Many small and medium sized businesses (SMB) face serious challenges in scaling quality online training. Hiring a dedicated training manager is often the first step in addressing this issue, but in many organizations, this position remains unfilled until it becomes painfully obvious that the existing training isn’t really effective for employees and customers. Or that there simply isn’t any way to keep up with the speed of business. When SMBs do hire a dedicated manager, being able to address the backlog for quality training can seem daunting.
The new manager often looks first to acquire familiar online training software, such as a Learning Management System or eLearning authoring tools. However, neither of these technologies solves the fundamental problem of how to tap into the collective knowledge of the company’s top performing sales and product experts, which is needed to scale training. Getting information out of people’s heads is critical, but subject matter experts (SME) are notoriously busy or bad at participating in such processes. So when should you tackle this problem, before or after other all the other challenges you face as a new training manager?
This is actually the first thing the new training manager needs to tackle. Often, the existing training was built by many different people spread across the organization. Connecting online with your top, making it easy for them to transfer the knowledge needed to scale, and building a culture of collaboration is the foundation of success. Eighty percent of what is in the training backlog can likely be addressed with a simple solution, one where you quickly gather information from SMEs, organize it into topics and lessons, and then review it as a team.
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So how does the new training manager address this dilemma? After all, the problem of getting SMEs to participate has been around for fifty years, and especially since the first computer based training was produced. Rather than teaching SMEs specialized tools, designed for use by instructional designers (who use these tools every day), a better approach is to take advantage of today’s ubiquitous technologies, such as video capture (even with mobile devices), audio recording and searching the web. Everyone already knows how to do this, And most people will learn what they need from video, audio and reading simple text. They really don’t want to read/watch painfully long, cluttered and animated PowerPoint decks (which is what a lot of training in small and medium sized companies seems to be).
Most non-training people have no time to learn specialized tools that are required by many online systems and technologies. SMEs are not going to change just to make the new training manager’s life easier. Whether it will be used in online courses, classroom training, job aids or other performance support systems doesn’t matter. If you want to scale training, you need an efficient way to capture knowledge from everyone in the organization. One that requires little to no learning curve on the part of your already busy employees.
The good news is that you can now find tools that will allow SMEs to document, record and submit great content without needing to become certified instructional designers or learning tools specialists. Tools that incorporate best practices and built-in train the trainer approaches, so you can easily transfer knowledge. Tools that make for easy collaboration. While PowerPoint, Word and Google docs may be familiar, they are not going to build online training for you.
“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage,” says former GE CEO Jack Welch. It’s essential that employers create a learning culture — one in which knowledge is more freely acquired, absorbed and exchanged.”
A company's success depends on having a great learning culture. It doesn’t have to be complicated, time- consuming and expensive. But unless the problem of transferring knowledge is addressed right up front, you will not have the content needed to pay down the training debt and scale employee training (or customer training if that is the priority).