Training Top 100 Best Practice: Kimball Midwest’s Pivot to Online Training

Due to the pandemic, Kimball Midwest created hour-long live online trainings for its sales reps—the first time in the company’s history that it hosted any online training classes.

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced most of maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) business Kimball Midwest’s internal staff to work from home and prevented many of its sales representatives from going out to visit customers in March 2020, the company went to work on creating hour-long, live online trainings for them. The goal was to have more than 50 percent of sales representatives—approximately 550—participate in at least one live online training.

Program Details

This was the first time in the company’s history that it hosted any online training classes, and these were live. The trainers and support staff in the Training department had to quickly learn how to use WebEx and maximize it for each specific training.

Each week, a schedule was distributed through the Communications department to all sales representatives in the company. The reps then e-mailed responses to sign up for training classes. These classes were on a wide variety of topics. There was training on specific product lines, such as fasteners or cutting tools; others on go-to-market strategies and the company’s Focused Approach; several classes on the “R Factor”; and an “Ask the Trainer” class for any questions that didn’t fit into any of the other offerings.

The company’s CEO sat in on initial meetings explaining the Training department’s plan to keep sales representatives engaged and encouraged while not being able to see customers. He provided intitial feedback and support to help get buy-in from the sales representatives.

Sales representatives continue to learn new information and keep their brains refreshed on Kimball Midwest’s go-to-market strategies, as well as leadership and culture trainings. In the long term, the organization has a continuous buy-in to online training and has been able to extend it into some of its typical in-person classes, such as its Account Development Workshop and fluid flow. Last year, the company hosted five full Account Development Workshops with 52 participants and had two fluid flow classes with 20 participants.

Results

Kimball Midwest hosted 319 training classes with a total of 3,355 attendees. As a result, during these challenging times, the Training department racked up significant cost savings by moving training online quickly and efficiently.

Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine, owned by Lakewood Media Group. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training Top 100 and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 29 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.