The COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing since early spring 2020, did more than change the way we work. It changed everything, from the way we work to the way we relax and the way we learn. As the pandemic began, educational institutions were forced to move to online or virtual learning. Most schools have since been pushing to come back to in person classrooms as soon as possible.  But this has not been the case with corporate education. While in-person instructor-led training (ILT) programs were also translated into virtual experiences due to COVID-19, the learning and development (L&D) industry was already turning toward virtual delivery before the pandemic.

After seeing the cost-effectiveness and quality of virtual learning, many companies have not planned a future return to in-person training. Brandon Busteed, chief partnership officer and global head of Learn-Work Innovation at Kaplan, reflects on the bygone era of in-person learning in a Forbes article, writing, “The expense and time of bringing together groups of employees for in-person training is exorbitant in comparison to high-quality online versions. Air travel, hotels, windowless conference rooms and convention centers, the risk liability of group training events and, frankly, the poor quality and unmeasurable outcomes of in-person corporate training have always been complaints.” This trend coincides with another recent switch many companies are making which is allowing many employees to continue working remotely post-pandemic.

If there is an option for a less expensive, virtual version which does not require companies to gather their remote workers to one place and which offers measurable insights into key learning outcomes, smart companies will take it … especially with many employers spending significant amounts of money on traditional ILT programs yielding mixed results. SHIFT eLearning shared the following statistics about this topic:

  • 70% of employees report that they don’t have mastery of the skills needed to do their jobs.
  • Only 12% of employees apply new skills learned in L&D programs to their jobs.
  • Only 25% of respondents from a recent McKinsey survey believe that training measurably improved performance.

One of the primary pitfalls to traditional ILT structures is the amount of time it takes. There are two main challenges, the first is the time it takes to set up complete the training and the time it takes away from the employee’s job. A LinkedIn survey found that 56% of employees would spend more time learning if their managers suggested courses that would improve their skills. We can start to embrace our full potential with investment from our employers.

Self paced online training allows workers more flexibility to learn when and where they want. The challenge with this type of training program is social learning is missing and it takes discipline to get through reading various modules. Virtual learning, on the other hand, can provide value that neither self-paced nor in-person training provides.

We have found that more and more employers lack confidence that their employees have the soft and hard skills needed to do their jobs. In fact, according to an article published by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “American businesses face a difficult dilemma: The demand for skilled workers is greater than ever, but availability is in short supply. Our study finds that 74% of hiring managers agree that there is a skills gap in the current labor market, with 48% saying that candidates lack the skills needed to fill open jobs.” The key takeaway is that, if companies want to grow and develop, they need to prioritize L&D to help close skills gaps across their workforce. With virtual corporate training, educating employees is easier and less expensive than before the pandemic, while being something that employees want.

Leveraging Virtual Learning for Improved Retention

Being able to advance and grow with a company is key for an engaged, satisfied workforce. Fulfilled employees are not just working to live; they are engaged in your company when you allow them to learn more and do their jobs better. In fact, LinkedIn Learning’s 2019 Workplace Learning Report found that 94% of people would stay at a company longer if it  invested in helping them learn.

Thus, learning opportunities can improve employee retention and now, in the virtual setting, there are even more options for your employees to learn and grow and be the talent you need them to be. It’s very likely that increased professional development opportunities will lower turnover rates in many companies, as employees will feel like a valued part of the team.

According to research from the Wynhurst Group, “Four percent of new employees leave a job after a disastrous first day; most decide whether they feel ‘at home’ in the first three weeks at a new job; and 22 percent of staff turnover occurs within the first 45 days of employment.’” Investment in employee learning is critical to retaining your skilled talent.

The skills gap in today’s workforce, in both soft and hard skills, needs to be a focus for companies looking to thrive. Upskilling and reskilling employees will help companies develop specific talent needed for hard-to-fill positions. Virtual corporate training can aid in providing on-going training and mentoring.  Similar to the days of apprenticeship, using internal talent to assist in developing new talent breeds both teamwork and a solid training program.  Being able to do this virtually makes these programs more feasible and cost effective.  By using the right technology for virtual training and mentoring programs, companies can review and measure learning behaviors, performance and engagement. For the first time, companies have objective data to determine learning outcomes and the success of their training programs.