By Melvyn Wray, SVP of Product Marketing, EMEA at Allied Telesis

In times of continuous announcements for new products, systems, standards and guidelines, it is hard for sales staff to keep up-to-date and even harder for companies and trainers to make the latest product training session interesting. This is especially so if sales employees spend most of their time out of the office at their customers, then is difficult to find a date and location where everyone can attend a training presentation. The alternative of sending around datasheets is unlikely to generate much interest.

As a result, companies have adopted a variety of different approaches to staff training - from roadshows and workshops to quizzes. For several years, I have followed and supported the development of interactive, online-based approaches and steadily confirmed my opinion that investing in good training leads to a more committed, motivated and more effective workforce. Especially in this attention-poor era, it is important to keep training fresh and interesting to be effective. Companies and management need to invest in innovative, interactive and ‘fun’ training tools that will constantly challenge the workforce and keep them interested in finding out more.

In this context it is important to observe the development of new online training methods that feel more like an adventure game than a training session. The latter is an approach that has steadily been growing in popularity in the IT industry and resulting in a sales increase for those adopting it.

These tools allow staff to access training material and programmes whenever they want or need it and no matter where they are - in the office, at home or even from a café just before that next important presentation. This completely does away with the expensive option of hiring an off-site venue for a day’s training along with the business costs of taking the sales team out for a whole day. The expenses for a one-day training for the entire sales team can be quite cost-intensive, which is why any alternative way of reducing these costs without making compromises to the training is always welcome. Alternatives such as webinars help to reduce these costs, but still tie employees to be present on-line at specific pre-determined times.

One of the biggest challenges in training staff is the question of how to arouse interest as well as apply knowledge to the actual scenarios that team members will face ‘in the field’. It’s all well and good learning the latest product spec, but another thing entirely to apply this to the needs of a specific sector. This is where the interactive online training comes into its own. It offers staff the chance to directly apply the knowledge in virtual customer scenarios that can be tailored for specific sectors. A virtual meeting with a customer who describes network requirements and demands of the business helps staff to apply their product and sales knowledge in the best way possible.

The main benefit of an online training system is that it can be used by partners and resellers as well as your own staff, thus, reducing the expenditure for costs and time without compromising on the knowledge of everyone in the supply chain. This can all be accomplished at times and locations convenient to the recipients, and without the need for a dedicated trainer.

At Allied Telesis we have invested in this technology to establish our innovative ‘Allied Telesis Adventure-based Learning’. This training method is part of our new Allied Telesis Star Partner Program which was launched earlier this year. Initial feedback from sales and channel partners across the region is that this type of training is fun and motivating, improves productivity, and is much more effective than conventional training methods.

Product and systems training is something rarely regarded as a calendar highlight, but thanks to the latest range of approaches it doesn’t have to be this way anymore. These latest types of interactive online training are providing staff with genuinely interesting training methods that can be accessed whenever and wherever they want, resulting in improved knowledge as well as productivity