Deploying, tracking and managing workplace training is an uphill battle. Worker diversity, changing regulations and dispersed workforces only increase the challenge. Fortunately, online training tools have matured in recent years in ways that can help you overcome these obstacles and ensure your people have the information they need to perform their jobs safely.

The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to review your training challenges, and consider online solutions that align with your needs. Following, we look at common workplace training challenges, and how today’s online solutions can help ease those burdens.

Supporting workplace diversity

Today’s workforce is more diverse than ever, whether you are looking through a lens of traditional demographic factors like ethnicity, language, gender, age and education; or through the equally important lens of subjective factors like preferred learning styles, experience and incentives.

Consider, according to estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, foreign-born persons in the U.S. comprise nearly 17 percent of the total workforce. And while it’s estimated that nearly half of all U.S. workers will be millennials by 2020, there’s also data that suggests the labor force will continue to age. Workers aged 45-59 years-old are projected to increase from 25.6 percent to 31.8 percent, while those in the 60+ age bracket will rise from 4.7 percent to 7.8 percent by 2030.

What does this mean for employers? As the workforce diversifies, employers will be forced to evolve their training methods to meet a wider variety of employee needs. To that end, a good on-demand training solution offers an extensive library of flexible online courses, on a variety of EHS topics, with content that is interactive and engaging.

Plus, freed from a centralized classroom environment, workers are able to access courses from remote locations, learn at their own pace, and engage in a “bite-sized” learning approach that is particularly appealing to millennial workers. Shorter, more digestible training courses help keep employees interested in the information being conveyed, and EHS industry experts expect to see this bite-sized approach to grow in popularity.

For managers, a good system provides visibility and control over training logistics across the entire enterprise. Unlike paper-based systems or complex spreadsheets, training management software provides an easy, centralized source of information that allows you to drill down on the individual employee level, or see trends aggregated from across your organization.

And that information can be quickly shared throughout the organization, from front-line management to facility management to the executive suite. That level of insight makes it easier to get in front of training challenges, and to ensure that all employees are where they are supposed to be in their training.

Overcoming regulatory challenges

Employers face an evolving web of training-related regulatory requirements. Of course, when regulatory requirements change, your training requirements must usually change, too. Failure to keep up puts employees in harm’s way and leads to fines, decreased productivity, rising workers’ comp claims, or even litigation expenses. Your task is to ensure that employees are aware of changes — and then be able to prove it when strictly-enforced training requirements are under the microscope.

Training management software is an effective means for ensuring training keeps pace with regulatory changes. It’s the ability to know in real-time which employees are due for training, are training, or have completed training. Good systems also help manage the communication around training deadlines.

This type of oversight not only benefits organizations with tens of thousands of employees spread out over multiples plants, facilities or jurisdictions, but also those employers with workers at one location where keeping track of training is a legal obligation.

Greater accountability for training completion means fewer employees fall through the cracks. Helping employers stay ahead of course requirements means not having to play catch-up on missed training, so you and your people can focus on other important areas of worker safety and productivity.

Filling training gaps

Even with the most diligent training program in place, hazards and risks can happen faster than expected in the workplace. That’s why it’s necessary – even required by law in a number of jurisdictions throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, Asia, and Australia – to have regular and frequent check-ins between management and employees to ensure best practices are being followed and kept top of mind.

However, coordinating and managing these safety meetings presents its own set of challenges, such as: finding a time everyone can come together; staying on topic; tracking which employees were present for which session; and following-up on important action items and issues discussed. Too often safety meetings are avoided and their efficacy questioned, despite the fact that they’ve been shown to directly reduce the number of severe workplace incidents and injuries in the workplace.

Safety meeting management is another area where technology has simplified the process. A good EHS software solution provides the tools necessary to efficiently record, track, distribute and report important safety meeting information across the entire organization, as well as archive the information for compliance purposes. Meeting schedules, agendas, notes, roles and responsibilities, action item status, and all other meeting documentation can be recorded and housed in one centralized system, and routed to attendees and other stakeholders via email.

Effective safety training in 2018 and beyond

As workplace safety challenges increase in complexity, training programs must also evolve. Technology continues to provide faster, better and easier ways to manage workplace hazards, leaving it up to employers to adopt online programs that ensure worker safety remains paramount not just in 2018, but for years to come.