Building a World Class Sales On-Boarding & Certification Program, Pt 3

October 5th, 2009 Curt Will Posted in Instructional Design, On-Boarding/Certification No Comments »

Now that we’ve discussed getting some measure of senior level support, and possibly some direction, it’s time to get started.  And since I learned the ADDIE instructional design process (Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, Evaluate) early in my career, that’s the methodology I usually like to stick with.  There’s a lot of chatter about other methodologies.  But in my cursory non-scientific review of the chatter, it seems to mostly be about semantics.  So before we start the analysis phase I’ve got a couple of quick tips:

  • Don’t get analysis paralysis.  Building a program like this is a challenge.  It can seem overwhelming.  Especially if you start thinking about all the different perspectives you could analyze something like this from.  I have seen several training departments get a bad reputation because they were too internally focused on their process and the “right” way to do an analysis.  Don’t fall into that trap.  Your internal customers are counting on your expertise and also have expectations about getting stuff done.
  • Be flexible.  Something you learn today may change tomorrow.  You may get a piece of information or perspective three months from now that you don’t have now.  And some things may need to be a certain way just so that they are more acceptable to some part of the organization.  Don’t let yourself and/or your team get caught up in fighting too many small battles.  Focus on the overall program having an impact.

Scope Considerations
Getting the “big picture” or the scope, always seems like a natural starting place for me.  I’m going to list some of the key scope questions that you want to answer earlier rather than later in the process.  The answers to these questions may change as you learn more about your target audience.  But you need to have someplace to start.  These scope questions won’t address content scope just yet.  We’ll talk about that a little later.

  • Which sales roles will your program cover? I’ve heard of some sales organizations that have over 50 separate and distinct sales roles in their sales force.  If you try to support too many separate and distinct sales roles it could get unmanageable.  Unless of course you have a huge staff and budget to develop, launch and maintain the program.  Understanding some basics about your sales organization’s structure will help you estimate the answer to this all important question.  The goal is to not bite off more than you can chew.  Don’t set yourself up for failure before you even get started.  In one instance, we started out planning to support 32 separate roles in an onboarding program.  Once we learned a little bit more, we decided that the difference between the roles, especially at the onboarding stage in their career path, didn’t warrant separate program tracks.  My recommendation is to combine as many roles within each sales team as it makes sense to do.  This has usually been a thorny issue on the projects I’ve worked on, so don’t be surprised if you struggle with this a bit.
  • Will you develop a program fully integrated with the staffing and human resources onboarding functions or will your program be separate and distinct? You may run into a situation during the development of your program when you realize that the success of your program depends on something that staffing or human resources does.  For instance, one of those groups or the hiring manager may need to start a process, after the offer is accepted, to get system passwords and equipment that the new hire will need in order to start your program.  If your program will include coming to the home office in the first couple of weeks, how will travel expenses be made and paid?  Does a corporate credit need to be applied for before the start date?  Do you have a company or HR orientation that you have to figure into the time line?  Maybe for you this is an easy answer.  In my experience there needs to be a lot of work done in this area once the decision is made to standardize the sales onboarding experience.

Well, there you go.  What do you think?  Next up – Needed Resources

Curt Will


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Building a World Class Sales On-Boarding & Certification Program, Pt 2

September 28th, 2009 Curt Will Posted in Instructional Design, On-Boarding/Certification No Comments »

As I said last time, I’m going to lay out what my experience has taught me in terms of building a world class sales onboarding and certification program.  During our journey together my approach will be simple.  I’ve been told that I’m a simple person (hey, wait a minute…).  Nothing I write will be from an absolutist perspective.  There are too many variables to consider.  I will try and present what I have seen as the process steps with some decisions and trade-offs that you may want to consider.  The whole purpose is to generate some feedback and discussion along the way, and maybe help someone out there who is trying to build a similar training program.  So here we go…

Gain Executive Support
One of the key elements in the ultimate success or failure of any large scale organizational development project is the level of executive support that is demonstrated before, during, and after program launch.  So that’s where we’ll start.  Generally, these types of projects get initiated by someone from the sales leadership, the folks responsible for sales training, human resources, or some other support team.  If it starts with the sales leadership, your job to gain executive support may be a little easier.  But however the need comes to light, you’ll still need a good understanding of the sales culture, their tolerance for change, the amount of influence that the different sales leaders have, and of course, an understanding of the business issues that you want to have an impact on.  These things will be essential for securing and maintaining executive support.

Examples of business needs could be things like, high turnover, too much time being spent by sales managers onboaring sales people, inconsistency in how well people get onboarded, slow ramp up time, or even low overall performance of the sales organization. If you haven’t identified the business need, you can ask your sales managers some questions around those topics.  Whatever business need you settle on, you’ll need that and an understanding of the organizational influences so that you can build your business case and get it approved by the people that own the budget.

Ideally, you’ll want the most senior and as many other senior sales leaders on the bandwagon when it comes to a program like this.  Because, while you probably want to present it as simply and straightforward as possible, the effort required to realize the impact that a program like this can have, is a long term commitment – by the instructional design team, program management, human resources, and sales management.  So the more people on the bandwagon you have, the less likely you’ll end up getting stuck by the inevitable challenges that will arise.  Make no mistake, this is a significant challenge.  But it can have a huge payback if you do it right and stick with it.

Here are a couple of things you’ll want to discuss with your program sponsor(s).  This is not an exhaustive list and of course, you will not have all of the facts or all of your analysis done.  So you may be sharing more of a vision than an actual plan.  And you’ll want to gauge the level of detail that you share with your sponsor(s) depending upon their level of initial support, need for business justification, and level of tolerance for detail.  This is YOUR chance to sell.  So plan it out well, just like we teach sales people to do.

  • Vision, business impact, resources, and budget – share what you know, discuss how you’ll get all of the facts.
  • Sales team participation in the process – you’ll need subject matter experts, feedback, and approvals along the way.  Make sure that they understand this commitment to the project and will support it in a visible way.
  • Ongoing leadership to address issues, including change management for the sales managers on any number of things that may be changing for them.  Once of those things could be the “get out there and sell” mentality that some may have.  This is one that could present a huge challenge.  Some sales managers believe that they hire good people and all they need to do is set them loose.  Ideally, for your program to have the best chance of success, there should be an agreement on a penalty free “training time” for all new hires.  You and your sponsor should spend some time talking about that and figure out an approach that will be acceptable to your sales organization.  I definitely learned that one through experience.  Without an agreed approach, your program will eventually get watered down to the point of being ineffective if managers see the program as optional.  We’ll be talking a lot more later about approaches to support new hires and their mangers during the onboarding process.

Well, there you go.  It’s a start.  What do you think?

Curt Will


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Here are a couple of resources that I use:

The Sales Executive Council

Sales Training Learning Community

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Balancing Thoroughness with Agility

September 7th, 2009 Curt Will Posted in Instructional Design No Comments »

One of the questions that I am constantly asking myself is whether I’ve got the right mix of doing things fast versus doing things thorough.  The business most often wants things quickly.  And there are some great benefits to delivering for the business quickly.  However you can’t churn out the same old stuff and continue to feel good about your work product.  And then there’s the realization that if you don’t use professional ISD and advanced development techniques your business partners will eventually view your work  as outdated and ineffective.

I’ve considered two answers to this ever present issue:

  1. Hire really smart, intellectually agile people.  You need people who “get it”, both from a design trade off perspective and a business perspective.  They must be able to see the big picture and the details, and respond quickly.
  2. And you need to educate the business organization at every opportunity about the ISD process, its value, and the value your team brings to the organization.

I’m going to work on those two. What are your ideas?

Curt Will

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Your Top 3 Reasons To Love Instructional Design?

August 4th, 2009 Curt Will Posted in Instructional Design No Comments »

Recently I was thinking about the job of an instructional designer and why I enjoyed working in that role.  Here are my top three reasons:

Being a social scientist – Very few people would ever accuse me of being a scientist.  But it sounds cool doesn’t it?  As a part of the project analysis phase, I always enjoyed the investigative aspect of the job.  And when I went to grad school, I learned that there was some actual science to it.  Coming up with an hypothesis to explain the cause of a performance gap and then proving it using scientific methods is kind of geeky.  But sort of CSI too.

Designing stuff like an architect -  I always wanted to be Mike Brady of the Brady Bunch when I was growing up.  That family looked like so much fun.  But laying out the plans for a training solution that changes people’s behavior AND has an impact on the business, gives me real satisfaction.  It’s almost as good as designing a great building, don’t you think?

Being a software engineer – I’m basically a technology geek.  I studied some computer programming after joining the Navy and being trained as an electronics technician.  And now a days, instructional designers need to almost be programers.  Most of the time their job includes mastering all types of software packages, media programs and even doing some coding.  And when I was a designer I was always learning something technical.

Like I said, there’s little doubt that I’m kind of geeky when it comes to this stuff.  Can anyone out there relate?

What are your favorite aspects of the instructional design role?

Curt Will

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Interesting Survey Results About the Management of Workplace Learning

July 29th, 2009 Curt Will Posted in Instructional Design, Managing No Comments »

An icon from the Crystal icon theme.
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I ran a survey to find out more about how organizations manage workplace learning projects – what kinds of tools they use, how things are working, stuff like that.  Well, a couple of interesting things popped out at me from the results.  Here’s the ones that I noticed first and they’re the reason that I developed a project management application specifically designed for training departments.

  • 64.5% of respondents do not have a workable way of sharing who’s working on what instructional design projects so that everyone in the organization can help spot program overlap or linkages.
  • It also seems that over 65% are using spreadsheets to track workplace learning projects.  Hmmm…

What do you think about this?

I really think that the 65% of you that are using spreadsheets to manage your training development projects could really benefit from having an online system.

Curt Will

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Customize Your PGA To Your Business

June 7th, 2009 Curt Will Posted in Instructional Design No Comments »

I recently commented on a discussion on LinkedIn about a TNA (training needs analysis).  Maybe it’s just me, but I think the discussion was typical of our profession – some folks with opinions just have to dissect the specifics so that they can have an “I gottcha” moment.

And who created the whole TNA abbreviation anyway?  It just provides an opportunity for the absolutists to argue about what’s included.  I’ve decided to create a new abbreviation – the PGA.  Maybe it’s not new, reminds me of golf…  I like that.  You’ve probably guessed that PGA stands for Performance Gap Analysis.

In any case, the PGA that you use in your department, has to fit your business.  Our charge as workplace learning professionals is to be open minded.  We’re investigators.  I guess that’s why that when I see or read about someone in our business being closed minded, just so they can make a point, it irks me.

So here are my two tips for a successful PGA.

  1. Think about and define what you will evaluate BEFORE you start doing it.  You may decided to evaluate organizational, job task, motivational, or technology influences on performance.  The point is to define the process that works for your company, your business, and go with it.  Use and improve it as you go.
  2. Balance thorough investigation with timely delivery of the analysis.  If you create a process that doesn’t meet the needs of your customer because it takes to long, it is not good.  It doesn’t matter that you can say it’s super d duper valid.  Don’t get so inwardly focused that you don’t deliver results.

Curt Will

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New Sites Extend Content for Workplace Learning

March 31st, 2009 Curt Will Posted in Instructional Design No Comments »

Wow, I discovered something VERY cool today.  Imagine adding a lecture from Steve Young, NFL Quarterback, on symbiotic negotiation skills to your sales negotiations curriculum.  Or what if you could add a lectures from some of the leading universities about the many facets of entrepreneurship to your leadership curriculum?

Check out the below article from Learning Online Info.  It introduces the Academic Earth website and YouTube EDU.  The YouTube site doesn’t look as easy to use as the Academic Earth site.  I think the Academic Earth site is very compelling.

Learning Online Info Article – Academic Earth

I’m not usually all giggly about technology, preferring to focus on the “blocking and tackling” fundamentals of our profession.  But I can really see how the availability of this high quality content online, for free, could really add some value.  Check it out.


Curt Will

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