eLearning In The Manufacturing Industry: Learning The Ropes
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How To Best Use eLearning In The Manufacturing Industry

With the dawn of the new age of manufacturing with Industry 4.0, this sector needs to focus on the human capital now more than ever before. With a growing millennial population ready to get into the workforce and the baby boomers gearing up for retirement, this sector is expecting almost 2.7 million jobs to open up globally. As baby boomer retirement coincides with industry expansion, the manufacturing industry will have to navigate this talent shortage by proactively enhancing their Learning and Development initiatives to create a skilled workforce for themselves.

According to research conducted by the U. S. Bureau of Labor, "new employees in the manufacturing industry are only going to stay in one particular job for an average of 4.6 years".  Clearly, training has to be a continuous process in the manufacturing segment now.

While classroom training has been a mainstay in this sector for the past couple of decades, eLearning is making its presence felt owing to the enormous benefits of cost and time that it brings to the table. However, manufacturing companies are still hesitant. It also has to be taken into consideration that some aspects of training in the manufacturing ecosystem are best conducted in the classroom in a more hands-on manner.

However, there is a wide chunk that can be conveniently accomplished with eLearning. Here’s a look at how manufacturing companies contemplating eLearning should move forward.

So, Where Should You Begin? Start Small

To identify where to begin, companies need to first evaluate the entire training universe. The idea is to take a phased-out approach so that eLearning can fit into the Learning and Development canvas with ease. The first step, therefore, would be to identify which trainings to conduct with eLearning and create an adoption timeframe with quantified milestones.

Once the evaluation of the suitable eLearning courses has been done, companies can move to the next step. In this stage, companies can have a small user base subscribing to the available eLearning courses. These users go through the course, evaluate, and assess its outcomes. The Learning and Development team also evaluates the development process and the outcomes. Organizations can actually evaluate microlearning at this stage as these courses are easier to develop and deploy. The good part about starting small is that there are no CAPEX, infrastructure or other overhead costs involved.

Pilot Testing

At the end of a set period, say three months, organizations can validate the usefulness and suitability of eLearning modules and microlearning programs. Analyzing user feedback here is essential as it highlights the gaps in the module, what could be done better and if knowledge retention has been adequate using these modules. Evaluating the eLearning data is also a good way of identifying areas for improvement. Once this is done, organizations can plan for a larger but still a more controlled deployment, for example, in one department or with a certain audience with specific years of experience. Once this is identified, the eLearning development activity kicks off.

Controlled Deployment

The timeframe for a controlled deployment exercise could be set at six months. At the end of the timeline, the deployment has to be complete, and the feedback collected, analyzed, and evaluated. Any changes to the learning models and content, and tweaking of the target audience to have more impactful outcomes are done and executed in this stage. Once this is complete, the company can look at an eLearning development and deployment plan that is ready for organization-wide adoption. In this stage, it helps to decide on priority levels by evaluating the top priority needs and kick off the development for the highest priority.

High Priority Deployment

In this stage, the development and deployment of eLearning solutions for top priority needs have to be completed within the specified timeframe. Once this is completed, the organization needs to start planning for the development of the courses for the next priority level and start the development work for the same.

The feedback analysis of the first priority deployment also has to be completed within this timeframe, changes have to be made, priority 2 deployment has to be completed and the feedback from the same accumulated, analyzed, and evaluated. The priority 1 and 2 development and deployment can be completed within a timeframe of 18 months from inception.

Once these steps have been taken and the organization has familiarized itself with the flavors of eLearning, this practice can be rolled out organization-wide and ensure adoption by all stakeholders. By taking this systematic approach to eLearning adoption, manufacturing companies will have accounted for the needs of their users, have the right number of modules, and have identified the right priorities for learning and development initiatives.

This phased out approach also ensures that there is a scope for proactive corrections even mid-way which ultimately ensures a robust program that helps the employees learn and train better. Since this approach marks all the ticks in the checkboxes, getting organizational buy-in becomes easier, and provides a clear indication of how much to invest and when to do so. Taking such a systematic and organized approach consequently translates to easier adoption, better learning outcomes, and a better ROI.

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