Virtual Training Beats In-Person Training
Technological advances in online employee training will make most in-person classroom learning a thing of the past. Pro or con?
Pro: Online Training Enables in a Good Way
Navigating by looking in the rearview mirror is a risky strategy for driving a car … and a business.
Ten years ago companies thought of TV advertising as the most effective way to reach an audience, and rightfully so for 2001. But if companies had continued blindly down that path and resisted new media experimentation, they would have overlooked Google AdWords, Facebook, and Twitter.
There is a similar shift in training. It’s moving online and will continue to do so. Here’s why:
1. Geographic dispersion. Nearly 75 percent of the American workforce and 35 percent of the global workforce will be mobile by 2013, according to research firm IDC, making all in-person tasks more expensive to coordinate and less efficient. Surely this figure is even more substantial for salespeople.
2. Accelerating changes in business. With company strategies, products, and technologies changing so fast, it is virtually impossible to keep up if new information can be relayed only in person. Online training streamlines knowledge sharing, allowing a sales staff to perform rather than sit in a conference room.
3. Increased social sharing and crowdsourcing. With 52 percent of Americans now using some form of social media, according to Edison Research, we have officially become "sharers." Online training embraces social sharing, providing the actual subject matter experts with tools that enable them to directly share information with peers.
4. Cloud computing’s promise. A recent MarketBridge study found that companies growing by 10 percent or more each year were twice as likely to move applications and infrastructure into the cloud. Sophisticated cloud-based training software allows anyone to convert content into a training tool without the need for expensive enterprise license software.
Dramatic shifts in communication, behavior patterns, and technological innovation make it vital for companies to adopt the most efficient, cost-effective training tools or risk being left behind.
Con: In-Person Has a Solid Track Record
To paraphrase author Phil Myers: "An opinion, while interesting, is irrelevant." Which is exactly why, despite my role as an industry analyst covering 100-plus sales training providers, my personal take on the best training modalities is only an opinion, nothing more.
Fortunately, I’ve researched more than 1,700 companies in the past two years to understand what kinds of behavior, practices, technologies, and services are driving the best sales performance—and I can clearly link live, in-person, instructor-led classroom training to the most successful sales organizations.
Here is how the numbers look: In our most recent sales training research, the top 20 percent of performers among nearly 900 companies report that 87 percent of their reps are achieving quota, compared with only 31 percent at other firms. These best-in-class organizations also show a 9.5 percent annual increase in their average deal size, vs. 0.5 percent for the rest, which isn’t a business result any of us wouldn’t love to report.
So, what kinds of training modalities are favored by these strongest sales teams? Fully 72 percent of the best-in-class consider traditional, instructor-led, live training to be one of the top two most effective ways to train their sales staff. This is 18 percentage points higher than the endorsement of the worse performers, and far more popular among the elite sales organizations than on-the-job training (38 percent), blended learning (26 percent), or one-to-one mentoring/coaching (24 percent).
This does not detract from the value of contemporary technologies. In fact, 51 percent of the top performers also use online learning and mobile and video modalities to support their instructor-led approach—but support, as a best practice, a tried-and-true approach that works.