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Online Training is Essential for Everyone

During lockdown, companies across the industry were faced with a challenge – how best to continue delivering vital training? Simon Horn, Technical Development Manager at Stewart Milne Timber Systems shares his top tips for switching to online.

As we begin to emerge from lockdown restrictions, there is a common understanding across the UK that we may not see life return to the way it was for some time.

We may be returning to construction sites, but many other aspects of the industry are likely to continue remotely – such as training. In fact, at Stewart Milne Timber Systems, we’ve found online training so successful, we plan to continue it for years to come.

As the UK’s leading provider of precision engineered timber system solutions, online training has enabled us to continue to share our unrivalled expertise gathered over the past 40 years. Alongside various other companies, we embraced virtual communication tools to deliver as seamless a service as possible to our customers during lockdown. In April, we adapted our training model to deliver a series of webinars to our clients Taylor Wimpey, L&Q (London & Quadrant) Housing Association, Countryside Properties, Bellway Homes and regional contractor Hodgkinson Builders.  In addition we increased our direct engagement with architectural practices keen to progress offsite manufacture using timber frame.

Our online training sessions have been well attended with over 300 participants joining from all levels and roles within the construction industry.  Traditionally our sessions have been capped at 30 per event, however the simple switch to online has enabled us to increase our audience reach by almost 50%.

Our online training programme has revolutionised the way we can communicate and interact directly with our clients. It may have been necessitated by COVID-19, but feedback from attendees has been overwhelmingly positive – so much so, that plans are now in place for the online training sessions to be a regular forum, in tandem with the in-person training at our Witney offsite manufacturing facility and our on-site construction training.

But it’s not just as simple as taking existing material and delivering it online. You need to adapt to deliver a successful, well received online training session.

What to consider when making the switch to online training:

  1. Which platform is best?

We deliver online training through Microsoft Teams, but had trialled several platforms before deciding this. The right platform will vary depending on your company and approach, but for us, the main benefit is the option to use the ‘Chat’ facility. It allows our attendees to ask questions throughout the workshop, which I can address at the end without interrupting the flow of the presentation.

  1. Does your content work online?

We found it important to consider how to speak to an online audience, recognising that while the content and key messages may remain the same, interactive elements and visual aids may not translate as well to this new platform. I suggest you consider adapting and identifying alternatives.

  1. Visual tools are still important.

I use samples and graphics heavily, even online, as this helps bring things to life. However, it’s important to spend time discussing these to make sure the learning is taken away, particularly as participants are now viewing through a screen. We’re looking forward to where this online training can take us, and how many more clients we will be able to reach, train and educate this way.

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