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The need for companies to upskill employees has become increasingly important as traditional organizations strive to keep up with change, stay ahead of competitors, and expand digital capabilities. E-learning programs have the potential to equip businesses with the skills and confidence they need to leverage tools like big data, eCommerce, and omnichannel experiences. 

It’s a win-win for everyone. Employees gain new expertise in high-demand skill sets like digital marketing, data, and martech/adtech. Companies benefit from having a highly trained workforce who can leverage new technologies and approaches to fuel growth. Customers and consumers benefit when the brands and organizations they trust can effectively accommodate their changing behaviors, needs, and expectations.

Since not all learning programs, platforms, or companies are the same, it can be difficult to know where to begin when choosing the right upskilling program for your business. Building a successful upskilling program for your employees starts with identifying the skills your organization needs to achieve a given digital initiative. Our recent article on how to identify capability gaps provides detailed guidance on identifying skills gaps so you can create an effective upskilling program.

Once you've clearly outlined your learning goal or goals, identified capability and skill gaps, and outlined your learning objectives, you'll be ready to find a digital learning platform that's right for your team and organization.


Types of upskilling programs and approaches

If you're upskilling employees in a mid-to-large organization, it's helpful to understand the main types of e-learning approaches digital skills providers use to facilitate training. They include: 

  • Microlearning – Individual mobile-first lessons that can be consumed in short bursts of around 10 minutes. 
  • Blended learning – Combination of traditional classroom experiences with technology-enabled methods like online courses, simulations and virtual worlds.
  • Learning platforms – Online learning hubs that allow employees to access course material and monitor their progress from a central location.  
  • Gamification - Incorporates game elements (e.g., points, leaderboards, badges) into the learning process to increase engagement and motivation.
  • Interactive learning - Uses clickable elements like images, buttons, and graphics to guide learners through an interactive lesson.
  • Asynchronous online learning - Uses pre-recorded lectures and online material that can be accessed whenever and wherever the learner chooses.
  • Customized e-learning programs - Tailored learning programs designed to address your organization's specific learning needs.

Most e-learning providers and platforms use a combination of the above as the foundation for their online learning program. The most effective and accessible programs should address all learning styles and skill levels, be mindful of your employees' time, and provide adequate follow-up and support to your learners.  


10 questions to ask when choosing an upskilling partner

When you’re ready to select an upskilling partner, asking the right questions can provide guidance for your L&D team, ensure the content you need is covered, and narrow down the list of providers to those that best meet your needs. 


1. What does their lesson library look like?  

Just as upskilling needs vary by organization, so does the type and focus of learning materials. Our own learning programs are focused on helping companies build digital capabilities with a lesson library that includes topics that support digital transformation (e.g., data & analytics, content/channel optimization, eCommerce, digital literacy, etc.) 

When scoping out providers, find out what lessons or programs they offer, how they're offered (e.g., online, offline, hybrid), and what types of clients they work with. Look for companies within your market and business type, since that's an indication the provider will have a strong understanding of your learning goals and capability needs.


2. Do they leverage mobile-first approaches? 

According to our internal research, 70% of learners are more motivated when they train on their mobile device. They also spend about 14 minutes more training on a mobile phone versus a computer or tablet.

A mobile-friendly learning platform should support learners on any device or platform. But it's not just about mobile-friendly infrastructure. You should be asking if the lessons themselves are mobile friendly, meaning they're short and use content like animations, TV presenters, and video, all of which work really well on mobile. Our Spotlight Lessons are designed using this approach so that learning is accessible for remote employees, those who are traveling, and those who have limited time to spare.


3. What is their content development approach?

Your learning partner needs to offer the right lessons and content for your specific learning goals, but this isn’t the only thing to evaluate when choosing the right provider. You should also pay close attention to the quality of the lesson content.

Ask how they create their content – what expertise and research informs each lesson? Also, ask about their content updates policy - do they regularly add or update lessons? Are their courses up-to-date with the latest industry trends and technology advancements? Look for a provider who regularly adds new lessons and is committed to staying current.


4. Do they provide tailored programs to meet your specific learning objectives?

It can be confusing to sift through the many classes and course options offered by different learning companies. Mid-to-large-sized companies have different upskilling needs than smaller startups or job seekers who may be fine using providers like LinkedIn or Google. These companies target people looking to gain certifications and skills versus organizations looking to re-skill their existing workforce.

Make sure you understand the type of support your learning partner will provide to you as you seek to match courses with needed capabilities. At Circus Street, we work with clients to tailor learning programs to specific capability gaps by mapping courses to specific objectives. Our platform supports the learning process. When employees log in, they have clear guidance on what lessons to take, how long each lesson is, and can see a chart of their progress.


5. How are they different from other learning providers?

Organizations that truly want to educate their employees, need high-quality lessons that go beyond free or superficial content. Ask what makes the learning provider different. Some value-added features to look for include:

  • High-quality unique content – Look for professional and original lessons created using experienced scriptwriters, animators, and presenters (so that learners stay engaged.)
  • Multiple language support – larger companies located throughout multiple regions and countries need lessons in various languages. Our lessons, for example, are translated into 12 languages, with more planned.
  • System integration - Many companies have existing LMS or LXP systems in place. Look for the ability to integrate your learning partner's platform within your existing learning infrastructure.
  • Easy onboarding - Make sure the learning platform is easy for employees to access with features like single sign-on, intuitive navigation, and robust in-lesson support.


6. Can they help assess your team and their skills gaps?

The right learning partner is just that - a partner. They’ll work with you to gain the insights you need at a team and organizational level to fill skills gaps preparing your company for the future. At Circus Street, we work with our clients to strategically build learning opportunities mapped to the skills their organisation needs and their employees want. 

Connecting organisational skills recommendations to personal goals provides you with a base learning program that  is exciting for employees and helps drive learning program completion.


7. How do they track usage and impact?

Upskilling programs need to deliver measurable results. Ask how the learning provider will track learner usage and engagement levels, and learner progress (in terms of knowledge gained.) You should be able to access this data quickly when making decisions about the success of your program. Look for a platform that allows you to easily monitor course completion, engagement levels and learner performance. 

You should also be able to measure whether the upskilling program is making a difference in terms of employee performance. The right learning partner can work with you to define proficiency measures that help you gauge current employee skill levels before, during, and after course completion.


8. Who have they worked with?

It's important to understand the types of companies and industries that your learning partner has experience working with. Have they worked with large enterprises, small startups, or both? What challenges have they helped clients overcome? Look for a provider with case studies and customer stories that demonstrate how their solutions have made an impact on similar organizations like yours. Also assess reach—do they deliver content to multiple countries and languages? 


9. Ask about lesson completion rate.

The lesson completion rate formula is the total number of learners, divided by the number of learners who have completed the course. A high completion rate is a good indicator that the upskilling program is engaging enough for learners to finish it. At Circus Street, our lesson completion rate is 89%. That's because we work hard at creating engaging lessons and delivering them in ways the modern learners can easily access.

Also remember that cheaper isn’t necessarily better. The important metric is your cost of learning output. If you choose a cheap provider but no one engages with the content, then your cost of learning output is higher than one that is more expensive, but that learners complete.  

Ask your provider what their average lesson completion rate across all courses is - this will give you an idea as to how successful they are in sustaining learners’ attention and motivation. 


10. What kind of support do they provide?

Finally, make sure you fully understand the level of customer service you can expect from your learning provider. Will they provide one-on-one support as you're setting up your program?  How do they ensure that the lesson plan you create matches your company's learning objectives? A learning partner should be just that—a partner—who is as invested and engaged with building the right upskilling program as you are.

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