6 Things Top Sales Training Programs Have In Common

Sales training is hard. You’re challenged, over and over again, to create fresh content for programs that educate, engage, and influence behaviors. And what works in one scenario might not work for another because every organization and product is unique.

Still, the pressure to show improved sales performance is high. If reps don’t perform, 25% are either fired or quit every year. That’s almost double the turnover rate for most organizations. Is bad sales training a part of the problem?

Through the years, we’ve seen our share of sales training that fails to deliver. But it doesn’t have to be that way. That’s why we decided to share the “secret sauce” the world’s top sales training programs have in common. A framework you won’t find readily anywhere else.

 

top sales training programs hero

1. STRATEGY

All the best sales training programs begin with a strategy. In other words, it has to be more than checking off a box on your sales team’s to-do list. Your product, audience and market environment is constantly evolving – and you need to “plug into” that.

Start with the end in mind by asking the right questions and using the answers to develop your strategy.

  • How does the training tie back to your business goals? For example, are you introducing a new product, entering a new market, growing your existing accounts, etc.?
  • What are your knowledge and skill gaps? Do your reps need better product/competitor knowledge? Do they struggle with lead follow up and overcoming objections? Do your managers need help coaching reps?
  • What behaviors do you need to change? What do your reps need to start, stop, or continue to improve performance?
  • How will you define and measure success? How can you make data collection/reporting a priority? Define the process and be clear about the goal. And don’t forget to reinforce and advertise your results.

Once you have a strategy in place, you can start building a plan to get to your goals. Be sure to get everyone from leadership to field personnel on board and excited about your approach.

2. CONTENT

Let’s face it, content matters. Ever tuned out after the first 5 words of…anything?

John Cleese said it best…

top sales training programs - John Cleese

Sure, the word “engagement” gets thrown around, but what does it mean, after all? Can you measure engagement? What’s the benefit?

Based on our experience, the top sales training programs are highly engaging…even:

  • “Fun”
  • “Entertaining”
  • “Refreshing”
  • “Knock your socks off”

(our clients’ words, not ours)

So, how do you get reviews like this? Use these two tips to make your training “sticky,” meaning reps will actually want to complete it (maybe even more than once).

Make it contextual

That means it has to be RELEVANT. Reps need to know how to apply what they are learning to their job and day-to-day life.

  • Present common scenarios or situations.
  • Use real language that reps and customers actually use.
  • Show or mimic real people and locations

Remember, generic examples and broad, sweeping generalizations are impossible to put into practice. Your training should help reps:

  • Identify: “I’ve met that customer. I have these conversations.”
  • Care: there’s an emotional connection when something looks and feels like you
  • Know: exactly what to do or say in the same or similar situation.

Make it conversational

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we’re so focused on delivering all the right content in a few sessions that we go all “teachy.”

It’s like in Peanuts, when the teacher talks, it’s just a bunch of “womp womp womp.”

Keep it simple and use human speak, like:

  • Everyday words and phrases
  • Short sentences (to sales reps, time is money)
  • Honesty

Bonus tip: Lighten up. Adults love it when we make fun of ourselves and our culture.

The good news is you don’t have to start with a blank canvas. Spend a little time conducting a content audit. Decide what you can continue to use as-is, what’s missing, what needs a little refreshing, and what needs to be scrapped and recreated.

 

3. DELIVERY

You also need a platform that’s sticky. And mobile-friendly isn’t enough. It should be virtually impossible to resist. Think bug light attraction.

You could create the world’s best sales training program, but if your reps can’t find it, access it, or don’t use it your efforts were wasted.

This may mean investing in newer technology. If that’s the case, look for these things.

Collaborative and social learning tools

Reps have tons of expertise and experiences worth sharing. Empower them to be in the driver’s seat, to pro-actively lead/contribute to their learning and growth. Let them share best practices, ask questions, and get feedback in real-time.

Informal learning like this doesn’t replace formal learning. It enhances it. In fact, in the 6th Annual Learning in the Workplace study, 93% of employees ranked “on-the-job experience” as essential to how they learn, followed closely by social learning at 90%.

Give employees a way to continue their learning outside of the classroom or course. Don’t fear social learning tools like these.

Real-world gamification

Sales reps are competitive so gamification ties into their desire to compete, win, and get recognition.

Many platforms have basic gamification built-in, like earning points, leaderboards, badges, and levels.

To take gamification to the next level, look for a platform that allows reps to redeem their hard-earned points for real-world incentives like company swag or other rewards.

Frontline communication tools

Reps are typically on the go, which means they may not have access to things like the company Intranet at all times.

And their inboxes are already overflowing. But including critical communications like new product launches, promos, and other company updates into your training platform gives them a one-stop-shop to find everything they need to get their jobs done.


A New Spoke in the Training Wheel

the world's top sales training programs use Spoke

 

 

 

If you think a single platform built for training, collaboration, communication, and gamification sounds like a unicorn, think again.

Spoke, our social LMS, combines all these tools into an engaging platform that’s intuitive, practical and actually gets used.

Meet Spoke

4. REINFORCEMENT

The one-and-done “sales kickoff” isn’t enough. But, unfortunately, sales training reinforcement has become more of a buzzword than a best practice. Everyone recognizes its value – but also bemoan the time, focus and cost.

It’s not just an after-thought, it’s not even top of mind. What these organizations fail to realize, however, is that the best training reinforcement can be achieved in the normal course of business. You must build in and protect time for reps and managers to practice what they’re learning. 

Worried about where you’ll find the time?

Work with what you already have! Start small with your existing learning platform. Use those social/collaboration tools as a way to have reps practice putting product features/product positioning in their own words.

Everyone’s got a phone. Have reps video themselves practicing something, post it online, and ask for constructive feedback. Maybe a contest? Star rankings?

Or try quick role-playing games in morning huddles/sales meetings. Always ask for suggestions and feedback. Sales reps can be extremely resourceful!

All the top sales training programs include training reinforcement to some degree.

5. RESULTS

What gets measured gets improved. Ever heard that before? It’s because it’s true.

Shine a bright light on every aspect of your program. What went well? What needs improvement? Some of the results may be anecdotal, or conversations, or community posts in your social learning platform.

No matter where the data comes from, data collection can’t be an afterthought. Capture and learn from all of it.

Go beyond basic metrics like training completion.

  • Observe rep behaviors, customer experience ratings/scores (voice of customer), NPS (net promoter score), retention and churn, average deal size, etc.
  • Partner with L&D/marketing/etc. to get data and correlate data to training.
  • Review questions/comments/feedback left in your training platform’s chats and channels.
  • Try to read between the lines. This is where your emotional intelligence skills come in handy.

Share the results with key stakeholders and work together to make improvements.

6. LEADERSHIP

The last thing the world’s top sales training programs have in common is engaged leadership. If your leaders aren’t involved in a big way, you’ll struggle to get buy-in from the rest of your sales team.

Would Apple launch a new product without making a big deal about it? No way. Like Apple, channel your inner Steve Jobs. Build hype. Get people excited. Including your leadership team.

From start to finish, you own the program, so marketing your agenda and generating enthusiasm in upper management is huge.

  • Gain buy-in continuously from management and leadership.
  • Stay involved, from discovery to training review calls to pilot launches.
  • Be able to answer questions, both about the content and the logistics (When will it launch? How will we be evaluated on it?)
  • Share a “sneak peek” photo of the video shoot. Even better, invite all-star reps/managers to go on set and watch the magic happen.
  • Create some “sizzle” with a trailer video.
  • Actively solicit feedback. As results come in, share those with the team. What gets measured and shared, gets celebrated (and repeated).

The sooner you get leadership involved, the better your chances of success.

 

top sales training programs Don’t Build Themselves

If you’re resource constrained, or don’t have the in-house capabilities you need to create a world-class sales training program, don’t be afraid to look outside your four walls to find a partner.

Look for a partner with a proven track record and the ability to dive deep into your company and understand your culture, products and services, and even your competitors. A custom sales training program may be exactly what you need.

Wherever you are in your training evolution, we can meet you there. We’d love to hear from you on anything you’ve read, questions you have, or to explore our offerings. Let us know how we can help.

6 Training Trends for 2018 (and 3 you’re still not doing right)

Save the Date

Join our very own Dave Romero and Nikki Shaw for a fun, interactive webinar with Training Magazine where they’ll go more in-depth with these hot 2018 training trends.

Bonus: During the webinar, they’ll share actionable tips to help you get started with each trend. You won’t want to miss it!

As we turn the calendar into 2018, training leaders are looking for the next big things in learning and development. So, for the third year in a row, we’ve assembled our list of the top training trends to watch for in 2018.

We’ll also mention a few trends from years past that many organizations are still getting on board with.

2018 training trends

First things first, let’s talk about what’s NOT on this list.

There’s plenty of industry chatter about augmented and virtual reality, predictive analytics and machine learning. While those are exciting, buzz-worthy technologies, it’s not an L&D trend typical organizations will see in 2018. Advanced training tech is definitely coming, but its mainstream debut is a few years off.

(You totally thought the focus of this article would be augmented and virtual reality, didn’t you?)

So, here are 6 training trends you can get on board with now to improve your training toolkit in 2018.

Convert classroom training to virtual

#1 : Convert classroom learning to virtual

Good news! Classroom training isn’t dead! It’s just moving to a virtual modality.

As technology infrastructure catches up, increased interactive functionality for multi-person webinar platforms is now a reality. Virtual instructor-led training (vILT) is quickly gaining traction as classroom training’s more cost-effective, less disruptive but equally effective cousin.

Why? Because both employers and employees see the benefit of logging on for a couple of hours to attend a group webinar and virtual discussion over investing time and money in travel to a central classroom to achieve the same goal.

Training Magazine reports that:

  • 86% of virtual classroom participants rated the experience as “just as engaging” or “more engaging than” traditional classroom training
  • 100% of participants were highly satisfied with virtual classroom experiences
  • Virtual learners scored an average 90% on a skills mastery test—one point higher than traditional classroom participants

Instructor-led classes are still the No.1 modality for employee training with 78% of respondents polled for inLearning’s 2017 Workplace Learning Report utilizing it. But not all content needs to be taught in person. By analyzing which training topics lend themselves to virtual teaching methods, you’ll save budget to invest in in-person training where it counts.

Virtual instructor-led training is lighting up our radar as one of the hottest and most attainable training trends for 2018.

Bonus: Embrace these virtual instructor-led training best practices to make your virtual training engaging and effective.

Manager Validation in learning and development

#2: Manager validation

“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” – Warren Bennis

Do you envision a culture of learning for your organization? Does your C-suite? A strong leadership component is key to promoting learning and maximizing the value of your organization’s training program. After all, you can’t just conduct training without accountability. It requires leaders, managers, and supervisors who support the initiative and find engaging ways to encourage participation.

SHRM confirms that to create a true culture of learning, CEO buy-in is critical. In vibrant learning cultures such as UPS, American Express, and the Container Store, C-suite executives and leaders are committed to learning. They model behaviors that communicate their belief that, “being smart is no longer about how much you know or how adept you are at avoiding mistakes. Instead, it’s about being a critical thinker, a motivated learner and an effective collaborator to further the business.

“…being smart is no longer about how much you know or how adept you are at avoiding mistakes. Instead, it’s about being a critical thinker, a motivated learner and an effective collaborator to further the business.”

To maximize adoption and success rates, training should be consistent, mandatory and standards-based.

Training Magazine suggests that management team prep sessions―where managers review exactly what the training entails plus follow-up strategies to maximize learning―can increase management engagement in the learning process and therefore enhance training results.

Keep learners accountable for staying on-message and implementing the skills and behaviors they’ve learned. Manager follow-up in 30, 60, and 90-day increments to reinforce training topics through a huddle, ride-along, deep-dive session or coaching confirms training success and improves the overall vitality of your organization.

Focus on the learner experience

#3: More focus on learner experience

As modern content consumers, we’re spoiled. Google lists 400,000+ results per search, YouTube automatically plays related videos, and Netflix suggests 97% content matches based on viewing pattern algorithms.

Modern learners are beginning to expect a training experience like what’s available in everyday life. So, coming in at number three on our list of training trends is a focus on elevating the learner experience – in both the content and the technology that delivers it.

There’s a newfound intolerance for clicking through 20 sites to find what you need: SharePoint? Samepage? Slack? Unique URLs? The dreaded Intranet?

ENOUGH! Learners know it could be better. You know it could be better. We’ve seen it be better.

In 2018, we’ll see a shift in the traditional LMS to enhance the modern learning experience. Integrating disparate systems will enable a one-stop-shop for employees to find the tools, training, and communication they need to be successful in their roles. Your new, integrated LMS will enable training to be adopted and implemented on a grander scale by making it more highly visible, accessible, and engaging.

Rewards-based learning―fostering a culture of learning that rewards people as they develop new skills and behaviors―is also beginning to be understood and embraced.

Communicating training goals, initiatives and deadlines to engage employees is still a huge issue. “If you build it, they will come” doesn’t ring true.

But if you build it and include social, gamification, communication, training, and tools, you’ll create a centralized hub where learners can connect to share insights and make informed decisions, inciting higher participation and engagement.

Created vs. Curated training content

#4: Created vs. Curated content

As creators of engaging training custom-built for your company’s culture and goals, do we believe that off-the-shelf content has its place in your training playbook?

Well, it just might.

Because it’s true: You may not need custom-created training for standard compliance topics such as communication skills and ethics. But keep in mind that value-added content that truly changes behaviors is still a highly-coveted advantage in your training tool belt.

Custom-built content—created to showcase and reinforce your organization’s unique culture, brand, and goals—remains the gold standard. When employees experience your company’s culture reflected in real-world scenarios that help them hone the knowledge, skills, and behaviors necessary for success, training sticks. High-quality training engages learners by pairing fast-paced, interactive content with the right dose of humor to keep their attention and increase overall learning and completion rates.

Microsoft Virtual Academy and Linkedin’s Lynda.com will be disruptive players in the L&D space with innovative strategies for commoditizing standard content―some of it’s even free―on a platform that organizations could leverage for cost-savings.

By spending a little less money maintaining required compliance courses, you’ll have more budget for behavior-based, custom-created content where it counts most.

Measuring training effectiveness

#5: Measuring Training Effectiveness

Demonstrating ROI continues to be a challenge, yet the C-suite demands it. While measuring the effectiveness of your training is important, it’s a complex metric. No wonder it made our annual list of training trends in 20162017, and here again in 2018.

Since the elusive Training Effectiveness topic keeps coming up (and we predict it always will), we suggest embracing what we have today. Quantitative ROI data is still roughly five years off, but qualitative data is readily available now. Embrace it and focus on the value it can offer.

Qualitative feedback is the No. 1 way it’s being done. Positive feedback from managers affirming a productivity increase ranks as No. 2, and satisfaction among training attendees is No. 3.

The high cost of employee turnover, as well as the potentially brand-impairing effect of excessive customer service complaints, are strong arguments supporting the qualitative ROI of your training budget.

Up-cycle Flash-based training content to video

#6: Up-cycling Flash-based training into modern formats

About 90% of eLearning built in the past 20 years is Flash-based. Now that the final countdown to retiring Flash support has begun, modernizing existing Flash-based training  is trending in 2018.

The driving motivator: security threats from major Flash loopholes that will no longer be patched.

While it’s good news for pirates who can more easily breach your systems and access sensitive information, it could be devastating to your organization.

If you’re still using Flash, you’re already behind. Mobile training technology is here, and the timeline for adoption is now. Embrace it.

3 past learning and development trends you're still no doing right

3 Past training trends you’re still not doing right

Some L&D trends started 10 years ago, but in our experience, a lot of companies are still not doing them right. What’s the low-hanging fruit that you could reach to maximize your training toolkit? We have some ideas.

Micro-learning

With our 8.25-second attention spans now lower than that of the average goldfish, micro-learning (training divided into small chunks that learners can more easily digest) is effective, highly-rated, and continues to gain traction. Learners retain information when it’s presented in highly-specified 3 to 5-minute chunks as opposed to that 47-page PowerPoint your former training manager developed in 2006.

The concept of micro-learning is so big that one company is even trying to trademark it. Ridiculous, right? But it speaks to the point. It’s past time to get onboard with micro-learning!

Mobile Adoption

It’s an expectation. Our smartphones are by our sides, in our hands and on our nightstands 24/7. Millennials (estimated to compose 75% of the workforce by 2020) especially love their mobile handhelds. 87% affirmed that their smartphones never leave their sides, even in sleep.

MarketsandMarkets forecasts the Global mobile learning market to grow from $7.98 billion in 2015 to $37.60 billion by 2020―a 36.6% Compound Annual Growth Rate.

Mobile training adoption is slow, but it’s happening. Business demands will soon make it a requirement. Many companies are struggling to roll mobile out, coping with the security issues that “bring your own device” mobile technology presents and managing content distribution across them.

A modern learning program provides learners with the ability to learn at their own pace, on their own time, and in their own space. By curating a learning experience that leverages mobile, self-directed options, there’s evidence that you’ll increase adoption levels. 70% of modern workplace learners report increased motivation to train via mobile modality.

Video

Incorporating video doesn’t sound revolutionary, but in training terms, there’s not enough of it, and it’s not being done as well as it could.

With skyrocketing bandwidth comes enhanced possibilities for video. And the fact that it’s compatible with in-person learning, vILT, and online courses makes it a modality to invest in wisely and often.

Do you suffer from video training production phobia? Let it go! According to Kaltura’s State of Video in the Enterprise report, 95% of businesses confirm that video helps train their employees better and faster.

What Training Trends Are You Watching in 2018?

While machine learning, predictive analytics, and AR/VR adoption are coming, they won’t go mainstream in 2018. For now, focus on embracing training trends that help you modernize your L&D program to engage learners and maximize results.

So, what other training trends will you be watching in 2018? Share in the comments below, or contact us.

Training Trends Webinar

Want more? Join our very own Dave Romero and Nikki Shaw for a fun, interactive webinar with Training Magazine where they’ll go more in-depth with these hot 2018 training trends.

BONUS: During the webinar, they’ll share actionable tips to help you get started with each trend.

Training Video Production, Humanized

Training Video Production Humanized - the Director of Photography on set

As a kid I wanted to be Alfred Hitchcock. As a graduate student I won a screenwriting award. Today, as the Director of Content Strategy at Unboxed, I’ve had the honor of being part of a team that’s produced hundreds of microlearning videos for our clients.

You’ll often hear me say, “Use as much video as possible!” However, over the years I’ve observed how corporate training video production intimidates most people in the market for it. They have justifiable concerns about production costs, timelines, actors, branding, and quality.

In an effort to make the production process a little more human-friendly, we created the Training Video Production, Humanized guide. The guide covers enough video terminology to make you dangerous, plus what you can expect during pre-production, production, and post-production.

 

Video Works

Before you read any further, you need to know why training videos work—and why it’s such a worthwhile investment of your time and money. Here are a few helpful stats:

  • At least 65% of people learn by seeing.
  • As we discuss in the article Employee Training Videos—What Style is Right for YouCisco projects 82% of all Internet traffic will be video by 2021; An estimated 75% of the workforce will be Millennials by 2025and Millennials are some of the heaviest consumers of video as a medium.
  • Entering the workforce on the heels of Millennials is Gen Z, and 70% of Gen Zers watch more than two hours of YouTube each day.
  • Video-based training programs can deliver impressive results—like 70% completion rates for training considered optional. (I mean, who takes optional training?! People who like videos, that’s who.)

 

Training Video Production: Things to Know Up Front

So, let’s go ahead and assume we’re creating microlearning training videos, not feature-length films. This has positive implications when it comes to your training video production costs. For training to be considered microlearning, it should be 5 minutes or fewer (we usually target 2-3 minutes) and focus on a single topic. Your microlearning video could be live action, animation, or a combination of both.

To feel comfortable throughout the training video production process, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with a little bit of terminology. Let’s start with the people you’ll meet.

People You’ll Meet

In most cases, the higher the fidelity and complexity of the video, the more team members are involved. Higher-fidelity training videos often involve sophisticated lighting setups, professional actors, additional sound and camera equipment, and extra crew. In our frequent participation in the 48 Hour Film Project, we’ve seen how the absence of the right equipment—particularly lighting and sound—can significantly reduce the impact of your content. Sometimes an iPhone just won’t cut it.

The Training Video Production, Humanized guide outlines the roles involved in a typical Unboxed training video shoot. Some of our corporate training video productions require more hands on deck, while some require less.

Here’s a sample of the people you’ll meet. Download the guide to meet the whole team.

Training Video Production Humanized - People you'll meet on set

 

What to Expect During Pre-Production

We can break training video production down into three phases: pre-production, production, and post-production. In a nutshell, pre-production includes all of the up-front scripting, storyboarding, casting, and planning. Your Content Strategist and Producer will handle most of the heavy lifting during this phase, and they’ll be asking for your feedback and approval along the way.

 

Pre-Production FAQs

Will we get to see what the actors look like to make sure they reflect the diversity and tone of our organization? Yes! We’ll work closely with you to understand the right demographics and find talented actors that represent your company well.

What if I can’t afford professional actors? In our experience, professional actors deliver the best result and keep your content evergreen. However, if you’d prefer to use your own employees, we can share some best practices with you to set them up for success.

Will we get to recommend locations? Absolutely! In addition to that, we’ll also let you know if we can achieve the right look near our Richmond headquarters. If our crew doesn’t travel far, we can save you money.

Who should plan to be there on shoot day? We’d love to invite at least one subject-matter-expert (SME) on set with us. This person can be a great resource on shoot day and help ensure scenes are true-to-life.

 

What to Expect During Production

If you’ve never been on set during a training video production, you’re in for a treat. It’s exciting to see all of the scripting, casting, and planning come together. It’s also busy—the Unboxed team is efficient and works hard to capture a lot of footage in a day. Wear comfortable shoes!

You’ll enjoy watching our Directors in action as they coach talent and keep things moving from one scene to the next. They’ll check in with you often and make sure you’re satisfied with what’s being captured.

Production FAQs

What should I wear to the shoot? We recommend wearing something casual or business casual. You want to make sure you’re comfortable. Pay special attention to footwear! Flats typically work best.

What is my role on set? We love having clients on set because you can make sure each scene is a realistic portrayal of your organization. You’ll have the opportunity to consult with our directors to make sure they’re giving the talent the right direction according to your brand and subject matter expertise. Keep us honest and confirm we’re doing a great job.

Training Video Production Humanized - On set

Other Terms You’ll Hear

MOS. Lower thirds. Slate. Camera speed.

There are plenty of other video production terms where these came from. While you’re on set, the Unboxed team will be more than happy to go over any questions you have about what something means or why we’re capturing footage a certain way.

 

 

What to Expect During Post-Production

In the post-production phase, we create your final training video. Our Director of Photography sits in a dark room for three straight days, wearing headphones and moving pixels around. He only breaks for lunch.

Just kidding. Post-production can actually be very collaborative, as our Content Strategist, DP, and Producer work together to agree on the best shots, make smart editing decisions, and keep the project on budget. By the time you see the first cut, it’s already been through at least one round of internal review.

Post-Production FAQs

What’s my role during post-production review? We’ll send you the first cut of the video and ask for your feedback or approval. At this stage in the production process, we can still edit music, transitions, and text on screen, and if necessary, we can also look into alternate takes and shots.

How many rounds of review do I get? Your training video production budget includes one first cut review. Once we get your feedback on the first cut, our editor makes any changes you requested and delivers your final, polished video.

I have late feedback from an important stakeholder. What should I do? Talk to us! It happens, and our goal is to deliver training you’re happy with. Help us understand the request, and let us come back with a recommendation in case it impacts scope and timeline.


Training Video Production Humanized - Reviewing the final footage

 

 

Lights, Camera, Action!

When it comes to corporate training video production, gone are the days of talking heads. With so many training video styles available, video is one of the best ways to engage your learners. Sure, production planning takes work, but it’s exciting and fun, and in the end you’ll have training you’re proud to show off. With the right team in place, shooting video doesn’t need to be intimidating—or a hassle.

And now that you know what to expect during the corporate training video production process, find the right partner who can help you decide which type of video treatment is right for you, estimate costs, and deliver better results. We’d love to tell you more about our custom training solutions.

What’s the Time Commitment? Best Practices to Engage SMEs

Whether you’re developing training content on your own or hiring a custom training partner like Unboxed to create content for you, you’re going to need SMEs, or subject matter experts. SMEs help you — and any partner companies you work with — make sure your training content is accurate and sounds like you.

As you plan your next training project, it’s helpful to be aware of a few best practices to engage SMEs, so you can set expectations and start things off on the right foot. When it’s time to round up a great group of SMEs, don’t worry, we’ve got your subject matter expert roles and responsibilities covered.

So, Why Be a SME?

When you’re gathering a team of SMEs, you’re asking people to do a little extra work. That can seem daunting to some, but remember this: there are a lot of benefits to being a SME.

SMEs get to share their expertise in order to create great training for your company. They can contribute to truly meaningful change within your organization.

Plus, being a SME can lead to great personal and professional growth and potential career advancement. When you’re gathering your team and talking with them about SME time commitment, roles, and responsibilities, make sure you outline the benefits.

Characteristics of a Great SME

Obviously, a great SME has excellent knowledge of the topic you need to train. But being a SME is more than that.

The ideal SME will:

  • “Get” the ins and outs of your business so your training matches your company’s needs and culture.
  • Be able to review training content for accuracy.
  • Add crucial details to content by offering their own experiences, tips, and stories from within the industry.
  • Care about the success of the company and the people being trained.
  • Want the training to be of the highest quality.
  • Be willing to make time in their schedules for the project.

Let’s explore that last bullet further and take a look at each step of the training development process to get a better sense of the SME time commitment.

Friendly caveat: These are estimates. Longer and more complex projects may require more SME involvement, but no matter the scope of the project, it’s important to make sure SME duties don’t negatively impact their day jobs. Let’s set them up for success.

YOUR SMEs AND THE FOUR Ds

Creation of your training content will likely follow a process that goes something like this: Discovery, Design, Development, and Delivery. There’s typically a SME time commitment at each step.

Discovery

SME time commitment per week: 1 hour

Typically, this phase includes at least one initial discovery call that lasts about an hour. However, sometimes before the first discovery call it’s a good idea to have a kick-off workshop or meeting with your SME team so you can align internally on the extent of their involvement and what to expect.

During the discovery phase, SMEs may be asked to help define the business needs, audience, and learning objectives. They’ll also use their expertise to answer questions about the topic being trained.

The initial SME call may lead to more questions in the future. Your team should be available (typically via email) in case the training development team reaches out for additional information.

Design

SME Time Commitment per week: 1-2 hours.

During the design phase, the training team you’re working with will develop content outlines, often called high-level designs. From there, SMEs need to confirm that the outlines adhere to the learning objectives and that the information is accurate.

Depending on the type of training being developed, the training team may also pitch creative concepts during the design phase. SMEs may be asked to review these concepts and approve any talent or location specs for live action videos, if applicable.

The Design phase typically includes one SME check-in call. Materials will be sent prior to the call and shouldn’t take more than an hour to review.

Develop

SME Time Commitment per week: 1-2 hours

In this phase, the training development team brings the high-level designs to life to create the actual training content.

The Develop phase usually includes one check-in call. SMEs will help sign off on any materials being sent to final production by:

  • Verifying language, tone, and style.
  • Pointing out any gaps in the content.
  • Approving visual direction.

Materials are often sent prior to the call for review.

Deliver

SME Time Commitment per week: ~1 hour (maybe less)

The final phase doesn’t require as much involvement as previous phases. Typically, content is complete, and SMEs may just be asked to confirm no errors have been made and approve the final product.

The delivery phase can be extremely rewarding for your SME team. It’s so exciting to see the final product come to life.

Next steps

When your training launches, celebrate your SME team’s hard work. Thank them for their time commitment and dedication. As a custom training company, we’ve helped our clients plan training release parties, schedule screenings of new videos, and put together SME thank-you gifts.

If you’re interested in learning more about identifying a SME team or planning out your subject matter expert roles and responsibilities, reach out! We have years of experience building world-class programs, and we’d love to help.

4 Training & Development Trends for 2016

Update: check out the list of 2018 training trends.

training trends

In 2015, there were many exciting advances in learning and development. A few of the biggest training trends were mobile, social learning, and gamification.

These things will definitely continue to evolve in 2016. But we see a bigger movement surrounding and encompassing them: strategy and execution. This is going to be a year about:

  • Connecting training to shared, big-picture business goals;
  • Collaborating with other internal teams to achieve outcomes;
  • Better measurement of results; and
  • Pursuing the most effective solutions, not just training for the sake of training.

By focusing on strategy and execution, teams will build a stronger foundation for training and, in turn, more effectively use things like mobile, social learning, and gamification to improve performance. Work smarter, not harder, right?

4 Training Trends for the Year Ahead

Alignment with Business Goals
It’s not enough to teach knowledge, skills, or behaviors just for the sake of it. Training must connect to big-picture, company-wide objectives. Team members and leaders have to ask, “What do we need to be able to do so we achieve our business goals?” and “How will we measure and show the impact of training on performance?” Starting with the end in mind helps ensure the best possible solution is implemented.

More Cross-Department Collaboration
Everything—from L&D and HR to marketing and sales—is connected. A problem in one area can have a ripple effect on other areas of the business. A gap in product or service training can result in negative customer experiences. That drags down brand perception, which in turn can hurt sales and employee morale.

Working together means a shared vision for both short-term and long-term goals. It opens the door to greater transparency and makes sharing data and correlating training to results easier.

Improved Analytics
More and more companies will call for reporting that goes beyond training completion rates and satisfaction surveys. Focus will shift to measuring changes in behaviors and KPIs such as revenue per employee and analyzing how those results correlate to training initiatives.

Problem Solving
New training courses or technology isn’t always the answer to making people more productive or successful. Organizations will dig deeper to understand the root cause of performance gaps and find the right solution—which may or may not include training.

The companies that are going to take 2016 by the reins are the ones who smash silos, establish shared goals, fight for the right solution (not just any solution), and relentlessly measure performance and business results.

How about you? What trends in training and development are you looking forward to in 2016? Let us know in the comments, or give us a shout on Twitter @unboxedtech.