Upgrade Your Staff

December 2015

As you prepare for a new year, one of your goals is likely getting your staff working smarter, faster and with stronger skills. Rather than hiring new workers or outside consultants, the most economic approach—and the one most likely to strengthen the loyalty and engagement of your workers—is to provide them with training. With new online offerings and other technological developments, you have more options than ever to provide your workers with a variety of developmental opportunities.

On the most informal end of things is social learning, which offers peer-driven training where you provide a platform for workers to gain insight and skills from one another. Feathercap is a popular social learning program, and the cost ranges from free for one user up to $69 per month for up to 25 users. Users can access content and micro courses on anything from sales training to computer skills.

Enterprise social networks are platforms that use the principles of social media, but connect individuals within an organization or industry and can be used as open forums for employees to glean ideas from their colleagues. Platforms such as Yammer, Socialcast or tibbr are ideal for you or other employees to post questions and content directed to other staff members, a whole team or the entire company.

If you work with a remote staff or freelancers, use virtual meetings and seminars to create live or interactive trainings. Services like GoToMeeting and Adobe Connect are inexpensive and work well for creating an environment in which staff members share experiences or create a dialog with one another via video, phone or text chatting.

E-learning provides a more formal approach to employee training, with self-paced programs that workers can use online or in a software program to develop specific skills. These run the gamut from full suites for worker development to limited programs that help workers improve their ability to perform a particular competency.

Check out local and national industry organization websites for the most informal and inexpensive e-learning options. You often can find webinars, panel discussions and other educational events relevant to your business posted there.

Workers generally complete programs on their own. Most of these programs can be accessed on any device and from anywhere, making it ever more convenient for workers to enhance their skills. Because many of these programs include videos, images and audio, they require adequate internet bandwidth. If your employees are utilizing e-learning programs in your workplace, make sure your business has a high enough internet speed to handle the added traffic without impacting your critical business functions.

A more all-encompassing approach to e-learning is Learning Management Systems (LMS), which work as online classrooms where an instructor shares content, leads discussions and even conducts tests. The most popular of these, based on total customers and active users, are the open-source learning platforms Moodle and the more education/university-targeted Edmodo. The costs can range greatly, and as you make a decision on how much to spend, weigh how much value these additional skills could provide your company, and how likely the trainee is to stay with the organization.

Companies from all varieties of industries and business owners looking to develop workers in a range of roles can use online learning tools to enhance their workforce. Some points to consider are:

  • Retail industry programs, such as Bridge’s Corporate LMS, which help workers improve their customer service and sales skills.

  • Manufacturing training, such as ePath Learning and GyrusAim, which teach such skills such as safety, efficiency and compliance on the factory floor.

  • Perhaps you handle the company accounting or basic legal paperwork but want to pass these responsibilities to an employee who has shown promise. Detailed financial and legal education can be learned through LMS programs like Rippe & Kingston or Litmos.

  • Rather than hiring an outside consultant to build out your company website or to improve your marketing brochures, it may be worthwhile to get a capable employee connected to an online learning module through one of the many available services such as the user-friendly Lynda, expansive Virtual Training Company or the more tech-focused Pluralsight.

Most of these programs can be customized to your individual business needs, before booking any program, be sure that its provisions would not offer too much or not enough training in whatever area you are aiming to develop your workers.



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