Training Technology – By Jennifer Bryan
Adopting new tools today can help you weather the next storm
The world has transitioned over the past year from “the new normal” to, more or less, just “normal.” Many of us are working in our offices again, providing live trainings and planning for in-person events. Though the impact of the pandemic on the workplace can still be found, we are back on familiar ground.
Because of this, it can be tempting to dismiss COVID’s disruptions on our roles as an anomaly. This would be a mistake. As the old aphorism cautions: By failing to
prepare, you are preparing to fail.
As trainers, proactively leveraging learning technologies is the most effective way to “weatherproof” our organizations against disruption. I’ve seen this firsthand.
At Teva Commercial Training & Development, we were fortunate to have remote learning technologies in place that enabled us, within weeks of the 2020 shutdown,
to begin training our reps at home to use a new tool Teva had acquired to connect with customers remotely. Our team was also able to help boost morale (an acute need at the time) through weekly training check-ins as well as provide ongoing professional development through our remote training library.
In short, these technologies became a proverbial life raft during the storm.
Adopting Learning Technologies
In my experience, there are five key areas of focus when developing — or evolving — your training team’s use of learning technologies. It’s important to note I’m not advocating for any specific product or technology here. Though there are numerous tools available — from remote collaboration platforms to gamification tools to professional development platforms (to name just a few) — the principles for how to bring them on successfully are the same.
- Measure the effectiveness of your existing learning technology
Begin by assessing the learning technologies currently in place. For each tool, gather data on user experience, the effectiveness of the training and the frequency of use. Many tools provide analytics to help you synthesize user data. However, whether you have access to such analytics or not, you should consider surveying users directly, leveraging focus groups or anonymous feedback responses.
Even the simplest of metrics can help determine key information, such as if learners use the technology when prompted and if they feel the training offered is relevant. Most of all, your metrics will help you understand how these existing technologies can be employed more effectively.
2. Plan, plan, plan
Use the metrics you gathered to help identify gaps. Consider the challenges you faced during the pandemic and decide if your current technologies would be sufficient if your organization faced a similar challenge in the future. Collaborate cross-functionally when determining training needs to gain a broader perspective and keep in mind how your learners will use this technology.
For example, sales reps will need training tools that enable them to role play sales calls, as well as to connect and interact in real time with managers, trainers and teams.
Once you have identified needs, work as a team to research available technologies that will best bridge the gaps if a major disruption occurs again. Do you need to adopt — or expand — a training platform that will house learning materials in one place? Do you require better virtual collaboration technology? Note that a blended approach combining virtual technology and live training has been shown to give learners greater control over their development and produce strong results.
Whatever you choose, be sure to select technologies that will best serve your organization’s goals and align with its mission and values.
3. Consider IT rollout time
Strictly from an IT perspective, there will be a delay — often a significant one— between your team’s decision to adopt a new technology and the moment it’s ready for learners. Work with your IT department to evaluate how long it will take to integrate the new technology into the organization.
If the delay seems prohibitive, let this factor into your decision-making process. If you decide to move ahead, use this runway time proactively to ensure your team is ready for launch.
4. Prepare key users ahead of the launch
A strong launch of your new learning technology will depend on three key user demographics. Develop and carry out a plan to:
- Train the trainers: Ensure your team members are well versed in the tool’s features. Give them opportunities to use the technology both on their own and within a group setting, where they can collaborate and ask questions.
- Gain leadership alignment: Communicate the advantages of technology to leaders across the organization and gain their support for the launch. Consider providing leadership with a demonstration of the technology and opportunities for them to experience the tool firsthand.
- Prepare your learners: Create a communication plan designed to build excitement for the new technology in the weeks ahead of the launch. Clearly convey the advantages of the new tool and explain how your team will provide needed training and support. You might also consider beta testing the technology with a select group of learners. This can be a good way to work out user issues and develop advocates in the field ahead of the launch.
5. Support change management
When disruptions strike, there is usually a sudden interest in topics such as minimizing negative impacts of change and learning how to use change to shape positive outcomes. But when the disruptions calm, the focus on change management usually fades. This inconsistency undermines effective change management training, which requires consistent, ongoing effort ahead of the disruption.
Adopting new technologies goes hand-in-hand with fostering a change management mindset. As you discuss new tools with leadership, also provide managers and leadership with relevant, ongoing change management training materials housed in an easy-to-access virtual location.
It’s also a good practice to share your metrics with leadership, which opens lines of communication, demonstrates the importance of learning technology and allows leaders to compare your results with their own data about organizational effectiveness.
Benefit Now — and Later
Yes, the learning technologies you adopt now will help you weather future disruptions. But it’s important to note that they will also benefit your team, your learners and your organization whether you face a disruption down the line or not.
These technologies are not just insurance. They are powerful tools that can help you create an effective approach to learning here and now.
Jennifer Bryan is senior director of commercial training & development for Teva Pharmaceuticals. You can contact her at Jennifer.Bryan@tevapharm.com.