It’s not as simple as comparing lower cost of online learning, webinars with whether they will retain material. BY CHRIS ROLLINS
Is training of employees at dealerships effective (in terms of both delivery/retention and costs) when conducted remotely, or is it best conducted on-site and in person?
This has been an intensely debated topic in training circles for years. My objective in writing this article is not to sway dealers for or against remote training, but rather to simply present some of the benefits and challenges that come with this methodology. Whether it fits your dealership’s business model likely will depend on the learning culture you have established, the processes you have in place, and your desired outcome.
Before we jump into the pros and cons of remote training, though, let’s quickly review the rapid increase in training options. Remote training is not new. It used to comprise only conference calls and webinars, but now companies can turn to online virtual platforms with on-demand training 24/7.
2008 and 2009 marked the end to double-digit decreases in corporate training budgets throughout the U.S. economy, including the dealership industry. Training budgets were under the same squeeze as was just about every other line item in corporate America. With technological improvements and improved Internet speeds hitting the market, the time was ripe for alternative options to deliver training in a manner that was more cost effective.
Saving Money And Time
Fast forward to 2015. Remote training is definitely here to stay. Let’s take a look at some of its pros:
- Cost effectiveness. Let’s start with the most obvious benefit of remote training. When your dealership trains its people remotely, you save on the travel expense of bringing a trainer to you.
Some virtual training can be provided for as little as $25 to $30 per employee per month. At that cost, your dealership could train an employee at between $75 and $100 in a typical quarter. Also, you are eliminating the direct and indirect costs of bringing employees from several offices into one location. In comparison, a trainer may cost you at least $4,000 for a day, although if you can put about 40 employees in the class, the per-employee/per-day cost actually is about the same as with remote training.
- Time management. In your dealership, time is money! If you wanted to provide eight hours worth of training, you potentially could break it into eight weekly, one-hour remote sessions. You could take no more time than the typical lunch break from busy key people in the dealership, letting them quickly get back to productive activities.
- Adjustability. If a training date is on the team calendar, but something comes up at the last minute that makes your dealership shift its plans, it is a lot harder to adjust on your team’s schedules as well as with the trainer who blocked out that time and scheduled travel. With remote training, making adjustments on the fly is much easier.
- Tracking completed training. Remote training may be done by live teaching calls or webinars (recorded, so that your employees can access the session on demand) or through a learning management system (LMS) that tests at defined intervals, to improve the chances that trainees comprehend all of the material.
All of these options provide a method to track which employee completed which portions of the training, so your dealership quickly realizes if someone has gotten off track with the planned training for the year.
Risk Of Trainee Disconnect
Now let’s take a look at some potential cons to remote training:
- Disengagement. While the tendency might be to focus entirely on cost savings, remember that the concern most often expressed with all types of remote training is whether the trainee remains actively engaged throughout the session and retains the most important material. If your dealership cut training costs by 30 percent but suffered a 50 percent reduction in effectiveness, did you really save any money?
The reason why engagement in remote training is so difficult to measure is not that your associates are not trying to learn. Rather, it’s their ability to multi-task during the training course. Let’s face it, who among us has not tried to do other work during a webinar or conference call and found out at the end that he or she missed some crucial material? If a dealer had his druthers, would he rather look into the faces of his sales reps during a sales meeting or would he be okay with talking over the phone? That answer is pretty obvious.
- Downside to breaking a session into chunks. Sure, it can be easier on you from a scheduling perspective to break a large amount of training material into smaller bits and cover it in short sessions over time. But, if your goal is to improve performance in a particular area as soon as possible, is this the approach you want to take? Eight hours worth of actionable information that your employees learn today can be applied tomorrow. That’s not the case if they are waiting for weeks for the rest of the training material.
- Scheduling freedom can backfire. Many managers have experienced the frustration of giving a well-planned timeline to complete a specific learning objective, only to find that 90 percent of it got completed at the 11th The simple question ism “How effective was the cram session?” The harder question is, “How did it actually get completed?”
From experience in following up with managers, I can tell you that nothing frustrates them more than learning the vast majority of trainees completed the session at the last minute or while they were on vacation. Let’s just say it typically makes that dealership feel like it just wasted training dollars.
- Information “underload.” You probably haven’t heard that term before. At any dealership, its most seasoned employees will come to a point in a training session when they feel like they have heard all this before. If that information is being doled out slowly in a remote session, this unintended effect can lead to some employees coasting through the training.
Sometimes, overwhelming a trainee with material actually is beneficial. The “shock and awe” of hitting the class with a massive amount of material in a short timespan can really open the eyes of the veteran reps, who realize they still have more to learn. It is much harder to administer a big flow of learning material in a remote training session.
At The End Of The Day …
Should your dealership utilize remote training sessions? The answer to this question largely will be answered by your business culture and the leadership’s commitment to the process. Just remember that it does not need to be an either/or solution.
Remote training as a supplement to on-site classes can prove to be one of the most effective tools to achieving the highest ROI on your training dollars. When approached strategically, a blend of remote and in-person training can help you achieve amazing results.