If you’re thinking of upgrading your training program with a software package, you’ll have no shortage of choices. There are applications for every learning style, company size, and delivery channel. But your challenge will be finding the right software for you. Take a look at these 18 key considerations before you go shopping, and you’ll be sure to find the right product for your needs.
Choose software that fits your current goals.
1. Does it address your current training goals?
Employee training software comes in different flavors for different requirements. Some curate other people’s content. Some help you build your own content. Some help you broadcast traditional teacher-led classes over the internet. And some help you guide and manage social or informal learning.
Before you start looking for a program, consider what you want to achieve. Perhaps you’re happy with your current classroom regimen, but you want to save travel costs by letting people attend from remote offices. Or perhaps you train mainly with a buddy system, and you want a better way to track and manage that process. At every step in the software search, your goals should guide your choices.
2. Does it fit your company culture?
Consider how your team likes to learn and communicate. Do your employees prefer to work together on projects or do they work independently? Do they prefer to seek their own learning resources or have someone teach them new skills directly? Do they actively use chat rooms and instant message or not?
Try to find software that will accommodate their preferred modes of work. It will be hard enough to encourage employees to use new software, even harder if it conflicts with their preferences.
3. Can it go with your employees?
In a 2015 survey of U.S. workers, 49% use mobile devices for work tasks and 28% use tablets. If your employees fall into this category, make sure your training can adapt to mobile environments. Short, custom training modules work better on mobile than long videos or web classes.
4. Can it help you manage informal and social learning?
Much of the learning we do is outside the classroom and away from the computer. Your software needs a way to capture and track this experience and let it count toward learning goals. Ideally, you should be able to wrap informal learning into your program with ease.
Choose a product that’s easy to customize for your needs.
5. How much time does it take to customize the software?
Think about how much time it will take to get your system looking exactly like you want it. If the software comes with premade courses, take a look at several and make sure they are addressing the skills you want your employees to learn. If they don’t, you’ll have to make your own content.
6. Does the company provide any program guidance?
If you’re setting up a training program, you might like to know more than just the nuts and bolts of how to use the software. You might also like to know what a good training program looks like. How do you create engaging content? How do you pace the program so people are challenged but not overwhelmed? What should you start with? Having basic guidelines to help you design your program in the context of your new software will make it easier to get the value out of your purchase.
7. Can you customize reports?
One of the advantages of training software is the ability to assign goals to your team and easily track progress. You may also want to see how long it takes employees to complete a particular segment, whether they get stuck, or how often they access the training program.
Check out the software’s reporting and make sure you can customize it to your preferences. It’s also a good idea to make sure you can download report data to a spreadsheet in case you want to integrate it with other business tools.
Consider your future training needs.
8. Is the software flexible in case your IT structure changes?
Your technical infrastructure will change. Guaranteed. So you need software that makes it easy for you to adapt. Consider a cloud-based offering that doesn’t require installation so, as your computer operating systems change, you won’t experience conflicts.
If you’re planning to have employees access the program over mobile devices, this broad flexibility is even more important as the mobile operating systems change at breathtaking speed.
9. Can you create personalized programs?
Personalized training programs can increase employee engagement which in turn improves corporate performance, as demonstrated by Alex Edmans, MIT Sloan School of Management. If you’re thinking you’d like to have this flexibility in your program for the future, determine whether the software you’re considering can handle it.
10. Can you expand quickly for unexpected growth?
If you have a big surge in business and bring on a bunch of new employees at once, you’ll need training software that can expand without your having to purchase new licenses or install new clients.
Insist on good usability and support.
11. Is it very intuitive to use?
The software should be very easy to use and understand, even if employees only access it every few months. If it takes extra cognitive effort to figure out the interface, your team will avoid it.
12. Is there extensive and detailed documentation?
Most software these days comes with minimal documentation, but as you’re getting started, you’ll want to easily find answers to your questions without having to contact support. Even the most responsive support will take time to get back to you, and you can’t always rely on user forums for the latest information. Excellent documentation can make your experience much smoother.
13. Is the software being updated?
Look for a company that is regularly improving the product based on customer feedback. Find out when the last update posted and how frequently updates have been made in the past.
14. Are upgrades easy or painful?
While you want continuous improvement in the software, you don’t want to spend 15 minutes downloading new versions every time you log in. Look for applications that update in the background or cloud-based applications that don’t require downloads.
15. Does support respond quickly?
It almost goes without saying. Almost. Any good software will have support technicians that are easy to contact and respond quickly.
Go easy on your budget.
16. Can you pay only for what you use?
Training costs can take a bite out of your budget. The Association for Talent Development found that the average company spends about $1200 per employee for training. That varies widely by industry and company size, but it’s still not cheap.
You may be able to earn some financial respite by only paying for what you use. Sometimes you’ll do a lot of training, but perhaps during your busiest season, you focus less on training. You don’t want to pay extra for those times you won’t be using the software, so look for something that easily lets you switch from higher-use to lower-use plans.
17. Are there any hidden costs?
If you’ll need to create videos or other content to make your new software useful, be sure to find out the cost of that work. For example, one minute of video is estimated to cost $165 to produce. Also determine whether pre-made videos and courses come with the initial purchase or require additional fees.
18. Can you try before you buy?
Look for software that lets you try it out before asking for your credit card. You should have a risk-free opportunity to put the system through its paces, check out the documentation, guidance and support before you commit. Look for trials that give you at least 30 days.
It may take some time to check out different employee training software products. But if you select the right one your company, you’ll have a powerful tool that pays off in spades.