In times of economic trouble, training may be one of the first things to go. Taking sales staff away from the phones or technical staff from a customer site can cost time and money.
Yet, according to research from the Institute of Fiscal Studies, a five per cent increase in training delivers a four per cent increase in productivity among employees. This can affect the bottom line positively. Training helps retain top staff and this can increase revenue.
We believe that the best way to study is through a mixed-learning environment, using video, online learning, face-to-face sessions and textbooks.
This involves three levels of training. First, if a subject is unfamiliar, we often recommend a traditional instructor-led course. Students benefit from hands-on labs and the presence of a teacher who can answer queries as they arise.
Secondly, training can be supplied by webcast, although an online lab session can be incorporated for hands-on experience.
E-learning is the third choice, recommended for independent workers. Participants should be happy to learn on their own, although they should also be able to access an online tutor. This form of training is great for companies wanting to save time and money. Materials provided online can be accessed anytime, meaning you don’t need your sales or technical staff to leave the office, and any training can be done around their work.
Tailoring is important. From speaking to our partners, we believe that a combination of hands-on classroom training that encourages interaction and online learning is most effective. Company-wide webcast training, for example, is effective if there is a big product launch, as everyone can learn and ask questions at once.
Blended learning that combines different training methods is also becoming more popular. For example, one of our partners has developed a collaborative learning methodology. Launched over twelve months ago, it offers learning modules that can be delivered through different media, including pre-course reading, instructor-led courses, e-learning, podcasts, remote labs, qualified reference material, assessments and support forums.
A collaborative portal is used for all student interaction and content publication. This encourages students to work together throughout the entire programme. Students can even start communicating two weeks before the first lesson. This may improve retention and reduce classroom time, freeing up staff to do more work.
Businesses may find a blend of old and new methods most effective, but qualification should be the ultimate goal. Certification is not only beneficial for businesses, but can help individuals progress in their careers.
Clare Barclay is channel director at Microsoft UK
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