Anyone who has been a part of the hiring process knows how lengthy and costly it can be. That’s why organizations everywhere are enhancing their learning initiatives through smarter online learning programs that upskill and reskill their workforce as an alternative to full-scale talent acquisition. A recent CareerBuilder survey reported that 68 percent of employers who are increasing their workforce this year have open positions they can’t fill, and they are turning to skill-based online training programs to cross the skills gap and keep their workforces competitive.

As you begin shaping your organization’s Learning and Development (L&D) initiatives for the coming year, keep these best practices on the front burner:

 1. Choose the Desired Outcome

Before you plan any training program, your managers and employees should be aligned with the desired outcomes. Online learning has a lot to offer beyond the content and curriculum. The training should achieve your team’s and employees’ goals, and the courses should be supplemented with relevant industry projects that employees can practice and immediately apply to their job.

2. Make Technology Proficiency a Priority

Technology has transitioned from a source of competitive advantage to a competitive necessity. With 52 percent of executives citing "a lack of familiarity with technology" as a barrier to digital transformation, companies have significant cause to make technology proficiency a priority. This spans dynamic new roles such as DevOps Engineers that cross the barrier between software development and operations, to new ways of thinking about traditional roles in sales to embrace digital selling techniques and tools.

3. Get Creative and Go Deep

The days of single-skill jobs are now way behind us. Virtually every key skill-based position in your organization requires a range of expertise to remain viable, and your online learning curriculum should reflect that reality. Comprehensive “Master’s Programs” are designed to go broad and deep on skills training with multiple relevant courses in a single learning track. They provide the right combination of technology and process-oriented skill sets, from Cloud Engineer positions that embrace Agile Scrum Master skills to Digital Marketing Expert programs that encompass the range of social, SEO, content and other digital skills.

4. Build a Team of Digital Sellers

The sales organization is the front line for every business, and the most successful are leveraging the latest in digital and social selling techniques to engage prospects more thoughtfully and close business faster. Digital-ready sales organizations that employ new digital selling techniques are 5.7 times more likely to secure prospect meetings and hit 150 percent of their quotas on average.

5. Stay the Course with Online

Online skills training is nothing new, but it takes some discipline to see your learning plan through to completion. The Research Institute of America concluded that e-learning boosts retention rates by 25 to 60 percent, compared to retention rates of eight to 10 percent with traditional training. While online training is convenient, cost-effective and provides access to a wide range of courses that cannot be offered via traditional classrooms, how can you ensure your team fully leverages online learning while maintaining a high course completion rate?  Online learning for enterprises can be absorbed quickly to keep your organization poised for success.

6. Look for ROI and Hands-on Service

Identifying the right kind of training is only part of the battle. It’s also critical that you’re getting results. This can be achieved by employing a robust learning management system that is built for results like high course completion rates. If your employees aren’t finishing their training or passing their exams to earn certification, you’re spinning your wheels on re-training cycles.

Service and support are important too. It’s one thing to have great instructors and a focused learning program, but just as important to be able to interact with them and their teaching assistants, have questions answered 24/7 and rely on high-touch mentoring communities to support your efforts. These are all key to building a culture of continuous learning.

As you lead your workforce, remember the value that online learning programs can bring to your organization, especially in today’s hyper-competitive business environment where digital and technology skills comprise the foundation for real achievement.

This article was first published on People Matters.

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