Just-in-Time Technology Solutions
Most of us have the technology capability in our living rooms to watch a whole season’s worth of TV shows in one day and to watch other shows whenever we like via on-demand channels and our DVRs. When you couple those conveniences with how second nature it has become to Google any question, you can see the appeal of just-in-time technology in training. Rather than have the learning delivery dictated by trainers or executives, it often makes sense to allow employees themselves to decide when they need to access specific information or when they need quick refresher training. Here is how some companies are rolling out just-in-time (JIT) learning to their workforces using the latest technology solutions.
LIVE CHAT AND ONLINE GUIDES
The next best thing to being able to tap the shoulder of a work buddy in the next cubicle is to be able to tap the virtual shoulder of an expert. At health-care staffing provider CHG Healthcare Services, online chat provides flexible learning. “When we roll out new technology to a division in our company, it is not always possible to have on-the-floor support for the duration of the rollout period,” says Senior Technical Training Specialist Zach Sumsion. “One technique we have leveraged to account for this limitation is live chat—where assigned trainers support rollouts remotely by standing by via live chat, able to answer questions in real time as they surface.”
Rather than give learners all the information they need in one shot prior to major technology rollouts, CHG “provides a foundation of how to use a new application, and then the rest of the strategy is on-the-job support,” says Sumsion. “Because this strategy can be resource-intensive, the online chat model allows more flexibility while still providing on-demand support. Our strategy for these rollouts also leverages an online repository of step-by-step guides.”
CROWD-SOURCING FOR ANSWERS
Another way for employees to get fast answers to questions is to give them the ability to throw their questions out to a “crowd” of colleagues online, or engage in what some call “crowd-sourcing,” says Michael Helton, director of Online Learning, Combined Insurance. “Crowd-sourcing is an interesting concept in terms of learning because it provides the ability to tap into the collective knowledge and experience of an organization. Say, for example, a salesperson repeatedly is receiving a specific type of question. JIT technology would make it easy for that salesperson to search for a response to questions and receive dozens of possible responses. Another benefit is the speed at which questions could be answered. On our internal portal, I routinely see questions answered within seconds of posting,” says Helton.
However, Helton adds, with crowd-sourcing and internal professional/social media, there is the challenge of participants providing incorrect guidance or advice. Therefore, he says, it is always a good idea to have some sort of moderation by subject matter experts to ensure the company is protected.
INTERNAL WIKIS AND BLOG PORTALS
An online portal where learners can get questions answered by internal wikis and blogs contributed to by colleagues and outside experts can be a just-in-time resource—provided the content is in engaging, accessible formats, says Paula Crerar, vice president of Product Marketing at learning technology provider Brain-shark, Inc. “Anything that makes content easily accessible is a boon for just-in-time training. A well-maintained and organized content portal can work as a centralized location for learners to go—a ‘one-stop-shop’ for everything they need. The whole idea behind just-in-time training is that people don’t have to waste time searching for the right information,” says Crerar.
The type of content is also important to consider, she notes. “For example, a two-minute video presentation on a new product update might be more effective than a multi-page technical spec sheet. Technology is available to make the creation of these types of resources much easier, which enables not only more timely delivery of content, but also helps ensure content is more effective and engaging.”
Your employees don’t have to be young and tech savvy to optimize just-in-time technology. The technology has advanced enough that the way employees tap into JIT information can be adapted to their individual preferences, says Eric Vidal, director of Product Marketing at learning solutions provider InterCall. “Different visual aspects make the usage of virtual learning environments more intuitive and user friendly for older generations. For instance, you can create a virtual host who will greet users as they enter the environment. The host then will guide them throughout the different rooms,” says Vidal.
Companies also can create custom learning paths for each employee. “This creates less confusion as to what session or room employees should go to next,” Vidal says. “The overall visual nature of virtual learning environments, as well as the extra features, helps prevent older employees from becoming overwhelmed by all of the environment’s features.”
ON YOUR SMART PHONE
With most of us accustomed to getting our questions answered wherever we happen to be—typically on our smart phones—it’s only logical that companies offer the same option to their employees. Rather than requiring an employee to be at a computer to access fast answers, some organizations are making that information available on mobile devices such as their phones, says John Buelow, executive vice president of SNI, a provider of negotiation skills training.
“At SNI, we have our Preparation Planner available on our mobile app. Our clients can pull this checklist up on their phone in the midst of a negotiation to remind them of our systematic approach to negotiating,” says Buelow. “Despite the fact that we cover the components of the Preparation Planner in our instructor-led training, we know that busy professionals cannot rely on remembering our seven steps when under pressure. Our just-in-time tech training helps to reinforce the system.”
INSTANT PERFORMANCE METRICS
Some of the most important information employees search for relates to their own performance. Companies now can offer employees the ability to get instant metrics about how they’re doing, says Frank E. Paterno, vice president of Marketing for Intelliverse (http://www.intelliverse.com). “Intelliverse gives salespeople real-time feedback that helps to answer ‘How am I doing?’ or ‘Am I going to make quota?’” says Paterno. “Realtime statistics show salespeople if they are meeting the required activity levels for that hour or day. No longer does a salesperson have to wait for the end of the month to get a report that shows how he or she did. Instead, with real-time feedback, salespeople can improve their results—before it is too late.”
Ultimately, no matter the technology, when implementing JIT solutions, it is vital for companies to have a clear outcome or goal in mind, stresses Jimmy Lin, vice president of Product Management and Corporate Strategy at The Network. “They should know where they are lacking and what they need to meet their objective. Furthermore, they must ensure their goal is not too broad. They should look to attack one problem at a time and choose or design their solution to meet their objective.”
- Live chat in which employees can ask a co-worker or subject matter expert a question provides immediate access to information in an informal way.
- Internal wikis and blogs can be effective just-in-time (JIT) resources, provided the information is presented in synthesized, at-a-glance formats, such as short video presentations.
- JIT technology solutions can come with virtual hosts that lead users through the material to help them find what they're looking for.
- We live in a mobile, smart phone era, so be sure your JIT resources can be accessed on smart phones and tablets—not just on employees' office desktop computers.
- JIT technology can give employees information about their own performance whenever they need it, so, for example, salespeople know before it's too late whether they're meeting their sales quota.
How to Implement JIT Technology
By Gerry Griffin, Founder and Director, Skill Pill
Many L&D and HR professionals are discovering the benefits of just-in-time (JIT) learning technologies for their employees, but the big question is: How to best implement them? This trend, in part, is prompted by the shift from mandatory to self-service learning—from the “you have to do this” to “look at this if you find it useful.”
As a result, L&D departments need to “market” the content better (e.g., make it more engaging). Similarly, they need to associate or tag the material with particular challenges in order to increase the relevance of digital learning materials. So when looking at JIT learning, you need an understanding of user motivations and their access to the learning objects. What you’re ultimately trying to provide for employees is convenience: ease of accessing information for learning.
First, you need to make sure the information is “tagged.” This means “slicing and dicing” the learning so the content can be easily associated with the task at hand. A manager under pressure is not likely to peruse an e-learning module on Strategy and Change. But he or she is more likely to look at Managing Team Conflict if that is the context at hand.
Next, you need to identify the profile of the user. There are two types of users: the “Considered” user and the “Trigger” user. Considered users prepare properly—i.e., they have time on their commute home so they read a business book. These types of users are increasingly rare in organizations today. Replacing them are Trigger users, who react to a series of events or pressure points—i.e., “I got a call from a difficult client.” The latter are the users who will be most suited to JIT learning.
What this means in practice is:
- The user reacts to an event.
- The user identifies that there is a short video or piece of content that relates to the upcoming task.
- The user accesses the content with a device (mobile phone, tablet, PC).
- The user downloads or streams the content and is finished looking at it within three minutes.
Basically, you have a five-minute “zone of discretion” during which you need to go from the moment of need identification through to fulfillment. Any longer than that, and you will lose your audience.
Boosting Sales Rep Knowledge—And Making It Stick
By Ryan Casey, Manager, Global Curriculum Design, American Medical Systems
The impact of sales training should be a straight-line increase in the organization’s revenue—theoretically. But like many companies, American Medical Systems (AMS), a subsidiary of Endo International that makes medical devices and therapies to restore pelvic health, found that sales rep recall of new product information presented during training sessions, kick-off meetings, and the like would decline in as little as two weeks. Initiatives to boost recall, such as post-event e-mail quizzes, and Webinars, were less than effective.
Late last year, AMS began piloting a mobile reinforcement solution from Qstream that was developed at Harvard and proven in nearly two dozen randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Every few days, our reps respond to simple, scenario-based Q&A challenges in minutes using any mobile device. Game mechanics make the experience fun and engaging as sales reps vie for points on the leaderboard based on their responses.
The results: During the initial pilot, the program drove the post-event mastery score from a baseline of 68 percent to 92 percent, with more than 96 percent engagement. This far exceeded the results we got from post-event quizzes and Webinars. AMS sales reps view the program as fun and non-intrusive, and even the previously skeptical among them now are asking for more Qstreams.
What’s more, a scenario whose correct answer percentage was well below that of others tipped us off to a misunderstanding that existed among the field force in how to differentiate against a competitor. Because we were tracking what sales reps really knew in real time, we could correct the issue quickly, instead of waiting months until it affected business results.
Critical success factors for us included:
1. Communication. This included obtaining support from our senior leadership not to use “wrong answers” punitively but to allow reps the freedom to learn. The latter is vital and helped us prove that this was not a Big Brother initiative but rather a genuine approach to help reps remember what they need to know to boost performance.
2. Content: We thoughtfully designed the scenarios to pose matters that reps need to address in order to have the level of conversations clients require to drive purchasing decisions. Explanations are offered both for correct answers (to cement understanding) and for incorrect ones.
3. Competition: Sales reps are naturally competitive and we made it fun, using the ability to top the leaderboard to keep them engaged.
After just nine months, Qstream now is built into our culture as a way of going beyond the fire hose of product information we give to sales reps during sales meetings. In January 2014, AMS debuted three new Qstream initiatives, one for each of its three business units: women’s health, men’s health, and prostate health. AMS also debuted a separate international program in four languages.