One of the most enduring myths about leadership is the notion that leaders are born rather than made. This kind of thinking tends to mistake certain personality traits for essential leadership qualities and falls into the trap of believing that simply slotting “natural” leaders into management positions will make an organization run more effectively. Without proper training and development, however, these supposed “leaders” will often struggle to succeed because they lack the necessary skills.
Fortunately, today’s most successful organizations are utilizing a wide range of educational tools to prepare high-potential employees for leadership roles. Developments in e-learning have made it easier than ever before to deliver training programs in a convenient and cost-effective manner. The challenge is to provide leadership education that is both relevant to the stated goals of the organization and the needs of its employees.
Benefits of Interactive E-Learning
Implementing e-learning into leadership development programs is far more than simply placing resources in an electronic format. While making training materials available to people whenever and wherever they need them is helpful, static resources like e-manuals and PowerPoint slides will very often go unused if they’re not accompanied by more engaging learning methods to provide direction and purpose.
E-learning provides the opportunity to both learn and practice new skill sets, and 50% of organizations are exploring more creative ways to incorporate the latest educational tools into their learning and development strategies. By using video simulations and interactive scenarios, leaders can apply what they’ve learned in an immersive and safe environment. These programs help to prepare them for how to deal with actual encounters involving colleagues, subordinates, clients, and customers. Outcome focused simulated exercises can be used by individuals or teams of learners to work on specific skills and situations in a dynamic environment that provides valuable feedback.
Interactive programs are especially effective when incorporated into a blended learning approach, which combines in-person courses with instructor-led online leadership training and other self-paced methods. This multifaceted approach provides the benefits of traditional learning and e-learning, exposing learners to new perspectives while giving them a variety of ways to apply what they’ve learned.
Making Learning Flexible
Today’s employees are often juggling so many tasks that they don’t have much time to dedicate to training. Unfortunately, if they don’t find some way to fit in additional education, they’ll never develop the necessary skills to fill the leadership positions organizations will need in the future. Considering that 84% of organizations expect to face a shortage of viable leadership candidates within the next five years, the pressure is on to implement development programs that accommodate time constraints.
E-learning allows people to break courses up into shorter blocks of time that works for their schedules. Virtual training programs can also be completed much faster, taking as much as 40-60% less time than traditional training methods. With training materials available online, they can watch instructional videos on their lunch breaks, listen to audio classes during their commutes, or complete interactive exercises between meetings. Mobile technology has also become an important aspect of e-learning, with nearly three quarters of employees using mobile devices to access training materials.
E-learning also takes into account the fact that not all people learn the same way. There will always be people who benefit from a traditional approach that requires extensive reading, focusing on this approach alone will leave many frustrated and disengaged. Auditory learners, for instance, will benefit more from audio recordings, podcasts, or voice-over videos, while visual learners respond best to programs that include animated graphics, videos, or well-designed handouts. Still others are kinesthetic learners, who will need more of a hands-on approach that allows them to learn things by doing them. Personalized e-learning allows employees to customize their training in ways that allows them to get the most out of the program.
Self-motivated learners can also access additional resources on their own time. Providing training materials outside the workplace also makes it easier to scale learning development as a company grows. With so many employees working in remote teams spread across broad geographic regions, or even in different countries, development programs need to be able to accommodate a wide variety of schedules and situations.
E-learning is Cost Effective and Measurable
According to the Association for Talent Development’s 2016 State of the Industry report, organizations spent an average of $1,252 per employee on learning and development in 2015. While companies are committed to investing in employee development, they are also trying to find the most cost-effective methods to deliver that training with measurable benefits. By eliminating the substantial overhead associated with traditional training programs (facilities, travel expenses, room and board, etc), companies can devote more resources to creating more diversified and effective development methods.
The technology used to deliver e-learning materials also makes it possible to track a program’s effectiveness. By analyzing how many employees complete courses they begin, track how long it takes to complete them, and identify which portions of the program create difficulties, organizations can fine-tune their development process to deliver the best return on investment. Getting real-time feedback from learners ensures that these programs will continue to improve over time and can be adjusted to best suit the organization’s current needs.
E-learning has already revolutionized leadership development, making it easier than ever before for companies to prepare their high-potential employees for greater responsibilities in the future. By implementing learning strategies that cater to the demands of today’s fast-paced workplace, companies are finding new ways to position themselves for future success.