Sales Trend 5 of our Sales Trends Report for 2015 is about the new accountability is holistic learning. Learning and Development (L&D) across the board, and especially in sales, has slowly but continuously been changing over the past few years. There are a variety of factors influencing this recent development. The ongoing challenge through these changes has been that it is not a single “trend” that has determined the necessary adjustments to be made to keep up with developments in the area, but a number of aggregated trends and factors that have simultaneously been responsible for supplying the framework for a whole new L&D layout.
It is only when you step back and look at the big picture that you can identify the true potential of what all these small trends and changes may bring to your learning organisation. Overall, we are looking at a fundamental shift in the learning culture of organisations and a major re-attribution from organisational accountability to people’s individual responsibility for enabling their own learning.
Some of the current challenges organisations are facing in the L&D area are:
- Organisations looking for more cost effective ways of training and up-skilling people and more tangible ROIs and performance outcomes from learning initiatives.
- With more competitive markets, organisations progressively realise they need to exit, encourage, award or up-skill their staff. A growing demand for practical, applicable training that is embedded in real life, it is not too academic and yet is built upon a solid scientific foundation. L&D practitioners realise that solutions promising an easy fix when it comes to the sales capabilities and mindset of salespeople and sales managers usually don’t provide sustainable results.
- Employee retention is an additional challenge; high L&D spend does not go well together with high employee turnover.
Partly due to these challenges, but also because of new technological solutions some significant trends are emerging:
- ROI metrics: This is a resurfacing issue with growing expectations of creating a visible output from L&D initiatives.
- Learning accountability: There is a visible shift that sees learners taking over the responsibility for their own learning, based on online learning and 1-on-1 coaching. In such a culture, L&D teams will transform into learning facilitators, providing the environment and support necessary with the actual “learners” becoming more and more accountable for their own learning and results.
With this “outsourcing” of learning responsibility also comes the trend of increasing the involvement of immediate sales management into employees’ ongoing learning experiences. Traditional classroom training sessions are still a crucial bridge between online and theoretical learning, and the practical application and development of skills in the field. But just providing lectures or guided self learning is not acceptable. Participants need the opportunity to discuss and further develop the material they learned online and in theory in a well structured and result-oriented manner.
This trend emerged from a development in school learning called FLIP Learning. One of the ideas of this approach is to use learning videos to provide lectures and other theoretical content outside the classroom, ideally in preparation for training sessions, and save any face-to-face time for practical and more applied learning.
So, the way to go is to create an environment where all these aspects are tied together to create a bigger picture of what L&D will have to become to succeed, especially in a sales environment.
Cost effective and sustainable sales training
In order to combine cost effectiveness and the sustainability of training initiatives, there is a clear shift towards breaking up training into an array of smaller learning events with more on-line components and on-site training to avoid unprofitable employee down times.
The term Adaptive Learning is often used for this approach. This is a methodology that breaks traditional models and allows employees to learn at their own pace. Employees can be monitored individually and in real time to determine what learning approach will best suit their needs. It adds flexibility to learning, but also requires an individual analysis of what learning each employee needs; a differentiation deeper than just looking at the time a team member has spent in an organisation or role. This approach usually is accompanied by methods of Blended Learning, which in this context becomes much more than just a mix of media and methods. A blended approach uses, for example, online learning or videos, as well as traditional classroom training, and on-the-job coaching to take the participants step-by-step through a complex programme that constantly feeds in new knowledge, helps transform this knowledge into skills, and provides the support to apply these skills immediately to create real results.
Additionally, from a management perspective, this approach makes it much more visible if and where learning works, and where additional support is required. Adjustments can and have to be made on short notice, and that reduces long term controlling (which often results in frustrating “if only we had…” experiences). This blended approach also accommodates the 70/20/10 Learning Model. This model indicates that most learning (70% as a rough figure) occurs as part of the workflow and not in away-from-work training situations (10% of the learning). Coaching and other forms of interaction bridge training and practical doing to form the remaining 20%. This model extends learning beyond the classroom and course paradigm and provides a framework for improving and extending traditional training, utilising the workplace and social learning. It gives organisations the opportunity to create a Perpetual Learning Environment (PLE) which is the key to the overall cultural change in Learning & Development: Learning is not an isolated event anymore, it is an integral part of everyday (online or offline) training, coaching support by sales managers, and conscious applied work improvements by every member of a team.
The overall goal is, (without cutting the learning process into pieces that are too small), to ensure continuous learning “bursts” or “impulses” that help to create a culture where learning is not the exceptional event where you “get away from work for a while” but an integral part of your work, where a conscious learning mind forms the organisation’s core element and is considered on a daily basis. The key person to create, perpetuate, and lead such a model to success obviously will be the learner, with a strong focus on leadership development to back this up and help shift L&D from owning the learning process to providing the basis and support for a Perpetual Learning Environment.
Remember everybody lives by selling something.