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The Surprising Truth About Employee Training Completion Rates and 7 Strategies for Increasing Them

Does that sound familiar? You created a vital online training for your staff, for example, on filing reimbursement claims. At the end of the course, you check completion rates: only 20% of your employees made it through the course. You can already envision their emails in your inbox. “How do I hand in travel receipts?” “How long until my claim is processed?” “What exactly do I need to hand in again?” Wearily you massage your nose as you contemplate how much time – and how many nerves – this will cost you.

You've tried everything to get your staff to take the training. You emphasised the importance of knowing the ins and outs of the reimbursement process, you even threatened to not reimburse faulty claims (that didn't go well). You don't love online trainings either but you wish there would be a way to make people take the course and save yourself countless emails.

Even if you don't struggle with your employees completing reimbursement courses, you most likely know how difficult it is to motivate your staff to complete trainings.

Low completion rates of corporate online training are a costly and time-consuming problem.

Investing in employees is the key to increasing business success. Companies that train their staff have a 24% higher profit margin than those that don't. Therefore, it is crucial to boost employee training completion rates – both for the benefit of staff and the company as a whole.

What Are the Average Completion Rates in Digital Employee Training?

Completion rates for online courses can be dismal. On average online courses have a completion rate of just 15%. This figure can vary for different target groups (students vs employees) or course types (Massive Open Online Courses vs smaller, more targeted course offerings), but in general, most online courses are not completed. Studies have even found dropout rates as high as 96% for some offers. This means more than 9 out of 10 learners drop their online course, despite initially planning to complete it.

Why Does Increasing Employee Training Completion Rates Matter?

The world of work is rapidly changing. The rise of AI, the emergence of new employment sectors, the impact of climate change – these factors will determine how we live and work in the next decades.

Forbes sees upskilling and retraining as an essential business strategy for 2023. Workers need short-term programs, ideally incorporated into their work that are connected to their goals and expertise.

Robust workplace reskilling and lifelong training programs will become even more important in the future. Many of these reskilling programs will be offered online to ensure flexibility and accessibility. Moreover, online trainings are usually more cost-effective, making them attractive to employers who want to strike a balance between costs and outcomes.

Companies that want to retain talent and train their employees for the future of work will have to invest substantially in upskilling and lifelong learning programs. However, investing in these offers will bring no results unless the training programs are completed. Moreover, research has shown that only 1 in 4 companies even measure the success of their learning strategies.

Thus, companies must not only invest in creating training offers but also in ensuring that the completion rates of their employee training programs are high.

Completion rates are one of the most useful metrics to measure and showcase the success of your training program, particularly if the program has no final exam attached to it.

While completion rates themselves tell you little about learning outcomes and course satisfaction, they are easy to collect and understand. If your course isn't completed, it's safe to say that your participants learned very little (if anything). High completion rates are therefore an important metric when assessing the success of a program.

What Are Common Reasons for Low Completion Rates in Employee Training Programs?

Low completion rates indicate an underlying problem with the course that needs to be addressed. Some of the most common causes for dropping out of online courses are:

  • Lack of motivation
  • Unclear goal-setting and signposting
  • Lack of support and community
  • Poor expectation management

Luckily, it is possible to increase employee training completion rates. If learning is connected to community and intelligent course design, completion rates of online courses can increase to up to 90%.

Which Strategies Increase Employee Training Completion Rates?

Each learner is different. Each course has its challenges. No solution will ever address every problem. However, with these proven techniques, you can dramatically increase the completion rates of your training, create engaging digital learning environments, and build a successful and productive team.

1. Have a Strategy

When designing employee training, you will have to make a few strategic decisions early on:

a. What are the key takeaways from the lessons? Which information is optional?

By creating a program with mandatory and optional lessons, you can give your participants the agency to decide which topics they want to pursue more in-depth. Agency is important because it gives learners a sense of ownership and responsibility, increasing the chances that they will complete the course. Training objectives should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) and align with the overall strategy and goals of your organisation.

b. What is the best format for the training?

Online trainings are an accessible, cost-sensible alternative to offline offers. However, you have to consider that not everybody is suited to learning digitally or has experience studying online. Make sure that participants are comfortable with the format and include offline components if possible. These can be as simple as an in-person kick-off session.

c. Evaluate constantly

Check-in with participants through surveys and feedback requests throughout the course and make sure to implement the feedback in the course design. Completion rates are a great way to measure the success of the course but don't discount quantitative feedback. Ensure that your employees feel like they have a stake in the course by taking their feedback and suggestions seriously and adjusting the training accordingly.

2. Communicate Clearly and Often

Make sure that your participants know exactly what is expected of them, what they will gain by attending the course, and how they can achieve their goals. Indicate how much time and effort they have to invest.

If you want to increase your employee training completion rates, include plenty of signposting in your course. Check-in with learners throughout the training and offer support, guidance, and positive reinforcement. When creating a course, ensure that there is a structure that allows employees to talk to you and receive feedback.

3. Simplify! Simplify! Simplify!

Nothing is more daunting than logging into an online course and staring at 100 PDFs and 25 videos just waiting to be completed. Even the most motivated learner will quickly feel defeated.

Microlearning is the key! This gamification strategy has been proven to increase completion rates. Breaking large tasks into small units that give learners a sense of achievement will motivate them, particularly if they have a certain freedom in choosing which elements to learn first.

Even better: Combine microlearning with storytelling to create a truly compelling learning ecosystem that will increase your employee training completion rates.

4. Create Incentives

Incentives are a key tool in any strategy that aims to boost motivation. Reward employees for completing difficult tasks, logging in regularly, engaging with each other, or writing posts in online forums. The beauty of incentives is that they can be used to increase any desired behaviour that is important to your goals and strategy.

Incentives can be adapted to the individual users and their needs and don't have to be elaborate. Sometimes a simple positive message is enough to increase motivation. Badges, leaderboards, or reward tokens are other popular features.

5. Provide Variety

Nobody likes reading one PDF after another or looking at an endless loop of videos. When designing your course, mix media and combine synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities. Ensure that participants have a chance to engage with each other and create a peer-to-peer learning community. Ask participants to share their content, and encourage group work and in-course communication. Not only will this support cross-functional communication and collaboration, but it will also increase employee training completion rates.

6. Issue Certifications

Certifications provide participants with a tangible recognition of their efforts and a way to showcase their newly acquired skills. This recognition can be a powerful motivator for course completion. Consider issuing certificates that employees can display on their LinkedIn profiles which adds a community component and increases motivation.

7. Factor in Time

Upskilling and continuing development should not be something that is just added to an already overwhelming workload. Make sure you create meaningful learning opportunities by giving employees enough time and resources to complete trainings and don't overburden them. Consider using microlearning sessions that focus on smaller learning units and are easy to incorporate into an already full workday.

Boosting Completion Rates Does Not Have To Be Difficult

A lot of different factors intersect when it comes to creating meaningful and engaging workplace trainings – individual goals, company strategy, learning methods, external disturbances, and training quality. However, investing in high-quality, motivating trainings – and ensuring they are completed – is worth it.

The 2023 LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report emphasised the importance of continuing development, employee empowerment, and talent retention. The lack of opportunities to learn and grow is among the top five reasons why staff leave, and younger employees in particular crave professional development training.

Creating meaningful trainings that are completed requires expertise and a fundamental understanding of the intersection between tech and education. Make sure you build on such expertise when designing or reassessing your corporate learning opportunities.

There is a myth that because most people have encountered some form of learning, they are innately capable of building an effective learning experience. Not true. You would not take your car to your dentist for an oil change even though your dentist drives a car.

Lori Niles-Hofmann
Senior Edtech Transformation Strategist, NilesNodel

Leave your teeth to your dentist and your online learning environment to us. Level Up builds on a decade of experience in the online education space to create effective digital trainings with amazing completion rates.

Level Up helps you set your employees and your company up for success by transforming corporate trainings into effective and exciting learning experiences. Boost employee training completion rates through strategic measures such as incentives, community-building, and microlearning.

Level Up features a range of products to make your online corporate trainings more effective and increase motivation and completion rates. Harness the power of gamification with Level Up XP, create compelling storylines with Quest, or let us build a custom solution for you. Level Up gives you almost endless, tailor-made opportunities to create successful and impactful trainings.

Talk to us about finding your perfect solution and start boosting completion rates immediately!

Frédéric Massart
Level Up Team
18 May 2023

At Level Up, we create gamification solutions that will set you apart.

Our products provide state-of-the-art gamification elements that easily transform your online courses and programs into gamified adventures. Talk to us about creating a customised gamification solution for you, and let the games begin!

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