Business Managers want better Training: Learning from Xerox
By Jim Lundy
This isn’t a new story about Corporate Learning, but it is one that is repeated time and time again. The Learning and Development (L&D) department may miss the mark or may be out of touch with what the business feels is the need to train their respective audience (e.g. Sales, Service, Support). The Business Unit gets mad and goes in another direction. Sound familiar?
In my time running business units and then covering the learning market, I’ve seen it all. In many cases today, L&D departments are reacting faster. That said, there are still many instances where we see them being bypassed. Often, it is due to the sheer need to succeed.
The Digital Era: Learning from Xerox
When I was running product teams at Xerox, and living in Rochester, New York in the mid-’90s, we had just launched a generation of Digital Copier/Printers (MFPs). It was a launch and learn scenario (there were later generations already in development), and a full launch was executed. The Sales training did not go as well as expected. In fact, I ended up flying many of my product managers to Leesburg Virginia to redo some of the pilot training sessions, in part because the wrong instructors were chosen to deliver the training. Not as much learning happened in those first sessions.
Understanding Business Requirements
It became a larger issue down the road, in part because the Corporate L&D department wasn’t in tune with the needs of the Business Division. To make a long story short, the training delivery was outsourced to a third party, partially due to the feeling that L&D (at that time) was not going to meet the needs for creating the training content and then delivering it for a fleet of next generation digital copier/printers.
The result was that the training delivery went very well, and Xerox went on to lead the charge into digital copying and printing, partially due to the training that the sales and service people received. Today, there are almost no analog devices being sold by any vendor.
Learning The Key Lessons
There are two key lessons learned:
1. L&D Departments need to keep up with the times. Most do, but understanding the business unit requirements for learning cannot be missed.
2. Business Managers control the money in 99% of the situations. They are the customer and need to be treated as such. Listening skills are important here.
The last thing to keep in mind is to realize that in many cases, product launches happen more frequently than in the past. Flexibility is key. Being able to use multiple learning delivery methods (including business simulations) is critical in 2013.
Editors Note: Aragon Research helps clients with learning strategy, both from a market perspective as well as the basics such as assessing your learning content strategy. Contact Sales or call us at 1 888 650-2586 for a free inquiry to discuss your needs.