The Learning Revolution Is Here
Are You Ready For It?
The recent move by Amazon hiring Candice Thille is a big deal. When a company like Amazon decides to bring this type of talent into the organization it’s a signal to the rest of us that a shift is occurring.
The way we go about training employees is radically changing. And quite honestly, it’s about time.
Let’s start with our future.
Our system for educating the next generation of workers coming out of college is not keeping pace. Moreover, the training and continual training doesn’t get any better once that student enters the workforce.
Our education system is an outdated model, and this is becoming more evident with each passing day. Consider this finding from a Gallup/Inside Higher Education study:
96% of chief academic officers at higher education institutions say their institution is very or somewhat effective at preparing students for the world of work. On the other side, only 1% of business leaders Strongly Agreed that college graduates were effectively prepared for the workforce.
That’s a significant gap, and the disparity is pretty alarming. That gap is driving the growth of “new forms” of education to sprout up on the landscape. Woz U is a recent example.
But the problem doesn’t end at the door of higher education. Once students enter the workforce employee training are just varying “half steps” — especially when it comes to sales training.
This is a space I spend a lot of time in and I can tell you first hand, in today’s world, the model used for training and keeping a sales force continually engaged is broken. Organizations are not fully grasping how much has changed over the past ten years and the impact it is having on their productivity.
Let me provide some context:
· Nearly 40% of workers do not believe it’s possible to have a work / life balance.
· In 2001, more than 75% of us preferred to learn by reading. Today, only 13% prefer reading…coming in last behind watching, listening and interacting as the new preferences. (V.A.R.K)
· According to a recent survey, 84% of all sales training is lost after 90 days. This is majorly due to the lack of information retention among sales personnel. This highlights the need for refresher trainings from time to time along with effective sales training.
· Over 50% of sales managers are too busy to train and develop their sales teams.
And the beat goes on.
The fact is, our world has become extremely complex. The amount of information and data coming at us each and every day is staggering. The pace of technology is changing so fast, it’s nearly impossible to keep up. And selling in today’s world has become incredibly difficult.
The amount of information at the fingertips of buyers is a blessing and curse. Training a sales force and keeping that force trained and ready to ADD value at any stage of the sales journey demands an entirely different approach.
To that end, many acknowledge there are issues, but few have a clear vision for the road ahead. Too many are looking to tweak the current model hoping that will be enough. It’s not…far from it.
The chart below is one I’ve shared in some recent meetings. It maps how many hours per week of training workers are receiving from employers vs. self-directed learning.
As you can see most employees are training themselves and the difference is significant. But that’s just half of the story.
Where it gets really interesting is the kind of reaction I get when I bring up this chart in business conversations. What happens is many shake their heads and then begin to talk about ways they can free up their leaders to do more training.
And there’s the problem.
Too many are mired in an old way of thinking that will not take them to where they need to go.
So, What’s Ahead?
In today’s economy, it’s critical that sales organizations get their new team members up to speed and selling faster than ever before. And yet, the world is more complex and challenging than ever. So, what can be done?
At the core, a shift needs to happen.
For starters, organizations need to rethink their view of training from a one-time exercise to continual learning. The old approach of cramming as much information at one-time, just begging to be forgotten needs to be over-hauled.
Instead of training, I believe more and more business leaders need to think in terms of a MINDSHIFT — moving forward there needs to a period of onboarding, followed by reoccurring and consistent education.
Under this method, new employees would learn where and how to access critical selling information. As well as how that information is used during different parts of the sales journey. So rather than trying to fill someone’s head with just product facts and figures, more time can be spent educating a sales person on how to access the needed information, and how to use that knowledge to help add value to the conversation with a potential customer.
Of course, onboarding by itself is just the start.
A sales force that is going to add value and drive results must stay current and up-to-date at all times. They need to be aware of new product changes. Changing market conditions. New competitive challenges. Changing assets and tools. They need to be ready at all times. And this ongoing rep readiness can be accomplished by 1) encouraging more self-directed learning, 2) providing ALL the critical content your sales team will need and organizing that information into one easy to find central location and 3) making that content available across any and all devices laptop, tablet, and phone. Or to put it more succinctly, EVERYWHERE and ANYWHERE.
Organizations must also rethink the type of content available to workers. Gone are the days of providing a downloadable PDF or PowerPoint with clip art. Companies need to think about serving up content in different formats and executions including video, audio, text and interaction with the content. Peer to peer is also extremely valuable in this new world and I believe will only increase in importance as time goes on.
Now armed with access to the critical knowledge they need, workers can begin to access and continue discovering and selling anytime, anywhere. Training as we once knew it will change from a “3-hour course” into 5 to 15-minute learning briefs that can be accessed on demand by any rep, when it best fits in.
With this new approach will also come more analytics which will allow managers to focus more time on better understanding how their sales force is using information to move a customer from prospect to close. And with this knowledge managers can create best practices that can easily be shared. The result of all this is a better chance of creating a highly productive sales team vs. just a couple of standout players.
And so the question becomes…can this new approach deliver results?
Let’s take a look. According to Brainshark training and reinforcement result in over 50% higher net sales per employee and nearly 40% higher gross profit per employee.
Summing It Up
A true learning revolution is not just coming it’s here! Amazon is making investments that will improve the productivity of their 500,000 plus global workforce. And they aren’t the only ones. According to a recent EdSurge article, large technology companies are bringing in talent to lead training and education efforts at Slack, and Dropbox — the list goes on.
The pace of change isn’t going to slow down. It will only increase and cause even more disruption and uncertainty. But only for the ones that don’t want to recognize that change is here or for those that fail to act. For those that see what is happening and take the necessary steps the future could look very bright indeed.
Providing a new alternative to how organizations train and maintain an effective sales force is what we do everyday, all day. So, if you’re interested in talking more about a new training and mobile sales enablement solutions, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.