From classroom to remote sales training?
How remote learning can help your salespeople to become even better
When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Europe, it soon became clear that not only our health was at risk, but our economies would stand to suffer big losses too. Early forecasts for the consultancy industry estimated the impact to be particularly large for change management projects, due to the necessity of travel and meeting clients physically. The extent to which individual change management organizations would be exposed to the economic damage of COVID-19 depended on their respective industries and services. Motion5 operates in many industries, but the most prominent at the start of Corona were Healthcare, Automotive and Logistics; three industries that were majorly impacted. And our services? Change management. Needless to say, we were facing massive disruptions and needed to reinvent our offering.
Let me briefly explain why our change management programs were generally required to include physical presence. “Classroom” meetings and sessions are by far the best way to engage with groups and observe all forms of communication, verbal and non-verbal. Group dynamics can be an important factor for success, especially when we’re dealing with complex change programs. Usually, we have a lot of interaction and while working on the content, we always work on personal cases: real, live customer cases and situations. Although these programs have been successful and much appreciated, we now had to convert. Our adaptability to this whole new situation was critical. And guess what: a few things even changed for the better.
Interaction and practicality
For some of our programs, we have a standard 2-day training session. Since it was basically impossible to copy this format to an online setting, we started to divide our programs into smaller chunks. Chunks of 2 to 2.5 hours where we explain the content, do exercises and have discussions about the different topics. All by keeping in mind some basic rules for effective web meetings: smaller groups and camera on to ensure engagement. Because of the shorter interaction, we handled just one or two topics at the time and the participants are asked to start with their practical exercise right after the webinar has ended. That way, you can immediately put your acquired knowledge into practice on a case that you are currently working on.
What we also found to work well is to start with an instruction video about a certain topic. It provides the possibility to absorb information at your own pace by allowing you to pause, go back and listen to the explanation again at your own pace. After watching this video, we provide participants with exercises linked to their daily practice, followed by an extra Q&A session to foster in depth discussions.
Because sessions are shorter – either the webinar, the video or the Q&A session – you have focused touchpoints and participants can use the rest of the day to be back to their business. Another important aspect of efficiency is that it is easier to roll out certain programs throughout organizations at the same time. You have the option to include long-distance teams in the change you envision. And this automatically means that, when you drive the change remotely the location of your training or change partner becomes less important. This gives you a bigger pond to fish from for the right knowledge and experience. And considering location-independent interaction, you only lose time traveling between your coffee maker and home office.
sessions also mean you can have more of them in a certain amount of time. Staging frequent training interventions as part of a learning process helps internalizing the information through active recall. This was proven by Hermann Ebbinghaus, a German psychologist from the late 19th century, who tested his memory over various periods of time. The result was a graph called The forgetting curve, still relevant today. This curve describes the decrease in ability of the brain to retain memory over time. People start losing the memory of knowledge over time in just a matter of days, unless the knowledge is consciously reviewed time and again. So, when it comes to internalization of the change, the frequent interactions can have a huge impact in driving the change.
So, does this new way mean that we are done with the “traditional” way? Not really! More frequent interactions don’t disqualify classroom meetings. However, working with a team for a longer time creates a bond. Meaning you will lower the threshold in working together as a team when based in different places.
Also, not every type of program is equally suitable for remote learning. For example, skill-oriented programs continue to require face-to-face encounters. Practicing in a roleplay setting is better in a classroom then in a remote session. It is possible to convert these, but then you need to work with a very small group. Typically, it’s the more process-oriented changes that are more easily done in a remote session.
Tailor-made solutions are even more important
With these additions in the change management portfolio, it is now even more important to tailor-make solutions to the preferences and situation of the customer. Personal and team goals have always been leading, but the willingness to change is something that is highly susceptible to preference. Ultimately, it depends on what is needed within your organization and team, and hence, customization is crucial to balance needs and preferences and drive change successfully.
Now that we’re all in the same situation together, the resistance against digital learning and remote interaction has lowered. This new attitude, combined with the expanded digital portfolio for change management programs, has opened a new window of opportunity. Want to talk about how to prepare by shaping your organization for commercial excellence? That’s our area of expertise, so let’s share some thoughts!