I was on an airplane coming home from a client meeting recently. I noticed in my section of the plane that one person was reading a physical newspaper; the rest of us were on our laptops, smartphones, and tablets. This is not new, but the contrast was stark. Simply put, people on the go do not read hard copies of much anymore. They also do not spend their whole day at their desk, and they consume information in snippets more than long form. So as an industry, why are training folks still printing large manuals and handing them out or mailing them to remote offices?
Learning and Development (L&D) executives are embracing Web-based delivery of classroom instruction and should consider the same approach for the delivery of training manuals to support those efforts. Look no further than the news industry to see the future of training materials. The most effective and widely read journalism today is delivered on news sites featuring real-time updates, interactive stories, and instant access from mobile devices. This is how consumers want to receive their content today. They want a personalized content experience delivered in the medium they prefer, on the device that is most convenient.
With every dollar spent on effective product training, there is the potential for a $10 impact on revenue for the company. But L&D organizations will not see those types of returns if their budgets support costly and ineffective print runs of manuals and training materials. Too many organizations still rely on print-based distribution of training content. This is a disconnect.
Repurpose Savings for New Content Formats
When organizations scale back print runs in favor of digital distribution of information, they can experience up to an 80 percent reduction in print costs. Those savings can be applied to more effective training methods such as user-generated content or gamified learning such as quiz-like challenges that encourage users to interact with the information, rather than review and memorize it.
Even when L&D organizations make rich media, video, and other content available online or on a shared drive, they still have significant room to improve reach, relevance, and effectiveness. Global file sharing systems such as Box or Dropbox fail to ensure that information is up to date, accessible offline, or easily searchable, while still secure and protected. In effect, they are just cloud-based hard drives. To maximize the benefits of training content and make it as useful as possible, L&D executives should look for new ways to create, store, and deliver content in various formats, at lower costs, and in a controlled, but highly accessible environment. L&D executives should embrace tools that:
- Give students anywhere, just-in-time access to up-to-date information via mobile devices. “Just-in-time” means students have the most accurate information at the exact moment they need it. Users, students, and employees are more likely to work from out-of-date information when companies allow them to save downloaded PDFs, PowerPoints, and other materials on their own devices. But just-in-time content should be managed by the L&D team, which is responsible for keeping it up-to-date. Just-in-time training works best when the newest and most relevant content is made available on the user’s terms.
- Identify and focus on the best training content for specific scenarios. When content is online, it can be enabled to easily track performance and usability. With this insight, instructors teaching in virtual classrooms can identify patterns in student usage of training materials and adjust their classroom instruction time to address specific trouble spots. As a result, L&D teams can continuously optimize materials, presentations, and course curriculum to produce the best possible training program.
- Focus on experiential, personalized learning. Situation-based learning content—such as case studies, how-to’s, and interactive guides—gives employees, partners, and customers the exact information they need to solve a problem or conquer a challenge. This approach limits confusion that can result from an over-saturation of information. Often, this information can be delivered in video format, as a Q&A with experienced users or employees, making the information more relatable, more relevant, and easier to apply.
It is clear that printed training manuals are quickly becoming a relic of the past. Digital delivery of content saves money, allows for greater creativity in training, and improves engagement. Secure, accessible, digital delivery also allows for better insight into audience interaction with content, and makes it easier to track how material performs. Information delivery changes that allow for better return on learning investments ultimately help chief learning officers (CLOs) move their departments from cost centers to profit centers.
Joe Moriarty is CEO of Content Raven. A successful executive at several enterprise technology companies, Moriarty understands the challenges of getting employees the information they need to work smarter and advance their careers while meeting company goals. Content Raven’s Unified Content Enablement Platform enables the distribution of company-produced and highly specific information in a secure manner to employees, customers, and partners anywhere in the world. Features such as digital watermarks, recipient tracking, access and distribution controls, and remote shut-off ensure a company’s secrets are protected, while in-depth analytics provide insight into usage and effectiveness. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.contentraven.com.