Are you experiencing constant challenges when it comes to establishing a well-trained team? Are the options of a “train the trainer” or traditional classroom approach not keeping pace with your business? Do some of the more recent and apparently innovative options in online learning not quite fit what your team is demanding today? If so, then read on.
Today’s business climate calls for fresh thinking — new ways to approach these very challenges. The learning field is currently researching workflow learning, which is defined as work and learning becoming one. There are numerous situations where workflow learning, when taken one step further, can have its greatest impact.
Workflow Learning and Nano-Learning: A Powerful Combination
In the January issue of Chief Learning Officer magazine, Elliot Masie, president of The MASIE Center, focused on the concept and practice of nano-learning. As he so succinctly describes it, nano-learning is learning in really small chunks, much smaller than many of us envision. However, in the world we live in today, we’re finding that 90-second nano-learning experiences might someday even be considered too long. When we combine workflow learning and nano-learning, however, we might be on to something.
Workflow Nano-Learning in the Contact Center
Let’s apply this concept to a contact center. For example, imagine an agent or customer service specialist completing a call and moving right into a nugget of workflow nano-learning at their desktop — something that’s only 60 to 90 seconds in length — and then they’re right back on to the next call. Then imagine that the nano-snippet of workflow learning pertains to something they experienced on the first call. Perhaps it is a situation that wasn’t handled quite right, but one that they might experience again on the next call. The agent now has the ability to impact the outcome of the second call in a positive way through the interjection of workflow learning in “nano bites.”
Over time, a contact center can achieve far greater results with workflow nano-learning versus any knowledge acquired in a classroom session. The best part is that a contact center can make this happen without removing agents from the floor. The same process can be implemented with the center’s supervisors and managers. Now, learning can happen at the time of need with immediate application (so the skills acquired can be used on the next call). There’s no need to schedule time, herd agents or supervisors off the floor, or (and here’s the most important piece) rely on someone to deliver the training effectively and “on message.” Another important aspect to workflow nano-learning is that only those who need the training participate. Different team members might need the training at different times and in different doses — this includes the number of repetitions, so to speak. Therefore, the training becomes highly personalized based on individual need.
A Road-Warrior’s Introduction to Workflow Nano-Learning
Another area and application where workflow nano-learning can be highly effective and should not be underestimated is with a company’s “road warriors.” These sales professionals spend a great deal of time traveling to customer sites, and it’s critical that they have an opportunity to enhance their skills as well.
Traditionally, as learning experts we look at our sales force as a great audience. They have lots of “windshield time,” so we think “let’s hit them with long segments (15, 30, 45 minutes, maybe even an hour) of training while we have them as a captive audience.”
In reality, today’s road warriors have a lot of priorities tugging at them that weren’t there just a few years ago. It’s common to hear the following response from a sales professional:
“When I get in my car, I have to quickly make the decision of what to do first. Do I check e-mail to see if my customer responded to my earlier message, or do I pick up the message from my boss and call him back with an update? Do I finish up the proposal I need for tomorrow and send it off for binding, or do I research the company I am about to walk into to see if anything earth-shattering happened to their stock and valuation in the last few hours that could affect my ability to close the deal today?”
All of this, and we think they have time for learning in their travels. Yet, in fact, they do have time for very pertinent learning if we apply the same concept that we do for our agents and customer service specialists on the phone: nano-bites of workflow learning. Give sales professionals something, in just two to three minutes, that will help them on their next sales call, or even help when they return their boss’s call. In doing so, we’re providing real value to sales professionals and real impact to the bottom-line.
Workflow nano-learning yields the highest results and ROI when it focuses on systems and processes, and effectiveness and efficiency skills. For instance, using workflow nano-learning to increase skills on effectively using a system’s functionality is an ideal scenario. Other areas that will experience the greatest impact include focusing on effectiveness skills. This might influence how an agent handles the next customer interaction. Situations such as handling difficult customers, asking effective questions or handling stress (a skill area highly overlooked in contact centers and other sales environments today) will also yield high return and high impact on business results.
To get started, survey a target audience as part of the first foray into workflow nano-learning. Ask them to identify their top 10 challenges when it comes to achieving a satisfactory level of job effectiveness, and you’ll easily be able to identify and create a library of 12 to 24 topics for nano-snippets of workflow learning. Some topics might be split into a cluster of nano-learning snippets. Just make sure each segment stands on its own. Regardless, remember the goal: Keep the learning sessions very short with each lasting no more than two to three minutes in length.
As Elliot Masie expresses in the article mentioned earlier, it is strongly recommended that instructional designers play a role in the design of these short learning elements. This is vital to success. The reality is that no matter how short the learning experience, sound instructional design will enable learner success. The challenge that many in the field may experience is the realization that the industry needs to shorten its definition and process of sound instructional design in order to effectively embrace and deliver on the promise of workflow nano-learning. Once that is done, the results will be effective bite-sized learning that has real impact on the bottom-line.
If you are ready to experience a new way to deliver learning that is highly effective and measurable, take the first step: Identify your audience and get started. The results will amaze you, and you might actually learn something.
Named one of the Top 20 thought leaders in learning by “Lifelong Learning Report,” Bill Byron Concevitch is the chief learning officer for Witness Systems, the global leader in workforce optimization solutions. Bill is the author of “Increasing the Odds: Sales Is Not a Numbers Game” and the soon-to-be released “Counter-Intuitive Selling: Mastering the Art of the Unexpected.” Bill can be reached at email@example.com.