We all know the importance of effective and engaging employee training, and not just for compliance topics, but also for the personal and professional growth of employees. It’s so important, in fact, that many companies resist the idea to outsource employee training. Internal training teams are protective over the content and want to do it all.
Having been in this industry for over a decade-and-a-half, I can say, truthfully, that this is a big mistake.
If we take a close, objective look at all the training needs a typical company has, we’ll see that it does not take long for those needs to overwhelm internal resources. Your team is competent and effective, just stretched too thin. Think of outsourcing some of those needs as expanding your internal team. Companies like ej4 can bring you new ideas and a fresh approach. While there might be some aspects of employee training that you want to keep in-house, many training topics can easily and beneficially be done with an industry partner.
Here are the reasons we tell our prospects to do just that.
Small Training Departments Need to Be Selective with Their Time and Focus
Even the most basic training program needs to keep your employees up-to-speed on workplace compliance issues, safety, basic business practices, and interpersonal skills. Think about what goes into creating a training program:
- Needs assessment
- Deciding on a curriculum
- Researching the topic
- Writing the content
- Designing and producing the learning materials
- Teaching the lesson in an engaging and memorable way
- Measuring results
Most people who train find teaching to be a rewarding experience, and our creative team would be the first to admit that creating a new curriculum can be a fun challenge. But training materials take time, and a lot of “rote” work. With so many priorities fighting for a trainer’s time, it is impossible to create 100% of the needed materials for 100% of employees in-house. This is especially true if you have a single trainer or a small group of trainers. Even if that person (or group) is a rockstar, they can’t do it all. Outsourcing training takes some of the burden off of HR, without sacrificing staff development.
Consider what needs to be created just to cover basics such as:
Compliance. State, local, and federal laws likely mandate training sessions for things like anti-harassment, discrimination, safety, and so on. This requires being up-to-date with the most recent laws, which requires additional research.
New product launch. When a new product or service is launched, your sales, marketing and customer service teams will need to be trained on all the important features and messaging. This might include a level of technical or scientific detail that training professionals do not yet have.
Management and leadership training. Good succession planning requires training your HiPos to prepare them for future management and leadership roles. Once there, they will likely need further training as well, until they acclimate. While the information in such a training might not change as easily as it does for compliance or a new product launch, it does need to be administered on a more personal basis as each person is ready.
Onboarding. Everyone needs to be onboarded, and successful companies provide a fair amount of training and mentoring during that period. Early training can run the gamut of technical skills, team-building exercises, compliance, and safety issues, as well as making sure new hires understand and assimilate into the corporate culture. Arranging for and tracking these onboarding tasks can leave HR little time to strategize and create new learning programs. The larger the company, the harder it becomes to do much beyond the basics.
Notice that most of these topics can be outsourced and handled with off-the-shelf content, or a combination of that content with a brief presentation by an internal trainer. For example, the basics of ladder or electrical safety are not going to be much different from warehouse to warehouse, company to company. The same is true about customer service skills, state anti-harassment laws, basic management practices, and so on. By outsourcing what you can, your training team can be more selective in what they tackle.
Training Can Be Transformational...with the Right Materials
Once your training team is freed up from covering the basics, it will have more time to expand staff learning. Compliance is a great example. For a long time we’ve been making the case that compliance should consist of more than checking a box saying “we did it.”
Instead of focusing solely on compliance issues to avoid legal problems, training teams can go beyond the checkbox mentality and work on transforming the company’s culture.
For example, with the right training materials and buy-in from company leadership, a training department can begin shifting the culture by training its employees on topics like:
Respect. Instilling a culture of respect can go a long way to heading off behaviors like harassment and bullying before they take root. And respect can be given, even if some of your employees dislike each other.
Emotional Intelligence. Yes, emotional intelligence is a real thing—specifically, it is a set of skills that you can teach people and have them practice. When employees have a better “EQ,” they tend to be more empathetic and less likely to engage in counterproductive behaviors.
Problem-Solving. Most problems employees are asked to tackle haven’t even been conceived of yet. Likewise, their solutions might involve technologies and processes that are not in place today. Instead of handing them ready-made solutions, you train them on how to identify, analyze, and think through problems more generally.
There Are Always New Challenges...with Proven Solutions
Your internal team most likely has a backlog of topics requested by internal stakeholders, as well as the topics they had planned at the beginning of the year in their training roadmap. This makes it even more difficult to pivot when new challenges arise. Working with a company like ej4, companies have access to an off-the-shelf library with the courses you need, in the moment of need.
For example, our company has found that the following topics were especially relevant in 2020:
Remote Work Policies. Managers have, for some time, been facing the challenge of managing a remote workforce. But the pandemic really brought this to the fore, and we saw more clients asking for this content from our library.
Surviving a Furlough. Furloughs have been in the company toolbox as long as there have been economic pressures (in other words, forever). Again, the pandemic made this a much more widespread issue, and employers wanted to train their employees on the best ways to handle it.
Coronavirus Precautions. Before the pandemic was officially called a pandemic, ej4 had released a series of training videos on coronavirus precautions for employees and pandemic planning. Our clients had access to all of these courses just as they realized they needed them.
Stress and change management. The pandemic put a spotlight on two old topics. Employers had a new concern for employee health at home. Our clients curated their own curriculum from our library with courses on how to manage stress, coping with change, and other topics from our health and wellness topic.
These are fairly specific; we have also found there is a lot of demand for common skills that any modern workforce needs, such as stress management, creativity, communication, time management, and dealing with change.
There Are Old Problems…with New Policies and Regulations
Here’s the other side of the coin: Just as there are new challenges with existing solutions, there are old problems that have new light shed on them.
Again, compliance training is an excellent example here. Laws and regulations can change suddenly at the local, state, or federal level. They also vary quite a bit from state to state. A training video that was sufficient for a compliance issue last year, or in another state, might not be up-to-date on the latest laws now. Keeping up with new laws and regulations can put additional stress on in-house training programs. A third-party training company has the kind of economy of scale to keep up with those laws and keep their training materials up-to-date.
Another example is marijuana policy. The legalization of marijuana in many states has created a whole new ballgame when it comes to company drug policy. What is allowed by state vs. federal law? What can companies permit or restrict? What steps need to be followed when it comes to drug testing? Again, a third-party vendor is more likely to be up on both the law and best practices, even though this is a fairly new issue.
The Benefits of Microlearning
Studies show that workers get interrupted, on average, after only 11 minutes on a particular task. Likewise, the optimal length of an instructional video is 9 to 12 minutes, after which minds start to wander.
We’ve put this data into practice by providing learners with short, to-the-point training that they can put into practice immediately. It’s designed to be engaging and memorable, packing quality information into a package that’s easy to understand.
Shorter videos have another side benefit: They are easy to deploy right at the point of need. No longer do you need to gather a classroom of people at a specific time to listen to an instructor for an hour. You can have, for example, a salesperson brush up on closing techniques in the parking lot right before they go in to see a prospect. Or a trainee learn about back safety before they begin their shift in the warehouse. Or a new team leader review communication styles before convening a meeting.
In short, there are many reasons why a training department would want to outsource a large part of their training. The first step is finding a vendor that you feel you can trust.
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