7 pitfalls to avoid when developing online training courses for employees
Instructional Design

7 pitfalls to avoid when developing online training courses for employees

Training is a very important part of your employees’ – and your company’s – development. Interestingly, what most people consider as the main problem with training is participation. But when developing training courses for employees, participation rates should be the least of your worries.

What if employees do get on board, and your online course disappoints them? What if they find it dull or too hard? Or if they’re not even sure why they are supposed to learn all this?
Even a minor overlook might be enough to ruin it for your employees and get them wondering if online training is worth their time and effort. Before you know it, engagement and knowledge retention go downhill. So much so, that they might as well have skipped training in the first place.

You can’t allow this to happen. In this post, you’ll explore 7 pitfalls to avoid when creating online training courses for your employees. You’ll also find tips to point you in the right direction. Here are the drawbacks we’re going to explore:

  1. Unclear learning objectives
  2. Not conducting a training needs analysis
  3. Leaving the fun out the door
  4. … and bringing in cognitive overload
  5. Poor user experience
  6. Not offering employees an incentive
  7. Ignoring the aftertaste


1. Unclear learning objectives

If you want to create a training program that will make a difference in employee performance, having a generic goal in mind is not enough. Say, for example, that you want to launch an online course in order to improve customer service. But how will you achieve “improved customer service”?

The specific skills that your employees will cultivate through your training course, from in-depth product knowledge to effective crisis management, are your learning objectives.

Without clear learning objectives, you’ll end up developing a training program that offers scattered information no one truly benefits from. And that’s a costly result, both time-wise and money-wise.

2. Not conducting a training needs analysis

When it comes to setting learning objectives, a training needs analysis will come to the rescue. Neglecting to carry out one is a potential reason why your training fails.

More specifically, a training needs analysis will help you determine the knowledge gaps of your employees. Without that information, the content you create may not respond to their knowledge level, or it may be irrelevant. And you won’t be able to create personalized paths to cover each employee’s unique needs, either.

Whatever the case, employees will feel discouraged or unmotivated, and they will soon lose interest in a training program that seems to be missing the spot.

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3. Leaving the fun out the door

Your employees, much like you, have a lot on their minds. You can’t expect them to stay 100% focused on your online training course. Unless you make it somewhat fun, that is! Luckily, there’s a lot you can do to spice things up.

When you say fun, most people hear games. So, there you have it! Opt for an LMS that supports gamification features to add leaderboards and levels, and reward employees with badges and points. A little competition will give them the nudge they need to bring out their best effort.

Interactivity is also a safe bet when it comes to increasing employee engagement and knowledge retention in training. From simple drag-and-drop quizzes to interactive videos and simulations, dare to mix and match activities to keep them intrigued!

Do you know what else is fun, captivating, and memorable? Good, old storytelling. It works on 3-year-old kids, and it is proven to work on your employees, too. Why? Because a masterfully told story grabs their attention, gets your message through, and stays with them for good. And employee training courses must do just that!

4. … and bringing in cognitive overload

There’s only so much that a human mind can process and safely save in its long-term memory. Bombarding employees with an overwhelming amount of information is pointless, because they won’t be able to retain it. Actually, they might get frustrated and give up altogether.

To avoid cognitive overload and dropouts, remember that redundant information and blabbering don’t belong in corporate training programs.

Keep each unit short and to the point, including only relevant information. Break the text into small chunks, and add short videos and infographics. A recap of the key takeaways at the end of each lesson will also help your employees retain a good portion of the learning material.

The pitfalls to avoid when developing online employee training courses - TalentLMS

5. Poor user experience

Developing your training program with user experience in mind is a given. Poor user experience can disengage employees more than anything. Sure, great content should be a priority. The way you present that content, though, is equally significant.

To that end, an intuitive user interface is a must. The least you can do is place distinguishable, familiar navigation controls and drop-down menus so that employees can easily find their way around.

When it comes to user experience, looks matter, too. So, with appearances in mind, enrich your online employee training course with images and other media. Don’t use too large files, though, as they might slow down the loading speed. And, of course, use colors and graphics in moderation to avoid clutter. What about mobile accessibility? Even if the training takes place during work hours (which it should), your employees should have the option to access the online course from their mobile devices for a quick recap.

Don’t forget about first-timers or tech-hesitant employees, either. Include a short video to guide them through the basics, so they don’t get overwhelmed or lose precious time trying to figure out where’s what.

6. Not offering employees an incentive

Getting your employees to join your course in the first place is inevitably among the challenges and pitfalls of workplace training. More often than not, they need a stronger incentive than the joy of learning.

Employees who have participated in successful online courses in the past are likely to anticipate the next one. However, if you are just starting to establish a learning culture, then you might need to give them a push to avoid eye rolling and to motivate them.

Remember the learning objectives? Well, go for full disclosure before launching your online training course if you want to pique everyone’s interest. Employees don’t care for vague goals that – come to think about it – sound like they’re for your benefit only. They need to know what skills they’ll cultivate and how these will contribute to their professional development.

Speaking of professional development, if your upcoming training course plays a decisive role in their career, point that out. Let them know, for instance, that it will give them an advantage over other employees for future promotion or a potential raise.

Last but not least, tempt employees with a training certificate. A training certificate is a great motivator, as it’s an immediate reward for their effort and undeniable proof of their new skills.

7. Ignoring the aftertaste

Or, not giving employees an option to provide feedback. That equals to not giving your company a chance to create better online training courses in the future. Because despite your best efforts, something might have slipped through.

Include a small survey at the end of the training course, or send one via email shortly after. Find out what your employees have to say about their experience and what improvements they’d like to see in your next corporate training course.

Since some employees may be reluctant to express their honest opinion, it’s even safer to rely on your LMS for feedback because – you guessed it! – numbers don’t lie. Metrics like average time to completion and test pass rate give you a really good hint of whether the course content was suitable for their knowledge level, and which parts of the training course they enjoyed the most.


Nobody says that developing online training courses for employees is easy. If anything, it’s a long process that requires careful planning and just about a million things to consider. Did we miss one of those things? Share your experience in the comments and help your fellow L&D teams create a winner online training course!

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