A Fresh Approach for Learning Services Providers
By Kapil Bhasin, Senior Vice President, Learning, Indecomm Global Services
Many independent training companies, as well as internal training departments, find themselves in the position of reacting to their clients’ needs on a one-off basis, making revenue growth and planning a challenging proposition. To overcome this, we in the learning services industry must redefine and evolve the nature of our relationships with our clients. This, in turn, will change the nature of our business from that of an occasional provider into a strategic partner.
While definitively framing the nature of one’s business is a critical element in successful sales and marketing, as well as in the long-term strategic direction of an organization, industry professionals sometimes forget that change is the name of the game. Simply put, we need to be prepared to change our business model whenever conditions warrant this. This is what being agile is about.
What Types of Changes Are We Talking About?
Business transformation is the process of implementing strategic changes that significantly affect the way an organization operates. These changes may include:
- Hiring new talent
- Improving, implementing, or restructuring operational processes
- Launching new products and software applications
- Upgrading customer service
- Improving, implementing, or restructuring sales processes
- Creating and managing compliance initiatives
The Stages of Business Transformation
Business transformation changes how an organization operates, including its use of technology. Usually, this involves several stages:
- Recognizing the need
- Gaining consensus
- Agreeing on the roadmap, including objectives, details, and overall vision
- Defining the new process, including management and support
- Introducing, testing, and evaluating the changes
- Designing a means to stay on track
What role can learning services organizations play for their clients in such transformational processes?
Indecomm’s learning division has partnered with many Fortune 500 clients, generating more than 30,000 hours of custom content. Let’s look at three recent examples.
New Hire Onboarding
Our client, an international security firm, had 16 trainers conducting instructor-led training (ILT) at four different call center sites. They were looking for a reduction in time to competency for the new hires in these centers and, at the same time, for a reduction in the cost of training. After analyzing this situation, we worked with the client to redesign its training into blended learning (30 percent ILT; 70 percent e-learning), upgraded its ILT, added a robust e-learning component, and created a variety of supplemental aids.
While this may sound like a common prescription and treatment, consider how it transformed the customer’s people and processes:
- The training team went from spending all its time in the classroom, where it focused on the basics, to concentrating on skill building with new hires in labs, where it evaluates, guides, and mentors.
- The faster learners no longer wait for the slower learners; instead, they work through the online lessons at their own pace, improving focus and retention, as well as morale.
- The organization saved about a half million dollars in the first year in training costs and time to competency.
Beyond this, there was an important perceptual change: The client saw that the engagement was about more than improved training or a better bottom line; it saw that it was about transforming its business model so it was in sync with the ever-changing market conditions of its industry.
Nowhere was this clearer to the customer than with the new electronic devices that constantly were being added to its installations, each of which requires it to create training for new and existing employees. Going forward, these updates will be easier and faster to implement because we are providing the company with the tools to do the updates in house.
Altogether, our client came to recognize that ongoing technological innovation drives organizational change and that, to keep up, an effective and efficient transformation strategy was needed. In addition, since we have given the customer the tools to manage the updates internally rather than retain that part of the process, our solution saves it time and money and solidifies our role as a partner in their strategic planning and success.
Here’s an example of a different kind of transformation.
To meet growth targets, our client, a world leader in products and services for agriculture, forestry, and construction, required improvements in its product delivery process (PDP). Our learning team was engaged to design and implement the rollout strategy.
After face-to-face discussions with individual PDP stakeholders—to define enablers and objectives—a three-level rollout of the PDP improvement process was developed. It included:
- Why improvement was needed in specific areas
- What specifically was being improved
- How to work with the improved processes, tools, and templates
If this sounds like classic change management to you, you’re correct—and that’s the point; but more than that, the new process:
- Was successfully marketed to the target internal audience
- Helped the line of business (LOB) improve the R&D process for creating new products
- Was a key driver in a projected 42 percent revenue growth over three years
Better yet, the engagement helped the client create what we like to call partnerships@work—that is, a collaborative environment in which each party brings its expertise to the table and deploys it in the service of a larger goal.
New Sales Process
Let’s look at another type of transformation.
A global leader in the science of heart valves, hemodynamics, and critical care monitoring engaged us to create, within six weeks, a training program for 300 new sales staff on the LOB’s new products. We met this aggressive timeline by:
- Rapidly converting PDFs and other product documents and using them in conjunction with Screencast—a cloud-based, record-yourself app—which captured subject matter experts zeroing in on key content in a series of two- to five-minute videos, for building e-learning courses
- Creating a new brand for the organization’s training portal
- Internally marketing the new brand with animated infomercials and bumpers
- Providing our proprietary Yellow Platter (YP) plug-and-play learning management system (LMS) to host and track the training.
Above and beyond the swift ramp-up for sales product training, the big picture is that the client quickly transformed its go-to-market strategy: The entire sales team is on the same page in terms of product knowledge, and it shares a similar vision in terms of its organization’s innovative culture and technological leadership in the industry.
From Learning Services to Transformational Consultancy
Although the strategic details are different for each of these organizations and their projects, there are common threads that transcend industry and location. As conditions change, internal processes and market forces, as well as employees and customers, need to change, too.
Business transformation has become an essential component of strategic planning. Large organizations usually have at least a couple of transformational projects going on at any one time (Capgemini Consulting, Transformation Trends 2012, http://www.capgemini-consulting.com/ebook/Transformation-Trends-2012.pdf). To offset the risks that are intrinsic to such changes, management needs partners experienced in aligning resources across diverse environments.
Business transformation for our clients, then, is not about Flash, Lectora, or the learning modality. It’s about the objectives of the business, its issues, and how to fix them. The same holds true for those of us in the learning services industry. Changing market conditions require a fresh approach, which includes redefining the nature of our business from that of a provider to a partner.
Kapil Bhasin is senior vice president, Learning, Indecomm Global Services. His nearly two decades of experience in corporate consulting, change management, and training enable him to quickly pinpoint strategies that improve efficiencies and enhance profitability. Bhasin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org