2020 brought with it an unexpected paradigm shift with the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic that swept the world. Organisations found themselves discarding all their plans and assumptions for the year and staring at an empty drawing board with countries imposing lockdowns which forced organisations to shut down for the unforeseeable future.
The training industry was not spared from the domino effect of the pandemic, especially as the training season was just getting into full swing before Nigeria experienced its first major case. With the imposition of a lockdown, most staff found themselves with more idle time due to the design of the Nigerian working system which required staff to be present for work to occur. This increase in idle time brought to the spotlight the importance of virtual training, especially with a focus on instructor-led training, or so we thought. A survey conducted by Phillips Consulting (pcl.) identified that only 16% of organisations were open to Virtual training, while only 7% of organisations prioritised staff training during the lockdown period. However, before we go any further, let us cover some essential points.
What is Virtual Training?
Virtual training is any form of training done in a simulated environment. It also involves training that is run in environments where learners and their facilitators are not in the same location. Virtual training can come in various forms; some include webinars, e-learning courses, and virtual instructor-led training (VILT), to name but a few.
In Nigeria, most large organisations have adopted a Learning Management System (LMS), which they use to meet the quota of encouraging e-learning. However, most of the knowledge attained by staff usually come from classroom training attended throughout the year. This highlights the importance of classroom training to the personal development of employees within an organisation. With this knowledge, it would have been expected that organisations would be interested in the ability to keep their staff engaged and maintain knowledge growth in these times with the availability of virtual training. Instead, it was found to be the opposite which raised the question ‘why?’.
Virtual Training in the Nigerian context
In our recent experience deploying VILT, we discovered three recurring factors that explained the somewhat adverse reaction to virtual training by organisations. They are as follows:
1. The Broadband Issue
It is not news that broadband internet in Nigeria is nowhere as good as its counterpart in other countries. From the cost of data packages to their quality, it is safe to say that even when you think you have found the broadband provider for you, there are still areas of improvement and you can never know when it may fail. This fact has led to organisations being wary of taking up VILT for fear of spending money on training where 90% of the time is spent having to deal with broadband issues.
2. Participant Engagement Level
It can be said that maintaining participant engagement during a virtual training is no small feat, especially because participants are not physically present. Therefore, it is difficult to determine whether the participants are following the training or whether they just logged in and are busy with personal tasks. Also, since a physical classroom does not bound them, it is a lot easier for them to deal with work emails, attend meetings, etc. while the training runs. This leads to an increase in the scepticism of organisations with enrolling their employees for virtual training due to the perceived lack of discipline of staff in attendance.
3. The Cost Element
Lastly, due to the novelty of virtual training, organisations feel unable to justify paying for a VILT as they think that they may not get the same level of experience and value for money as they would with physical training. This factor is a significant cause of organisations choosing to put a hold on their training initiative in a bid to wait until physical training can commence.
However, the choice to wait for means a forced stall on the personal development of their staff during a period which provides more freedom to take on more training without any major effect on their work productivity.
Nevertheless, even with the factors above the perfect execution of virtual training (VILTs) is more than possible, even in the Nigerian environment. The following elements below are vital to ensuring a successful virtual training:
Although Nigeria is yet to immerse itself in the world of virtual training fully, it is safe to say that the current situation has unveiled the real value that can be achieved from a virtual training session if properly executed. So, it is time for training organisations to make the relevant investment in building their virtual training repertoire and for everyone else to understand that virtual training is the future that needs to be adopted now.