Just-in-Time Training Technologies: Real-World Uses

By Margery Weinstein

Most of us have the technology capability in our living rooms to watch a whole season’s worth of TV shows in one day and to watch other shows whenever we like via on-demand channels and our DVRs. When you couple those conveniences with how second nature it has become to Google any question, you can see the appeal of just-in-time technology in training.

Rather than have the learning delivery dictated by trainers or executives, it often makes sense to allow employees themselves to decide when they need to access specific information or when they need quick refresher training. Here is how some companies are rolling out just-in-time (JIT) learning to their workforces using the latest technology solutions.

LIVE CHAT AND ONLINE GUIDES

The next best thing to being able to tap the shoulder of a work buddy in the next cubicle is to be able to tap the virtual shoulder of an expert. At health-care staffing provider CHG Healthcare Services, online chat provides flexible learning.

“When we roll out new technology to a division in our company, it is not always possible to have on-the-floor support for the duration of the rollout period,” says Senior Technical Training Specialist Zach Sumsion. “One technique we have leveraged to account for this limitation is live chat—where assigned trainers support rollouts remotely by standing by via live chat, able to answer questions in real time as they surface.”

Rather than give learners all the information they need in one shot prior to major technology rollouts, CHG “provides a foundation of how to use a new application, and then the rest of the strategy is on-the-job support,” says Sumsion. “Because this strategy can be resource-intensive, the online chat model allows more flexibility while still providing on-demand support. Our strategy for these rollouts also leverages an online repository of step-by-step guides.”

CROWD-SOURCING FOR ANSWERS

Another way for employees to get fast answers to questions is to give them the ability to throw their questions out to a “crowd” of colleagues online, or engage in what some call “crowd-sourcing,” says Michael Helton, director of Online Learning, Combined Insurance. “Crowd-sourcing is an interesting concept in terms of learning because it provides the ability to tap into the collective knowledge and experience of an organization.

Say, for example, a salesperson repeatedly is receiving a specific type of question. JIT technology would make it easy for that salesperson to search for a response to questions and receive dozens of possible responses. Another benefit is the speed at which questions could be answered.

“On our internal portal, I routinely see questions answered within seconds of posting,” says Helton.

However, Helton adds, with crowd-sourcing and internal professional/social media, there is the challenge of participants providing incorrect guidance or advice. Therefore, he says, it is always a good idea to have some sort of moderation by subject matter experts to ensure the company is protected.

INTERNAL WIKIS AND BLOG PORTALS

An online portal where learners can get questions answered by internal wikis and blogs contributed to by colleagues and outside experts can be a just-in-time resource—provided the content is in an engaging and accessible format, says Paula Crerar, vice president of Product Marketing at learning technology provider Brainshark, Inc.

“Anything that makes content easily accessible is a boon for just-in-time training. A well-maintained and organized content portal can work as a centralized location for learners to go—a ‘one-stop-shop’ for everything they need. The whole idea behind just-in-time training is that people don’t have to waste time searching for the right information,” says Crerar.

The type of content is also important to consider, she notes. “For example, a two-minute video presentation on a new product update might be more effective than a multi-page technical spec sheet. Technology is available to make the creation of these types of resources much easier, which enables not only more timely delivery of content, but also helps ensure content is more effective and engaging.”

CUSTOM PATHS

Your employees don’t have to be young and tech savvy to optimize just-in-time technology. The technology has advanced enough that the way employees tap into JIT information can be adapted to their individual preferences, says Eric Vidal, director of Product Marketing at learning solutions provider InterCall.

“Different visual aspects make the usage of virtual learning environments more intuitive and user friendly for older generations. For instance, you can create a virtual host who will greet users as they enter the environment. The host then will guide them throughout the different rooms,” says Vidal.

Companies also can create custom learning paths for each employee. “This creates less confusion as to what session or room employees should go to next,” Vidal says. “The overall visual nature of virtual learning environments, as well as the extra features, helps prevent older employees from becoming overwhelmed by all of the environment’s features.”

ON YOUR SMART PHONE

With most of us accustomed to getting our questions answered wherever we happen to be—typically on our smart phones—it’s only logical that companies offer the same option to their employees. Rather than requiring an employee to be at a computer to access fast answers, some organizations are making that information available on mobile devices such as their phones, says John Buelow, executive vice president of SNI, a provider of negotiation skills training.

“At SNI, we have our Preparation Planner available on our mobile app. Our clients can pull this checklist up on their phone in the midst of a negotiation to remind them of our systematic approach to negotiating,” says Buelow. “Despite the fact that we cover the components of the Preparation Planner in our instructor-led training, we know that busy professionals cannot rely on remembering our seven steps when under pressure. Our just-in-time tech training helps to reinforce the system.”

INSTANT PERFORMANCE METRICS

Some of the most important information employees search for relates to their own performance. Companies now can offer employees the ability to get instant metrics about how they’re doing, says Frank E. Paterno, vice president of Marketing for Intelliverse.

“Intelliverse gives salespeople real-time feedback that helps to answer ‘How am I doing?’ or ‘Am I going to make quota?’” says Paterno. “Real-time statistics show salespeople if they are meeting the required activity levels for that hour or day. No longer does a salesperson have to wait for the end of the month to get a report that shows how he or she did. Instead, with real-time feedback, salespeople can improve their results—before it is too late.”

Ultimately, no matter the technology, when implementing JIT solutions, it is vital for companies to have a clear outcome or goal in mind, stresses Jimmy Lin, vice president of Product Management and Corporate Strategy at The Network.

“They should know where they are lacking and what they need to meet their objective. Furthermore, they must ensure their goal is not too broad. They should look to attack one problem at a time and choose or design their solution to meet their objective.”

QUICK TIPS

  • Live chat in which employees can ask a co-worker or subject matter expert a question provides immediate access to information in an informal way.
  • Internal wikis and blogs can be effective just-in-time (JIT) resources, provided the information is presented in synthesized, at-a-glance formats, such as short video presentations.
  • JIT technology solutions can come with virtual hosts that lead users through the material to help them find what they’re looking for.
  • We live in a mobile, smart phone era, so be sure your JIT resources can be accessed on smart phones and tablets—not just on employees’ office desktop computers.
  • JIT technology can give employees information about their own performance whenever they need it, so, for example, salespeople know before it’s too late whether they’re meeting their sales quota.

    Reprinted from Training Magazine

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