Thomas Bernard, Senior Manager and Global Learning Leader for Solenis, is tasked with supporting the training of a global commercial
team of over 2,000 sales people with very technical subject matter.
Bernard faced a huge challenge when he became the global learning leader at Solenis in 2013.
It can take as long as 5 to 6 years to get an inexperienced commercial team member fully trained to an effective level in all the competency areas in which he or she may need to be successful.
However, young new employees are at times not even staying with the company that long. He found himself asking, “How do we build an effective sales team when it takes longer to train them than they are sometimes even with the company?”
Historically, training meant multi-week, intensive classroom-based technical training marathons taught by senior Solenis applications experts.
“Our success is tied directly to the technical ability of our global sales team members to solve tough customer challenges with unique Solenis chemical solutions.”
The challenge was to shorten Solenis Global commercial employee time to proficiency by reducing what is often years of required training in multiple technical disciplines in multiple languages.
“The marathon training events were not effective, and the generation coming into the workforce have rebelled against these type of sessions in feedback to our CEO.”
Bernard knew he needed to fix things. The first step of the project was assessment: determining what people already knew. Solenis also hires experienced employees from industry competitors, who need a lot less technical training than new hires right out of school. As such, people need different levels of training based on their work experience and what they already know.
But developing and delivering training at the required level for each employee, globally and in multiple languages, proved
impossible. Bernard and his team needed to find a way to have employees indicate what they already knew so that the training teams could try and find a way to target the right level of training for each employee.
Bernard and the Solenis technical team developed and launched a detailed online assessment process in which employees get assigned competencies based on the area of business they serve. These employees answer a series of simple “Yes” or “No” questions aligned with a specific technical or commercial competency and expertise level.
All commercial employees are tasked with opening all of their assigned competencies in the assessment application – taken from 28 technical and 7 commercial competencies in total — and reviewing the skill statements within those assigned competencies, and changing the default of “No” to“Yes” if they feel they could demonstrate that skill. Once they completed their competency assessments, they submit those assessments through the assessment tool to their coach (manager), who then review and approve (or change with comment) each competency assessment. Coaches then complete a learning gap analysis for that employee, targeting specific focus areas that employee targets for immediate development in crucial competencies that will drive their immediate success.
However, the assessment project, though useful, needed an immediate next stage: skill development.
At the end of stage one, when an employee could not select “Yes” to an assessment item within a competency because he or she did not have that specific skill, the employee would have to try and develop that skill or knowledge through training opportunities, such as Virtual Instructor-Led Training (VILT), classroom, on-the-job, or peer review and coaching.
A few specific issues remained:
To address these issues, Solenis turned to Synapse. Synapse allows Solenis technical experts to create online eLearning modules, without the need for SMEs to have training design expertise.
Bernard’s team signed on with Synapse about three years ago to develop what they have dubbed “Learn It Now” modules for use right in their competency assessment platform. An employee can now review a competency assessment item and realize that he or she cannot change from the default “No” (signifying “I don’t know or can’t demonstrate that skill”) to “Yes” (signifying “I know this and do not need training”) and then immediately review training content to provide that specific knowledge.
With Synapse, right at the assessment item, the employee can click the “Learn It Now” link, which opens a quick hit training module in Synapse that provides relevant training immediately on their computer or mobile device. Employees quickly develop that knowledge or skill, and then change that assessment item to “Yes” and attach evidence of their new found skill or knowledge for their coach to review. And they can further reference their evidence again in the future, whenever they may need a refresher for that competency item.
“The response so far has been great,” says Bernard. “New employees can target their basic skills training to just what they need to know when they need to know it, wherever they are. Experienced employees can still review individual skills if needed to freshen up their knowledge”.
The feedback from the technical experts has also been very positive. “The self-guided training design process provided in the Synapse application has provided our technicalSME’s with the ability to utilize all their existing learning resources to create online training modules quickly and easily. Our technical experts can now refocus on helping our sales teams grow by providing technical support, instead of reading technical slides to a group of bored head-bobbing millennials in hotel meeting rooms or over Skype screen sharing sessions.”
And since the launch, the L&D team has received feedback from new Solenis employees that the “Learn It Now” training modules are very helpful to their development as Solenis sales professionals. Solenis has also begun to promote this new competency assessment process and just-in-time learning methodology to its customers as a Solenis differentiator.
Customers have expressed very positive feedback regarding this new learning and development initiative for their Solenis representatives who they depend on to help them achieve their business goals.
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