A combination of strategies exists for selling senior leaders on online safety compliance training. Most safety professionals will employ a mix of “business cases,” giving some more emphasis than others. It depends on the personality, biases, likes and dislikes of your leadership.

1) Review the basic advantages of online training — anytime, anywhere access; flexible scheduling; less downtime; better productivity; self-pacing, self-direction, and independent learning — all critical principles of adult learning.

Online training allows for realistic simulations, avatars, customization and company branding, content modifications, decision-making challenges, the ability to return to a subject anytime, anywhere to help retain knowledge. With a talking head lecture, a student cannot hit a pause button, a replay button to review what was not absorbed the first time around. Online training allows for fun with games.

When combined with a learning management system, online safety compliance training can be automatically analyzed for attendance, competence (test results), and for scheduling and notifying employees.

2) Use statistics to show online learning has reached the tipping point in business, education and healthcare — on a global scale.

We are a long, long way from 1995, when online training began to take off. Revenues for self-paced eLearning in North America reached $21.9 billion in 2011, according to researchers Ambient Insights. North America is by far the top buying country for self-paced eLearning.

According to Dr. Tony Bates of Contact North Research, online learning is poised to shift from the periphery to the mainstream.

This paradigm change is being driven in part by education policies. In early 2012, Japan authorized the online programs of 54 universities and 11 distance education junior colleges. In June 2012, Italy was on track to equip 34,600 middle school classrooms and 62,600 high school classrooms with computers and digital content. The Israeli government intends to replace all print-based textbooks with digital books by 2015. The Chinese government’s goal is to have its entire K-12 population of more than 200 million students online by 2020. By 2015, more than 17.3 million U.S. students will take at least one online course.

3) Use statistics to show the use of tech devices by the workforce, and their comfort level with technology. The majority of employed adults in the U.S. (62 percent) use the Internet or email at their job. Some 45 percent of employed Americans report doing at least some work from home, and 18 percent of working Americans say they do job-related tasks at home almost daily, according to Pew Research. As of December, 2012, 87 percent of American adults had a cell phone, and 45 percent had a smartphone. As of January, 2013, 26 percent of American adults owned an e-book reader, 31 percent owned a tablet computer, 61 percent owned a laptop computer, and 58 percent owned a desktop computer, according to Pew Research.

4) Use research and statistics to show that the future workforce — today’s K-12 students, college students and recent grads, the twenty-somethings — will be even more comfortable with online learning. Many will expect online learning on the job. As of 2011, more than 320,000 primary and secondary students in the U.S. attended virtual schools or cyber charter schools fulltime. More than 6.7 million, or roughly one-third, of all students enrolled in postsecondary education took an online course for credit in 2011, according to the Babson Survey Research Group.

5) Restate the case: Compliance is the necessary legal thing to do, yes, but significantly, it is the beginning of building safety awareness, safety commitment, the sense of safety responsibility, of making safety beliefs and activities part of the organization’s culture. All this benefits the organization in terms of brand reputation, social responsibility and sustainability.

6) Give leaders the background story. The safety profession widely acknowledges that many safety training sessions are poorly delivered. OSHA penalties for the absence of required training, or training inefficiencies, back this up. With more than seven million workplaces in the U.S., it is not surprising that many organizations use, as one safety pro describes, “The same old same old videos and PowerPoint decks. It is boring, repetitive, mindless time spent checking the boxes of government-required training. It does nothing discernible to improve the safety culture or downstream safety metrics. Nothing that builds commitment.”

7) Show your understanding of adult learning principles. Online training will eliminate many of the downsides of what currently is in use and not working well. Your plan is not simply to automate boredom. Adult learners must be motivated by a desire to learn. They want to see the consequences of their learning. They want learning to be practical and relevant. Otherwise, they’ll go through the motions, speed through the content, multi-tasking all the while, and guess at test questions. Another adult learning principle: Mixed mode training — a blend of visual (video, etc.), auditory (discussion time) and kinesthetic (hands-on demonstrations) learning styles — meets the three basic learning methods of adults. Mixed mode training occurs over a matter of months. It “blends in” with online content.

Explain online training will follow the personalized system of instruction by Fred S. Keller. Start with small “wins” in retention and knowledge gained to build feelings of self-efficacy (“I can do it”) and competence.

8) Grab the attention of numerous executives: “Mindless” training does nothing to truly prevent serious injuries and fatalities (SIFs). Overall injury rates of U.S. businesses have been declining for years, but not SIFs. This is a concern in many c-suites. One task force of Fortune 500 companies has banded together to figure out how to lower SIFs. The last thing a senior leader wants to do is make that phone call to the family of a worker seriously disabled, perhaps permanently, or worse, killed in a workplace incident.

Excerpted with permission from Vivid Learning Systems’ White Paper, “How to Get Senior Leadership ‘Buy In’ For Online Safety Training” (www.LearnAtVivid.com).