Continuity Has a Great Impact on Skills

You can never stress the importance of continuity in business enough. This is especially the case with customer relationships, where long-term customerships are preferred. 

The other hand, customers appreciate that they are treated with respect and this is reached when you know the needs and wants of your customer and the reasons behind their behaviour.  The customers need to be treated correctly regardless of the point of interaction, respect and professionalism is equally important when dealing with them either directly over the counter, or on-line.  Well qualified sales or service professionals are always in demand to treat customers in the best way.   Keeping up the skills of your frontline personnel requires first objective measurement of the skills and correct forecasting about the acceptability of the time value of the skills. 

The training of the personnel has to be continuous, because the employees need to be always qualified.  The results of the training have to be objectively measured.  You need these elements for the improvement of the results.  This way you can let your employees shine.  Those, who struggle and need help, will be thankful for the assistance and remain loyal to the company.  The old truth, that you can´t improve anything, unless you can measure it. 

The training requirements for the employees vary from business to business. In some industries, the educational background of the personnel can be rather modest and the need for work related training can be relatively high.  Here, on job learning by doing is never good enough.  When you want your personnel to be proud of what they are doing and they do not feel, that they are just filling job vacancies, you have to provide systematic training and skills transfer for them.  Additionally, these companies operate in the service businesses, where you have to provide services with a constantly good quality and the conformance of services has to be continuously according to the service agreements.  This sets high requirements for the HR department and the smooth operation of the training processes. 

The Skills Map service is designed to help in this kind of situations. With the help of the Boudin Skills Pool concept, skills targets for qualified employees can be set and easily kept.  You can easily include unique customer specific service promises into your contracts.  With the monitoring software, it is easy to keep your promises and to keep the agreed service levels.  

Additionally, individuals with designated, measured skills can be included as reserves into skills pools as back up personnel to be used in cases of emergency.The Skills Map makes a beautiful visualisation of available current skills and you can get estimates about how much of the demanded skills can be pulled from the skills pools in the future and how much additional training is needed for keeping the service promises.  The skills pools and the individual insights and views can be easily tailored into the visuals of the software to meet your customer specific demands.

Written by Kari Hartikainen, Sales, Boudin Oy

Responsibility for Training and Budget

Product managers, who have the budget responsibility for their products at the same time often have to carry the burden of keeping their own personnel, as well as the personnel of the resellers and all members of the distribution chain trained for achieving constantly better sales results.  They have to be aware of the training needs for the personnel new to the products.   At the same time, they have to keep track, that all individuals’ product skills are valid.  They have to keep track on the expiration dates on person level and at the same time they have to watch for the decay of the time values of all accomplishments up to 18 months in advance.  When substantial churn numbers have to be bridged, we all know, that they are more than happy to get assisted by intelligent software.

Managers, who have product responsibility often want to ask questions about the relationship between product skills and sales, or how some other Key Performance Indicators benefit from different product skills.  Training Insights service gives a strait forward answer to this question. You get realistic estimates about the relationships of skills correlated with different sales results.

 By extending these thoughts, you can consider what is the possibility to get for example extra sales by improving training results.  Crunched numbers might show areas, where this is feasible. You know from experience how much personnel you need for budgeted sales performance.  Wouldn’t it help to know how to pair sales volumes with skills, so that your operations are not limited by skills.  When you know, that you have enough personnel with sufficient skills and your numbers are not there, you can start searching for corrective solutions elsewhere.

Written by Antti Kurki, Sales, Boudin Oy

The Way to Design Product Knowledge

You should always emphasize to your personnel, how important it is to know your product or service inside out for guaranteeing the best possible customer experience to your clients. The nature of your business describes what is vital to be included to the definition of useful product knowledge and what are the skills required for making your business shine. 

Your products and services are in the core of your operations. Performing well in following processes, like R&D, production, marketing, sales, logistics, aftersales, reporting and business controlling requires deep product knowledge of your personnel.  HR and training professionals play a key role in creation of the required skills.  Skills of the personnel and the knowledge how to use these skills are more important than you first would think. In normal businesses, product and service sales are the main sources of revenue. This is the main reason to focus in sales and marketing on good product knowledge and product related skills. 

Trained personnel is in possession of flexible product and service sales related skills.  When you want to evaluate the effect of those skills on monthly and quarterly sales figures, you need to understand the situation of your personnel’s pooled sales skills in detail. Taking a broad view, you have to know, on aggregate level the standard of their skills broken down by product group or product.  When your product managers want to know more about the impact of these skills on sales, they have to drill down to data on market-, country- and territory levels.  This analysis needs to be carried out for different product groups and main products.  Affiliated members of your sales and service teams could also be viewed through this prism.

The aggregated skills of your personnel are not static, but fluctuate constantly, because the composition of your personnel undergoes a continuous change.  This is a result of normal life. New personnel is hired, employees rotate between jobs, capable persons are promoted, seniors are pensioned and normal churn in the workforce occurs.

On top of the normal churn, the skills in the workforce undergo a constant transformation. 

The time value of the skills is in constant decline because of the following reasons:

– People forget

– Knowledgeable personnel leave the company

– New hires don’t have necessary required skills and experience.

– The courses have fixed periods of validity

– Older expiring skills, have lower value than sharp and current skills

The training courses have restricted shelf lives, and because of that the employees need to be frequently retrained within the period of validity of the courses, if they want to hold their positions as acknowledged professionals in the skills pool.  Successful companies usually specify expiration dates to the validity of their normal product related training courses, like the practice is with certain mandatory vocational courses. 

These elements need to be included in the calculations to explain the status of product skills in different product areas and geographical locations of your company not only today but also in the future.  Advanced companies train also their partners and members of the distribution chain locally and abroad.

Appropriate data management plays a major role in assuring correct training data evaluation. You need a purposefully built skills analytics system to collect and administer course data on present measured and future estimated skills.  This exercise is drilled down to different geographies and products for more precise understanding of the relationships between skills and performance.   

Each individual product requires from the personnel the accomplishment of several individual training courses.  The tracking of the validity of these courses combined with calculated time decay deductions is complex because several values are interdependent but their impacts on KPIs are independent.  Including all these elements into the calculations can easily lead to huge number of data points to be actively monitored.

New way to ensure product knowledge in sales organization.

The simple question of: ”What is the level of personnel’s skills?” can reliably be answered with a data driven approach. This simple sounding question becomes immediately more complex, when you drill down to multiple segments, like, what is the level of product skills in different markets, countries or sales offices.  Multiply these with different language groups, product groups and most important individual key products and you arrive at – reality. Complex reality, where we all live. 

We are here just basically discussing trivial issues like knowledge of your personnel’s competence levels for all products, markets and locations at all times. It is important to know the distribution of skills, the locations of best performers and the products they are working with. In all companies the top performers can usually be identified, as well as those individuals, who need support to perform according to the requirements.  But who can testify to know the level of skills among the silent majority. The detailed skills level of 60 to 80% of your personnel are usually uncharted.  Nobody knows for sure, what their skills are, but everyone thinks, that they are O.K.  What is the distribution of skills, remains a common unanswered question in the business world.

There should be no unqualified persons in your company.  Skills should be certified and all these skills orientated issues should be left on a backburner and the management should focus on improving sales revenue.

It is important to know where in your organization training is needed and when it should be completed.  To accomplish this, you have to monitor all skills in your company on a continuous basis. This requires a systematic approach to utilization of collected training and skills data, and the ability to make reliable estimates based on these for future needs.

Basically, this boils down to intelligent use of systematic use of training data with defined acceptance- and target levels for all of the important skills.  You can easily retrieve the necessary data from your HR systems to include all personnel, position and skills changes, including calculated residual time values of the skills.  The results will be included in reports which grants benefits to sales and HR management. 

Many critical questions which can now be answered. What is the sales skills situation in named countries and locations for key products?  Where do we have enough skills to meet our new product or service sales targets?  

At the end of day, we will gain an understanding about what is the effect of skills on sales for different products and markets. In other words, to find out relationship between skills and sales. This knowledge may lead to further questions like:  Where the training of personnel should be improved for gaining additional sales, or are we sure that all training results will have residual values within acceptance levels also in the future with present training actions. 

All these answers are gained by monitoring and analysing the skills within your organization on a regular basis. This way, you know exactly what effect the skills in your company have on your revenue.

The unique possibility to have a reliable outlook, which on a daily basis indicates your number of people trained with certified product knowledge, gives you more time to focus on other issues having effects on sales revenue. Your sales director sleeps better when he knows that the defined sales skills of a key products also in selected sales channels are on an acceptable level.  He has also more energy to focus on real sales issues, when he can be certain, that the skills are on correct levels at all locations within his company and its sales channels.

Written by Kari Hartikainen, Sales, Boudin Oy

Fruitful Cooperation Creates Best Possible Content

Boudin Analytics Content Master is a great tool to benchmark the functionality of different content versions of training courses using estimated sales results as perspectives in various markets. The simple question, ”Which version of the training course boosts your sales best?”, is a common source of headaches for numerous Product- and Human Resources Training Managers, when they make decisions what courses they should buy and why. 

When making decisions about selecting courses, there are two kinds viewpoints to be considered.  Shall we concentrate on achieving learning results, like in traditional conventions or reach out for better learning outcomes, like increased sales, or other improved Key Performance Indicators?  Predicting the latter answers is much harder and traditionally causality issues have clouded these relationships. Now Boudin Analytics has the capability and sophisticated tools that to answer both questions at the same time.

Additional questions, like which training content works best in a new language area, or are there differences in KPIs with different language versions of the course, arise soon. In global companies, an English language version is usually the starting point for localised versions, and there is nothing wrong about it. 

The English version is usually simply translated into the wanted languages and there we are, or are we? We now have one single language version of the course for example in Mandarin, but do we know, how well it fulfils the local requirements.  If we do not have any baseline for effectivity comparisons, we do not know, what effect the training has on motivating the personnel towards company goals.    

Content Master can test the impact of different contents on any KPI and can be used for benchmarking purposes. Hence, we can smoothly find the specific content version to be launched, which helps for example to increase sales in this case, or on this market with estimated probability.  You get the answers immediately without need to wait for a long time for actualised sales results. By using the application this way, you get reliable several months earlier than by using traditional methods, and there no risk of training leading to detrimental effects.  These unwanted consequences are eliminated and the Human Resources professionals have all the relevant information available for making correct training decisions. 

Good cooperation creates best possible content.

Summarised, the use of the application creates confidence during a content design project that the team is creating courses, which are fun and give the personnel skills, which are certainly goal orientated skills. You get these results rapidly.   

Usually there are members of three parties participating in a training course project. Firstly, professionals from the company’s HR training organisation, followed by e.g. a product manager representing the demands of the business owner, who work together with representatives of digital designer companies.  All these parties have different perspectives on the quality issues of the specific course and the ways and means, how the course should be implemented. 

The application gives an unbiased, objective KPI as the yard stick for the course quality to be shared by all of the participants.  The results open new horizons for fruitful discussions, when all know that they are mutually cooperating for the best possible courses.  From now on we are sure to train with the best content.

Written by Kari Hartikainen, Sales, Boudin Oy