RoadMap To Success by imainportal



E-learning Implementation:
Your Roadmap to Success

Implementing an e-learning initiative

collective experience and overall satisfaction with the methodology varies— some have been greatly satisfied with impressive performance improvements, while others are utterly disappointed by the overall experience and lack of tangible results. Why the variance? More often than not, it’s due to implementation. To illustrate, consider a recent study conducted by Corporate University Exchange where 70 percent of 4,158 online learners dropped out before completing the program. If we are comfortable correlating dropout data with satisfaction, these learners were pretty dissatisfied. Conversely, according to a recent ASTD/Masie Center report, well-implemented e-learning will obtain a more than 80 percent acceptance by learners. Again, if we feel at ease correlating acceptance with satisfaction, effectively A Case for Effectiveness implemented e-learning achieves Scores of information are available learner satisfaction and ultimately conabout the many benefits of e-learning. tributes to the successful attainment of While e-learning holds great promise, the performance results. can be very rewarding…and equally tricky if you’ve never launched one before. There are myriad decisions to be made and important considerations to be built into the implementation action plan. The greatest determinant of success can be summed up in two words: Be prepared. This article surveys executives who have been on the front line of e-learning implementations for contact center staff and have cracked the code on what it takes to launch a successful initiative. Through their real-life stories and practical experiences, you’ll learn which “must have” implementation elements are needed before, during and after the elearning programs to ensure that your organization’s business needs are met and targeted results achieved.

While there are numerous considerations in ensuring an effective e-learning implementation (see sidebar “Be Prepared: The Action Plan”), the importance of laying a strong foundation cannot be overlooked. Two of the most important fundamentals include: 1) aligning and communicating expectations and 2) addressing IT issues and needs.

Aligning and Communicating Expectations
Assuming your organization has done its homework and has determined to its satisfaction that e-learning is the appropriate method for the task, one of the first fundamentals to tackle is to make sure everyone’s expectations are in sync. According to Hank Kearney, senior director of Processing Services at Independence Blue Cross, “When some people hear the mention of e-learning, they instantly worry that trainers will be replaced. Others might have had an earlier experience with elearning that was less than satisfactory,


and some folks have had absolutely no experience with the medium, usually viewing it with a bit of trepidation.” Kearney points out that it’s important to involve key stakeholders early in the process, at the decision-making stage, if possible. In addition to communicating regularly with folks directly responsible for and impacted by the implementation, he suggests a steering committee of other individuals who are critical to the implementation’s success, including line, functional and divisional leaders. “It’s important to have regular meetings with these leaders to fill them in on how the project is going, highlight the issues that have arisen, discuss how you plan to handle those issues and ask for their advice. If they have ownership for the project they will support the implementation and communicate their support to direct reports and others in the organization.” Michelle Burg, associate development team leader with Strong Investments’ Client Relationship Team (Inbound), agrees. “Having a strong communication and feedback loop is absolutely essential in establishing an implementation framework with your vendor, key decision makers and participants. One of the greatest benefits of e-learning is its flexibility—it can be adapted and supplemented in various ways. Without a solid communication effort you’ll never be able to leverage the true power of e-learning.”

Pesky Pitfalls
According to our experts, many of the pitfalls of e-learning are connected to technical issues. “Sadly, there are too many stories of companies who have purchased e-learning only to find that they don’t have the hardware and software capacity to support it at the desktop,” shares Kearney. “Some companies have firewalls that prevent the content from being delivered to learners. Others have purchased software with video-streaming technology that they can’t use because of server restrictions or limitations.” Technical pitfalls in the training class-

room are particularly troublesome. “If one person is experiencing technical difficulties with the program, it can throw off the timing of the whole class,” says Widmer. Another pitfall is that e-learning by itself isn’t necessarily the best solution. “People like the flexibility of e-learning,” notes Burg. “It’s a wonderful medium for contact centers that are staffed 24/7, have people who work remotely or are geographically dispersed. However, depending on the skills you are trying to develop, e-learning alone is not always the best solution. That’s why blended solutions often work best.” (See sidebar “Blending for Best Results”.)

Be Prepared: The Action Plan
Central to an effective e-learning implementation is to develop a detailed action plan that includes three main areas: elements to consider before, during and after the e-learning training. To help guide the development of your action plan, consider these questions provided by e-learning instructional design and project planning expert Jane Johnson, Ph.D., president of By Design, Inc., an Arvada, Colorado company. If you can answer “yes” to each of the questions, you are well on your way to an effective e-learning implementation. Before training… – Has the training program been selected to address the most critical needs of the company? – Does the training focus on performance objectives that clearly develop the actual tasks that employees must accomplish in the workplace? – Are employees clear about the goals of the training and their own development objectives? – Do learners have the computer skills they need to successfully take an e-learning program? – Have pre- and post-testing or other measurement systems been put in place to enable evaluation of the training program upon completion? – Is there an administrative system to assist with tasks such as registration and tracking? – Have learners’ special needs, such as reading problems and physical or mental handicaps, been addressed through the choice of media or supplemental assistance? – What are the incentives and rewards for taking the e-learning? During the training… – Are support systems available if learners have questions or something is not working? – Are supervisors trained to be coaches? – Is there a place learners can go to take the e-learning course that is free from distractions and interruptions? – Are supervisors willing to give learners time to take the e-learning during the workday? – Does the company culture support continuous learning? – Will internal marketing systems be used to promote the e-learning initiative? After the training… – Will the learning be evaluated on an individual level? – Will the training’s impact on the bottom-line be assessed? – Is there a mechanism in place to reinforce the learning once the training is over?

Addressing IT Issues and Needs
“Understand that you may have some problems with the technology,” cautions Kearney. “However, you can mitigate these problems by getting your IT folks involved early on in the evaluation process and by creating some type of help desk mechanism or process for people to report issues. And make sure your vendor has outstanding technical support capabilities and a proven track record.” “Testing is key,” adds Carole Widmer, vice president, Client Contact Center, and Institute for Learning team leader for Harris Bank, a wholly owned subsidiary of BMO Financial Group. “You need to do the program yourself first, know it backward and forward, and then come up with a list of everything that could possibly go wrong and fix it or develop a plan to work around it.”


Blending for Best Results
“Many organizations are recognizing that it takes more than elearning alone to achieve their training goals, especially when developing soft skills. Here Carole Widmer, vice president, Client Contact Center, and Institute for Learning team leader from Harris Bank, shares her company’s experience with simulation-based elearning blended with other learning methods and performance improvement processes. “For the past couple of years, we had been evolving our culture so our people developed skills in turning service inquiries into sales opportunities…and doing so in the spirit of building lasting customer relationships. We were ready to take that effort to a higher level. After considerable research, we selected a simulation-based e-learning system supporting our previous sales training and offering us a complete, blended approach, which includes facilitated group discussions, coaching, performance measurement and implementation support. “The system is highly flexible and allows us to easily incorporate several of our own elements into our implementation plan. For example, …our training groups include a mix of sales and service representatives. This is possible, in part, because we are using elearning simulations with dynamic branching, so it is appropriate for sales and service representatives. The mix also provides learners the added benefit of hearing different perspectives and approaches as they bounce their ideas off one another. “The e-learning component is broken up a bit differently so that people participate in three, four-hour sessions over three months, rather than three consecutive days. They learn a piece, go back on the job, get a chance to practice it, come back to class, get input, work with their coaches to refine their skills, and continue the process until the skill development training is complete. “Within each of the training segments we blend our learning approach even further. Our employees alternate working on a segment of the simulation-based e-learning program with a group-facilitated discussion segment. Those discussions allow people to share new ideas and best practices with the group and reinforce the e-learning. From an administrative standpoint, it gives us valuable information to continually calibrate and improve the overall learner experience.” fortunately, for most though, these blending efforts are done more as an afterthought rather than a forethought. The current tendency is that only after an e-learning initiative falls short of accomplishing its training objective is consideration given to additional training methodologies that might be “blended” in to “fix” the problem. That’s reactive blending—blending that occurs as an afterthought. In the future, more organizations will be engaged in proactive blending activities or seeking vendor partners with solutions that are proactively blended. This means taking into consideration the relative strengths and limitations of technology-delivered training at the concept and design stage before program development. When a proactive approach is taken, organizations pay attention to what the e-learning does and doesn’t do well and then build an integrated solution using the appropriate mix of applicable training methods based on the learning objective.

Measuring Success
A critical component of managing an effective e-learning implementation is measurement. Some of the best systems feature advanced measurement and tracking capabilities, including built-in learning measurement systems and validated assessments. Here’s what to look for: • PRE-ASSESSMENTS to benchmark performance and identify learning needs; • PROGRESS ASSESSMENTS to gauge incremental and cumulative success as learners move through the e-learning system; and • POST-ASSESSMENTS to quantify overall gains in learner skill development, which has predictive validity for determining future use of newly developed skills on the job. Another helpful e-learning measurement tool is a learning and administrative management system for managers and supervisors to measure and monitor learners’ progress overall. “Measuring the effects of your elearning initiative is important both during and after the implementation,” notes Burg. “After the training, you need to measure that the newly learned skills are actually being applied on the job and continually being reinforced.” At Strong Investments, those measures that are most closely tied to the skill being developed are the ones that

are monitored. Executives watch for trends and pay particular attention to learner feedback on the job. Kearney agrees that learner feedback is important. “At IBC we have our own internal QA monitoring process that helps us measure the effects of our elearning program. However, at the end of the day, if we’re seeing more complimentary letters from our customers and service representatives are more satisfied with their jobs, we know we’re moving in the right direction.” Specifically, Kearney shared the results from a simulation-based e-learning program IBC is implementing to develop service skills. “I see returns coming at several levels,” he says. “Our line supervisors reported rapid drops in escalated calls after we implemented the program. Scores on key customer survey questions showed improvement, especially among call centers with less experienced reps. Our turnover costs have been significantly reduced, mainly because the simulations in these programs give our new hires such a clear picture of what it takes to succeed in this job.”

Parting Thoughts
Any roadmap for managing an effective e-learning implementation will certainly have its roadblocks, detours and construction zones. However, with the recommendations from our experts you’ll be better able to navigate these obstacles, stay on course and reach your destination. CP

Emerging Trends
More organizations are seeing the value of combining e-learning with classroom lectures featuring facilitated exercises, case studies, role plays, audio and video recording, along with coaching, mentoring and other techniques. Un-


About the Author…
Mark W. Brodsky, President and CEO of Ulysses Learning, is known for his straight talk and keen insights into simulationbased e-Learning and industry trends affecting organizational profitability and growth. A popular speaker and author, Mr. Brodsky is also highly regarded for his ability to separate fact from fiction and provide fresh, innovative solutions for demonstrable improvement in sales, service and coaching performance. As a senior executive and consultant with over 25 years of experience, Mr. Brodsky has managed complex national and global projects to develop service-quality, sales, management and leadership skills for such diverse clients as American Express, Air Force Special Operations Command, Bank of America, DuPont, Environmental Protection Agency, GE Capital International, Tupperware Worldwide and Westinghouse. To reach Mr. Brodsky, please telephone 800.662.4066 or send e-mail to

About Ulysses Learning…
Ulysses Learning ( partners with leading global organizations who want to achieve measurable and sustainable results in sales, service and coaching using the most effective methods available – Ulysses’ simulation-based e-Learning, intelligently blended with facilitation, coaching and performance consulting. Ulysses has received the contact center industry’s Product of the Year award for each consecutive year since 1997 and is the recognized leader and pioneer in the use of simulation-based e-Learning to improve service, sales and coaching performance. The company is known for building Judgment@Work™ skills – decision making and advanced interaction skills – in contact centers and at all points of customer interaction throughout the organization for financial services, insurance and telecommunications leaders. For more information on Ulysses Learning and its CallMentor® learning system - which includes ServiceMentor®, SalesMentor® and CoachingMentor® For Sales and Service - contact Ulysses at 800.662.4066, or visit the company’s website at

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