Everyone agrees that training is key. With training, smarter, more experienced people make better decisions and fewer mistakes. Their work moves the company forward. However, getting those people there is the hard part. Here are five tools that trainers need to reach that goal.
Business has always been fast paced, complicated, and arduous. That’s why we call it work. Mobile technology has made that fact more obvious. It’s easier for a salesperson to “be everywhere” and reach anyone in the connected world.
The trouble is, it’s also easier for your competitor. You also have more competitors available to your prospects—at the click of a search button. Now more than ever, success depends on your team’s combined skill level.
That means training is priority one. However, with the mobilization of the workforce, it’s almost impossible to get your team in one place or one time to master those skills. For trainers tasked with this seemingly impossible challenge, here are five essential tools:
1. Go Asynchronous
Time zones and competing schedules are the bane of all business connections, and training usually falls at the end of everyone’s list of scheduling priorities. Rather than beg and plead for a live training webinar or conference call, give each team member a compelling assignment or challenge to be completed on his or her own schedule. Yes, you’ll need to use carrot-and-stick incentives to get them to dive in, but you’ll no longer be playing the Outlook/iCal lottery.
Some advice on asynchronous training: content matters—and interactivity matters even more. A long, boring training video or slide deck won’t have much effect, even if you use threats or rewards to make them watch it. Here are some pointers:
- Keep it short — Every video example, lesson, or assignment should be as concise as possible. (The rule of thumb for online videos in general is under 3 minutes.) If the topic demands more information, then break it up into short “chunks” of training content. It helps if your system lets you mix and match shorter bits of content into a series or playlist, like the Viddler Training Suite does.
- Keep it real — Training video doesn’t have to be a fancy, Hollywood production. It needs to get to the point quickly, and convey the message clearly. There are many good tools and techniques for creating quality video, but don’t let them get in the way.
- Make it interactive — Wherever possible, give your audience the means for interacting directly with your video or audio content. Comment threads are great, but having comments and discussions on the video timeline is far better. In-video questions not only keep the viewer from wandering off; they engage his or her thoughts at a particular moment in the video, and record the responses. Most of all, letting trainees easily practice what they’ve learned, using their webcam or mobile device, will turn an ordinary training video into an active learning experience involving everyone. (In case you’re wondering, Viddler provides this kind of interactivity.)
2. Make Content More Accessible
The trouble with a lot of training content is that it’s hard to find what you need, when you need it. Some of that can be addressed by the courseware designer, of course, who can break up the content into logical, well-labeled sections. However, with video and other multimedia content, even the best organized trainer can lose track of the details. To give team members a better chance of finding what they need, here are some things to look for:
- Chapter markers — Even with relatively short video or audio, having a table of contents (that takes you to the right place in the timeline) saves lots of time.
- Personal bookmarks — Everyone has their own experience with a training video. When something strikes the learner as particularly helpful, they should be able to mark the spot, so they can review it later.
- Captions and transcripts — Video closed captions are standard fare these days, and are especially useful for team members who are not native speakers. Captions alone may not be enough, however. Full transcripts can be a godsend, especially if they allow text search and take the user to the exact moment when a word or phrase was uttered. Time is money, and the last thing you want your team to do is randomly look for something.
3. Capture the Right Moments
If training is to be effective, it must be more than a passive experience. Team members must practice and rehearse scenarios—preferably real ones—in order to become routinely proficient. One of the great potential benefits of asynchronous video training is the opportunity for each team member to record themself—at a convenient time and place—and have a manager and/or team members view, comment on, and rate how well they did. This also happens asynchronously, but has all the training impact of live practice. (Actually, for some, it’s better, since they have the opportunity to rehearse and submit their best “take.”)
Webcams and mobile devices are only one way to “capture the moment.” Timeline-based comments and replies can also keep the training discussion relevant and engaging.
4. Use Friendly Competition
In any company, there’s probably no more competitive group of people than your sales team. Winning and the desire to win is part of their DNA. As a trainer, you need to use that to build their skills repertoire. To do this, your video-based training system provides a rating system that can record things like:
- How well a team member answered objections
- How concise (or eloquent, or convincing) their pitch was
- How thoroughly they knew their own product—or their competitor’s product
- How many times they had to practice before submitting the best pitch
There are many more areas that can be rated—either by a manager, fellow team members, or both. Once recorded, these data can be the basis for a monthly leader board, and a strong motivator to become the top dog. Bragging rights can be a big deal—especially when top performers are recognized throughout the company.
Healthy team competition includes a large measure of collaboration and trust. By using a secure portal to record and discuss their practice videos, team members can keep the competition a private and friendly one.
5. Measure Your ROI
Finally, the right training tools can pay for themselves—and then some. It’s easy to count the savings of interactive, video-based training versus live events, which can easily cost in the six-figures. However, they are even more cost efficient when you consider the lost sales opportunities created by pulling your team members out of position for training events. (Depending on the type of product or service you’re selling, this can mean millions in lost revenue.)
Reducing costs is only part of the ROI equation, of course. If a training program can deliver the goods when it comes to soft skills—and especially if it can help team members retain what they’ve learned—then it not only saves money but also builds a revenue path to brag about.