Business booms for online learning provider

An online learning provider has seen business boom throughout the coronavirus pandemic as lockdown employees looked to upskill.

IMPROVE Online launched its online training platform, created specifically to serve the needs of SMEs that want a practical and cost-effective way to upskill employees, in January 2020.

With demand for e-learning skyrocketing during lockdown, IMPROVE Online has seen its average usage figures sharply increase to 41%, which it says is significantly higher than the learning management system national average of 14%.

In addition to IMPROVE Online benefiting from the growing popularity of online learning, the business also decided to diversify at a crucial time.

In April, it launched Partner Hub; an online portal that gives HR service providers a way of white labelling IMPROVE courses to offer learning and development to their own SME clients or to instantly bolster their own provision.

One of its most recent customers is the East Midlands Chamber.

Lucy Robinson, director of resources at the East Midlands Chamber, said: “The Chamber is keen to continue to support development for its employees and the IMPROVE platform has enabled us to move some training online maintaining development and delivering legislative updates and changes.  We recognise the need to develop skills and support our people especially in challenging climates, this helps to ensure we can continue to deliver quality services to our members.”

Steve Walker, CEO of IMPROVE Online, said: “We’re certainly seeing a period of growth for online training as you might expect from the challenging conditions of lockdown – IMPROVE was launched in early 2020 and we already have an established base of SME clients and 60 Partner Hub HR consultancy partners in just five weeks. This is particularly pleasing when you consider what this means for UK SMEs who are the ones exclusively using our training platform.

“This may be an unprecedented time for both businesses and individuals, but it also presents new opportunities, particularly for SMEs aiming for rapid growth. Not only has there been an employee base, furloughed or still active, with time to focus on development, but it’s been a rare chance for SMEs to plan what will be their “new normal” way of working.

“Online learning has very rapidly proved its value during the Coronavirus pandemic and its fortunate that we were prepared and in a great position to meet that demand. We’re confident that the trend for e-learning will continue – it takes 40% to 60%* less time to complete a course online than in a classroom which makes it far more productive for SMEs. As well as being efficient and engaging, it supports flexible working styles by giving employees the ability to select when they learn, at a pace that suits them. It also aids staff retention which is again invaluable for SMEs.”

Lockdown has been a time of rapid business development for IMPROVE Online. An in-house team was created to regularly develop new content and, as there are no other existing SME-only courses on the market, IMPROVE has had to develop its own language and strategy to meet the specific set of requirements of its customers.

Speed of development and adaption has also been central to the success of IMPROVE Online. Since its January inception, IMPROVE has developed more than 60 courses for SMEs around the core areas they need to run a business and has a further 30 in production, including new areas such as working from home and wellbeing.

Walker added: “Resilience is currently the name of the game; encouraging SMEs to invest in training now is also about securing their future, and by extension, the client base of the HR consultancy we also work with.”

Stacey Garland, business manager at Leicester-based S&L Personnel which uses the IMPROVE Online platform, said: “Our plan for 2020 is to focus on employee communication and engagement with a specific aim to upskill our teams by allowing them more opportunities for professional and personal development. Whilst Covid-19 has brought its challenges, the timing of this strategy roll out was actually perfect as it allowed us to remotely reach out to all of our employees working from home, and for those furloughed, giving them an opportunity to learn new skills via the training platform and ultimately creating another method of keeping in touch with us.

“We have received so much positive feedback from our colleagues who love the freedom of logging into the platform and completing the virtual training from any location. The system will benefit us all long-term as we continue to grow and will enable us to nurture our employees and attract new talent.”