As a follow up to my post of last December titled “The Biggest Myths in Learning and Development,” I asked the following question within various LinkedIn discussion groups:
What other learning and development beliefs do we hold to be true but probably aren’t?
Here are some of the replies:
Universities are embracing e-learning to extend their audiences to people who cannnot afford to attend their institutions. — Jean-Marc R.
L&D facilitators need to be subject matter experts on what they deliver. It’s their job. — Ray O.
We must evaluate all learning activities and show ROI. — Ray O.
By sending people off to training, we will get them back in a more productive condition. — Anders B.
Train for knowledge, coach for performance. — Hannah T.
Most organizations that have embraced online learning have no idea what, if anything, their workforce is learning. — James M.
Organizations understand the learning & development needs of their people and organization! — Barry H.
Management training is directly linked to attitude and behavioural change and tangible results. — Graham W.
Training improves on-the-job performance. — Leon N.
Well-trained staff are essential for superior workplace performance. — Leon N.
Effective training is the result of good training courses. — Leon N.
Fascinating submissions, everyone. Thank you.
We’re thrilled to announce that Blatant Media has been awarded Bronze in the Learning Management Technology category of the 2011 Brandon Hall Excellence in Technology for Learning, Talent Management, and Sales and Marketing Awards.
This is the fifth time Absorb LMS has earned the recognition of Brandon Hall:
- Gold Award for Best Advance in Learning Management Technology for Global Training
- Silver for Best Advance in Learning Management Technology for External Training
- Gold Award for Best Advance in Learning Management Technology for Small and Medium Sized Businesses
- Bronze Award for Best Advance in Learning Management Technology for External Training
In addition, Blatant Media, the company behind Absorb LMS, has been recognized for its content creation services. In 2008, Blatant Media was awarded a Silver Brandon Hall Award for Best Video in a Learning Program.
I had a great time this week presenting a session titled “How to Manage Large Scale Learning Initiatives Painlessly” for HR.com’s Technology Enabled Learning virtual conference. Thank you HR.com for putting on a great event.
To get a sense of who was in attendance, I began the session with a few poll questions. One was:
How would you rate the effort required to administer learning?
A full 64 per cent of attendees rated the effort as “High.” Thirty-six per cent rated the effort as “Moderate.” No one rated the effort as “Low.”
I’m not at all surprised that all of the attendees who reported that they were managing learning manually using paper records and/or spreadsheets—33 per cent of poll respondents—rated the effort as high. What’s fascinating, though, is that of the 67 per cent of attendees who reported that they were using a learning management system, a full 46 per cent rated their administrative effort as high.
Learning management systems are suppose to make the administration of learning easy and efficient. The fact that nearly half of attendees report that their LMS administration effort is high suggests that:
- Administrators may not be making full use of the LMS features available to them; or,
- The systems being used may not be a good fit for their type of learning initiatives
If you too rate the effort to administer learning within your LMS as high, consider speaking with your LMS vendor. They may be able to show you some tips and tricks that will greatly increase efficiency. If they aren’t able to help, consider evaluating other systems that may better support your learning programs.
Join us for a free Webinar:
How to Automate the Administration of Learning Within Your Organization
Date: Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Time: 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM MT (GMT-7)
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
What would be your reaction if you were informed that you needed to provide training to 1000 new individuals in the next 30 days? If you’re a commercial training provider, it may be a combination of joy over the influx of revenues mixed with stress at the required effort. If you’re a learning administrator within an organization’s learning or HR department, the need to manage a new learning initiative may be one more big responsibility added to an already massive task list.
Enabling learning in others shouldn’t be a source of stress, it should feel rewarding. Too often, though, the time and effort required to enrol learners, assign them to the correct course or curriculum, track their progress, provide them with certificates, and manage future re-certification requirements is huge and potentially demoralizing.
Join Blatant Media’s Richard Nantel as he discusses:
- Why your learning initiative needs to be scalable
- How automation can make the number of learners irrelevant
- The costs of administering training in a LMS manually
- How to structure administration within your learning management system
After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.
Space is limited. We hope to see you there!
Organizations that move from managing training manually using spreadsheets or pen and paper to using a learning management system (LMS) invariably see improved efficiency and cost savings. Thrilled with the gains achieved, these organizations often stop short of any further optimization.
If the time needed to manage a specific learning program drops from 100 hours when managed manually to 25 hours managed using a learning management system, it’s a cause for celebration. Few people subsequently wonder “what can I do to further reduce the time and effort required to administer these types of learning initiatives?”
The result is that the organization rarely taps into the true power of their learning management system. Just as most of us use only a small subset of features found in office software suites, learning administrators work within their learning management system in inefficient ways that sabotage the scalability of their learning initiatives. Faced with the need to train a large number of learners in a short amount of time, they have no recourse than to add additional administrators.
So how do you know if you’re sabotaging the scalability of your learning initiative? Here are some red flags:
- Your processes are focused on individual learners rather than groups of learners
- Courses are treated as discrete events, rather than part of learning plans
- You’re often registering individual learners manually
- You’re manually enrolling learners into courses
- When a learner completes a course, you need to manually enroll that learner into the next course
- You’re enrolling learners into individual courses even when the course is part of a curriculum
- Courses are treated as discrete objects rather than part of learning plans
- You’re messaging individual learners one-by-one
- You’re often using Outlook or other e-mail programs to communicate with learners
- You’re sending out individual messages, instead of template-based e-mails
- You regularly need to repeat the same steps to create a meaningful report
- You’re regularly creating reports and manually e-mailing them to people
- Even though you’re using a LMS, you find yourself referring to reports you maintain outside of the system
- You’re printing and mailing certificates
- You’re manually keeping track of when individual certifications expire
- You’re manually sending recertification reminders
NOTE: I’ll be providing a Webinar on this topic on Wednesday, January 18 at 2 pm ET as part of HR.com’s Technology Enabled Learning online conference.
This presentation will cover:
- Why your learning initiative needs to be scalable
- The costs of administering training
- How to design a scalable learning initiative
- Learning management practices that sabotage scalability
- The most important LMS features to support large-scale learning programs
REGISTER HERE: How to Manage Large Scale Learning Initiatives Painlessly
My last entry provided a setup scenario for using an LMS in retail. I’d like to now get into some practical examples of how you can use an LMS effectively to solve some of the common training challenges faced by retailers.
Here are five common training challenges faced by retailers, and some examples of how using an LMS can address those challenges:
1. SCALE: We all know that employee turnover in retail is extremely high. This means that there are ALWAYS new hires in need of training. Getting many people trained quickly, so that they can start being effective in a short period of time will have a major, positive, business impact. Obviously, not doing this effectively will have a major, negative business impact; you just may not see it this way if this is your status quo.
A good LMS can be used to automate a lot of your learning processes. For example, we typically integrate the Absorb LMS with our client’s HRIS (Human Resource Information Systems) in order to automatically create LMS Learner accounts. Using the automation available in our LMS, new hires can be automatically notified of their LMS login credentials, sent to the correct branded area of the LMS, put into the proper department for reporting and approvals, enrolled in courses, course bundles, curricula and assessments and provided access to resources specific to their job, department and/or location. In short, once you create a new employee record in your HR system, the LMS can completely handle initiating the training process and even sending reminders to the learner and their manager to complete required training. In terms of scalability, this can be automated for dozens of new employees per week or thousands. Can you imagine manually on-boarding 1,000 new users into your learning program in time for the Christmas rush?
2. TIME TO MARKET: Depending on the nature of your business you may be introducing new products on a weekly basis. Let’s take mobile phone retailers as an example. The technology is constantly evolving and new devices with new features and operating system updates are coming out all the time. How can you possibly hope to have your staff stay on top of the latest products?
Some of our smartest clients have rediscovered the power of video-based training. What they’ve effectively done is cut out the middle-man (e-learning designer) so to speak. By having product or category managers discuss new product features in short (3 to 8 minute) videos, they are able to get effective training content into the LMS and out to Learners in a matter of hours, not days or even weeks. As a best practice, these videos are presented as short courses which require the learner to complete a quick quiz in order to complete the course. In some cases, (using our SMARTLAB LMS), the Learners also receive points for completing training. These points can be used as incentives in a number of ways, e.g. to qualify for contests or to be redeemed for merchandise or product discounts. The added benefit of delivering short video-based courses is that the Learners start to recognize the product or category managers and may start to build a connection with the individual as well as the brand. This idea of brand immersion in an LMS could be a topic for a short book so I’ll stop there and let you use your imagination.
3. BUDGET: Even if we have a firm grip on what it would take to stay on top of these challenges, we simply may not have the money to implement our ideal plans.
Once you’ve got your LMS in place (presumably, having built a business case and proven out a great ROI) you will still have your ongoing challenges with training budgets. Doing more with less ($) can be frustrating at best. Using the video example above, you can utilize any number of under $200 HD video cameras to create great looking training videos. You don’t even need an authoring tool. Just shoot, edit (using free or inexpensive editing software) and upload into the LMS as an online course. Adding a quiz at the end as a knowledge test will ensure that they’ve watched and understood the content. In our Absorb LMS you can follow this process to create a quick and effective course without an authoring tool, by simply uploading and sequencing one or more short videos, adding a quiz and including some downloadable resources (such as product brochures or sales sheets).
4. AUDIENCE SEGMENTATION: While you will have general on-boarding training that all retail employees must take, your employees are probably specialized to some degree. Targeting and segmenting training content can be a formidable challenge.
Your LMS should allow you to assign courses based on any aspect of the Learner’s account or profile such as their job title, department, location. Our customers use our Absorb LMS enrolment filters to enable self-enrolment and/or automated enrolment of training based on these common filters as well as adding custom fields to the profile through the Absorb Survey tool. By renaming custom fields and populating them through surveys you can build rich and powerful Learner profiles that go beyond the information pulled in from the HRIS. For example, our client Oakley engages learners by capturing who their favourite Oakley sponsored athletes are and then pushing out news and twitter feeds from those athletes, targeted only to those Learners who have an expressed interested in that athlete (another great SMARTLAB feature). The bottom line is, you can really only enable product specialization if you have a way to target content at the right people. Simply creating a wide variety of courses and making them available via self-enrolment is often not effective.
5. MEASURING THE ROI OF TRAINING: We all want to do this but it’s nearly impossible without having accurate training data that can be tracked and correlated with store performance (sales) data.
Over time, you will have built up a meaningful amount of historical training and sales performance data. Typically, this will come from two systems, the LMS (training data) and your Financial system (sales data). If you’ve set up your LMS with measuring ROI as one of your end goals, then you should already be tracking things like, total training by course, by learner, by product, by location and by department as well as training costs per course and per learner. With good financial data, you should be able to then correlate training on a specific product at a specific store (or even a specific team of employees) with sales data for the following 3 to 6 months (for example). If you do this properly, you will be able to identify which training content/activities are having an impact on sales. Of equal importance is that you will be able to see which activities are having little to no (or even negative) impact. Not only will you be measuring the impact of your training investment but you will also be able to continuously enhance your programs each quarter or fiscal year. Who knows, you may finally be in a position to confidently request a budget increase!
As I said in Part One of this post, retail is a complex science (with a bit of art thrown in from time to time) and I have tried to keep this practical and specific. I do hope that I’ve generated at least one or two ideas for you to explore further.
Please contact us if you want to discuss any of these ideas. We’d love to hear from you!
One of the things I love best about this job is that I have the great pleasure of speaking with a variety of senior training managers across many industries on a weekly basis. I like to think that they learn as much from me as I do from them but sometimes, I am sure that I am the one that really benefits from these conversations.
It’s important for us as a learning technology provider to participate in these discussions and to really listen to the challenges faced by our customers “in the trenches”. I know we are good listeners because our products reflect a lot of the great thinking generated by these interactions. In particular, we have collaborated with some brilliant clients (like Oakley) to develop an understanding of some great best practices in the area of retail training.
Recently, I had a long conversation with a training manager of a department store chain that has about 100 stores and no Learning Management System. I want to share some observations here that came up in that discussion, specifically in the context of retail employee training. This seems particularly pertinent given the recent announcement of 100-120 planned store closures by Sears/Kmart.
FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL
Retail is a complex science. Although no one retailer can control the economy (many would argue that Walmart does in fact play a significant role in the global economy) we do understand that effective marketing will at least get people into your store; so let’s talk about what happens if marketing succeeds in that goal.
Great store design and merchandising will impact how much time people spend in your store and what they will purchase. This is the realm of a select team of employees but the people that have the most direct impact on your potential customers are your retail (sales) employees.
Your retail employees will define your corporate culture, reflect your corporate standards, impact customer satisfaction and loyalty and ultimately, increase the amount that each customer spends in the store. That’s all, of course, subject to who you hire and how well trained they are.
Let’s agree that you can provide high quality training without an LMS. The opportunity, however, is in scaling that training; providing it quickly and in short, focused interactions that are relevant and measurable. And dare we add ‘fun and rewarding’ for the learner?
In PART TWO I will discuss some observations and best practices for how an LMS can really impact your retail employee performance.