Most employees in the electrical, plumbing, HVAC and industrial tools industries are not "very satisfied" with their organization's online training programs, according to the second edition of the “Voice of the E-Learner” survey, conducted by BlueVolt and research firm Cascade Insights.

It asked 1,327 workers from manufacturers and distributors in the electrical, plumbing, HVAC and industrial tools industries about their perceptions of online learning. BlueVolt launched the first edition of the survey in 2016. This year’s findings showed a 27% drop – from 59% in 2016 to 33% in 2018 – in the number of learners who were “very satisfied” with their organization’s online training programs.

“We know this year that 90% of workers ranging in age from the 20s to late 60s want online training courses, such as product training, in chunks of five minutes or less,” says Douglas Gastich, president of BlueVolt. “50% of workers in their early 20s to mid-40s also want interactive online training content.”

According to Gastich, the steep drop in very satisfied learners might come from online training content suppliers who are making courses too long, which the Voice of E-Learner survey suggests being any course lasting more than 10 minutes. This year’s survey saw a 5% rise, to 69%, among workers who prefer to learn about their company’s products and services at work versus other venues.

“The desire for shorter courses could stem from employees who have limited time to learn at work,” says Scott Swigart, chief research officer of Cascade Insights. “The survey findings show a correlation between training, especially product training, and increased sales. If an employer doesn’t realize this, they may not encourage time for dedicated learning; this pressures employees to learn in short bursts.”

Gastich says this year’s survey offers three key findings: First, among the total survey population, 40% report taking 21 or more online training courses in the last year; second, 47% credit online training, in part, for increasing their company’s sales; and, third, incentives may be important to getting workers to take online training courses, since just 26% stated they were likely to take a course without an inducement.

Kian Sanjari, marketing and training manager for Mersen Electrical Power North America, says he doesn’t necessarily think companies have to reward people to learn if the content helps them do their job more successfully. Sanjari adds, “Product and application knowledge that creates customer intimacy or career advancement, are the true incentives.”

Matt Dedeluk is senior channel marketing manager for Tennessee-based JPW Industries, which owns tool and machinery brand names including JET, Powermatic, Wilton and Edwards. When asked about the link between online training courses and sales, Dedeluk says his company’s online university gives distributors training materials that offer graphics, videos, quizzes and presentations for JPW brands. According to Dedeluk, this gives learners the know-how to cross-sell any of JPW’s brands.

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