It’s true what they say, isn’t it? Time flies when you’re having fun. Well it’s been 10 years of fun around here at BlueVolt.
Hard to believe but we first began offering our learning management system (LMS) to our customers back in 2002.
In our first days, I remember talking to customers about training and hearing, “I don’t want to spend time training, because my employees will just quit and go to work for someone else.”
About five years later, the story evolved. “We can’t effectively train online, people have to touch and feel a product to really understand it.”
In my many hours spent working with customers over the years, I found an overarching commonality—that many of them were stuck in a training rut of doing the same thing over and over again. It was the whole “If it’s not broken…” mentality.
I’ve found that most companies’ training needs fall into one of two categories—performance-based training or product knowledge. And, understandably, it’s best to have a strategy for both.
Companies that have a strategy for training on product knowledge often appear to have the best people working in the industry. Companies hire workers based on core competencies and then train them with the proper product knowledge. In the past decade of working with these companies, in my opinion, this is a formula for success.
Companies that recognize training as a competitive advantage know how to internalize industry resources in a way that supports business objectives. These companies are also able to make adjustments in training for changes in the economy or marketplace much more easily than their competitors who don’t value training.
Awhile back, I came across an interesting study from Susan Levering, PhD and author of Smart Investments – a book about training in wholesale distribution by the NAW. Her survey showed that distributors were making just cents on the dollar; theirs was a very low margin business. Her survey also showed that distributors were spending very little on training (average $178.59/employee, less than 0.1% of payroll costs), and that the majority of training was shoulder-to-shoulder; learn by watching how other employees did it.
At roughly the same time, I read an industry-agnostic study published by the American Society of Training & Development (ASTD) that said: “Companies who invested $680 more in training per employee than the average company improved their total stockholder return the next year by six percentage points, even after considering other factors.”
I always wondered if the mysterious cause behind distributors’ low margin business was training.
Today, we know that companies are more inclined to train online because it is convenient, can cut down on hard costs associated with in-person training (e.g. materials, travel, etc.) and it works to guarantee a consistent message throughout an organization. Through elearning, knowledge can be verified and, unlike the beliefs of our earliest customers, even product training can be effectively delivered online thanks to simulation technology.
I remember it took us a year to get our first 100 users. Suppliers didn’t want to put content online until we could guarantee there’d be learners there to take it. And we didn’t have anything for the learners to learn without course content from suppliers. So in the beginning, our goal was really just to make people more productive. And we saw that training was just one of the things that wasn’t super-efficient and had a lot of upside potential.
It took us another year to get our first 1,000 users and today, we have more than 200,000 people coming to our LMS to take training from a variety of customers.
In the beginning, we spent a lot of time riding along with our customers in the field. We learned that launching new products was really pretty tough. So we started looking for ways we could help streamline the process through elearning. We came up with an idea to reward learners for successfully completing product training courses, and thus increasing the success of new product launches. And so our $BlueBucks incentives program was born and it’s proved extremely successful in increasing course enrollments.
Today, we specialize in developing and delivering robust, interactive and effective online training to business and organizations in an extended enterprise, especially for those in manufacturing and construction. We’re proud that our hard work resulted in year over year growth in sales in the neighborhood of 20%.
It’s been exciting to see and I know I’m personally looking forward to another ten years.
Photo credit: woodleywonderworks on Flickr