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Moving Training Into The Field Where It Can Be Most Effective

Saturday, March 29, 2014  
Posted by: Tech Team
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How can you get employees up to speed and able to effectively perform new jobs or responsibilities, when the time and money available for training has been significantly reduced?

During the December 2013 Performance Support/Informal Learning (PS/IL) SIG meeting on December 11, 2013, Jim O'Hern, former Director of Learning and Development for Energy Marketing at Hess Corporation, answered this question. He discussed how he faced this challenge with the organization's existing sales training process and how he addressed it by putting into place an innovative new strategy. 

Jim O'Hern was the ATD NYC Chapter President in 2011 and is still very active in ATD at the Chapter and national level. He is the Principle of Authentic Leadership, LLC, and has been a recognized leader in the areas of Corporate Learning and Leadership Development for over 25 years. 

Jim consulted with co-presenter, Hal Christensen, to build and help pilot an inexpensive Performance Support prototype to implement Jim's new strategy. Hal is a Partner at Christensen/Roberts Solutions, and has over 25 years of experience in performance support. Hal, like Jim, has a history of being involved with the ASTD NY Chapter and currently heads up the PS/IL SIG. He also teaches an online course on Creating Effective Performance Support Solutions.

Jim began the presentation by overviewing the topics he and Hal planned to cover:

- How the project originated

- The design/development process

- A demonstration of how the program works

- Looking back and forward

How the Project Originated 

Jim explained the factors that led him to develop a performance support tool for Hess’s sales force. Since Hess's sales force spent the bulk of its time in the field and out on its own, Jim sought to provide them with new skills “on the street.” That is, he wanted to provide support that was readily available when and where sales professionals needed it. In addition, Jim saw a need to accelerate development. To do this, he wanted to leverage the following existing programs --multi-module product e-learning training program, an 8-day Regional Manager Program, a Sales Manager Program, and an Account Manager Program. 

Next, Jim reviewed the HESS Masters Certification in Sales Leadership Program. This year-long program was designed to prepare Sales Coordinators to be Account Managers. While great training assets existed, such as the Energy Marketing Sales (EMS) Sales Process practice aid, Jim felt that the program covered too much content and did not include any integrated resources that sales professionals could access while on the road. In addition, at the conclusion of the training process, new managers were left on their own with little access to ongoing mentoring and coaching.

Jim's goal was to create a new sales training strategy that would accomplish the following:

- Introduce Performance Support

- Create a tool that would utilize existing assets, and have them available "on the street"

- Leverage the existing Account Manager Competency Model

- Drive learning on the job with appropriate support

- Foster self-directed, on-the-job performance

- Integrate tools into the sales manager and mentoring/coaching processes

- Limit costs

The Design/Development Process
To cover the design/development process, Hal stepped in and discussed the four key performance support design principles followed for this initiative. 

  1. Focus on enabling performance
    Create a tool that applies knowledge and skills (performance support) rather than acquiring knowledge (traditional training).
  2. Move from training to sustained competence
    A performance support paradigm does not focus on training or memorizing information. Rather, it provides a means for accessing knowledge at the point of need so that competence can be maintained over time. 
  3. Integrate all elements

    This includes:

    - All support content

    - All relevant processes

    - The work itself

    - Self-development activities

  4. Easy accessibility at the Point of Performance: The tools must be instantly available, rooted in the context of the work, easy to navigate, and housed in one location.

Demonstration of How the Program Works 

Hal provided a live demonstration of the performance support tool that was broken down into four modules:

- Setting monthly objectives for each account

- Reviewing the sales process

- Targeting competencies, and

- Working accounts

Looking Back and Forward 

Jim wrapped up the presentation with reflections that included the following:

Looking Back

- PS is not limited to supporting software applications

- Hess PST supported:

- Mentoring and sales coaching process

- Competency Model use

- Sales performance

- Self-development

- Keys to PST:

- Precise actionable guidance at the point of need in the workplace/field

- Help one reflect on own learning and development 

Looking Forward

- Add more content to the initial shell

- Add more guidance for the monthly report

- Add more tangible record of the reps progress

- Reduce the learning curve for authoring

- Move journals and notes to the Cloud

- Enable Reps to capture and add own content

Jim shared that the initial feedback on the prototype was positive. However, unfortunately, no long-term metrics exist, as his business unit was sold by HESS shortly after the tool was implemented.

As a learning and development professional still new to PS, I found this presentation to be extremely helpful in bringing PS concepts to life. PS principles are highly theoretical, and I initially found it difficult to picture how I would implement PS tools in the workplace. Jim and Hal’s real-life scenario showed me how to put these concepts into practice. What I particularly liked was learning how to make actionable information accessible when it is needed, as well as being shown how to establish a link between development resources and daily work tasks through the use of a PS tool. Also the fact that existing assets were leveraged and the PS project was inexpensive, helped me realize how doable PS could be as a solution. Having attended the program, I eagerly look forward to an opportunity to design and implement a performance support tool in my own workplace! 

Stacey Wolf is a Learning and Development Specialist, and member of the PS/IL SIG Committee.


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