The recent pandemic accelerated the virtualization of work and commerce making our lives in many ways easier, more efficient, and less expensive. Though the five-day office week grind and store-based retail hassle will not be missed, for many of us the post-pandemic world feels a bit empty. Since humans are fundamentally social beings, to thrive we need meaningful interactions that build connection.
Today’s lack of connection-building interactions feeds workforce turnover for employers and erodes customer loyalty for businesses. Addressing these challenges must be done skillfully because today’s workforce and customers expect sincere and authentic interactions, quickly spotting and rejecting half-hearted, off-pitch efforts (and sharing them on social media!).
Employers begin connecting with employees through onboarding programs that typically include mandatory web-based compliance training, company overview materials, and introductory meetings with key people. The better programs feature ongoing mentoring and targeted skills development. Businesses connect with customers using both digital and physical marketing and sales tools. For products and services requiring human interaction to sell, businesses must teach their customer-facing workforce how to successfully connect with customers. This often begins with web-based product, sales tool, and customer-service fundamentals training. Sales process and customer experience training starts with web-based materials for less expensive products with a simple sales process and often adds facilitated (virtual or in-person) sessions for more expensive products with sophisticated sales processes.
With today’s employees and customers eager for authentic interactions that connect them to companies and products, and web-based learning being foundational to experiencing and delivering those interactions, why would any organization risk using off-the-shelf eLearning that might miss the mark? Simple answer – cost.
Cost is a devilish issue in the learning world. While everyone agrees that poor learning yields poor results, convincing financial decision-makers to fund better learning is never easy. This is partly because they view learning as an expense, not as an investment. To better assess the true cost of learning, one must consider both the direct cost of procuring it and the indirect cost of it being inadequate. This is distinct from conventional “return on investment” (ROI) analyses, which typically compare cost with the positive results they produce. The indirect costs of inadequate learning include misused resources, turnover, and lost sales. The potential to reduce these indirect costs strengthens the argument for investing in custom eLearning.
Off-the-shelf eLearning can contribute to misused resources in two ways. First — to reach the broadest possible audience — off-the-shelf content emphasizes content coverage, leading to overly long courses that waste participant time. Second, since learners tune out or skip over extra content irrelevant to them, their engagement with all course content drops, reducing what they learn. Accordingly, they and the resources they use perform below their potential. Custom eLearning focuses on just what the learner needs. Knowing it all matters, they pay closer attention, learn more and perform better.
As discussed earlier, eLearning is central to onboarding programs needed to connect workers to employers and sales training programs used to teach people to connect with customers. This is a lot to expect of an inanimate tool that cannot form a connection with each learner as the best facilitators do (though maybe AI will help – someday). For this reason, it is imperative that learners see their employer, their environment, their customers, and themselves in their eLearning. This is best achieved through the highly targeted design language, vocabulary, tone, media, and structure possible only with custom eLearning.
The direct cost gap between custom and off-the-shelf eLearning can be narrowed using emerging rapid development, remote video capture, and media creation tools. Insightful design based on careful attention to specific client needs can shift content away from eLearning into less expensive but equally effective deliverables. However, the indirect costs of off-the-shelf eLearning failing to connect with learners — and their resulting failure to connect and stay with their employers or connect with and retain their customers — are the ultimate reason to choose custom eLearning.
Want to learn more about how Ardent can help your organization with custom learning? Reach out to one of our experts today!