Participating in training is a lot like eating vegetables. We know it’s good for us, but it’s not always easy to force it down. However, it’s essential for employees to stay up to date on a myriad of information, from products and services to technology and consumer trends. Workers who are more knowledgeable are usually more engaged and productive, which leads to better customer experiences and higher sales. Aside from making it mandatory, how can you get your staff or partner sales reps to participate in training?
1. Use Gamification: One of our manufacturing clients had an ingenious idea to make sure that retail employees were suggesting their products above all other brands on the shelf. Realizing that employees would talk more about products about which they were more informed, they engaged us to build a training website where employees would take short multiple-choice product quizzes each month. Participants who answered a certain number of questions correctly would earn badges and be entered into a monthly drawing for prizes like iPads or video game systems. The quizzes were short and could be taken on a mobile device. The site also included a leaderboard showing top performers for the month.
Adding game and competitive elements can make even the driest information more palatable. Many times you need minimal or even zero monetary rewards for these programs, especially if you have a competitive group for whom bragging rights are the best prize. (Ahem, sales.)
2. Tie Training to Participation in Incentives: If you would like to integrate training into a sales incentive program, the best way to do so is to make the training mandatory in order to participate in a promotion. For example, if your Q3 promotion is all about selling a certain number of widget X, make watching the product video and taking the quiz about that widget a requirement to enter into the sales contest. (You should also have a minimum required score.) In this case you’ll need a way to track completion, score the quiz, and limit incentive participation until approval is given. For a relatively small program this can be done manually, but for a larger program you’ll want to look into a software platform that can handle these tasks automatically.
3. Keep it Interesting (or at Least Brief): When you’re developing training materials, remember your audience. Nobody likes to read long, dry, text-heavy materials. Whenever possible, provide videos and images to convey information. Use humor whenever possible! If you must provide text, break it up into small, more digestible chunks that can be read a little at a time. Try to enlist the help of your marketing department to make sure you are conveying the information in the most entertaining way possible.
4. Provide Valuable Information: The only thing worse than reading something long and boring is reading something long and boring that doesn’t really help you do your job any better. Make sure that you tailor the materials appropriately. If you have several different audiences, create different versions of the trainings that apply best to each. Cull out any unnecessary or repetitive content.
5. Offer Rewards: For some types of training no amount of gaming or jazzing up will encourage employees to participate. Participants may even be required to stay late or travel offsite for a day. In these cases offering a reward such as a gift card or even a free lunch can sweeten the pot just enough. If travel is required, reimburse the employee for expenses, and try to make sure the timing and location are convenient.