By Margery Weinstein
You’ve been conditioned to keep your eyes open for the latest learning management system updates and are resigned to periodic hiccups with the hardware. You may be accustomed to either your in-house or vendor IT workers installing elaborate software and then ensuring the software they installed fully integrates with your other software platforms, such as your human resources or talent management system. But what if you didn’t have to worry about installing software or buying hardware at all? A learning management system (LMS) based on a platform that exists on the Web is a way to limit—or even do away with entirely—in-house LMS upkeep. It also allows learners to access the system anywhere, anytime.
When you are limited to the technology capabilities of a software system and your in-house IT equipment, you can only do so much for learners. You may be able to deliver the classes you promised, but not the high-tech bells and whistles they may have been hoping for. “What we call E-Learning 1.0 is severely limited by a browser using local computing resources,” says Tom Graunke, chairman and CEO of IT training company StormWind. “Cloud services open up an enterprise-level of resources unlike any we’ve seen in the past. The result is what we call E-Learning 2.0, which provides high quality and a huge experience upgrade over what’s been offered in the past.”
That upgrade opens up a learning experience on par with what your youngest, most tech-savvy learners are accustomed to. “This evolution to cloud resources introduces students to high-definition (HD) learning capabilities such as green-screen technology and the integration of Hollywood-quality imagery,” says Graunke. “Previously, we were limited to clip art graphics and basic voiceover.”
For trainers, cloud-based coursework often means greater ease of instruction resulting in greater long-term learning impact. “For the trainer, it brings back the personalization of classroom training,” Graunke points out. “It allows for the student to see a high-definition, live broadcast of a class and interact with it in real time. It finally delivers on the promise of e-learning.”
Technological advancements made possible with cloud-based platforms may even allow learners to take the driver’s seat in developing content, says CornerstoneOnDemand CEO and President Adam Miller. “We expect much more real-time, user-generated training content. Users can use their smart phones to record how to do something and post the video to a course catalog or collaboration portal,” says Miller. “Next, the expectation is that training content can be available on any device at any time for consumption, so you can access the training on your desktop, smart phone, tablet, or smart TV.”
Ramped-Up Mentoring and Collaboration
The ability to share so much anytime, anywhere allows for amped-up mentoring. “Some cloud-based training providers offer Web portal access, collaboration, virtual instructor-led training (VILT), and mentoring tools to enhance the learner’s experience,” says Hatsize Vice President of Marketing Vicki Morris. For example, she says Hatsize provides each student with their own hands-on learning environment where they can work at their own pace to complete a course or practice before taking a certification exam. Instructors can take control over a student’s learning environment and coach them through an exercise. The technology also provides a “State Save” feature that enables students to take a break and return later to continue from where they left off. “Built-in chat and collaboration tools,” says Morris, “allow students to engage in informal learning from other students in much the same way as social media enables non-structured communication among peers.”
Cloud-based technology should be a way to integrate the learning experience, says Emad Rizkalla, president and CEO, Bluedrop Performance Learning. “From a learning perspective, the advantages of the cloud are in the opportunity to take many silos of disparate learning opportunities and to connect them into one experience, to share and network with like-minded learners, and to expand the learning horizon to include all the organizational structures in which they can or should exist,” says Rizkalla. He points out that while today’s learners are spread out across the country, and even the world, they still need to learn from one another. “Since 80 percent of learning is informal, learners crave the opportunity to network with like-minded professionals,” says Rizkalla. “But what happens if you are one of three risk managers in your organization? The corporate learning management system, no matter how much ‘social lipstick’ they put on it, offers you very little. You will want to be able to go beyond your corporate silo and network with, and learn from, risk managers globally. This enormous gap in the LMS space is why we built CoursePark.com—for learning to benefit an organization, it
actually needs to be architected for the user.”
On-the-Job Learning Enabler
The ability to access cloud platforms from any location at any time enables on-the-job training that delivers knowledge at the exact moment workers need it, says Dan Cooper, former CEO, ej4. “ej4 created custom video e-learning for Intermec, a supply chain inventory tracking solutions provider, to allow for ‘just-in-time’ product training for its channel sales teams,” he explains. “The technology at Intermec is ever-changing, and it needed a way to disseminate new product information quickly and easily to its sales partners in the field,” says Cooper. “Cloud-based e-learning was the perfect solution for the sales team. Courses are short, to the point, and can be easily accessed by partners on their own devices.”
The flexibility of cloud technology is balanced with built-in mechanisms that ensure accountability. “Training materials are universally presented to the entire target audience, eliminating variables associated with personally staffed training sessions and assuring both information consistency and timely, scheduled delivery,” says TechScholar Principal William Breslow. “Compliance can be assured with management reporting and comprehension, and retention can be tested with quiz questions.” Breslow notes that the technology allows administrators to do a deep dive into the actions of its learners. “Using Internet reporting technology, management teams can see the time of day people completed the training,” he says. “With properly programmed features, they can even see how much time was spent on any individual screen and what links were accessed for more information. This helps fine-tune and structure future training.”
Cloud technology can be the most cost-effective choice for a company, says Chris Lennon, director of Product Management, SilkRoad Technology. “Leveraging cloud technology gives companies a financial advantage by being able to quickly respond to changing market needs, industry trends, or regulatory requirements. Without hardware, companies have the ability to use and manage software, including adopting new technologies as they become available,” he says. “Companies don’t need to hire IT staff but rather can use that budget to hire training professionals who can add value to the company. However, the value extends beyond the obvious; the energy that goes into managing the infrastructure can be invested into improving your training programs. It’s hard to put a price tag on your energy and focus, but all of us working today understand the value.”
SilkRoad’s GreenLight customer, Lifestyle Family Fitness, found the financial benefits of easy, high-quality remote access through a cloud-based LMS compelling. “It gave us flexibility and the ability to utilize our bandwidth more effectively, while providing productive, hassle-free management of e-courses and workshops,” says Director of Training and Development Julie Dietz. “In addition, there was no installation of hardware or download of any type of software to access our LMS, which was important since we have more than 55 remote locations. The investment made was well worth the savings realized in just travel expenses alone.”
Case Study: Cloud-Based Coaching
By Anthony Robbins, Robbins Research Institute (RRI)
We live in the age of information—the most prolific and fast-paced era mankind has ever known—a world in which all the information ever obtained is doubled less than every two years; a world in which 1.3 billion e-mail users send more than 200 billion messages per day; and a world in which a single computer chip is close to having the power of a human brain. We live on an information superhighway where the touch of a button can provide us with the answer to almost any question we can imagine. As businesses and as individuals, we have more choices today than any other time in human history but less guidance and consistent focus on the area that matters most—growing your business.
Engine for Growth
My company, Robbins Research Institute (RRI), is no different. My team and I didn’t always know how to transform our business to keep it moving into its next growth phase. For years, I was having an amazing impact on the quality of people’s lives, but I wasn’t producing the business results I needed and wanted year after year. Recently, I have found that the single most important factor in the growth of your business is based on effective strategy execution and psychology.
Specifically, part of the strategy to grow our business was to implement a new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. A fundamental outcome for making the change was to accelerate our pipeline and increase our close rates while decreasing overall sales costs. We looked at several best-in-class solutions based in the cloud and on site. We ultimately chose salesforce.com as our CRM platform. One of our primary concerns was to ensure the RRI pipeline of opportunities didn’t experience a downturn while people were trying to figure out how to sell using a new CRM. The simple truth is that “technology DOES NOT equal growth.”
Implementing salesforce.com and conducting user training created a “platform for growth.” However, there was something still missing. That missing link was behavioral integration and transformation, which established our “engine for growth.” Like many companies, we were concerned with how to transform our culture while maximizing the advantages of our investment.
Over the last few years, I have become fascinated by the value and functionality of what companies such as RRI can extract from the cloud. Interestingly, more than 10 years ago, salesforce.com founder and CEO Marc Benioff had an idea to build a company with a revolutionary vision for creating a cloud-based CRM platform that eliminated traditional software. After attending one of my programs called “Unleash the Power Within,” Marc decided to embark upon building his vision for salesforce.com. Marc is quoted as saying, “Tony Robbins and his strategies and tools have been at the core of our culture from the beginning. He has been one of the critical keys to salesforce.com’s leadership in cloud computing and its growth into a $3 billion company.” Marc learned the keys to making a breakthrough possible in his own life and took deliberate action by changing his “Strategy, Story, and State.” The result of these three vital tools was a massive shift in his thinking that once created and now continuously transforms salesforce.com.
I have had the privilege of working with more than 4 million people from 100-plus countries in the last 35 years. Through my experience, I have found that although we are all different culturally, we all have similar patterns of behavior. A breakthrough is a moment in time when suddenly the impossible becomes possible. There are three key elements to any breakthrough: Strategy, Story, and State. If we have the right Strategy, sometimes we need a better Story—one that empowers us to break through instead of limiting us. If we have the right Story, sometimes we need to get in a stronger State. Eighty percent of someone’s successes or failures is based on psychology, while 20 percent is mechanics or strategy.
After implementing salesforce.com, we quickly realized that our organization needed to undergo a cultural transformation that started with integrating new selling behaviors. User training was good, but it just wasn’t going to get us the results we needed. To change your culture, you must transform behaviors. Our team felt we needed a partner who understood our business and would be able to deliver winning behavioral transformation. We chose Baker Communications and its services called “Coaching in the Cloud” to deliver a 12-week cadence of focused sales coaching that drove measurable ROI while helping our team integrate winning CRM behaviors and best practices literally into the nervous system of our organization.
Sustainable behavioral change does not come from a single event such as user training. Real transformation comes from making an impact on an organization consistently over time. Coaching in the Cloud is a dynamic cloud-based service that systematically delivers targeted results using real customers in our pipeline, which makes the one-hour-a-week commitment a relevant and welcomed activity. By delivering these sessions in the cloud, we made excellent use of our time, which allowed my team to connect quickly with their peers, their manager, and our expert CloudCoach. Coaching in the Cloud helped my organization break through its own limiting beliefs by creating certainty on a weekly basis. Their cloud-based coaching services understand how to create breakthroughs by attacking a sales team’s Strategy, Story, and State. Although Baker Communications didn’t call it that, it was clear its process for transforming sales teams was based upon a similar methodology.
Strategy, Story, and State
We launched by working with our CloudCoach to identify our mission and outcomes, which formed the basis of our Strategy. During our one-hour virtual bullpen, we focused on sharing wins and celebrating individual successes. We then talked about the gaps and roadblocks that appeared to be keeping us from closing even more opportunities. This is where our CloudCoach started to understand the Stories each sales rep had about why they failed. Reshaping someone’s Story is key to experiencing a breakthrough. Once we understood the Story, the team collectively shared best practices to help that person rewrite their Story of what is possible and how to attain success using new approaches. The next step in the one-hour session was to brainstorm solutions and other shifts in Strategy that would lead to success. The final step was a review of action items and short-term plans to implement what was learned. This closed the loop and gave the team actionable tasks and strategies to execute. In just one hour, the sales team was able to quickly review its pipeline and the challenges it faced in moving prospects to the next stage while learning how to use salesforce.com to accelerate opportunities with less effort and time. The energy on every call was amazing and contagious. Overall, our sales team experienced a powerful State change by joining a team call that focused on individual breakthroughs and finding new approaches to personal success, one deal at a time. When my team got back on the phones, they were reenergized with new strategies to win business from challenging customer scenarios. As soon as just one shift in their approach worked, our sales team was hooked.
The Birth of CloudCoaching International
Based on the results we achieved with Coaching in the Cloud and the similarities between Baker Communications’ coaching process and my methodologies for creating breakthroughs, we decided to form a joint venture called CloudCoaching International (CCI). CCI is the culmination of more than three decades of my focus—modeling the most successful businesses in existence and the strategies that produce consistent and abundant results. Our mission is to help sales organizations break through their limiting beliefs and their challenges while maximizing their CRM investment—it opens the minds of sales makers, managers, and leaders to even greater levels of potential and possibility, while implementing real tools to maximize their bottom lines.
Authoring Training Content in the Cloud
One of the biggest benefits of the cloud model is that it provides learners with access to training content anytime, on demand. But when it comes to designing content for on-demand training, there are certain considerations to keep in mind. Brendan Cournoyer, content marketing manager at Brainshark, Inc. (http://www.brainshark.com), a provider of online presentation technology and mobile apps and solutions to help organizations create, share, access, track, and manage multimedia training content in the cloud, offers four keys to creating effective learning content in the cloud:
1. Proper planning and design. Unlike traditional classroom training, on-demand training is fixed. You can’t adjust an on-demand lesson on the fly if a learner’s engagement level wanes. For this reason, it’s important to design your content in a way that will be effective for all types of learners.
For example, you can keep lessons short by breaking up longer topics into shorter modules, and include interactive elements to act as “rumble strips” and maintain engagement. You also should give your learners fantastic visuals that grab their attention and make them wonder what’s coming next.
2. Seamless accessibility. Since learners generally access cloud-based content on their own, it’s critical that the materials you create are intuitive and easy to find. You should develop a naming convention for each class, lesson, quiz, etc., that’s simple to organize, making it easy for learners to find what they want. If your titles are confusing or the audience has difficulty finding the right content, they’ll likely lose motivation and interest in the program, and your success rates will plummet.
3. Effective measurement and evaluation. Of course, training in the cloud is about more than just creating learning content. Tests and quizzes also should be made available on demand as part of your program. Not only does this give your audience the continued opportunity to learn at their own pace, but you can use responses to gauge the effectiveness of your training content. For example, if certain questions are being answered incorrectly most of the time, you should reevaluate your content and look for better ways to present that information.
4. Access to additional help and resources. No matter how much you plan, design, and evaluate your training content, there still will be times when learners need additional help and clarification. Be sure your material includes information about whom to contact with questions or comments. Depending on the scope of your learning program, different people in your organization might be best suited to answer specific questions. Identifying and getting buy-in from these subject matter experts while developing your content ensures the highest quality information and provides experts for your learners to turn to when they need extra help.