Case Study 4. Business Tools Training

You're the sales manager for Ace Products, Inc., and you've just purchased new handheld Internet devices for your 400 salespeople nationwide. The key application on the new handheld device is the sales tracking application. Salespeople will input data about each sales call, and upload it to the central server at the end of the day. Management can then run a variety of sales reports on the daily sales data.

The handheld devices are being shipped to each salesperson this week. By the end of the month, you expect to start pulling management reports.

What's at Stake?

You'd be surprised how often business situations require making sure that every member in a group learns something, and that each one learns it by a deadline

This real-time sales information system is critical to your business. But you won't be successful in getting that data unless each salesperson can work the handheld Internet device correctly and run the sales call application properly. Bad data would be worse than no data.

Student Motivation

Most salespeople will want to learn how to use the new handheld devices properly, but many of them will try to just "wing it." Others will not be interested in using the device at all until a specific sales situation forces them to use it to close some business.

Note: Stop a moment and think of your own e-learning solution before reading on.

Solution Factors

The critical success factors here are that:

1. Each salesperson needs to take the training.

2. You need to know that each salesperson has minimum skills with the new device.

3. And you need to complete all this in a short period of time.

One solution approach is to create a self-directed training course that each salesperson can take at her own convenience through a Web browser. (It would be very difficult to get everyone together for a scheduled session, even if you had a main session and several make-up sessions.) This will be a one- to two-hour training session that teaches people how to use the handheld device for sales tracking via simulated sales case studies. Doing the training via case studies will keep the salesperson's interest and will show her exactly how the device fits into the real work environment.

Supplementing this main training will be a Web page with FAQs and an e-mail address where salespeople can address specific questions and get an answer within a day.

Your learning problem might be critical in a tactical timeframe, or it might be something that is solved only in the strategic timeframe.

The last part of the solution is probably the most important. Each salesperson will be required to complete a short online quiz by a certain date to prove that she's taken the training and has attained at least the minimum skill level. This will also serve you as a reporting mechanism so you can tell who didn't bother with the training.

Case Study 5. Technical Skills Training

You are the HR manager for MultiPRODUCTS Inc, a medium-size company with 10,000 employees working in the high-tech services market.

Many of your employees are highly skilled in their specific area of expertise, but their technical breadth is often lacking. For example, you've found that many of your C++ programmers are deficient in networking and in database skills. Your UNIX system administrators are poor at understanding data mining. And all your administrative people could do better with spreadsheets.

What's at Stake?

The training situation here is not immediately critical to your business. You'd certainly like to have everyone better trained in these technical areas—it would probably help things runs a lot more smoothly and efficiently in your business. But if they don't, your business will keep going nonetheless. This case study falls into the category of a "strategically good thing to do as long as it's not going to cost too much in the short term."

It's important to distinguish this case study from Case Studies #2 and #3 on certification-type training. In those cases the training needs were indeed critical to the business in a fixed time period.

Student Motivation

Your employees will have good intentions for taking courses outside their immediate job responsibilities, but they will have lots of business pressures that hinder many of them from acting on those good intentions. (Think of this in terms of the good intentions people have when they start an exercise program, weight loss program, etc. Or just think of your New Year's resolutions from last year.) Your employees will need strong motivations from your management team to keep working on skills that are not immediately important to their day-to-day job responsibilities.

Note: Stop a moment and think of your own e-learning solution before reading on.

Solution Factors

The solution approach you take here will depend on how important the different technical skills are to your company. The skill set will divide into (A) moderately important technical skills, and (B) critical skills. (There's also the case of "unimportant skills" but you probably wouldn't even want to try to address those.) You might want different solutions for each of Cases A and B:

Case A

Moderately important technical skills. For this case you offer self-directed, on-demand training to these students, and you should probably try to buy this standard training from industry vendors instead of creating it yourself. If you are currently sending these students to class, this will result in an immediate savings in travel costs. Part of the solution must also include a tracking and reward mechanism for students who complete e-learning courses. They need to get credit on their human resources record for completing the courses.

Case B

Critically important technical skills. For this case, you might offer more elaborate e-learning. You might include here virtual classroom training with a remote instructor, and even e-lab training where students can access hands-on labs over the Internet. This approach will probably cost more, but if the skills are genuinely important to your company, it will be money well spent. Just as in Case A, part of the solution also must include a tracking and reward mechanism for students who complete e-learning courses. They at least need to get credit on their human resources record for completing the courses.

Since most of what you need in this category of training is already created by industry vendors, you don't want to create your own courseware here. And you want to avoid anything here that costs too much.

Depending on how important the training is to your business, you might want to track which students complete which courses. However, you can't put yourself in the position of punishing employees for not completing this kind of training.

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