While the response to the COVID-19 pandemic revealed gaps in traditional training approaches, advanced learning technology helps organizations maintain safety and compliance with evolving standards and expectations. Early in the pandemic, survival for many businesses hinged on rapidly training office and knowledge workers to work remotely, often using new or unfamiliar equipment and systems. Distance learning tools, including videoconferencing and collaboration software, aided many of these deployments and will continue to support the remote workforce.
However, fewer than one in three people have jobs that fit a work-from-home arrangement, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data cited by ABC. The nearly 70% of occupations that take place on site or in the field tend to be deskless and are in industries such as leisure and hospitality, health care, transportation, construction, manufacturing, and distribution. Many of these employees are on the front lines of an organization’s risk management efforts as they interact with coworkers, sanitize facilities and equipment, or even respond to virus-related incidents.
Companies must be able to quickly and efficiently provide these team members with the necessary training to work safely. Employers that fail to address employees’ occupational health and safety compliance are vulnerable to accidents or violations that can harm their employees, damage their reputation, diminish the quality of goods and services, and/or negatively impact the bottom line.
Since deskless workers may not regularly interact with a keyboard and monitor, the management team may not realize that they can effectively deliver training for these roles using learning and development (L&D) software. As large organizations are discovering, high-quality L&D solutions meet a wide range of training needs. Equally important, they can customize systems to adapt to rapid changes in roles, workspaces and safety procedures in the COVID-19 era.
Conventional Training Limitations
Historically, employers may have relegated safety and compliance instruction to large, annual gatherings that brought their team members up to date on the latest regulations. However, COVID-19 made large gatherings impractical or impossible to stage safely. At the same time, the pandemic has increased the need for timely instruction for quickly evolving safety standards, new policies and procedures, and best practices, underscoring that informal and untracked training is no longer sufficient.
In-person instruction may still work in some situations, but social distancing limitations on class size can increase the time and cost per program. For example, let’s say a company paid an instructor to train 50 employees in a one-day refresher course in January 2019. A year later, social distancing has limited the class size to 10 participants. The employer may choose to bring in five instructors to cover the material in five simultaneous, day-long classes. Alternatively, one expert could teach a different 10-person class each day for five days to train all 50 employees. Hotel and meal expenses rise with the additional days, instructors and travel time. It is worth noting that travel arrangements may prove challenging during the pandemic and can be thwarted at any time by severe weather or other events.
By contrast, offering the same course in an electronic format eliminates the instructor’s travel and accommodation costs and the need to repeat sessions to reach all learners. Employees could log in from home or through video conference rooms at the workplace. When recorded sessions are an option, participants may be able to complete the training on their own time or more than once, until they demonstrate mastery.
Learning by Reflection During the Pandemic and Beyond
Organizations that adopt a formal third-party learning management system (LMS) can access entire libraries of training offerings and expert instructors, along with cross-architectural compatibility among instructional design, content delivery and tracking modules. Modern training platforms can offer plug-and-play compatibility to access content from multiple sources and providers. Essential elements to look for include:
- Enforced pacing features, such as the ones offered through shareable content object reference (SCORM)-compliant training, to prevent participants from skipping ahead.
- Bookmarking capabilities.
- Save-and-return features for when learning sessions are interrupted.
- Embedded quizzes to provide learning reinforcement and measure progress and a final assessment to evaluate comprehension.
- The ability to store everyone’s test results indefinitely.
- The ability for managers to upload short, on-the-job training videos for a YouTube-style training, with approvals from administrators.
- A place for trainers to include notes.
The platform needs to help the organization manage its training program and compliance, including the curriculum’s sequence and timing, enforcement of any prerequisites for each course, and documentation of progress. A provider that covers a broad spectrum of continuously updated subjects enables an organization to adjust training to meet new challenges quickly.
For in-person training, many organizations use checklists that the trainer and supervisor can sign off and make comments on. In a virtual world, screen-sharing and trainer comments can accomplish the same task and show proficiency as if the trainer and trainee were standing side by side.
Remote and in-person workforces will require significant training to stay up to date with the latest safety standards and best practices during and after the pandemic. A customizable learning management system is a must for organizations requiring employees to be trained, certified in new skills or reskilled for new processes and for any business bringing on new hires who need training for their role.