survey before (and after) for learners to pinpoint which content formats work for them and which don’t.
Challenge #3: Can’t see how training is relevant
It happens more often than you’d think. You could be teaching something as critical as cybersecurity training or sexual harassment training. Yet, learners may fail to see how it translates to their day-to-day work.
This doesn’t mean they don’t care about the subject matter—or that they don’t want to get better. It means that your content may come off as too generic, outdated, or simply not relevant to them.
Solution: Use relatable scenarios and clear outcomes
Learners need the content to be actionable. Even when dealing with complicated concepts, to begin with, it’s vital that you “translate” this into real-life scenarios that your employees could feasibly encounter in their day-to-day.
Whether it’s through short animated videos that showcase best practices or hands-on quizzes, bringing the content down from the sphere of the abstract to the realm of everyday life will make all the difference.
You should also focus on making learning outcomes clear from the get-go: make a list of key takeaways learners will get after completing the course and ensure they’re featured often within the content (perhaps after the completion of a module or before starting a new one).
Challenge #4: The training process feels lonely and boring
Self-paced training can be hard—especially nowadays when hybrid work environments have increased feelings of isolation for many employees. When asked what would make training more effective, 32% of the TalentLMS and SHRM survey respondents said that making it more social would improve its efficacy.
And it makes sense. People learn better together.
Solution: Add gamification & social elements
Gamification has been used for years, but now is perhaps more important than ever. Learning together with their colleagues will help your employees feel like a part of a team. And gamification elements such as points, leaderboards, and badges can help achieve that in a stress-free way.
Apart from creating a friendly competition, gamification is known to help with engagement. As this TalentLMS survey shows, 89% of employees agree that gamification makes them more productive, and the same number of people would be more willing to spend time in a training software if the training was gamified.
Training challenges & solutions for L&D professionals
While many of the challenges when building your employee training programs are actually learner-facing, there are some internal challenges for your L&D team as well.
Challenge #5: Not enough bandwidth to put a training program together
Companies are beginning to realize the importance of L&D teams. The recent TalentLMS and SHRM survey showed that over half of responding HR managers plan to provide their employees with upskilling (59%) and reskilling (55%) training in 2022—and a whopping 85% of them realize that training is beneficial for company growth.
Yet, all this may not solve your team’s problem in the here and now. If your L&D team is still small (or practically non-existent) and the creation of your employee training and development programs fall on managers who are already wearing many different hats, all the good intentions in the world won’t make up for the lack of time and bandwidth.
And while this seems like a small problem at first (you managed to set up a training program regardless, didn’t you?), it could have a ripple effect and impact the learning outcome.
For instance, if your team didn’t have enough time to find the best training content, then the course might not offer new knowledge to employees and make them feel that training was a waste of their time.
Solution: Choose some ready-made courses
Pre-made content is your friend. For industry-specific topics, you’ll need to create personalized content. But when it comes to universal skills, like communication and leadership, there’s already quality content available out there.
For instance, you could get access to a library of ready-made courses that covers everything from soft skills to sales & marketing training essentials to project management and HR essentials.
This will allow you to focus your limited time where it’s actually needed: in creating personalized content for your company’s specific needs.
Challenge #6: Can’t find the right SMEs
This challenge may not arise often, but, when it does, it can derail your whole process.
Let’s say you want to cover a specific subject, that’s either too industry-specific or too time-sensitive. And you need a Subject Matter Expert to deliver a presentation or assist you with creating engaging content.
Online learning has simplified the process a lot. When it comes to instructor-led sessions, for instance, your SME can join via Zoom from their own living room versus you having to book a conference place and invite them. That being said, you may not always be able to find the right person for the job, especially if time is of the essence. Or, you may need an SME to be more involved in the overall process of designing your course.
Solution: Involve employees in the course creation process
Have you thought about all the talent you may already have at your disposal? Talent you may not be tapping into? Some of your employees may have particular experience in one area that you may not know about. So, involving them in the course development process, even in a limited or one-off capacity, could be a great way to have an in-house SME.
The only way to do this is, simply, to ask. You can send out a survey to your whole company quizzing people about their level of knowledge on X, Y, or Z subject matter. Or, you can reach out to team managers and ask for their feedback. They’ll probably know if someone on their team has the expertise you’re looking for.
You can (and should) of course offer employees some incentives, monetary or otherwise. But you may also be surprised by how passionate people can be, and how willing to share their knowledge, when it comes to a subject matter they know well and is important to them.
Challenge #7: Running on a very tight budget
No matter how you slice it, creating employee training programs costs money. And while the TalentLMS and SHRM survey showed that L&D budgets will increase in 2022 for more than 67% of the respondents, your company may not be so lucky.
Even with online training removing many of the costs (such as venue hire, travel expenses, etc.), you still need equipment for videos, money to buy software, and the hours of everyone involved in the process that need to be compensated.
How do you swing all that without sacrificing quality?
Solution: Find a cost-effective or free LMS
Online training doesn’t have to break the bank. Look for a solution that covers your specific needs, instead of investing in an expensive platform with features you’re never going to use.
For example, you might want to focus on software that allows you to easily drag and drop content. This way, you’ll be able to create courses in just a few clicks by repurposing existing material. Or, if you train a multilingual audience, you should prioritize getting an LMS that allows you to customize the look and feel of your portal and use different languages to address different groups.
Once you’ve identified your needs, compare your options. It might be best to start with a free LMS or one that has flexible pricing plans, so you can test whether it’s working for you and your teams before making a larger commitment.
Employee training and development programs are living things
And as such, they will always be evolving. So, even though the future will surely bring new challenges, the important thing is to approach training with the right mindset. Not as an “Us vs.Them” process, and not as a box to tick, but as something that brings real value, both to your employees and to your company.
At the end of the day, training is not about completing a course, but about learning new skills and knowledge—and this is a journey that can, and should, always be optimized.
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