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eTraining: How It Can Make a Difference in Your Company

By Tim Wright, twright@clearthinkinggroup.com

Companies spend thousands of dollars to train one new employee and hundreds annually for additional training with each existing employee. Cost savings alone are tempting consumer product retail, manufacturing, distribution and wholesale companies to turn to eTraining, but the benefits go beyond savings.

Consider the example of a company deploying a new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, where the initial training approach focused on “Train the Trainer.” This approach could turn out to be less effective due to an inconsistent message from person to person, especially over time. However, after developing a customized eTraining system centered on the ERP system and standard operating procedures, training materials would be presented through an interactive application. Following implementation of the eTraining, the employees’ knowledge of the system and their familiarity with standard operational procedures would be quickly learned with the message originally intended by the management.

eTraining works by delivering educational content through a centralized Learning Management System (LMS). The LMS allows a company to streamline video, text and images to make training visually stimulating, utilize customized quizzes, and present supporting documents thereby establishing a virtual classroom. This method of communication technology is consistent with the communication channels that exist today. Through this virtual classroom, consumer product companies can deliver a specific or robust, cost-effective and timely implemented approach to training at any level of the organization.

Training given in different locations, by different individual and possibly by different media may not be cohesive producing less than optimal results, minimizing the effectiveness of any initiatives put forward by the company for the purpose of making improvement in the first place. eTraining provides a consistent training approach by presenting all employees with the same instructional material. These virtual classroom materials demonstrate the skills and knowledgebase associates need to properly perform activities which, in turn, give them a sense of pride and ownership in their work. eTraining allows an opportunity for employees to learn at their own pace, while most will learn very quickly using this hands-on visual method. Within as little as an hour, personnel can become fully educated on areas such as customer service, loss prevention, and sales techniques – naming just a few.

With eTraining initiatives in place, employees can spend more time assisting and interacting with customers by spending less time training, and manager schedules don’t have to be interrupted. Training expenses can be greatly reduced by less man hours by both trainer and trainee. In addition, there is a significant opportunity for increasing sales by showing proven sales techniques and explaining proper customer service. Because of this the return on investment is found many-fold. With strong collaboration and focus by the client-side team and eTraining vendor, a basic but efficient eTraining tool can be developed and deployed in less than a month.

A customized eTraining LMS can be planned and developed within the first week where time is spent reviewing the requirements and assigning the client side project team; making sure all of the necessary protocols and the messaging of the training are agreed upon. Weeks two and three would focus on filming, creating the copy content, then integrating the movie and copy into the application. The vendor providing eTraining should work with management to script and direct onsite filming. Showing examples from within the company itself, with tasks being done by real employees, gives the trainee a sense of being part of the company culture and demonstrates equipment that is actually used in their work environment. During the final week, regression testing and training would be conducted to ensure the message comes across and that quiz segments are effective in showing appropriate content is learned and scoring is produced without error.

A deployed eTraining system can be accessed at a standalone terminal within the company or at the trainee’s home over the internet. This method allows new hires, promoted employees and re-hires immediate training after signing their paperwork! And the options go on:

  • Broad topic or very specific content instruction can be delivered using a modular approach.
  • Large department stores can focus training on merchandise planning and customer service techniques in store, over the internet, or even by distributing DVDs from the corporate office.
  • Corporate owned store locations or franchises can be given modules that focus on improving customer service, managing store operations, loss prevention, product knowledge and proven sales methods.
  • Specialty and off-price retailers can show specialized merchandising and product markdown management processes. Reference guides can accompany the computer training module when more detailed information is necessary.
  • Safety precautions and procedures, and best practices can be shown to warehouse workers, distribution agents and manufacturing staff.
  • Education beyond store level could include corporate initiatives such as the importance of sustainability and how employees can support those efforts.
  • Provides more content and less expensive than video only training.
  • Gives training and information tailored to your product or industry versus canned training methods, which are less informative, of less interest to the trainee, and more expensive by paying for actors’ time, directing, and production.

In short, eTraining is not only cost-effective, but reliable and timely; giving the employees the knowledge and confidence they need for improved operations in all parts of the company. After implementing an eTraining program, consumer product organizations can experience immediate improvements in employee compliance and customer satisfaction.

Tim Wright, manager, Clear Thinking Group (clearthinkinggroup.com), Hillsborough, N.J., has over eight years of professional experience with operations improvement and systems implementation, workforce management, sales force automation, strategic sourcing, inventory management, and technology.  He is a member of the Project Management Institute and is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and can be reached at twright@clearthinkinggroup.com.