Getting Rolling with Online Training: Setting Reasonable Objectives
October 19, 2016
For the 4th part of this series on rolling out online training, I'm going to talk about the ever-important issue of expectation management. In the previous pieces (here, here, and here), I talked about planning before the rollout, communicating those plans in a way that gets people on side, and some best practices for creating habits around the new processes. All of that is important in order to get the initiative off the ground, but even if all of those things are done beautifully, the whole thing can end in disappointment if people have unrealistic expectations about what's going to happen once it's up and running.
To avoid those issues, let's take a look into what you can reasonably expect to accomplish in the early stages of a rollout. For the purposes of this article we'll focus on the first three to six months after the online training program is launched. This is the period after the initial launch, when you want to focus on ingraining the habits I talked about last time, and start positioning yourself for long term success.
The primary issue to avoid at this stage is trying to do too much too fast. Fleets often sign up for an online training service, get excited when they see how much content they have available, and try to get through as much of it as possible in the first few months (trying to "boil the ocean", to borrow some consulting speak). They'll assign drivers to 4 or 5 full length courses (the equivalent of 5 or 6 days of classroom training) with a short deadline for completion. That kind of approach never works, for a couple of reasons.
First, if drivers are killing themselves to get everything done quickly then they're not focused on learning. They're going to end up stressed, unfulfilled by the training, and just eager for it to be done. Not what you want at this stage in the rollout.
Second, it misses the point. The point of rolling out eLearning is not to cram everyone through a bunch of courses quickly, check a "training completed" box, and move on. The point is to leverage technology to help improve the fleet's safety, compliance, and operational efficiency over the long term, so the focus in the first quarter or two should be about getting everything running smoothly so you can capitalize on it down the road.
(To borrow some more consulting speak - How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!)
Rather than focusing on how much training gets done in the first three or six months, there are a few other things that are more important at this point:
- Getting everyone (drivers and management) using the new system comfortably
- Having some assignments complete so you've got some experience with the process end-to-end
- Identifying any lingering (or potential) problem areas and developing a plan to address them
- Developing an understanding of how the company culture is adapting to this new initiative, and what you can do with that over time
You'll notice that very little of that is about getting everyone through a series of courses, and none of it is about measuring cost savings or safety improvements. That will come later, but only if the other pieces are done effectively first.
With those as larger objectives in the beginning, here are some things that we've found work well in support of them:
- Start small - Rather than assigning several longer courses to drivers, start with one or two short modules. If the objective is to make sure that everyone can do it, and get a feel for the end-to-end process, shorter content blocks will be better. Longer modules are great for more intense training down the road, but for now the shorter pieces will give you a better sense of how the rollout is going.
- Frequency helps - Having monthly assignments helps to get people comfortable with the process more quickly. If those monthly assignments are short, it won't add a lot to the workload for anyone, but repeating the process helps to build the habits and work out any kinks.
- Collect feedback - Check in with drivers and see what's working for them and what's not. For monthly assignments, follow up halfway through the month with anyone who hasn't done it and find out what's holding them back. It could be that they're nervous about the new thing, it could be that they're having technical difficulties, or maybe they just need an extra push or reminder to get in there. Whatever it is, the feedback will be really useful as you build your longer term plans.
- Revisit your plans - As you go through the process of making assignments and collecting feedback, you'll find lots of places where your plans can be refined and adjusted, even in the first quarter. Those continuous improvements will position you to really take off as time goes on.
Put all those together and you can be in really good shape at the end of this first phase. If you're at the point where everyone is up and running, people are getting used to the idea of finishing their assignments on time, other managers are on board and have worked it into their routines, and you've been collecting feedback from drivers to refine and improve your plans over time, then you'll be all set to crush it over the long term.
At that point, you can come back to the original business case for moving online and set some more specific objectives for cost savings and safety improvements, with the confidence that you have the tools in place to execute effectively and deliver the desired results.