Until last year, the only way for the training team at American Power Conversion Corp. (APC) in West Kingston, R.I., to communicate maintenance and procedural changes to field service engineers was to send out lengthy, text-based technical information bulletins.
"The text bulletins would outline the problem, tell our engineers how to fix it while at a client site, and provide step-by-step instructions regarding how to actually perform the fix in the field," says Ronda Vye, director of training, North America, at APC.
The only problem? Complex instructions featured in the bulletins were difficult for field service engineers to visualize and comprehend, says Vye. "Though the objectives of these written technical bulletins met the necessary criteria, they did not enhance understanding or make a logical impression [on] the engineers [regarding] how to physically perform the required skills."
In response, APC implemented the Video Information Bulletin program in June 2006. In each bulletin, APC trainers act as on-camera talent to demonstrate the skills and tasks required to perform each procedure. The videos are then incorporated into Flash-based e-learning modules and are supplemented by more detailed, text-based bulletins—both of which can be accessed from the field via wireless-enabled laptops.
Training recently spoke with Vye about the Video Information Bulletin program and what makes it work:
Training: What results has the program delivered to date?
Vye: To date, the Video Information Bulletin program has educated more than 600 engineers worldwide on vital information and procedures. In tying this program back to our 2006 corporate goals, we are seeing return on value in three areas, including customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, and profitability. Surveys also indicate that the program resulted in an increase in employee confidence, which correlates to employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction and reduces the likelihood of multiple site visits to perform services, thus reducing operation costs and increasing profitability.
Thanks to the video bulletins, the number of calls to the training team from those in the field asking for help and further explanation regarding how to perform new and/or complex procedures also decreased significantly.
Training: What are some tips that you have for other training professionals interested in launching a similar program?
- Keep it simple. Initially, we tried to tackle the entire problem in each video—rather than keeping it simple and quickly demonstrating the skill we needed to train. Over time, we learned that our audience doesn't want to spend 15 minutes watching a video. They want a quick demonstration to reinforce what they just read about. As a result, the video bulletins we create today are shorter and simpler; most are only five to 10 minutes long.
- Optimize download time—and be sure to track. When we launched the program, we sent out executable files via e-mail and used a Flash program to launch them. Distributing video in that way didn't work for two reasons. First, it took too long for field personnel to download the files. Second, we couldn't track usage. Today, by contrast, all video bulletins are housed on our learning management system (LMS), which allows for quicker download and also provides us with the capability to track usage.
- Don't overdo it. Video bulletins are effective, but we don’t use them in every instance. Typically, we use video when a procedure is particularly complex or completely new, or if we are training on a procedure that field personnel aren’t accustomed to performing on a routine basis.
American Power Conversion Corp. is a global provider of network-critical physical infrastructure solutions and is based in West Kingston, R.I. The company placed 56th on Training magazine's 2007 Top 125 list, an annual ranking of organizations that excel at human capital development.