As a small business, you likely don’t have the staff or resources to fully train new employees. To lend a hand, consider Web-based job training modules. They can be much less expensive than in-house training, cover a range of pertinent job topics -- such as avoiding sexual harassment and discrimination -- and can be completed on your employees’ schedules.

Though some training modules may not offer exactly the type of training you’re looking for, the vendors that provide this type of training often offer a way to customize it to your company’s needs.

When looking to cut training costs, SwedishAmerican Health System of Rockford, Ill., turned to Web-based training. To comply with federal regulations, SwedishAmerican, like all healthcare providers, must ensure all its nearly 3,000 employees undergo annual safety and patient confidentiality training, says Diane March, training and development specialist. Costs for the annual training mandates, when coupled with orientation training, were onerous in terms of both time and money, she adds.

The provider had been conducting annual safety training in one fell swoop. March’s department set up booths in the conference room that employees moved through. Each booth was dedicated to a different training subject.

“It would take about an hour to go through the training,” March says. “When we factored in all the costs and the hourly wages for the employees who coordinated it and the ones who attended, it was expensive.”

To cut those costs, the healthcare provider turned to online training five years ago. It now uses the learning management system from GeoLearning of Des Moines.

Standard and non-standard training

The system includes a library of 80 standard training courses that business owners can purchase directly from the site on an as-needed basis, says Frank Russell, GeoLearning president and chief executive officer.

The cost for a training course is $4.95 per employee. Employees read the content and may watch video or listen to audio tied to that content. The employees are then tested via the module on what they’ve read. To ensure tangible results, employees must retake the course -- answering different questions each time -- until they score 100 percent.

Another Web-based product, used by SwedishAmerican, allows users to design their own training courses via the GeoLearning site. 

“We condensed what was in the booths and put it into PowerPoint presentations with quizzes attached to measure employee learning,” March says. “We’ve saved a great deal of money doing that.”

When considering online training don’t forget about pulling useful training from the Web, says Kerry Patterson, chief development officer at VitalSmarts, which primarily conducts classroom training.

His company does offer Web-based video clips that play out common work or meeting issues. In one such clip, one employee will continually interrupt another, for example. These types of clips are also available via YouTube and other web sites and serve as a good way to get employees talking about common workplace issues, Patterson says.

SIDEBAR: Benefits of Online Training

  • Training can be pegged to an event -- like the introduction of a new sales system -- or can be offered on an as-needed basis, says Sanjay Dholakia, senior vice president at online training company SumTotal.
  • Training can be done closer to when employees need the new skills. Fomerly, SwedishAmerican gave employees a full day of orientation training. Now, employees get some of that training via the Web closer to the time they’ll actually use it on the job, March says.
  • Businesses can save materials-printing costs, save the cost of transporting employees from other sites for training days, and cut speaker costs with Web-based training.
  • The tests offered in conjunction with web-based training modules ensure employees comprehend the issues, March says. “New employees would come into the hospital and sit in an auditorium and have 20 people talk all day on different topics,” she says. “We were hoping people were paying attention, but we had no way to measure their learning.”
  • Employees can log on to the computer and go through a training module on their own time. Training doesn’t need to be scheduled for all employees at the same time. Some training companies, Brainshark is one, allow employees to access training solutions via handheld device so they could take a course even while in the field.