Seeking to keep global employees connected to QUALCOMM's world headquarters in San Diego, the Employee Communications team—a group within QUALCOMM's Learning Center—developed an Online Employee Tradeshow that mirrors the live technical learning event held at the corporate campus.
The Online Employee Tradeshow's launch page includes an interactive map that emulates the floor layout of the live event. Employees can navigate through the various technologies and company divisions represented at the tradeshow, or visit the "Information Booth" for more tips. All of the virtual booths sport the look and feel of their real-world progenitors, and include interviews with key QUALCOMM personnel and even video demonstrations filmed during the live event.
Training recently spoke with Tamar Elkeles, QUALCOMM's VP of learning and development, about the program.
Training: What is the Online Employee Tradeshow experience like?
Elkeles: The annual tradeshow is a recap of everything taking place within QUALCOMM and our industry—including technology, innovations, and partner and competitive information. Like a simulation, those who attend the online version of the event feel like they are really there. For example, users control their experience throughout the event by determining where they go, what happens in each booth, and how they view each booth (e.g., by switching from aerial to booth view). They also have the ability to interact with the people manning the booths, and to tailor the content covered to their specific preferences and needs.
Training: What are the results thus far?
Elkeles: A total of 2,368 unique visitors attended our 2008 Online Employee Tradeshow, resulting in 17,333 "virtual booth" page hits and 37,577 total hits to unique videos and content. Survey data show the employees feel they have a greater understanding of QUALCOMM's technologies as a result of the Online Employee Tradeshow, with 97 percent saying that the event is a good way to learn about the projects and planning happening throughout QUALCOMM and 93 percent saying that it helps generate excitement about QUALCOMM and the ideas its employees develop and execute.
Training: Are there any tips you can share with readers who might be interested in implementing something similar?
- Put your ear to the ground. Sometimes, as learning and HR professionals, we have a tendency to think that certain things are important, but the employee base doesn't necessarily feel the same way. So my biggest piece of advice is to highlight the specific technologies, innovations, ideas, and topics that your employees care about. We continually challenge ourselves to figure out what is important to them. One of the ways we do this is by maintaining open, clear channels of communication between management and staff. We also have an advisory group that feeds many ideas and suggestions in to us, and we feature an Amazon.com-like "rate it" feature as part of the tradeshow experience, which gives us a very good sense of what attendees like and want to see more—or less—of in the future.
- Personalize it. When we first launched the online tradeshow in 2006, we dictated where employees went and when. Over time, however, we realized that we needed to give users more control over the experience. So now, the tradeshow functions more like a self-guided tour. In other words, we let attendees control where they go and which information they take in. Allowing them to pick what's important to them not only personalizes the experience, it also drives attendance.
- Team up. In some of our international offices, groups of employees gather in a conference room to go through the tradeshow together online, with a manager or executive facilitating the experience. If you can rally your international managers and executives to fill the role of event facilitator, it can increase event attendance and create a richer experience for attendees.
QUALCOMM Inc. is a telecommunications company with worldwide headquarters in San Diego. In 2008, it placed 101st on Training magazine's Top 125 list, an annual ranking of organizations that excel at human capital development.