July 2013 | Commentary | Smart Moves

Adopting Online Training To Enrich Your Workforce

Tags: Education & Careers

Robert Martichenko is CEO, LeanCor, and Instructor, the Lean Enterprise Institute and the Georgia Tech Supply Chain and Logistics Institute, 859-866-1179

The popularity of online training is skyrocketing. Many companies are discovering the benefits of using online training to help supply chain employees boost their knowledge and add cross-functional value to the organization.

The advantages of online training include:

  • Reducing the travel and tuition costs associated with training.
  • Training more employees at less cost.
  • Reinforcing alignment to organizational purpose, principles, and value.
  • Tracking student progress and completion statistics in a central location.

To employ online training as a tool for communicating standard information to supply chain operations staff or warehouse workers, a variety of plug-and-play options are available on topics such as workplace safety, quality control, and industry regulations.

When choosing a course for your organization, develop a priority matrix or checklist to evaluate program factors such as ease of access, length, learning objectives, engagement level, cost, format (self-paced or instructor-led), and organizational alignment.

Next, do some research: explore industry Web sites, ask colleagues and other industry affiliates for recommendations, pose questions to social media groups, or request a trial course. If you're unable to find exactly what you need in an online course, a provider may be able to customize an existing course to better fit your organization's requirements.

If you are enrolling a large group of employees in an online program, ask about group discount rates, and determine added fees for items such as workbooks, shipping, or software licenses. Once you've determined the total cost of the course, compare it to the cost of having a professional educator conduct the training on site.

Sometimes, however, the flexibility an online program offers outweighs this cost. For example, if the employees needing training are in different DC locations, travel frequently, or cannot easily get away to attend a training session, an online course may be the most efficient use of resources.

If your organization has already developed a preferred proprietary training curriculum internally and/or cannot find an existing online curriculum to fit its specific needs, consider developing a proprietary online course. First, evaluate your organization's pool of internal resources to determine if you will need third-party assistance. Depending on the level of interaction, aesthetic design, and technical complexity, you may need a graphic artist, narrators and/or actors, a videographer, an IT programmer, and a curriculum expert.

Whether you purchase an existing training program or develop one in-house, the online course should engage students on many different levels. It can be difficult to create the same type of engagement in an online environment that exists in a live classroom, so curriculum designers must find creative ways to connect students to the knowledge.

Review other online courses to get ideas on how to make your course more interactive; use images and video footage taken from your organization; sprinkle in learning games to keep students actively involved; and try to refrain from using too much text.

Thanks to recent strides in both the quality and quantity of readily available online courses, more supply chain professionals have been armed with confidence and capability, adding to their organization's competitive advantage.