Adding Web Classes to Your Training Methods
Being in the customer service and sales training business, I have heard many reasons/excuses why onsite training cannot be conducted. The clients know their employees need the skills but say:
- We are too busy for training.
- It is too challenging getting my team together for training.
- I can’t train because I need to maintain coverage. Who will service our customers?
I get it. You have a lean staff, your team may be geographically dispersed, and it’s good to be busy!
However, training is necessary for employee development. It is good for employees to interact with their colleagues in a learning environment. Training helps build confidence, consistency, and expectations.
Onsite vs. Online
Historically, most training has been conducted onsite. Onsite training can be motivating, focused, and impactful. Many employees are more comfortable in an onsite training session.
Conversely, there are drawbacks to onsite training. There is often travel involved, and the time away can be considerable. There are also additional expenses involved if you need to rent a meeting room and arrange catering. The logistics of onsite training can be a challenge.
At Signature, we are strong believers that training should be stimulating, fun, and inspirational. We want participants to view training as an opportunity. We want them to leave the training motivated with a new set of skills that help them service their customers in a legendary manner.
As more of our clients look for alternatives to onsite training, we began exploring other training methods. Online training often lacks the interaction that is critical in customer service and sales skills. It is difficult to conduct role-plays, which are so important to the application of these skills.
Traditional Webinars can be more interactive, but the interaction typically is limited to chat windows. It is hard to engage learners. It can be difficult to keep the participants focused. The interaction is primarily one way.
We have found a nice compromise that offers the convenience of virtual or distant training and the impact of onsite sessions. We call them Web Classes or a Web Classroom. This is small group training with greater levels of engagement, including two-way verbal communication and a visual component.
For the Web classes, attendees can participate from their location, so no travel or meeting rooms are involved. All they need is a computer with good Internet connection and a phone (or a computer with audio capabilities).
With the promise and potential of Web class training, we needed to make certain our trainers were comfortable with this format. We have great onsite trainers. They are engaging, fun, and passionate.
However, when we asked them to perform a virtual training where they could not see and directly interact with the participants, the results were a little different. For some, the interaction was awkward and forced. They felt constrained and missed the mobility of an onsite training.
To assist our trainers, we gathered best practices we feel bring consistency to the delivery and results in a better experience for the training and participants.
- Create a relationship. Start every training with finding out about the participants. Get the attendees comfortable with participating. They need to know from the start they will be actively engaged in the training.
- Include random participation. With the importance of participation and engagement, we don’t wait on volunteers but call on participants randomly. This keeps them listening because they don’t know when they will be asked to contribute. It also helps prevent them from trying to multi-task (check e-mail, Facebook…)!
- Incorporate humor. Humor relaxes participants and makes the trainer more relatable. Some trainers may be reluctant to include humor in a Web class because they can’t “read” the participants, but they will be missing an important element of an effective training.
- Take advantage of the technology. Web interaction tools are sophisticated. For example, writing on the screen is fun for learners. We often provide puzzles before the session begins.
- Be supportive and positive. Everyone likes recognition. Recognizing and praising participants is critical to a successful Web session. As with all training, positive reinforcement keeps attendees engaged, stimulated, and focused.
- Get participants to do most of the talking. Ask the right questions, solicit the responses. We follow the principle that the one doing most of the talking is doing most of the learning.
Adding Web classes to our training offerings has been an important strategic decision for our company. It provides our clients with another option to get their staff trained. We also can be more flexible in scheduling. They appreciate that we can break up the sessions into smaller modules and offer the training at different times of the day.
The Web classes also have allowed our trainers to broaden their skill set. They are more aware of impactful presentation techniques. Last but not least, the Web classes have eliminated the challenges of travel.
We listened to our clients when they said they needed an easy and cost-effective way to participate in training. For many clients, onsite training was no longer a practical option. Web classes have filled an important gap in making the training accessible and impactful.
Barry Himmel is a senior vice president for Signature Worldwide, a Dublin, OH-based company offering a wide range of onsite and Web classroom sessions covering a variety of topic related to sales and customer experience skills. For more information on Signature’s training or other related programs, call 800.398.0518 or visit www.signatureworldwide.com. You also can connect with Signature on Twitter @SignatureWorld and on Facebook. Himmel can be reached via e-mail: at firstname.lastname@example.org.