On-demand workforce training and learning and development (L&D) platforms have been critical to advancing a rapid eLearning transformation as the world has adapted to COVID-19 restrictions this year. Cloud-based training solutions offer a wide range of comprehensive features, enabling organizations to easily deliver critical safety and compliance training to remote and distributed workforces.

Unfortunately, many small businesses assume that these platforms are out of their reach due to budget, resource and time constraints. Instead, they rely on manual processes that may seem cheaper but that often cost more in time. A 2008 study found that nearly 90% of spreadsheets contain errors, according to a MarketWatch article, so companies that rely on these programs for tracking may be at a greater risk of noncompliance penalties due to errors and omissions in record-keeping.

The reality is even the smallest organization can — and should — take advantage of comprehensive, affordable eLearning technologies that can keep them up to date and moving forward.

Why Real-time Training Technology Is Critical

Even before the pandemic, eLearning and learning management system (LMS) technologies played a pivotal role in training and development, providing ease of access and on-demand learning for an increasingly distributed workforce. eLearning is the future of L&D and workforce training, largely because digital solutions offer many undeniable benefits:

A Better Learner Experience

An improved learner experience includes on-demand access and self-paced modules that enable employees to train at the time and place that works best for their needs.

Higher Engagement and Knowledge Retention Rates

Training concepts “stick” and are put into practice more quickly and effectively.

Ease of Administration and Participation

Easier training administration and participation saves time and expense. In fact, Cognizant has found that adopting a mobile online learning platform can generate over 70% cost savings through reduced time spent creating new features and increased learner adoption.

Timely Training Material

Off-the-shelf content libraries provide convenient, situation-relevant content updates to reflect new guidance and mandates. This tool enables businesses to keep current with ongoing regulatory changes, giving them a competitive edge.

Comprehensive, Real-time Tracking and Reporting

Better reporting provides organizations with verifiable, auditable records management and certification. With on-demand access to records and automated reminders for refresher training so that no one slips through the cracks, eLearning platforms make it easy to maintain and prove compliance in the event of an accident or audit.

Flexibility to Support a Broad Range of Learning Applications

Learning platforms can include human resources (HR) policies and procedures; professional development; safety training; sector- and skill-specific needs; and federal regulatory requirements, including Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Department of Transportation (DOT), and Department of Labor (DOL) regulations, as well as COVID-19 training (required by 16 states as of Oct. 2020).

Blended Learning Flexibility

While some types of training are still better delivered face to face, integrating instructor-led training with cloud-based tools to digitize processes for sign-in, attendance and certification management can be more effective and more efficient and can improve tracking and reporting accuracy.

Aside from these training-specific benefits, data also shows that digitization is good business practice. “Digitally advanced” small businesses earn twice as much revenue per employee, drive four times higher year-over-year revenue growth and are almost three times as likely to create new jobs than their non-digitized competitors.

How Small Business Can Implement Real-time eLearning

Implementing real-time eLearning can give small businesses a strong advantage in today’s fast-paced environment. Fortunately, a wide variety of cloud-based learning solutions now offer flexible options, ranging from modular, grow-as-you-need solutions to comprehensive, all-in-one platforms. This range of tools provides a wide variety of budget-friendly, adaptable capabilities to meet business needs today and down the road.

But not all learning management platforms are created equally. When choosing a solution, consider these factors before you jump on board:

Affordability

Cost is always a priority, and you may think you don’t have the budget for an eLearning platform. But you could also be wasting hours of staff time (and, therefore, untold dollars) developing, delivering and managing training — processes that could happen more quickly and accurately with an LMS.

Plus, if your business depends on standards compliance (e.g., OSHA or medical certification requirements), the risk of being unable to quickly provide training documentation could expose you to fines, penalties and bad public relations, which could cost far more than a digital learning platform.

Choose an LMS pricing model that works best for your business needs. Some platforms offer per-learner, per-month or per-learner/per-use fees for $5 or less each. Many providers offer courses an entire team can take for just a few hundred dollars.

“Plug and Play” Capability

Small businesses often don’t have the time or resources to design and build their own training modules, or they may have a technology investment in place that they want to continue using. Leaders in content development and learning libraries frequently offer SCORM-compliant courses that are backward-compatible and functional with next-evolution technology as well. Newer eLearning platforms frequently offer plug-and-play technology that enables organizations to scale at a comfortable pace.

Ease and Speed of Implementation

If you’re waiting for things to return to “normal” before resuming training, you may find that we are now permanently in a “new normal.” Adopting eLearning can help bring you up to speed quickly; some LMS platforms can be implemented, from selection to adaptation, in just a few months.

Choosing a platform that’s feature-rich, user-friendly, easy to launch and adaptable to evolving content standards will help you hit the ground running. A prebuilt but customizable LMS can save you a tremendous amount of time and headache compared to building a platform from scratch.

Adaptability

You may want a solution that’s ready to go out of the box, but what if your needs change? Having flexible options, like cultural adaptations (e.g., multilingual and multicultural modules), is important for maximizing content relevance and learner understanding. You may also want a platform that offers a variety of approaches for presenting content (e.g., videos, courses and interactive components on the same topic).

Strong Record-keeping

To lower the risk of regulatory noncompliance, safety concerns and lawsuits, small businesses need documented proof of training and certifications. If you’re keeping those records in a spreadsheet — or worse, in paper files — there’s always the risk of human error. In the event of a lawsuit, if you’re unable to produce accurate, up-to-date training records, it could hurt your defense. A digital solution ensures accurate record-keeping and provides auditable, instant proof of training. The best solutions even accommodate blended learning, with tools for digitizing face-to-face training records and materials for consolidated management.

A Better Solution to Small Business Workforce Training

Small businesses can’t afford not to invest in eLearning. Research shows that eLearning is flexible, fast, effective and better for most learners and administrators. But choosing the right tools to fit your unique situation is important. Look for a best-practice solution that will provide an effective, efficient and flexible training platform now and adapt to fit your needs down the road.

As the last nine months have proven, business needs can change quickly. Having an agile, real-time training solution in place can be critical to business survival.

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