Implementing a new and creative training program is critical for learner engagement and the team designing, developing and delivering it.

Since 2013, Sysmex America Inc.’s Center for Learning (CFL) has been using an innovative virtual solution to stream training classes to their customers and internal employees from a state-of-the-art production studio. During that time, the CFL has strived to avoid the human tendency for inertia and the “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” mindset by continuously innovating.

Recently, looking to spark idea generation and execution, they developed a one-year, virtual instructor-led training (VILT) initiative involving every one of their 36 team members. Let’s take a look at how Sysmex CFL moved from group brainstorming to group execution to elevate their innovative virtual training model to the next level.

Continuous Innovation

There was never a shortage of ideas from the CFL’s diverse team of learning and design professionals. The team consisted of certified instructors, instructional designers and professionals from the studio production world, such as producers, camera operators and sound specialists. Group brainstorming sessions were always fruitful with this diversity of backgrounds and expertise.

The CFL leadership team set a fiscal year goal to enhance their VILT classes. They outlined the VILT 3.0 initiative to focus on moving from ideation to execution while including all 36 CFL team members to ensure a diversity of innovative ideas and the skills needed to execute those ideas. The program began with two brainstorming sessions at a high level that included all team members. Then, it broke out into different cross-functional groups quarterly to focus on and experiment with these brainstormed ideas.

At a department level, two brainstorming sessions were held and guided by the leadership team. Breakout groups were formed, and ideas were compiled using a whiteboard and sticky notes. The leadership team then met to organize and group the ideas in alignment with the company’s training and development goals, thus providing structure and guard rails to guide teams during the project’s execution phase.

Developing the Program

Quarter One: The top priority identified by team members was upgrading the technology to host virtual classes. Further work on any other ideas was suspended as new technology was researched and collaborated upon. Every team member participated at this phase within their departmental role. Implementation of the new software took three months to complete.

Quarter Two: CFL associates were assigned to one of four cross-functional teams concentrating on one of the following learning categories: design, facilitation, socialization and technology. A team member with expertise in each learning category was designated leader of that group. Each team then picked one or more things to work on from the list of curated ideas. Experimentation was encouraged, and failures and successes were celebrated equally. Team leads met weekly with a guidance team made up of department leaders to receive help navigating issues and to answer questions they might have. Check ins from each team were conducted at the end of the quarter during regularly scheduled organization wide meetings.

Quarters Three and Four: Teams were mixed up at the end of each quarter, and new team leads were assigned. Teams could then choose a new idea to work on or continue with the work from the previous quarter.

The Results

The teams experimented with over 33 ideas with 20 implemented. Though teams were told they did not have to implement their ideas within a quarter, many did. The structure of the program appeared to speed up execution.

CFL customers reported overall satisfaction with the company (OSAT) with the improved VILT classes, and OSAT scores crept up from an average of 9.0 to 9.3 (out of 10). More striking was that the month-to-month OSAT scores were steadier than in the previous fiscal year. Throughout the year that VILT 3.0 was in process, customer OSAT scores never went below 9.0, whereas the year before, there were four months when the average customer OSAT dipped below 9.0 in the range of 8.4-8.9.

Managers reported an uptick in motivation and engagement levels in their direct reports for the project. To better understand the effect on associates, surveys were sent to the 36 team members at the end of the program. Overall satisfaction with the program was rated a 4.2 out of 5.0.

Despite the great response, the number one challenge cited by participants was finding a mutually agreeable time to meet and work on the VILT 3.0 project. This was particularly problematic because of team members’ differing teaching schedules. To overcome this, teams had to get creative in communicating and making decisions. Most teams utilized collaboration tools to create channels where they could post messages, collaborate ideas and share documents. They also used a task list add-on to organize their workflow and track what team members were working on.

The most positive feedback cited by participants was that they found it particularly effective to work in a smaller and diverse group with different perspectives. This encouraged a range of new ideas to be explored with faster group consensus and agility. It also gave everyone in the department a voice and an increased feeling of ownership. Other positives cited were feeling free to try new things without fear of failing and the opportunity to build leadership skills if ever chosen to become a team leader.

Overall, the Sysmex CFL team, both management and employees, considered the VILT 3.0 project a success. The development of the innovative training program encouraged team collaboration, accelerating the implementation of new and creative ideas. Employees were encouraged to experiment with ideas and were provided support and guidance in which successes and failures were celebrated equally. As a result, the company saw higher levels of customer satisfaction and employee engagement.

Register for the June Training Industry Conference & Expo (TICE) to hear Diane Ebel’s session, “Elevating Virtual Training with Continuous Innovation: A Case Study.”