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25 Free Online Courses To Equip You With Valuable Skills

25 Free Online Courses To Equip You With Valuable Skills

Now that the inspirational sparkle of the new year has worn off, you may be falling back into your old routines and habits. Statistically, you probably are. One way to jolt yourself out of a run is to engage in learning new skills. Last year I’ve had the privilege to do research, interview and report on some of today’s most successful people and they all have one thing in common. They are continually learning. Whether it’s reading books, going to seminars, or taking courses, continuously expanding your mind is a fundamental key to success.

If you didn’t love school, don’t worry. Today’s online options have come so far, you can listen on your commute, download everything to your smartphone, or take an entire class via watching short digestible online videos for free.

1. Programming for Everybody

You’ve probably seen or heard the headlines claiming “everybody needs to learn how to code.” If you agree, this University of Michigan course from Coursera is a great option.

2. How To Make iPhone Apps

This course from Udemy teaches how to finally create that app idea you have. If you are very computer savvy, take five hours and you’ll be ready to submit your first app to the App Store by the end of the day.

3. Introduction to Graphic Design

We live in a visual world. Just like some people argue that everyone should know the basics of coding, others feel we should all learn the basics of good design. This beginner course from Udemy teaches the basic principles of design and the theory behind creating attention-grabbing visuals.

4. Beginners Adobe Photoshop

Once you learn the basics of great design, you’re going to want to start designing! This tutorial for beginners from Adobe KnowHow teaches the fundamentals of a, if not the, vital graphic design program. Also a good course idea for beginning photographers.

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5. Internet Marketing for Smart People

If you want to up your marketing game, Copyblogger is a great resource. This class teaches you how to systematically implement effective marketing campaigns. You also get instant access to 14 value-packed ebooks on SEO, copywriting, keywords and more.

6. Diploma in Social Media Marketing

This course from ALISON goes beyond how to use the platforms and teaches the ins and outs of affiliate marketing, email marketing, blogging, social platforms and increasing site traffic.

7. Social Media 101

Want a social media overview? This is a two-minute-a-day class from Buffer to teach you the basics of social media. Learn how to use each platform, how to create a tone for your brand, and how to understand analytics.

8. Become a Networking Master

If you’re intimidated by networking events, meetings and conferences, you’re not alone. Progress your career or your business with this course from The Muse which teaches you how to network, communicate and give a clear elevator pitch to anyone and everyone.

9. Introduction to Public Speaking

Public speaking skills can improve your performance in meetings, calls, and of course on the stage. This edX class from the University of Washington will help you become more effective and confident on debating, presenting and persuading.

10. Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies and Skills

Negotiation is not just essential for business owners crafting contracts. If you want to secure yourself a higher salary, better benefits, or that coveted office with a window, start with this course from the University of Michigan from Coursera.

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11. Competitive Strategy

Getting ahead and staying ahead is a science. This more advanced course from Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München by Coursera will teach you the basic tools of game theory in order to dissect strategy and gain competitive advantages.

12. How to Finally Start Your Side Project

Many successful businesses started as a side hustle. This class offered by career experts at The Muse will walk you through how to focus and bring your ideas into the world, while still working your 9-to-5.

13. How to Start a Startup

Entrepreneurship is the new black. Stand out from other startups with knowledge on user growth, fundraising, operations, and more. This Stanford lecture by Sam Altman features leaders from successful companies like PayPal, LinkedIn, and Airbnb.

14. 21 Critical Lessons for Entrepreneurs

In the middle of starting your own business? This is a short course from Docstoc CEO Jason Nazar. He teaches rookie entrepreneurs key lessons based on his first-hand experience vetting ideas, raising money from investors, scaling a business, and more.

15. Scaling Operations: Linking Strategy and Execution

If you’re filled with a million ideas but can’t seem to bring any of them to life, check out this course from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University offered by Coursera. It will show you how to correctly build an idea into an actual, stable and scalable operation.

16. The Passive Income Business Plan

If you’ve looked into entrepreneurship, you’ve probably heard of passive income. It sounds too good to be true, is it? This basic introduction to online business from Udemy covers helpful information for entrepreneurs who are considering starting an online business but don’t know how to.

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17. Diploma in Project Management

If you want to become a department head, speed up the growth of your business, or simply become more efficient, you need to master project management. This course from ALISON offers an overview of project management methodology, tools, project life cycles and case studies.

18. The Secret Sauce of Great Writing

The more I study success, the more I realize that good writing is everything. No matter which career you’re in, whether you’re writing an email, a presentation, a script, or a storyboard. This course from Udemy teaches you to enhance your business writing.

19. Writing on Contemporary Issues

Want to get your op-ed featured on NYTimes.com? This course is an introduction from MIT on writing attention-grabbing prose for online audience with a clear and unique personal voice.

20. Chinese Language: Learn Basic Mandarin

This is another skill that is often recommended, especially if you want to climb up the ladder of international business. This beginner course from edX is free, but you can add a MandarinX Verified Certificate for $50.

21. Spanish I

Like Mandarin, many recommend adding Spanish to your resume. This is a beginner course from MIT that teaches Spanish through a quality drama-filled story.

22. Sports Psychology – The Winning Mindset

If you want to win in business, your career, or just in life, think like a winning athlete. Dr Cliff Mallet offers practical strategies in this Olympic.org course that will ensure you approach your next goal with the right mindset.

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23. The Science of Happiness

Who doesn’t want to be happier? The first class from University of California, Berkeley, offered by edX, will teach you science-based principles and practices for a happy and more fulfilling life.

24. Practical Ethics

If you ever look around at the world today and think “I don’t know what I believe anymore” this course will help you figure out just that. Examine your ethical beliefs with this Princeton class offered by Coursera.

25. Guided Meditations

There’s a reason many successful people meditate and practice mindfulness. Figure out those reasons in this introductory class from UCLA, taught by Diana Winston.

Featured photo credit: GaudiLab via shutterstock.com

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1 We Do What We Know Is Bad for Us, Why? 2 13 Bad Habits You Need to Quit Right Away 3 How to Reprogram Your Brain Like a Computer And Hack Your Habits 4 14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress 5 11 Things You Can Do to Increase Employee Productivity

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Last Updated on January 6, 2021

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

3. Create a System

Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

5. Use a Ratings Scale

Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

7. Offer Feedback Forms

Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

8. Track Cost Effectiveness

This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

9. Use Self-Evaluations

Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

10. Monitor Time Management

This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

    The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

    While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

    11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

    We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

    Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

    For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

    Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

    Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

    From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

    12. Utilize Peer Feedback

    This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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    Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

    Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

    It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

    13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

    When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

    Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

    Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

    14. Use an External Evaluator

    Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

    They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

    While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

    Final Thoughts

    These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

    The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

    The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

    Reference

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