If you haven’t read the first three parts of “Applying Blended Learning to Training Programs”, you should start with Part 1 HERE. Or find Part 2 HERE, and Part 3 HERE.
In this segment, I’ll talk about Workplace Tools, and how you should apply different training tools to different training audiences. Remember how I said there’s no single right training method that fits all training audiences? Well, here’s where the rubber hits the road. It’s time to put the theory into action!
Don’t waste your learner’s brain power by expecting them to retain minuscule details of a product or other learning topics. Today, nobody retains that kind of detail, because they don’t have to. They can easily look it up on the internet – on their phone.
For example – we used to have to remember the phone numbers of anyone we might want to call. But now, we don’t have to. So we don’t. How many phone numbers do you know by memory? Maybe your own? You don’t remember them, because you don’t have to – they’re in your phone!
The same goes for product details. No sales associate commits those details to memory, because they don’t have to – the information is readily available on the Internet, right on their phone! So, don’t expect or force them to memorize that detailed information.
Instead, make sure they have the tools they need, so they can reference that information when they need it. It could be a website, phone app, pocket guide, flyer, sticker, or something else – whatever works for your learner’s situation and the information you’re providing. Talk to them, and go to their workplace. Look for clues about where a tool might be helpful. For example, if you see post-it notes on their monitors, find out what they’re for. What information is there, that may be better placed in a workplace tool you could develop for them?
By all means, don’t waste their valuable training time covering those arcane details in a training. Instead, make sure they know about the workplace tools you have available, and how to get them.
Who is your training audience?
You need to determine exactly who your training audience is, and how you’ll train each segment of that audience. it’s different for different segments of your audience, and may even be different within a single segment.
Here are examples of the different training audiences I dealt with in my time with Sony. I’ll present them in a pretty generic way so hopefully you can relate them to your own situation.
Company employees (Sales, Marketing, PR, – really any employee)
These are general employees of your company. Presumably, if you’re in charge of training, you have some control over what they are responsible for completing. All of them probably require compliance training of some kind, and some will also need product and/or services training, depending on what your company does.
Company field teams (company employees)
Some companies have field training teams or field sales teams. These are people who interact directly with your customer’s employees. For me, they spent their time in retail stores, working with the floor sales people. They had to be skilled not only in our products, but in how to effectively training retail sales people. They were also a great source of feedback from the retailer to our training department, as I mentioned earlier. Since they are employees of your company, you should have control over what training they complete, and what formats you use. You should also be able to get results from quizzes, down to the individual user level.
Third-party field teams (external vendor – not employees of your company)
Some companies hire third party vendors to supply training and/or sales teams in the field. Since those people don't actually work for your company, your direct access to them may be limited in some ways, but you should be able to get quiz results down to the user level, and you should have control over their training program, as it relates to your company’s products or services.
These can be company employees, or – very likely these days – a third party company who may not even be in the same country as you. If they are paid by your company, you should have control over their training program. In my experience, there are really only two opportunities to train them – online, or face to face. They usually have an established training program in which you can participate. To do it right, you’ll likely have to send a trainer to their location, and that may mean international travel. But it’s worth the effort, since they are a direct connection to your customers.
Companies such as Amazon have their own call centers, and there may be a training opportunity there. You’ll have to work with your sales team to find out what opportunities exist. It’s basically the same situation as the Call Center description, except, you won’t have control over their training program. You need to partner with them to provide training that benefits both parties.
For me, this is Best Buy and others like that. In other industries, it will be different. They have established training programs, and you would be well served to work with them to participate in those programs. Options may include eLearning, regional tradeshow/training events, and your field team’s interaction with their salespeople. Make sure you are partnered with their training team, so you can be part of whatever opportunities exist in their program. They may charge you for participating, but if they’re a major retailer for you, it’s a cost your need to seriously consider bearing.
Specialty retailers (“mom-and-pop”)
These one-off stores are tricky to train. You may rely on your sales team or field trainers to handle it – whoever makes it into the store on a regular basis. Of course, online training is an option, but you need to rely on the person on your team who is in contact with the store to reinforce your training program. There may be an opportunity to hold an in-person seminar, depending on the retailer.
These are retailers like Target, Walmart, Sears, etc. You’ll need to work with your contact to establish the training opportunities for each company. They may have an internal LMS that allows you to provide online training content. Or, you may have people who go into the stores to train them.
There’s no one training solution that fits all retailers. You have to customize your training program to fit each type of retailer. You have to develop a training plan that specifically addresses each element of your training audience, and then execute on that plan, tracking your results along the way.
I developed a couple of spreadsheets to define each sales channel (type of retailer), and the training solution that applies to each channel. It allowed me to track my team’s training efforts for each channel, and apply that global plan for each new product launch. It served as an established, repeatable, accountable training plan that we used over and over.
That concludes this series of four posts about Applying Blended Learning to Training Programs. Let me know if you have any comments or questions.