Corporate training managers have it tough. It's not just the rising cost of flying the salesforce to workshops and putting them up in hotels. It's the equally punishing cost of taking those people out of the field, especially in a down economy. It's the challenge of reaching adults who as kids, learned to use a computer mouse even before they got comfortable with the pencil grip.

So how about offering some type of Web-based training on demand? Create some webinars or record some podcasts and upload them for consumption at the learners' convenience. The company saves money, the salesperson saves time, and the content is delivered in a way the field force is comfortable receiving it. Problems solved?

Not entirely.

True Interaction

“When you're training people, and in particular salespeople, you need to push out information, and the learners take that information and work with it,” says Carl Hyman, EVP, learning and performance solutions, at TBA Global. “But they also need to verbalize that information to another person. You need to put them in a situation where they have to use that information to solve a problem. And there's the rub. Virtual classrooms have not offered true verbal interaction. We can push out information and have people repeat factual information back to us via the Web. That's easy. However, to put your learner in a situation that's like his or her everyday job? That's the challenge.”

And that's why in-person training is tough to replace. So Hyman and his colleagues at TBA Global have created a hybrid of sorts called Linked Learning, which brings salespeople together regionally (to get the in-person interaction) and broadcasts a general session to each region (to give the feel — and message — of a national meeting).

How it Works

A regional manager welcomes each gathering, then introduces, say, the vice president of sales or the president of the company, who appears in all regions at once. After a live presentation via satellite broadcast, the executive could take questions from all regions in real time.

“Then the regional manager sends the participants off with a charge. They lay out the learning path for the day, push out the same information at the same time around the country, then go off air. They do specific activities, such as role-playing, which can be customized around the country. That reinforces the learning, then we come back on air and assess how they've retained the information.” The assessment tool is Web-based, and can be targeted to individuals, teams, or regions.

“Technology will not replace what we do, but it will continue to facilitate what we do,” says Alison Smith Jenks, VP, marketing, at TBA Global. “We have to be more creative about how we get to that ultimate goal of engagement.”

The Next Level

And if you really want sizzle with your training steak, there's another option for the executive's appearance in front of all the regional gatherings: a 3-D hologram, walking and talking as if he or she is on each regional stage.

Costly? You bet. “But what does it cost to have the VP or the EVP travel to seven different locations? What does it cost to have them out of the office? What's the wear and tear on them?” Hyman asks. “Considering that, it's probably a net savings. This is our response to the issues of the day. And it is resonating.” Find out more at www.tbaglobal.com/linkedlearning.