Every day Amazon hires delivery drivers, and just like with any large business, the company needs to train these new hires how to do their jobs well. There is custom software to learn, driver safety protocol to review, procedures for leaving packages at the door, plus all the day-to-day things like filling out log sheets and requesting time off.
This type of employee training used to be conducted live and in-person, with an expert in the room to answer questions, show the actual devices the drivers would use, and share real-life stories from working at Amazon. Then in 2020 the pandemic hit and suddenly most of that in-person training had to stop—just as the worldwide need for package deliveries was soaring.
So in blazing speed, Amazon began converting its new hire training into a self-paced, online training for employees that drivers could complete at home without the assistance of an instructor. Right away the team stumbled into an important question, a question that your business is likely facing these days as well, namely, how to capture a multi-day, live, in-person experience in an online training for employees and make it just as good and just as effective, with all those juicy life stories, face-to-face interactions, and practical tips baked in?
The answer is not as difficult as you might think. While every company’s training is unique, there are a few key ingredients that distinguish the great online training courses from ones that are blah.
1. Decide what success looks like ahead of time.
Keeping in mind that your online training for employees is going to be different than your traditional in-person training (just like a yoga class at the gym is going to be different than a DIY app), you’ll want to spend time coming up with your goals for the training. What is the most critical thing they must know? How can you be sure they learned it? The good news with online training is that you can create built-in tests to measure comprehension. Thinking about what success looks like before you design is going to go a long way toward making sure the training you come up with is the right content and only the right content.
2. Think about your audience. Really think about them.
This couldn’t be more important. Remember that your audience is not you; they’re not privy to the information you already know. You need to design with them in mind. If the content you give them is dull or one-dimensional, they will end up getting bored and tune out. If the content is dense with too much information, they will likely become overwhelmed and confused. Ask yourself what kinds of questions would you have if you were in their shoes. Then answer those questions in a way that would make sense if you were sitting at a computer or mobile device and learning it for the first time.
3. Keep it real. Really.
Most people learn best by engaging with a real-life scenario, not only because it makes the content relatable but also because it gives them an opportunity to practice what they’ll ultimately have to do in their jobs. The best way to do this, of course, is with a simulation, using the actual software or scenario the employees will later encounter. (For instance, if you need to explain how to fill out an expense report, run a simulation showing the actual report being filled out.) The more grounded in reality you make the training, the more useful it will be.
4. Variety is the spice of life, so spice it up.
Nobody likes to learn by reading four or five crowded PowerPoint slides. They need videos. They need animation. They need voice narration and pop quizzes and beautiful photography and compelling stories to drive home a point. The more creative you get in designing your content, the more successful you’ll be at holding your audience’s attention. If your instinct is to just data dump into a PowerPoint deck, stop and ask yourself, is that how you would want to learn?
5. Design for everyone. Especially those with different needs.
Your audience is made up of people from all walks of life. Some may be hearing impaired, others visually impaired. Some may have learning disabilities, others may not be fluent in your language. You can’t solve for every person’s needs, but you can solve for a great many of them. There’s a whole science around accessibility, and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines is a great resource to consult. A useful cheat is to remember the senses: (a) ensure your text is legible, appropriately sized, and displayed using contrasting backgrounds; (b) include closed-captioning with any kind of audio component; (c) and test your training on various devices, remembering that it will perform differently depending on whether a user has to tap a finger or click a mouse.
At the end of the day, what matters most is that the information you have to convey gets engrained into the hearts and minds of your people. The more effort you put into designing your online training for employees, the more effort they’ll want to put into learning it.
And if this feels at all overwhelming, don’t despair—we’ve got your back. We’ve got a whole team of professionals at ROI with decades of experience in instructional design, and we would love the opportunity to partner with you and help bring your online training for employees to life.