Archives for July 2015

Is Your Training on Sales Coaching Only One-Fourth Right?

Companies expend a tremendous amount of energy training sales managers to coach, but much of that energy is invested in a single aspect of sales coaching—observing sales calls and providing feedback to sellers. But is that all there is to sales coaching? Do sales managers need training on how to coach sellers on other sales activities?

The answer is yes. While conducting calls is an important activity, it’s not the only sales activity worthy of coaching. There are at least four categories of seller behaviors (including making sales calls) necessary for seller success. It stands to reason that, if success depends upon these categories, sales managers should be trained to coach sellers in these key areas. Below is a look at the categories and the corresponding skills sales managers need to effectively coach sellers to succeed in all four areas.

Opportunity Management Coaching

Before sellers make sales calls, they need to identify and qualify opportunities to determine if they are worth pursuing. This process can be classified as “opportunity management.” In order to effectively coach sellers, sales managers need to be trained on how to establish an opportunity management process that equips sellers to navigate complex, multi-stage deals.

The process may include methods that help sellers examine the competitive landscape, qualify opportunities, form a strategic approach, determine which resources are necessary and manage project plans. Once managers understand the opportunity management process, they must determine which elements of the process are the best targets for coaching. Managers often dedicate significant effort toward the late stages of the process at the expense of early stages.

Account Management Coaching

For sellers responsible for multiple, large-scale accounts, sales coaching should include some level of strategic account planning to find sufficient opportunities for sellers to meet quota. Account management entails all activities related to maintaining and growing existing accounts. To help sellers succeed in this area, sales managers need to be trained to develop effective account strategies that align the goals of the seller’s organization to those of the client, not the other way around.

These strategies must be client-focused and translated into action plans. The manger must then determine which accounts warrant this type of intense effort and how to align their coaching efforts to help sellers develop and execute these plans.

Territory Management Coaching

If a seller has a large number of accounts in a territory, proper segmentation and allocation of effort toward high-potential accounts is critical. To successfully coach sellers on territory management, sales managers must be trained to prioritize and segment accounts to determine which accounts have the most potential. Once accounts have been prioritized, seller effort can be allocated accordingly.

Finally, sellers can then execute according to plan. Managers who understand which elements of territory management benefit from coaching efforts are better equipped to coach sellers to prioritize, allocate effort or determine if sellers are attending the accounts based on the prioritization.

Call Management Coaching

That brings us to call management, which involves sellers planning for and conducting individual sales calls. Once sellers are focusing on the right areas to find business, a sales manager can then turn efforts toward coaching sellers to build a game plan to pursue deals. To do this, sales managers need to be trained on how to develop a call management process that helps sellers align their activities with the objectives they are tasked with achieving. Managers can then coach sellers in call preparation, observe calls that are conducted and provide feedback regarding the effectiveness of call execution.

As you can see, planning for and conducting sales calls is only one of four key sales activities. Most sales managers often over-allocate field time – defined as “going on sales calls” with their reps. This is the most time-consuming type of coaching sales managers can do and it may not provide the best return on investment.

In fact, if your sales manager training efforts are focused exclusively on call management coaching, you may only be investing in one-fourth of the pie. Having a more balanced approach to sales coaching helps build healthy pipelines, eliminate peaks and valleys in seller performance, and improve forecast accuracy. How’s that for a whole new definition of sales coaching?

 Michelle Vazzana is a founding partner at Vantage Point Performance. Reprinted from

Technology’s Growing Role in Onboarding

Developing an effective onboarding process is tricky. It’s a delicate balance of company culture and adequate training, with the goal being not only to engage new hires but also increase the likelihood of knowledge retention.

The pressure to do this right can be formidable for both the employer and the new hire. How can an organization train a newly acquired employee while developing an effective onboarding process?

The answer in today’s business environment: technology.

Advancements in technology can make a difference in the onboarding process. Although they will never replace interpersonal communication, technologies like virtual interviews, social media, self-service portals and learning management systems augment it. The onboarding process doesn’t thrive solely on the textbook teachings of corporate classrooms; it’s a structured mechanism fueled by the fluidity of modern workplace technology.

Hit Record

Fifteen years ago, the Internet was primarily driven by dial-up and progressive leaders. Now it permeates nearly every aspect of business. Take the applicant tracking system — the electronic filing system has grown into a highly adaptive and responsive automated system to make the hiring process easier for employers.

Technologies like video interviews, social recruiting and sourcing engines evolved as well. The interconnectedness of the Web touches all aspects of the hiring and onboarding process, both inside the human resources department and in the job-seeking world.

Before offering a candidate the position, companies review applications and interview the talent that has the work history and experience to successfully do the job.

Interviewing today has a very different scope than it did even a decade ago. Candidates live farther away, equating to higher travel costs, so fully integrated video interviewing can be a valuable alternative to high travel costs. Video integration also doesn’t have to stop at the interview process. To be consistent, organizations can use video in their onboarding process as well.

It’s not the task of one single department to complete an onboarding cycle. It takes the entirety of an organization to make the process smooth and as in-depth as possible. Video makes it easy for company leadership to connect with new hires. By creating a “welcome video,” the CEO or other senior leadership can communicate with the new members of their team with ease.

“Make sure the CEO makes an appearance early on to share their vision, passion and goals for the company,” said Robin Schooling, managing director and HR strategist at talent strategy firm Silver Zebras. “If the CEO can’t appear in person, consider using technology to connect new hires with the CEO via Skype or even a pre-recorded video message.”

Additionally, Schooling said telling the company story is vital to the onboarding process. With video, training professionals can engage and connect new hires to the company mission and adopt organizational goals as their own before day one on the job. Put the organizational leader in front of new hires to increase their cultural connection with the company.

Let’s Get Social

As many personalities enter the workforce, there’s a growing need to develop a program that combines their desire for collaboration with the training they need. If onboarding is the process of helping new hires adjust to social and performance aspects of their new jobs quickly and smoothly, then why not leverage today’s available technology?

As the behemoth of today’s professional networking, social media is an ideal tool for learning in a collaborative work environment. Integrate social learning into the increasingly digital and tech-centered onboarding process with monitored discussion boards, gamification and internal social networks as they hold the key to engaging the tech-savvy and emerging workforce.

Some companies, “like Bank of America, have scrapped traditional orientation and revamped new hire training by creating a robust self-guided learning environment where critical information is readily available and easy to find,” said Kyle Lagunas, talent acquisition analyst at Brandon Hall Group. “Others, like Yammer, are leveraging social technology to give new employees a platform for building meaningful connections within the organization.”

At Your Own Pace

Self-service portals keep all of the training and onboarding files in one, easy-to-find location online. Because they are on the company intranet, it makes it simple for employees to learn at their own pace. It also makes it easier for managers to track onboarding performance and scores with training.

Self-service portals enable new and notable employees to easily go back into their training files and refresh their skills or knowledge. These portals contain all of the onboarding documents and training material they need.

Socializing New Hires

Social learning tools are on the rise as the workforce becomes more collaborative.  But employers are still reluctant to engage in mobile platforms in the onboarding process.

Of the 59 percent of organizations that use social learning strategies, only 24 percent say they are effective, according to the State of Learning and Development 2014 survey from Brandon Hall Group.

This is primarily because of the controlled access to platforms that enable social opportunities, limiting employers to file sharing and discussion forums. Yet, research suggests that microblogs or the use of video are more effective in training new hires.

Social learning better enables employers to align their newly hired employees with company goals and the overall organizational mission. Immersing the new hires in the culture and in the work deepens their relationship with the brand, making employees more apt to retain the information they learn during onboarding.

—Raj Sheth

Gamification is an onboarding process component that has the potential to allow new hires to take their education as an employee into their own hands. It gives managers the ability to track and analyze their progress based on scores.

Moreover, it decreases employment costs for companies as it improves turnover. As 2013 research by Aberdeen Group Inc. shows, organizations that implement gamification into their onboarding programs have a 48 percent increase in engagement.

Also, these portals and gamification make the learning management system easier to use. Integrating these portals into the LMS could be the difference in reaching educational goals or letting employee training fall by the wayside. In any event, the Aberdeen study suggests learning is becoming increasingly important to the growth of organizations.

Organizations that develop technological onboarding programs catering to new hire needs for collaboration and innovation are likely to have not only successful onboarding programs but also a reduction in turnover. However, this isn’t to give authority to the new hires, but rather to engage them in such a way that they not only understand but also relate with as well.

As video has taken hold of the interview process, companies can use it in combination with their tech-centered onboarding process as well. The process is easier for workers to learn and retain the information.

Perhaps most importantly, visual teaching and communication breaches the generational divide most companies experience with the intake of a new workforce.

Not including file sharing, Internet video traffic will reach 80 to 90 percent of global consumer Internet traffic by 2018, according to 2014 data from business technology provider Cisco Systems Inc. Therefore, the video interfacing during onboarding is likely to increase engagement and will increase long-term knowledge retention after training is over.

Growing the team is crucial to the growth of the organization, both financially and in innovation. With training systems and onboarding programs that cater to the desire for innovative programs, company leadership is likely to increase engagement levels.

Integrating the onboarding process improves learning efficiency and effectiveness because employees are able to learn in a medium they are comfortable with and at their own pace. Leveraging learning technology throughout the employee life cycle inherently releases time that would otherwise be spent in a corporate classroom or nose deep in a binder.

This gives new hires the opportunities to engage in the culture while cultivating professional relationships with colleagues who can help mentor and provide feedback.

Company leadership, despite busy schedules and meetings, have the ability to make a positive initial impression through the development of video in the onboarding process. Many organizations have adopted social media to involve the new hires in the company culture through the intranet. That’s not to mention the ability for collaborative learning process through discussion boards.

This collaborative learning opportunity allows new hires to not only learn to work together but also take their onboarding into their own hands through self-service portals.

Successful companies view onboarding as a vital process to the success of the new hire in both individual and company terms. They have the best onboarding programs because they are 35 percent more likely to begin the onboarding process before a new hire’s first day compared with all other companies combined, according to 2015 Aberdeen Group research.

Additionally, they are 1.6 times more like to use a self-service portal for new hires to access company onboarding files, 14 percent more likely to provide these files before day one, and 2.5 times more likely to track new-hire progress throughout the onboarding process.

While it’s no easy feat creating an engaging onboarding program, company leadership has the ability to remain competitive. Creativity in conjunction with technology makes the organization’s culture and goals clear and engaging for new employees.

The growth of technology has made HR professionals find a state of equilibrium in the onboarding process. New employees want innovation, and by integrating technology into their first few days, they are able to maintain that wealth of information.

The Allure and Danger of Compliance Training

Compliance training, as popular and attractive as it is, can be dangerous—for the enterprise and for L&D.

In many organizations, compliance training abounds. Programs on diversity, sexual harassment, insider trading, ethics, and similar topics are often required for all employees. In government-regulated industries like banks, pharmaceuticals, and energy, large groups of employees must complete numerous additional training programs. Even less regulated companies often mandate some training for everyone.

The Allure

Assuring that everyone is trained is important, especially in areas with severe legal, public health, safety, or other consequences. For L&D, compliance training brings entry into a variety of business activities and certainly generates lots of activity for trainers.

The allure only grows when eLearning is thrown into the mix, and it’s not just about cost savings. Learning management systems make it easy to track who has taken training, and who hasn’t, and can generate documentation precisely tuned to the client’s compliance reporting requirements. An entire industry has grown up around providing turnkey, easily reportable online compliance training programs, including content.

Being able to deliver training to lots of people and track their progress can be very helpful in building confidence that those who have been trained know what they are doing. This is always good, right?

Not so fast.

The Danger

While some compliance training programs work well, many expose four significant shortcomings:

  1.  Compliance vs. certification. One big false assumption is that compliance is the same as certification. Certification is based (hopefully) on a solid assessment of performance, resulting in a high likelihood that the individuals can actually do the job in ways that meet definable standards (competencies).This requires a long-term development program that transcends the classroom and moves to the workplace, coupled with a performance measurement scheme that is well thought out and well executed.Compliance training frequently focuses just on measuring attendance rather than performance. “Who showed up” and “who completed the course” are examples of compliance requirements that say little about what people can do, let alone what they learned. Even with an assessment, if it isn’t well designed, measuring actual performance can be problematical, to say the least.
  1. Legal risk. The assumption that if employees complete compliance training the organization is shielded from legal risk, is risky itself. Is a company protected from damages brought by other employees, regulators, or customers simply by saying its people received the appropriate and required training?When it can be shown that even if employees had the required training, if they ultimately didn’t learn much, or couldn’t do the job, the shield develops holes and all bets are off.In the fictional HBO TV series The Newsroom (S3/E2, “Run,” 08:00 mark), a broadcast newsroom staffer is accused of stealing government documents. At a meeting, the corporate lawyer asks, “I know these guys get legal training, how did this happen? Isn’t this the very first thing they’re taught not to do?” To which the senior anchorman responds, “Once a year for an hour. It’s not like they take a semester in criminal law.”The network was in training compliance, but it didn’t matter; they weren’t in performance compliance. The damage was done.
  2. LMS limitations. Many compliance training programs are driven by the capabilities of the LMS. Like the tail wagging the dog, some managers see what types of reports the LMS can generate and then design the compliance programs to take advantage of those reports. To be fair, LMSs are great at managing and tracking training delivery, among other things.Without them, we’d have no clue who was taking what training, and that could make things even worse.But remember, they track good training and bad training equally well.Many LMSs (and especially LCMSs) provide test-development capabilities, but they can’t discern good tests from bad or verify the expertise of those observing performance or evaluating work outputs (assuming that’s even done). Interestingly, the advent of the xAPI, if used well, may help rectify this.
  3. Refresher training. Many compliance training programs get repeated every year or so. Often referred to as “recertification” or “refresher” programs, they aim to assure that people maintain their skill and knowledge over time. But if this is just repeating the original compliance program, which wasn’t of much value in the first place, what’s the point?Sure, some workers will benefit from the refresher training, but how will you know who they are, and what will you do about those who don’t? This may be good business for L&D, but is it really good business?

Are You Concerned?

If you are concerned about your compliance programs, there are things you can do. Here are three suggestions:

  1. Keep in mind that compliance training does not equal certification. Build up your certification capabilities. In many cases, being able to certify performance is much more a function of the assessment than the course. For more on this, check out this article.
  2. Get some testing and measurement experts in your organization and listen to them. Ensure that your assessment strategy is valid (it measures what it’s supposed to measure) and reliable (it does so consistently). A few multiple-choice questions at the end of a course will likely not cut it.
  3. Work to change the culture. The embrace of current compliance training practices will not end overnight; it will take years to move this paradigm that has become so convenient and accepted into our practice, and even codified into law. This may be the toughest hill to climb. So remember: little victories now mean bigger victories later. Start small—but start.

For L&D, the allure of compliance training is big. For organizations, the allure can be even bigger. Saying that everyone has been trained feels great. But if all you’re doing is counting heads, i.e., measuring employee “throughput,” you run a huge risk: you imply that you are certifying performance but in reality you are only certifying turnout. One day, someone will ask, “We know how many people attended training, but do we know they can actually do what they were trained to do?”

You better have a good answer.

Reprinted from Learning Solutions Magazine

Hiring Goes From Stat to Analyzing Stats

Employers have more tools to assess potential hires than ever before — but they’re taking their own sweet time making their hiring decisions.

New software tools can mine data from job applications and personality tests to find the candidates who best match open positions. Video conferencing makes it possible to interview potential hires multiple times without the cost of bringing them into the office. And increased adoption of social media has changed the way people look for jobs and how employers hire.

“Coming out of the worst recession since the Great Depression, and with the wide adoption of new technologies both for business and personal use, the hiring industry is experiencing a major transformation and will keep evolving at a rapid pace,” said Susan Vitale, chief marketing officer of e-recruiting provider iCIMS Inc.

Now, in addition to the traditional application and interview process, companies can screen potential employees with a variety of methods including assessments and tests, Vitale said. But with each additional method of evaluating a potential hire, the time it takes to actually hire an employee increases.

“There is an array of screening tools companies use that are valuable but may drag the process out further,” Vitale said.

New research from Glassdoor shows that employers all over the world are taking longer to hire new workers. On average, the hiring process has increased by 3.3 to 3.7 days since 2009.

Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor and author of the study, attributes the longer process primarily to the types of screening methods used by employers. He said each additional evaluation method can add up to eight days to the overall process. According to Chamberlain’s research, job skills and personality tests can add about a full day each, while group interviews add about six days. Phone interviews add the most time, increasing the hiring process by 6.8 to 8.2 days.

While Chamberlain said more careful screening of candidates could lead to better hires, it could also result in candidate burnout.

“Employers could be losing out on top talent because their interview process is longer than other companies’,” Chamberlain said.

Time Trials and Tribulations

Logan Franey, co-founder of e-commerce store Man Cave Authority, said the hiring process for his first job out of college took nearly four months.

“I was so frustrated,” he said.

Though he did end up getting the job and liked the company just fine once he started working there, Franey said he was unhappy with how long it had taken to get from his first interview to his start date.

“It was really just waiting around,” Franey said.

In addition to keeping potential hires waiting around, a lengthy hiring process can take up significant internal resources and time, Chamberlain said.

“This can eat into your employees’ time, causing decreased productivity overall,” he said.

However, Chamberlain said the interview process might be longer today because spending more time vetting candidates is simply more necessary in today’s job market.

“Hiring more specialized and technical workers requires more careful screening of applicants,” Chamberlain said. “In recent years, a growing number of studies in economics show a marked shift away from low-skilled, routine jobs and toward higher-skilled, less-routine positions like software engineers or government workers, requiring judgment and technical skills.”

At AT&T Inc. for example, Lisa Mitchell-Kastner, the telecommunications company’s vice president of talent acquisition, said the typical hiring process begins with an online application, followed by an online skills assessment and at least one interview. The number and type of interviews, and therefore the amount of additional time spent evaluating a particular candidate, vary depending on the position. Some job seekers might receive an offer after a single phone interview — others can face multiple rounds of interviews, first with a manager and then a team.

“Both hiring managers and candidates are making a big decision,” Mitchell-Kastner said. “Taking the right amount of time for the candidate to understand the cultural components, job expectations and other factors that make candidates successful are just a few items that can be hugely beneficial to both parties.”

Time to Re-evaluate

Chamberlain recommends that in order to ensure the best possible hiring process, and minimize waste, employers should re-evaluate how they hire employees on a yearly basis.

“Each company is different and has different needs when it comes to the hiring process,” Chamberlain said. “If companies know exactly what is needed to hire candidates for their company, there’s a good chance they will find everything they are doing may not be needed, though conversely, they may find new things they need to institute to really pinpoint and find the best-fit candidates. This varies for each company, but it’s companies who can streamline their interview process that will have the advantage.”

Chamberlain added that the focus should not be making the process shorter, but more efficient.

“An extended interview process can be beneficial to both job seekers and employers as it allows prospective hires to gain a deeper understanding of the company’s culture through firsthand experience with current employees, the work environment and the overall employment brand,” Vitale said. “It’s most important to realize, however, that an organization can position itself as a sought-after employer of choice and hire the best candidates just as effectively and more quickly with the right technology, automated processes and recruitment marketing strategies in place.”

By finding a hiring process that is both efficient and effective, employers can make the best possible job matches — which will in turn boost retention and job satisfaction among employees.

“Alignment to performance, company culture and ensuring candidates have the right skills to be successful in the job tend to lead to lower attrition and higher job satisfaction,” Mitchell-Kastner said.

Reprinted from

Extreme Makeover: Learning Edition

In “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” William Shakespeare wrote, “Though she be but little, she is fierce.” The same could go for any company’s learning department — as long as it secures its role in the business.

One of the key challenges that learning organizations face today is getting a seat at the decision table. The learning and development challenge is to demonstrate impact on business performance, and transformation is one of the 10 global human capital trends in 2015, according to Deloitte.

But a successful L&D transformation often requires a move to business performance partner from training order-taker.

This is exactly what financial technology solutions and services company Connecticut Online Computer Center did between 2010 and 2015. In 2009 as the organization began to look more closely at overall business results, it recognized that learning and development could be a key differentiator in business performance.

Until then, the company’s learning organization — made of two employees — lacked a learning strategy, specific goals and metrics. It implemented several one-off training classes but was unable to quantify business impact.

“The feedback we received from the ‘Best Place to Work’ surveys showed that we were falling short of expectations,” said Steve Guglietta, learning and development manager. “We took a hard look at the organization and realized our challenge was to answer three key questions: One, what are we doing to improve business performance? Two, how do we build a strong L&D strategy? Three, how do we execute on that strategy?”

First, the company conducted an assessment to identify key L&D needs: a customer service excellence focus, multigenerational communication and leadership. Then, the company prioritized the most important areas to support business operations and proposed an L&D program strategy for technical and soft-skills training.

Next, the learning team built a business case for the necessary budget, sought a champion and secured organizational commitment to execute. Based on the needs assessment results and armed with a budget and the CEO’s support, Guglietta worked with the American Management Association, a global learning and development organization to facilitate the transformation and gain a necessary outside perspective.

The partnership resulted in more than 40 customized, multisession learning programs focusing on customer service excellence, leadership and management, interpersonal effectiveness and communication skills. During the past five years, more than 400 employees have participated in the company’s learning programs, including the CEO.

One of the programs, “What it Takes to Lead at COCC,” incorporates the company’s vision, mission and core values in a unique leadership program where managers and employees jointly defined communication and implementation for their respective responsibilities. Key learning and development metrics include participant training hours, business performance and customer satisfaction. Participants have been receptive to the interactive, hands-on learning options and confirm they are better equipped to do their jobs.

For organizations looking to execute a similar transformation, COCC has several learning lessons other organizations can adopt, no matter how small the L&D departments:

1. Forge a trusted partnership with the right organization to get expertise, guidance and support.

2. Use a baseline needs assessment to pinpoint where the organization is and where it wants go. Draft an L&D strategy and budget to get there.

3. Secure a C-suite champion and organizational commitment.

4. Set metrics and track impact on business performance.

COCC also has merged its L&D and recruitment functions. “This was a calculated move to increase our reach and affect prospect employees before they even walk through our doors,” Guglietta said.

Via an online newsletter, COCC communicates learning initiatives, employee survey results and tips and tools for continuous learning across the organization. The newsletter also lists accolades earned. Every year since 2011, COCC has been recognized as a “Top Work Place” by the Hartford Courant and FoxCT. In addition, COCC was named “A Best Place to Work” in Connecticut in 2013, 2014 and 2015 by The Hartford Business Journal.

This is proof positive that even small L&D teams can transform into business partners with the right vision, action and results.

Reprinted from Chief Learning Officer

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