Upskill with no Chill: Why setting your team free on online training is a terrible idea

Welcome to the new isolation world, where suddenly ‘I don’t have time for that’ is no longer an excuse. 

If you’re anything like me, you’re likely bouncing off the walls looking for something to do. While Tiger King provided at least an afternoon’s respite, I have been craving something to fill the time and stimulate me. 

And with many others in the same spot, a lot of leaders and HR teams are coming to the same conclusion – online upskill training!

Directing teams to use the quieter period and the sudden free time to start undertaking upskill training online sounds like a great idea. And with a number of courses now being offered for free by TAFE and other online providers, it seems like a great idea to encourage your people to start their upskilling. 

Word of warning though – make sure you have a plan. 

Using this time to upskill, or encouraging your team to, is not actually a terrible idea, it’s actually an excellent one. Letting them loose though without a plan on how they can prioritise what they’re learning and how these new found skills will be utilised is a recipe for disaster. 

While a lot of people may have a newfound optimism for engaging in learning, that enthusiasm is likely to wane as the weeks in isolation grow. While someone may have started with the best of inventions, soon the next Netflix blockbuster will start looking very appealing over completing the next assessment. And with no one chasing or following up, it’s easy to drop off. 

And this isn’t a new problem. Course completions for online learning are low. Very low. Research has shown most are lucky to top the 10% figure. 

There are a number of reasons for this, but the two overriding factors in improving online course completion are accountability and job outcomes. The first point makes sense – you are more likely to do something if someone holds you accountable. It’s why people spend hundreds of dollars for a personal trainer to tell them to do sit ups they could easily do on their own. 

The second is more pertinent to HR leaders looking at online upskilling right now – people are more likely to complete online learning when it has a tangible outcome on their employability. Perhaps it is improved responsibility in their role, a pay bump, or even a complete new career change. What’s important is that individuals know there is a carrot at the end of their online learning experience. While some people simply enjoy learning, most prefer learning for a purpose.

Which brings me back to the key point for HR leaders. Encouraging your teams to use this period to upskill is a fantastic idea, but you need to sit down now and come up with a detailed plan, otherwise everyone’s best intentions will likely result in failure. 

You should start with three key areas when planning:

  1. Figure out what they need, and what YOU need – choosing a training plan for your team is a balance between what skills the individuals in your team needs to build, and what skills your organisation needs. There’s no point everyone in your organisation spending weeks learning SEO skills if you have a large SEO team with nothing to do. Take a step back and map the skills your organisation needs today and into the future and use this as a starting point. Then look to find the right individuals for these skills. You can use tools like WithYouWithMe’s testing platform Potential (which we’re currently offering to companies for free) to assist find the right individuals to fill these roles. 
  2. Course selection – helping your team select the right online learning is key. Many will be attracted to flashy courses from big institutions (who wouldn’t want a degree from Harvard?). But you must ask whether these are the best courses for the outcomes. Many of the online courses offered by Australian universities as an example are not designed for online learning, particularly those related to high-tech skills. It may be best to look at newer, more agile learning institutions who can offer the specific skills you’re looking for. 
  3. Keeping the team on track –  before your people jump head first into an online course, make sure you set the boundaries of accountability – how are you going to help your team member be part of the nine per cent who finish their course, not the other 91 per cent? A structured program, with accountability and encouragement is key. If you are working with a B2B training provider, admin tools are just as important as the content in ensuring completions. 
  4. Job outcomes – this is probably the most important aspect. What are your teams going to get from completing their training? People will be far more engaged if they know that all their effort won’t be for nothing once they complete their course and they will return to business as usual. Give them clear guidelines on the new types of roles they will be considered for, or how their current job role will shift once training is completed. This is important to break down on an individual level so each person knows how it applies to them.

We’ve got a unique opportunity to help plan for the skills our people and our organisations will need for years to come. Let’s not waste it by solely watching murder mysteries about Oklahoma zookeepers. 

Help out a mate

Help a friend kickstart their career through thought leading digital career content. Everything from Data Analytics through to Cyber Security. 

Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on reddit