In the past three years, Dade Behring has shifted its training toward a more blended approach. Training is not developed simply for a target group. Rather, Payne said, Dade Behring develops the product training and then applies modules or components of the training to its customers, internal employees and field-based employees.
Internal training can be a challenge for Dade Behring because of the dispersed nature of the workforce, as well as the need to get employees up to speed quickly on new products and product updates. “Bringing all of those folks together for training and product orientation is a huge challenge,” said Payne. “We very successfully use technology to get pre-information out to everyone so that they have a base knowledge of new products and new upgrades to products, and then we have classroom sessions to support this.”
Dade Behring’s field-service engineers and clinical-application specialists go through a three-step certification process that includes pre-training, classroom training and post-training events. Throughout the process, employees work with a mentor. “We have a good direct line through this mentor process on getting feedback on how the student was able to apply the training to the job,” said Payne. “And the double benefit of that is that when the mentor is in the field with that individual, they can coach and counsel that individual and see if there’s additional training that should be done.”
Payne is also responsible for training Dade Behring’s customers on the use of the company’s products. He explained that because the diagnostic laboratory analyzers require a certain level of skill, customer training is imperative. In fact, training is included in the sales contract when a customer purchases one of Dade Behring’s analyzers. But, he said, there are numerous challenges that go along with that.
“We don’t get the opportunity to pick our customers that come to training, so we have various skill levels of customers coming to our class,” said Payne. “In the past, we’ve had to invest time during the class to help those who didn’t understand some of the basic concepts of diagnostic testing, and at the same time we’ve had to keep the students who understood those concepts interested in the materials.”
In the past, Dade Behring brought customers to training for train-the-trainer sessions. These customers would then provide training to their co-workers back at the laboratory. But for numerous reasons, Payne said that didn’t work. Dade now relies on online educational support tools to get students up to speed prior to attending the classroom sessions in addition to providing continuing help for customers where they need it most—on the job.
“The pre-training provides a base knowledge for all of our students so when they get to the class we can get them engaged with the instrument in what we call hands-on activity much quicker,” Payne said. The pre-training has allowed Dade to reduce delivery time for the in-person class by one day. And once the students understand the modules, they can go back to the laboratory and coach their peers to take the modules that are applicable to their job descriptions. This not only helps customers save time, but it also helps Dade save time.
Payne said that the online educational support tools are reducing the number of calls to the company’s technical assistance centers. Dade tracked calls from five customers who were involved in the pilot of the online educational support tools as well as five similar-sized accounts that were not involved in the pilot and did a comparison. “In every case the folks that did not participate in the online educational support tools, their call rate year after year went up, while the folks that were engaged, their call rate went down,” Payne said. “So that’s a great business impact, where I can look at this and say what we’re doing here is providing that knowledge at the time that the customer needs it, and they’re able to deal with situations as opposed to picking up the phone and calling us.”
Payne said that customer response to the training has been outstanding. “In fact, 97 percent of our customers say that it’s beneficial to access this type of training over the Internet,” he said. In addition, he said that 100 percent said that the training provided information to support the product.
Payne said that Dade Behring has been seeing good returns from its internal training as well. For example, the company had to complete HIPAA training by April 2003. “We trained over 2,000 people on HIPAA in a two-week period, and the investment in that was probably less than $2,000,” said Payne. “When you look at knowledge, facts and policies, those are excellent things that we can use online training for.”
Payne’s advice to others looking to implement technology-based training is to be careful about how you embrace the technology. “The technology is certainly out there, and I think that as we look to how we embrace that technology and how we use it, we have got to have a much higher vision than just taking what we’re doing today and putting it in electronic format,” Payne said.