E-learning vs face-to-face WMS training: an objective comparison

Choosing the right warehouse management tool is only the first half of the battle. You also need to be able to train your staff how to use it and provide continuous updates on new advancements and best practices.

WMS training typically comes in face-to-face and online flavors, each of which provide their own benefits and drawbacks. Let’s take a high-level look at the pros and cons of both learning options to see what may be the right path for you or if you might want to look for a system that offers each type of training.

E-learning

Pros

  • Software-based problems can be programmed as sample scenarios. With an e-learning environment, your staff can be placed in a virtual version of your WMS where issues can be demonstrated and your team can troubleshoot.
  • Digital videos and training environments can be reviewed again as-needed, so you’ve always got an option for fixing a problem when it arises. 
  • There’s less chance for human error. Training modules can be tailored to your specific WMS, even down to the version level.
  • It’s easy to test that knowledge has been gained and training can be halted until a test is passed. In-person training often doesn’t have the luxury of pausing.

Figure out the best way to train your users using this comprehensive WMS implementation guide

Cons

  • It can be expensive because you have the service available at any time. E-learning services that require you need to pay for each use — typically because they provide evaluations and progress reports on each learner — may end up creating a bigger total cost if you have a small time that doesn’t need multiple training sessions throughout the year.
  • It can be a little harder to tailor to your system. Training needs to be general, so there’s some reading between the lines your team will need to do.
  • Getting the answer to a complex question may take longer or you may have to reach outside the course. You’ll likely get a correct answer eventually, but it takes a lot more work on your part and may take a while for the full response.

Face-to-face WMS training

Pros

  • Solves the grey areas. Face-to-face WMS training with experts invites more questions and can have people ask the tougher questions. Areas where the WMS isn’t clear or where you might need advanced support for creating an audit trail will get fleshed out in these scenarios.
  • It’s easier to replicate real-world scenarios for physical events for your company and space. If training is focusing on WMS operational efficiencies, you can run drills and troubleshoot common problems with a trainer who will specifically work to solve them.
  • And don’t overlook the ability of a good trainer to get everyone involved. Creating a collaborative environment where people must work together can build relationships and learning. Plus, your team has a chance to learn the WMS strengths of each person.

Find WMS vendors that offer the type of training you need with our free software comparison tool

Cons

  • Again, cost can be a big negative. If you have to pay for a WMS training professional to come and train your team, you’re looking at cost for the training service, prepping your facilities or renting a space, paying for time and travel, providing accommodations, and more. If your team is spread across multiple geographies, you’ll end up with a larger chunk of travel costs compared to e-learning.
  • Human trainers are more likely to make a mistake when answering a question on-the-fly. This may balance out the benefit being able to ask unique questions, because the answer to your particular situation may be complex.
  • There can be a bigger risk of people tuning out or not paying attention because face-to-face training doesn’t always have the ability to stop and test. You may have to do the testing and retesting outside of the set-aside training time, which can disrupt other work that the employee and their supervisor need to do.

So, who wins?

There’s no direct winner for the big debate between face-to-face and e-learning solutions. Each have advantages to consider and disadvantages you’ll want to avoid. One growing trend is training the combines both options, such as in-person training but with digital videos and workbooks as a backup, which can help ingrain knowledge.

For a very general recommendation, e-learning may best be served for sporadic training and onboarding new employees as they learn the basics of your WMS, while face-to-face training can build team cohesion, help everyone learn new or advanced WMS features, and train for a specific scenario you will face in your warehouse.

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Geoff Whiting

About the author…

Geoff is an experienced journalist, writer, and business development consultant with a focus on enterprise technology, e-commerce, and supply chain development. Outside of the office he can be found toying with the latest in IoT, searching for classic radio broadcast recordings, and playing the perpetual tourist in his home of Washington D.C.

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Geoff Whiting