To keep pace with heightened customer expectations, speed of business and shifting markets, employees require new skills to help them do their jobs effectively. Unfortunately, however, many of today’s learning formats are missing the mark. Employees are saddled with information-heavy experiences that try to cram a career’s worth of knowledge into compressed time frames. These programs give little thought to the employee’s ability to quickly implement the new learning or to retain information days or months later, when they may actually need it. Moreover, learning material is either too generic or out of sync with on-the-job requirements, while the tools or documentation needed to be successful are hard to find and often reside across many different technologies.
I’ve seen employees’ frustration when they are taken out of their demanding roles to watch hour-long videos, attend week-long courses or sit through off-the-shelf training that offers no insights about how they do their specific jobs. The expectation behind these classic learning methods is that people will assimilate the knowledge and skills immediately. This expectation is based on a common belief that if a person goes through a single training or event, he or she will suddenly have the capabilities to do whatever the training covered without any further support or practice over time.
The truth is that the caliber of knowledge and skills needed in today’s businesses are far too complex for people to master in a short period of time.
Another fallacy is the expectation that people will start using the content on their own initiative. I have encountered many situations where an organization creates a piece of content — for example, a sales playbook, new product information or new systems training — and then distributes it to employees in an email with the mistaken belief that they will be able to apply it after reading the materials.
A Simple Step-by-step Solution
Based on these realities, the best way to create effective learning and enablement is to implement a step-by-step strategy that reimagines the conventional way that we develop content and disseminate it to employees.
The process starts with working to understand the day-to-day reality of the employees’ roles and to define the business outcomes that each role needs. These outcomes must be measurable and quantifiable — for example, increased conversion rates, lower unwanted attrition, higher customer satisfaction ratings, higher consumption rates, or increased upsell and cross-sell opportunities.
The next step is connecting the outcomes to the specific role of each employee. This process is critical to creating a great learner experience. Below are some of the simple questions that learning teams can ask as part of this process:
- Whom do employees in this role work with?
- What kind of work do these employees produce?
- What do we expect them to do with this content once they’ve consumed it?
- What is most important to them?
- How do we measure their success?
- What seems confusing about what they do?
- What are their go-to places for information?
- Which meetings do they attend?
- What technology do they use, and how do they use it?
- How do they typically work — using technology, in meetings or a mix of both?
Design and Organize the Content to Be Easy to Find and Use
Once they’ve completed this discovery work, learning teams can determine what content is already available within the company and how they need to organize it for the easiest access and consumption. Often, they must deconstruct and redesign existing content or break it down into more manageable components. Regardless of the modality that they’re using, learning teams are the stewards of how much content is too much for employees to be able to retain and swiftly put to use.
In one example, an enablement team at a Fortune 1000 company created a sales playbook for a highly complex digital transformation offering. Its beautiful PDF was a representation of what many people agreed to, and the content was strong. This PDF format, though, was not supportive of how their salespeople actually interacted with customers. The enablement team hadn’t had a vision of how the seller would use the playbook — no vision of taking that content and creating an experience that would help the seller succeed.
The team needed to redesign the playbook. It began by asking salespeople what they needed. Answers included:
- I need an overview deck for my first meeting that shows how we will solve their problem.
- I need more specific information about this chief information officer in my account, so I can make that mental connection when I look her up on LinkedIn.
- When it comes to the sales conversation, I need past examples of our work or something that we’ve done that’s relatable to the client’s problem to discuss.
- I need to be able to find information quickly and assemble it out of these different assets.
- I need to speak with my team to learn what objections they have encountered in the past and be able to use those examples in my conversations with clients.
Based on these requirements, it became clear that a static PDF was not the experience that would make these sellers successful. The enablement team designed a revised experience that included:
- An example conversation in a short, 90-second video.
- Live peer cohorts to discuss navigating a specific selling motion and the differences they had encountered.
- A documentary-style video of peers discussing different objections they’d encountered and how they did or did not overcome them.
- Customer meeting accelerators, such as tailorable pitch decks, financial models and solution details — to be customized as necessary.
This example is just one of the countless instances when this step-by-step process is the solution. Fortunately, many programs that modern learning and enablement teams develop lend themselves to this reimagination, including:
- Sales or agent onboarding experiences for new hires that are meant to be consumed in sequence and tied to a specific outcome (such as “enter first opportunity into the customer relationship management system”).
- Customer case plays, an evolution of sales plays, in which content is organized according to the stages through which a representative customer solved his or her problem.
- Ongoing support in which information is easy to locate for new product launches or skill development.
- Frontline manager development to provide support for managers in an easy, path-based format.
- Account planning with access to tools, documents and a planning cadence with a team.
This simple process of understanding employees’ roles and what they need to succeed can move an organization into breakthrough performance. When training teams create experiences with the audience in mind, not only are the business results significant, but adoption and support can radically shift. Employees who are provided with consumable and easy-to-find experiences are eager to share their enthusiasm and ask for more.