What’s Best: An Online Course, Internal Organizational Academy or External Training?


“Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients”.

-Sir Richard Branson

Employee training is a challenge faced by all organizations which seek to develop. By professionally and socially investing in employees, the organization improves, raises morale and increases employee retention. Long story short – everyone benefits. While all this sounds great, one problem remains: where should you start?

According to the American Staffing Association Workforce Monitor survey, 61% of employees believe they will be more effective if offered additional training. 60% claim many professional mistakes are caused by a lack of appropriate training.

HR, OD or L&D executives who seek to professionally optimise company employees find themselves trying everything. So what are each one’s methods, pros and cons?

(Internal Organizational Academy is a good solution for soft skills, but less suitable if you want to inject new knowledge to the company.Photo by  You X Ventures on Unsplash)

Option #1: Online Course

Digital courses seem to be the easiest way to turn employees into talents. Coursera, Udemy and other successful platforms offer thousands of relevant, up-to-date courses for a monthly subscription fee. Some of the courses also include exercises, intermediate exams and final exams that make the training measurable.

The learning process is quite simple: the employee gets a username and password, logs in during his or her free time and learns according to his or her own pace. This is also an effective solution from a financial perspective, as a large number of employees can be trained with a relatively small investment. This, however, is exactly where the disadvantages stem from.

Digital learning does not create a true learning atmosphere. The employees does not leave their workstation and their attention must be able to rapidly change focus – an urgent task may come up, a colleague may have a question or a manager who needs to speak to him or her right now. Without more students who share a desire to learn being at the employee’s side and the lack of a real, live human teacher – the commitment to learning diminishes quickly. This is probably the reason only 4%-8% of employees who start an online course end up completing it.

In addition, the courses are not tailored to the organization’s business and learning objectives, meaning the employee may learn new content but it doesn’t necessarily contribute to or upgrade the organization in any way.

Option #2: Internal Organizational Academy

Many organizations choose to take matters into their own hands by setting up in-house academies. This has proven to be a very effective solution for soft skill purposes, such as professional seminars, on-boarding new employees, tests, implementing new work procedures and more.

A key advantage of an internal academy is when it comes to learning soft skills such as networking, timeliness, teamwork and more. These skills are designed to improve the social skills of the employees so that they match the spirit of the company. But when it comes to professional training, the “homey” atmosphere is a disadvantage. When someone from within the organization trains you, it actually circulates knowledge which already exists within the organization rather than bringing in new knowledge from the outside.

(Only 4%-8% of employees who start an online course end up completing it. Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash)

Option #3: External Training

The third solution is to be trained by external professionals, who tailor focused training programs to the organization and either conduct them in the office or at a learning campus outside of the offices. These trainings are led by professional instructors, who provide the organization with new knowledge and lead the sessions in classrooms.

This method’s training only begins after the organization’s needs are defined with the organization’s help; this allows the ensuing training to be relevant for the organization’s needs. This process includes preliminary assessment tests, which identify the employees who have the appropriate skills needed in order to successfully complete the training.

Based on the Blended Learning methodology, this solution combines the advantages of the two previous methods. First off, it includes online learning that includes a lot of accessible content that can be self-taught, video and text integration and online practice with immediate feedback. Second, it involves classroom learning with professional support which mostly comes from fellow student peers.

This methodology is not just theoretical. According to Elevation, course completion rates are over 90%. This significant difference increases employee effectiveness, contributes to staff members’ sense of success and brings a wealth of new knowledge into the organization. Upgrading employees’ and helping them reskill/upskill allows them to become experts and talents in areas which are in-demand in the organization within a short period of time. This is a crucial component in turning employees into talents.

And what happens if you get stuck?

When you learn something new, you always get stuck – it’s inevitable. A teaching assistant who is physically in the classroom helps each student continue studying and prevents him or her from quitting due to an unresolved problem. In addition, when the other students in the class are at the same level and stuck in the same places, they, too, can help and the communication in the classroom becomes much more effective – especially when compared to people who study alone and are forced to look for solutions in online forums, where one receives ready-made answers instead of help in solving the problem.

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