It’s easy to forget now, but as the turn of the Millennium approached there were many fraught with worry about how our technology would hold up. The dreaded ‘Millennium Bug’ threatened to wipe hard-drives, blow out communications and see us running for cover as a blizzard of planes fell from the sky, all their critical functions fried to a crisp. Well, it didn’t quite go down like that, although Snake 2 on the Nokia 3310 never seemed to run quite as smoothly. Beyond Snake 2 though, the development and uptake of technology positively exploded and in fewer industries more impressively than e-Learning. Indeed, since 2000 the growth of the e-Learning industry has exceeded 900%. To achieve such figures e-Learning platforms must be offering compelling benefits compared with traditional methods.
So, what are they?
Let’s nail down the one factor that everyone really wants answers on. The fact is, traditional methods of L&D can be expensive. Experienced and proven coaches are pricey, producing and printing off course materials cuts into budgets, should sessions be booked in at alternative venues then there are travel and accommodation costs to bear. This is all before we consider productivity lost to people taking days off for training.
Enter e-Learning. The beauty of investing in e-Learning software is that once you’ve made the investment, you have it for life and budgets only need to be tailored around the odd upgrade. Of course, with the training being done digitally, there are no course materials to print off. Sessions mostly take place in-house, but if the platform is purchased over the Cloud then employees can access training programs from anywhere they have internet access. No need to reserve venues, no need to recompense travel costs, and no accommodation to book.
Don’t take it just from us either. Global e-Learning providers Kineo undertook some comprehensive research to establish just how great the savings could be. Amongst their findings were prolific burger-flippers McDonald’s, who saved £5m over two years with their ‘Business Controls’ e-Learning, as well as seeing a 10% sales growth as a result of the training. Then there was Compass Group, whose programme demonstrated an estimated cost reduction of £495,000 in six months because they no longer needed to pay for accommodation, travel, time out of the business, external trainers, or materials. And perhaps most impressively of all, computing giants IBM who to date claim to have saved $200m since switching to e-Learning.
The immediate cost-savings to be made from switching to e-Learning then are clear, but any savvy manager will have one eye on the future. “I may well save a few quid making the switch…” they’ll think to themselves, “…but what are the gains to be made long-term?” Simple explanations may not cut it here, so let’s go with some hard facts backed up by research.
Bersin, a research company analysing business trends and practices put together a white paper following an exhaustive study into the financial benefits of adopting an e-Learning strategy. They discovered that revenue generated per employee is 26% higher for companies that offer training using technology, including e-Learning, given that it enables companies to train more frequently. It should be noted here that nearly 25% of all employees leave their job because of lack of development opportunities, resulting in turnover costs.
American market analysts Ambient Insight uncovered similarly impressive figures with their own research. For them, a large portion of the companies surveyed, enhanced employee knowledge translated directly into income. Specifically, 42% of companies when questioned stated that e-Learning had led to an increase in revenue. According to the same study, every dollar invested in online training results in $30 worth of productivity, partly because employees are able to resume their work faster and apply their skills immediately. This is especially relevant for sales teams where time spent in the field is directly related to returns.
It’s tempting with any new business initiative to focus exclusively on the pecuniary outcomes, often at the expense of how they might impact on the workforce. Longer term this can lead to all manner of problems. The beauty of e-Learning is that not only does it make absolute financial sense, employees also love it. It feels contemporary and cutting-edge to them, but also, they can access platforms as and when is convenient, thus their ability to retain information rockets. Indeed, The Research Institute of America found that e-Learning increases retention rates anywhere between 25% to 60%. Retention rates of coach-led training are low in comparison, topping at around 10%. With e-Learning, employees have more control over the learning process as well as the opportunity to revisit the training as needed.
After implementing an e-Learning program within the company, IBM found that participants learned nearly five times more material without increasing time spent in training. By teaching more material in a shorter period, companies can reduce the time employees spend on training, thus allowing them to get back to work faster, which in return translates into revenue growth.
Furthermore, according to a Brandon-Hall study, learning through e-Learning typically requires 40% to 60% less employee time than learning the same material in a traditional classroom environment. Employees can navigate through programs of study when convenient and so workflow is not interrupted.
e-Learning is good for the environment. An Open University study found that producing and providing e-Learning courses consumes an average of 90% less energy and produces 85% fewer CO2 emissions per employee than conventional face-to-face courses.
There are numerous ways this is achieved. The redundant need to print off course materials saves precious woodland, as well as energy needed to process the paper. The lack of requirement for employees to travel to venues means there are far fewer CO2 emissions being produced by vehicles, and a rapid uptake in staff is easily accommodated by scalable platforms that will only require a few more electrons to provide training.
e-Learning is one of those concepts that the more you scrutinise it, the more benefits you are able to find. It cuts costs, generates revenue, boosts productivity, boosts engagement, boosts retention, is fast, scalable, flexible, saves time, and is kind to the environment. Over half of all UK businesses now use e-Learning as their primary method of delivering L&D, and most of those that haven’t yet, intend to within the next two years.
The question is; will your company be joining them?