How To Create Online Training With The Highest Retention Rates

Like any busy learning & development professional, you probably want to create high quality, effective online training.

You want to achieve three main goals with your in-house e-learning:

  1. Train staff in key skills.
  2. Demonstrate to senior management that the training was effective.
  3. Deliver engaging, effective training so staff not only learn but they’re hungry to come back for more.

You won’t be able to achieve these goals if you have a problem with low training completion and low retention rates.

Furthermore, you’re probably tired of battling against those tired old objections to you running online training in your company:

  • “eLearning is expensive.”
  • “Our staff won’t enjoy online training.”
  • “It’s hard to measure effectiveness of the training.”
  • “People can ‘play’ and ‘cheat’ the system.”

Improved Training Retention Is Going To Become A Bigger Issue

Normally, in the face of the usual objections to eLearning, you might think that these were just local concerns but it seems that there are now wider issues at play.

Governments are becoming worried about the effectiveness of corporate training.

In the UK, Brexit remains a major concern and the British Government continues to monitor the impact of training on the national economy.

In its recent ‘Employer Skills Survey’ report which examined the experiences and practices of over 91,200 UK employers, the UK Government found that there had been substantial growth in the number of employers active in the recruitment market, causing a rise in the level of skill-shortages.

“Over two-thirds of employers that had difficulty filling their vacancies solely as a result of skill shortages had experienced a direct financial impact through either loss of business to competitors, increased operating costs, or having to outsource work, or some combination of the three.”

The report found that there were “approximately 1.4 million staff lacking proficiency in their current role.”

That’s a serious training issue.

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Do your employees retain the information from your online training?


Across the pond, corporate America is facing similar challenges.

In fact, not so long ago, the Wall Street Journal declared that company training wasn’t working.

In its article, So Much Training, So Little to Show for It’, the newspaper reported that “companies devote a lot of time, effort and money to corporate training—with little to show for it.” Their research indicated that as much as $156 billion had been wasted by American companies on substandard employee training.

Even worse, they suggested that “with little practical follow-up or meaningful assessments, some 90% of new skills are lost within a year.”

The Bad News And The Good News

The bad news first: you and your company will be under more and more pressure to make your training count. It has to deliver results and be seen to do so.

And the good news? Well, the good news is twofold:

  1. There’ll be more support and encouragement inside and outside your organisation for what you’re trying to achieve with your training.
  2. You’re not the first to face this challenge. Organisations around the world are working hard to improve training quality and improve retention rates. There are positive examples to follow.

Copy The Academics

There’s plenty to be gained by adopting some of the best practices from universities.

Huge amounts of money flow through our learning institutions so they’ve an interest in making sure that their elearning performs well across all measures.

In its extensive study into university online learning, the Online Learning Consortium offered some excellent advice to colleges seeking to improve online learning retention rates. Amongst the pieces of advice were:

  • Emphasize the flexibility as well as the responsibilities of asynchronous “any-time, any-place” learning.
  • Provide learners with online student skill assessments before taking an online class.
  • Develop or share an online student community website or introductory course that encourages online learners to share concerns, questions, and solutions.
  • Provide necessary software free or at a reduced rate.
  • Leverage technology to help identify and work with learners who are at-risk.
  • Share information about the benefits and demands of online teaching.
  • Involve faculty members and their respective programs in content, curriculum design, peer quality reviews, and community building.

This is excellent advice for the academic world but it just as readily applies to the corporate world too.

Online Training Retention Rates custom eLearning

Better online training programmes will improve staff retention as well as increase training effectiveness

Industry Best Practice

The point above about involving faculty is particularly useful for companies seeking employee buy-in for the elearning process: if you make the effort to get your staff involved in the creation of course content, you’re far more likely to have greater internal support from key influencers in the business.

You’re also more likely to achieve higher retention rates.

“If you make the effort to get your staff involved in the creation of course content, you’re far more likely to have greater internal support from key influencers in the business whilst also achieving higher retention rates.” 

Want to ensure an even better result when involving staff in learning content creation?

Work with an external training partner (eLamb is a smart choice).

A training partner can project-manage your program for you and improve the quality of the content by drawing on both staff input and on industry best practice.

Advice From The Corporate Training Industry

If you’re seeking further corporate-focussed training advice, you would do well to heed the advice of the HR Council as well as people like Christopher Pappas, founder of elearningindustry.com.

When it comes to maximising training effectiveness and retention, the HR Council advises up-front planning to ensure:

  • The goals of the employee training or development program are clear.
  • The employees are involved in determining the knowledge, skills and abilities to be learned.
  • The employees are participating in activities during the learning process.
  • The work experiences and knowledge that employees bring to each learning situation are used as a resource.
  • A practical and problem-centered approach based on real examples is used.
  • New material is connected to the employee’s past learning and work experience.
  • The employees are given an opportunity to reinforce what they learn by practicing.
  • The learning environment is informal, safe and supportive.
  • The individual employee is shown respect.
  • The learning opportunity promotes positive self-esteem.

Christopher Pappas builds on this with several excellent suggestions:

  • Create a detailed roll out schedule which highlights all of the important dates, such as development time, LMS orientations, and facilitator training.
  • Send out surveys to gauge employee interest. Send out web-based or email surveys that can help you get feedback from your employees. Gauge their interest and learn as much as possible about what they expect from the online training program.
  • Verify that your staff know how to login to the online LMS platform so that people can actually access it (sounds obvious but it happens more often than you may consider).
  • Stress the benefits of your upcoming online training courses. Every member of your staff should be well aware of what benefits they will receive once they complete the eLearning course, as well as how they can apply the information on the job.
  • Offer tutorials for the tools and software you’ll be using. Some of your employees may already be familiar with your LMS platform, especially if you are using the LMS you have in the past. However, it’s always wise to offer tutorials, walkthroughs, and one-on-one support for those who may need some additional help.
  • Identify the weaknesses of your previous eLearning courses. Learn from past mistakes in order to provide more effective online training experiences for your employees.

Finally, Use New Industry Trends To Your Advantage

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Having considered advice from both the academic and corporate worlds, you may also want to draw upon the latest technology trends.

As Isabel Wiliams points out in her thought-provoking study of key elearning trends for 2016, you may wish to consider aspects such as big data, cloud-based learning, and gamification.

Extracts from her assessments of elearning trends include:

  • Big Data: “Big data analytics will help learning providers to better understand the learning process itself – by tracking learner and group patterns and performing a thorough feedback analysis, they’ll be able to offer full course personalization and compile a comprehensive ROI report for learning. The promises held by big data analytics for eLearning are very impressive and will become more important than ever in 2016.”
  • Cloud-Based eLearning: “The use of cloud is on the rise – in every sector, including eLearning. The eLearning market trends and forecast report predicts the use of cloud-based authoring tools and learning platforms to grow by 9% in the US – each year counting from 2013.”
  • Gamification: “Gamification offers a potential strategy for improving user engagement with learning materials – some experts claim that the technique can boost learner’s motivation to a smashing 90% recall rate. It’s quite simple. Once learners assume an active role in knowledge reception, they will automatically improve their chances at remembering it.”

How can you use these trends for your advantage? Simple:

  • Ensure that your online training incorporates strong elements of data collection and user-friendly reporting so that you can identify what’s working and what elements of the training needs to be improved.
  • Make use of cloud-hosted learning platforms for flexible and cost-efficient learning.
  • Look to develop training programs that incorporate elements of gamification for greater enjoyment and retention. 

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About The Author: Vlad Goloschuk is CEO and Founder of Practice Rocks, an interactive online learning tool that helps increase learning retention. 

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