With the advent of COVID-19, many companies are switching from live classroom training to virtual training programs. Unfortunately, many of these well-intentioned organizations are making very critical, strategic mistakes in the effectiveness of virtual training. Here are some elements to consider so that you don’t make the same mistakes in your organization and lose the value of your virtual training investment dollars.

Mistake #1: No Pre-Work

One of the biggest mistakes that organizations make when offering virtual training is not including a pre-work assignment. For example, I recently did a virtual learning program for a large client on critical and creative thinking. They had more than 600 people signed up to go through a virtual training program. We sent out a pre-assignment, which asked them to read three articles on creative and critical thinking and to watch two videos.

The advantage of having a pre-assignment is to get the learners to think about what they’re going to learn before they start learning it. You can almost think of this as a learning-orientation program. Far too often people show up to training having never thought about the topic being offered until that very moment. We find that the retention and learning effectiveness increases when people are asked to do a short pre-assignment.

Mistake #2: Not Positioning Training With the Participants

There is a trend emerging that seems to be consistent. Many times, people in training programs show up to training not knowing what the training is about, why they were assigned to go to the training, or their objective for the training. Every time someone attends training, that person should meet with his or her manager beforehand to discuss the topic of the training, why they are going to the training, and the training objectives. This, in effect, lays the groundwork for training expectations and lets the learner know why they are attending the training in the first place. It also emphasizes why the training is important and maximizes your investment in training

Mistake #3: The Training is Too Long

We recently engaged with a client who did virtual training programs, but they insisted that the training be done over two days, and each day was one four-hour block with only a 15-minute break. Generally, adults can only stay focused and concentrate on virtual training programs for 90 minutes to two hours. After that, their attention and retention start to be reduced. Many years ago, we used to call this “the fire hose” technique. The analogy is that if someone were thirsty, we would give them a fire hose to quench their thirst, but when they were no longer thirsty, we would continue to pour water. It’s much better to offer the training in smaller modules so that they can reflect on what they’ve learned, with a follow-up module a few days later. This is much more effective and enjoyable for the learner.

Mistake #4: The Training is not Interactive

One of the cardinal rules of effective and efficient training is that the training must be interactive and not straight lecture. This is true for face-to-face training, and it is even more true in virtual environments. The more engaging and involving the training, the more people learn and the greater the value of the training investment.

Mistake #5: No Follow Up

After training has been completed, each manager – within a short amount of time after the program – should sit down with his or her direct reports and ask them to talk about what they learned from the training, what they found valuable from the training, and the action plan that they have developed as a result of the training. If managers have that discussion and hold people accountable for what they learned, then there is a greater chance of having behavioral changes and greater results from the training.

Mistake #6: Management is Not Involved

Organizations that maximize the benefits of their training programs share a common trait: Their managers are not only involved in the training, but also actively participate in the training. This seemingly small act symbolizes to employees that the training is important and relevant.

If you want to maximize your own virtual training investment and improve your chance of getting tangible results from your online training courses, then take steps to prevent these six mistakes. Of course, if you need help doing so, contact us. We are always ready to share our knowledge with others.