Face-to-face, instructor-led training (F2F ILT) had been the preferred method for employee training prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. The physical classroom training had many advantages, such as personal attention to each learner, moderate learning pace to align with group learning capabilities, and instant live interaction between learners and trainer. However, the Covid-19 pandemic since 2020 has become an inflexion point for the decline of F2F ILT for employee training.
The reason for the decline was the evolution of learning technologies that enabled organizations to shift physical classrooms to virtual mode. Virtual training replicates the physical classroom learning experience in real-time using digital technologies. It uses live, interactive learning sessions or workshops to train employees using a digital platform. The shift led to optimization in the cost of employee training, improvement in employee’s learning efficiency, and increased employee engagement.
Virtual training overcomes geographical barriers and democratizes learning, allowing employees access to structured training regardless of their location. Moreover, it helps the organization save costs without compromising the quality of training.
Virtual training is of two types, synchronous and asynchronous training. In synchronous training, all learners are online simultaneously. Whereas in asynchronous training, they are not required to be online simultaneously.
Why is Virtual Training important?
- A hybrid/remote work environment is becoming the new norm
Hybrid work model is a flexible working model in which employees work both remotely and from the office. The model offers employees flexibility to balance their client work and training in a way which does not oput them under stress. According to a McKinsey survey, 90% of the organizations will follow hybrid work norms, which will necessitate virtual training. Some organizations are switching to a permanent fully remote work model for 100% of employees.
Employees expect to get similar flexibility in learning; hence, organizations have accelerated virtual training adoption to meet their employee expectations as well as the organization needs. The organization’s use of virtual training has increased from 77% in 2017 to 90% in 2020.
- Increase in frequency of upskilling and retraining
The global pandemic transformed the business landscape in 2020, with organizations and employees needing to adapt to the new normal. According to The State of Skills 2021 report, the pandemic accelerated the need for employees across functions to develop new skills. Human resource (HR) has to ensure the upskilling and re-training of employees to help them remain relevant to the organization and contribute effectively to its success.
The need for constant upskilling in the new normal has led to an increase in the number of training programs and their frequency, making it challenging for HR to organize physical classroom sessions due to scheduling and logistical constraints. Virtual training mitigates these HR challenges by offering employees the flexibility to access training anywhere.
- Democratize learning across the organization
The F2F ILT has geographical limitations, restricting the training team to only a few available locations where training programs could be conducted. This has restricted many eager employees from attending the program, which has been mitigated with virtual training.
Besides benefitting the employees, the virtual learning method enables organizations to augment their organizational skill set that can be leveraged for new client opportunities. The democratization of learning enables more employees to get trained, enhancing the resource base of an organization in specific skill sets.
- Futureproof learning
The pace at which new technology is being invented has increased, and it will continue to disrupt the information intensive education and training sectors. If an organization does not form the foundation of virtual training, then it may not be able to leverage new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AL), augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (AR) in future.
What are the advantages of Virtual Training in Learning and Development?
Virtual training offers you the flexibility to schedule training programs without the logistical challenges of in-person classroom sessions. The flexibility this training method offers also enables you to deliver more training programs at a significantly lesser cost.
Employees also get the flexibility to access the training from anywhere and enroll in more programs. The employees also have the flexibility to moderate their learning pace, which leads to better comprehension and knowledge retention.
- Cost efficient
Virtual training reduces the cost of travel, accommodation, and other ancillary costs associated with in-person training. The flexibility of virtual training ensures optimum utilization of employees’ time, limiting the loss of productive hours.
Virtual training enhances the scope of learning with anytime anywhere access that covers employees worldwide. This helps to reduce the cost of training per employee and the value created by the training method further enhances organizations’ return on investment (ROI).
- Higher employee engagement
Virtual training leverages technology innovation such as gamification and social features to make training interesting, engaging and exciting for employees. The data-enabled personalized learning experience leads to greater employee engagement resulting in a higher course completion rate and better outcome.
- Efficient learning
Learners take 40% to 60% less time than the traditional classroom training to complete courses and meet deadlines efficiently. The instant feedback for both learners and educators further improves the learning efficiency and experience.
How to evaluate virtual training utility for an organization?
As the organization adjusts to the new normal, the learning and development (L&D) team would also have to evolve and adopt emerging technologies for employee training. They need to assess the utility and relevance of virtual training for their organization. It should be an ongoing process to evaluate the value and effectiveness, and constantly refine the scope. You can use the following criteria to determine the relevance and utility of virtual training.
- Geographically dispersed workforce
You have a geographically dispersed workforce that has periodic training requirements. It has become difficult to synchronize employees’ travel due to varying regional restrictions within a country and globally. In these circumstances, virtual training is an ideal solution that enables you to overcome the challenge of bringing together employees at one location for classroom training.
- Optimize training cost
The changing business landscape has necessitated cost optimization across the organization. Employee training is an indirect cost, and it should be prioritized by the finance team for cost optimization. However, employee training is necessary and cannot be dispensed with as part of cost reduction initiatives. Moreover, we cannot compromise with the quality.
Virtual training is an ideal solution that helps you to reduce training cost without sacrificing any of the employee learning and development goals.
- Improve employee learning experience and engagement
If you want to enhance your employee learning experience by leveraging technology innovations, virtual learning is a solution that will help you meet your objective. Various virtual training platforms enable you to collect data that can be analyzed to derive valuable insights used to deliver personalized learning experiences. The social features incorporated in learning platforms encourage collaboration and peer learning, leading to higher employee engagement.
Besides the top three evaluation criteria, you can add criteria specific to your organization such as creating an inclusive organization, improving employee wellbeing, scalability, reducing carbon footprint, and others.
How to implement Virtual Training?
The success of virtual training requires meticulous planning and execution to make you realize the intended benefits.
- Upskill trainers
The training material used in the F2F ILT needs to be recalibrated for optimal use in online training. Your trainers need to be upskilled to deliver virtual training with the same ease as in the classroom. The trainer needs to be skilled in communication and presentation delivery, course design and development for successful delivery of virtual training.
- Technology platform implementation
You need to implement a few technologies and platforms for the success of your virtual training. Some key technologies for virtual trainings are listed below:
- Learning Management System (LMS) facilitates creation, management, and delivery of online training content. It helps to manage the learning process end-to-end, automates tasks, and enables 24/7 access.
- Learning Experience Platforms (LXP) is an evolution of LMS functionally and offers a unified training experience to learners with greater flexibility and autonomy. The key difference between LMS and LXP is that LMS focuses on administrative aspects of learning, whereas LXP focuses on learning experience through personalization.
- Integrated Analytics derives meaningful data insights that help improvise learning experiences and outcomes. Descriptive analytics provide insights into learner performance and engagement. Predictive analytics leverages patterns to make predictions and recommendations to learners to enable them to achieve their learning goals optimally.
Furthermore, you can leverage gamification to make learning challenging and fun. The social features help you implement online forums that enhance collaboration among learners to make learning more engaging. In addition, the emerging technologies such as virtual and augmented reality can help make training immersive; however, these are still in the evolution stage and yet to mature.
Virtual training is a good alternative to F2F instructor-led-training. It enables high interactivity among learners, and between learner and trainers, leading to better learning experiences and outcomes. It results in high learning efficiency and employee engagement. This training method helps you save cost and derive valuable insights from the data collated.
Virtual training has become the primary mode of employee learning and development, and successfully complements the hybrid or remote work culture.