We all know that the learning needs of staff members in a company are diverse. The needs of sales reps are different from than those of service technicians. Likewise, the needs of administrative personnel are not the same as those of people working on the shop floor. So, how can organizations meet the learning needs of diverse groups of employees? The answer – learning needs to be contextualized to the specific job responsibilities of each group.
What is Contextual Learning?
Simply put, contextual learning is the delivery of knowledge and skills required to perform effectively, in a given job situation. For instance, salespeople frequently interact with prospects, and learning for these professionals can be contextualized to their job, by training them on how to hold good conversations with potential customers.
How Does Contextual Learning Help Meet the Needs of Employees?
Contextualization helps tie corporate training programs to the specific job role, performed by the employee. This goes a long way in improving his efficiency levels and motivates him to attend the training program, as he can relate the information shared in the program, to his work. For instance, by training salespeople on effective conversing skills, you can help them sell better. Reps will be motivated to attend the program as they can directly link the training to their job situation.
How Can You Impart Contextual Learning?
Here are some simple steps that will help.
Step 1: Identify the Knowledge and Skills Needed to Perform in a Specific Situation
This can be done by collecting information about the tasks to be performed in a given job situation. For instance, to hold a good conversation, sales reps need to be adept at:
- Understanding the prospect’s needs
- Opening conversations effectively
- Listening carefully to prospects
- Explaining how their product can help overcome the prospect’s problems
- Addressing the prospect’s objections
- Closing conversations
A good source of this information can be the immediate supervisors and managers of the learners. In the above example, you can talk to the sales team lead or the sales manager, to determine what knowledge and skills are required.
Step 2: Collect all Resources and Information Needed, to Train Staff
Once you determine the knowledge and skills needed to perform effectively in a job role, gather the resources and information required to impart them. For instance, to help salespeople understand the needs of prospects, you need to use buyer personas. Likewise, you need to deliver good knowledge of your products and those of competitors, to enable your reps handle the objections of prospects. You may also need to provide your reps with relevant data about the products’ usage and customer satisfaction levels.
Step 3: Develop a Curriculum and Allow Learners to Practice
You now need to develop a curriculum to impart the knowledge and skills to your learners, required to excel in the specific job situation. For example, you need to create web-based courses to educate your sales staff on the challenges faced by customers and how your products can help resolve them. You also need to develop sales simulations, where your salespersons can hone their skills to converse effectively with prospects.
Step 4: Let Learners Apply their Skills in Specific Work Contexts
It’s now time for your learners to use the knowledge and skills acquired in the “real job context” and monitor their performance. For instance, you can allow trained sales staff to interact with customers. A senior sales rep can accompany a newly-trained salesperson to observe his performance.
Step 5: Evaluate Learners Performance and Improve the Training Program
You need to assess the performance of your learners, using appropriate metrics. For example, to evaluate the customer conversations held by your sales reps, you need to measure the following aspects:
- Increase in revenue
- Customer satisfaction levels
- Number of new accounts created
- Ability to build rapport with customers
- Capability to identify customer pain points
While an increase in revenue and the number of new accounts can be measured easily, you need to survey customers to assess their satisfaction levels. You can evaluate the abilities of a sales rep, to build rapport with and discover the pain points of prospects, using the observations made by the senior salesperson accompanying the rep.
Providing contextual training to each group of employees in an organization goes a long way in meeting their learning needs and improving their performance. Follow the five steps listed above to impart good training that helps your employees excel in their job roles.
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