We live in times when projects and teams reach across locations and countries, when resources are narrow, organisations and teams operate in global networks and digitalization is unstoppable. In times like these it seems that webinars are a perfect solution in terms of employee development and training. And from an HR point of view the pro-arguments seem very promising.
Webinar vs. face-to-face training – the advantages
For a webinar you just turn on your computer, connect with the internet and the training can start. No packing or travel time. No traffic jams or other time wasters. And it’s relatively easy to find a suitable date for the live session. 60-90 minutes of virtual training are much more compatible with any schedule than one or more days of office absence due to a face-to-face training.
Webinars do not cause costs for training rooms, travel expenses or similar things linked to a face-to-face training. Furthermore the trainer times and therewith trainer costs can be reduced to a minimum.
Another advantage is that webinars open more and new possibilities for participants. Any courses are available: no matter how far they are away or at which time they take place.
All these factors added up, it isn’t surprising that the number of webinar suppliers is increasing and that also traditional face-to-face institutes make themselves ready in order to also offer their services in form of webinars. But not all webinars are equal. There are big differences in quality and gained learning effectiveness out there. If organisations “just do a webinar” they risk losings in terms of learning transfer and reasonable and measurable goals and achievments. And the risks start in-house.
If you deal with the following risks/chances in order to minimize/maximize them you can offer valuable webinars and high quality impulses for your employees’ development.
Your 7-step-guide for effective Webinars
Step 1: Define reasonable goals
What do you want to reach with the webinar? Which competencies should your employees learn from it? How should their behaviour change? Which are the current challenges and problems to be solved? Defining reasonable and very clear goals is important in order that all involved parties – HR, trainer and participants – know what to do and where to go. After all, webinars should not be just a welcome distraction on a working day but should deliver real results and applicable impulses. However, it’s important to balance ambitious goals and the benefits a webinar can actually bring. Realistic evaluation is key as the following step points out.
Step 2: Establish realistic expectations
Even if optimized to the max, webinars won’t substitute intensive face-to-face trainings. And you can’t expect them to do so in terms of the amount of results, outcome and learned behaviour. But what you can expect them to be is a quick-win: valuable and easy-applicable ideas, impulses, tips and tricks for your employees working challenges.
Step 3: Analyse your target group
For whom is the webinar intended for? How does a typical working day of these persons look like? What are their special responsibilities and challenges? Which competencies do they need? Are they from the same department, from the same organisation, from the same country? What about their infrastructure, working times, working place and so on? The better you know the target group of your webinar, the better your trainers can tailor-made the webinar contents for your intended purpose and the more effective and successful the webinar will be.
Step 4: Find the language
The more numerous and international your participant teams are the harder it is to find the one language suitable for everybody to understand and to communicate. Frequently English might be the choice but for certain groups it can also be a totally different language or even two different ones used simultaneously. In any case, it’s important to consider language specifications when setting up your webinar.
Step 5: Provide the technical support and requirements
Having a stable internet connection with a high bit rate is a must. It’s also recommended to consult your IT department and to agree on a webinar tool suitable with your company’s IT standards. And – the importance of this point can’t be overstated – you really have to do a performance test of your tool and your internet connection with regard to the maximum number of participants. If you miss to care for these three factors you risk bad surprises during the live sessions.
Step 6: Take care for suitable working places
Things to keep in mind are: Do participants have their own working places? What about laptops, screens and headsets? For an effective webinar experience the participants need a place where they can totally concentrate and focus on the webinar. Furthermore breakout rooms might be useful to give the participants some space to discuss little tasks or topics face-to-face and in small groups.
Step 7: Internal communication and learning process
Although awareness and popularity of webinars rise, their process and specialties aren’t yet self-evident for employees. It’s important to have a well-considered chain of communication and information and to implement a learning process rather than “just a webinar”. For effective webinars an information and learning process contains at least the following steps:
- Start: Inform your employees about process and goals of the webinar
- Preparation: Pre-readings and little tasks to familiarize with the webinar topic
- Live situation: the webinar itself, 60-90 minutes
- Follow-up: Post-readings, little tasks to be accomplishes on-the-job and evaluation of the goals