Online Learning – Riding The Early Wave

Remember how scary the internet seemed 20 years ago?

This ad beautifully represents how we’ll reflect on online learning in 20 years or so. At the moment it’s a little bit daunting, it’s so different to how we were educated and we sneer and think there’s no way it’ll catch on. But those doubts will melt away over the coming years as the possibilities online learning presents us open up.

You can resist it all you like but the way we’re educating ourselves is shifting – dramatically. With each year that passes more and more avenues are opening up between the individual and a world of learning. Slowly but surely the barriers individuals are faced with when it comes to accessing information are being broken down and the potential for personal growth is skyrocketing.

You’re Front of the Class

Picture this – you walk into a packed lecture theatre, trudge up the stairs to the last seat left and realise there’s no hope of asking the lecturer anything – what is the point? With online learning, this scenario does not exist. Universities are catching on to the idea that traditional lectures are super boring and no one likes them, so they’re canning them. But online learning takes this a step further! Each person who takes a class online gets to sit at the front of the class, enjoying the full attention of their lecturer. If you miss something, just rewind the video and have another listen! Your tutor or lecturer might be on the other side of the world but online learning means you’re as good as sitting next to them! Imagine asking a Harvard Professor for help when you need it – it’s possible, if you sign up for one of the HarvardX programs that is. HarvardX takes the university’s prestigious classes, once only available to those able to afford it, and makes them available to anyone with computer access. Of the 1.3 million people who’ve signed up for HarvardX, two thirds of them live outside the United States but are still able to learn as if they were walking onto the Harvard campus every day. Access to this kind of learning was once a pipe-dream, but the fact that is now available so freely is a truly exciting idea.

Online Learning is, literally, Everywhere

Both employers and employees will agree that traditional workplace training needs a shake up. Time spent away from the office means more time later on to try and make up for it, there’s no denying it. No one argues the value of training and learning but let’s be honest – a lot of the time it’s inconvenient. Not with our new friend online learning though. Now your employees can jump on the computer and take a quick online course before they’ve even finished their morning coffee. Let’s be real here, learning new skills is not a simple endeavour. It’s a commitment of time and energy, but the way it’s being delivered online is making it look all the more attractive. The better news is that finding the specific knowledge you want your employees to have is getting easier as well. As more and more institutions add online courses and tutorials all you as an employer need to do is find it!

Limitless Topics and Institutions

The key to hunting aliens is to understand how life evolved on our own planet and then asses how those same principles can be applied in different solar systems or on other planets. Then we can begin to explore earth-like planets orbiting distant suns and attempt to detect life there.

How do I know this? Well it’s all knowledge that’s packed into Edinburgh University’s Astrobiology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life Coursera course. Yep, you can seriously learn how to hunt aliens online. After just five short weeks if you alien-hunt hard enough you can even earn a certification. How’s that for offering students an alternative! Universities are well and truly embracing the idea of earning tertiary qualifications online. Of course different levels of qualifications apply and you might not always be credited for your learning, but if personal growth is your aim, the world, and indeed the universe, is your oyster.

Real Outcomes

The amount of learning that is now available online offers an insane number of outcomes. From traditional tertiary qualifications right through to quirky niche courses, there are stories from across the globe from people whose lives have changed thanks to online learning. From the dad in Illinois who was able to fulfill his dream of becoming a counsellor after surviving a drug addiction, to the school in Falcon that was able to give it’s students an alternative to over-crowded classrooms, online learning has meant more and more people are becoming empowered to take their education and their goals into their own hands. Programs like Bill Gates’ Big History Project extend online learning into traditional educational settings and these settings are benefitting from the additional resources available to them. It’s the same with skills training in the workforce. Access to training is getting easier and easier and more employers are able to train their staff than ever before, which presents unlimited potential for the future.

What About You?

So now it’s time to ask yourself where you fit in all of this? Whether you’re the owner of a business looking to add to your staff’s skill set or you just fancy learning about aliens, you have to look at online learning as a very real and very accessible option now. I promise you it is as simple as typing a few words into Google. If you’re looking for something specific, go out and find it. It might seem scary – but just remember how scary the internet was all those years ago!

– Sophie

Why Staff Training is the Best Investment You’ll Make

When’s the last time you listened to your staff answer – or talk to a client on – the phone? I don’t mean walking past and catching a few phrases here and there. I mean stopping and really, really listening. Did they address the client by name? Did they sound engaged and interested? If they had a problem, did your employee do their very best to solve it? If you answered “No”, or “I don’t know” to either question, you’re in trouble.

Staff training is crucial in achieving two things: competent & confident employees, and happy customers. The two are inevitably intertwined with 70% of buying experiences based on how the customer feels they are being treated at the time of purchase. To put it bluntly – if your employees are rubbish at their jobs, your sales will be too.

If you’ve heard or seen your staff do any of the following (yes, they are true customer service stories) – it’s a sure sign it’s time for staff training.

Liz M from the U.S. called a major computer company to get help with 12 new laptops that would not power on. The Company Representative – who apparently lives to make other people question the point of existing – asked her, “What do you want me to do about it? If they don’t power on I can’t troubleshoot them, and if they aren’t powering on, it has to be something you did to them that made them not work.” Liz simply hung up the phone and called the software company directly.  Though they were able to solve her problem, Liz still has nightmares about the encounter.

The lesson: Train your staff to empathise. The words, “What do you want me to do about it” should never come out of their mouths.

“It’s not our fault that you have this problem – it’s yours.” Believe it or not, this was said to Ian T by a Major Insurance Company in the UK. I liken this incident to having a scolding cup of coffee tipped on me, and then being told it’s my fault I don’t wear protective clothing.

The lesson: Train your staff to take responsibility. Maybe the problem isn’t directly their fault, but if they work for your company, they have to take on the responsibility of the problem and do everything in their power to solve it.

If your staff work from a script here’s a story that should make you rethink the approach. Deborah B called a credit card company to cancel her recently deceased father’s account. Simple enough right? Apparently not. This is how the conversation went:

Deborah: My father Pat passed away and I am the Executor of the Estate. I am calling to cancel his account.

Customer Service Rep: Well, I need to talk to Pat.

Deborah: Listen very carefully. He’s dead – now if you want to talk to him, you’ll have to figure out how to.

Now, I’m all about there being two sides to every story, but as far as I can see, the only way this Customer Service Rep is in the right is if they are secretly a celebrated medium, moonlighting as a telemarketer, offering Deborah the chance of a lifetime to communicate with her dead father. More than likely however, this Rep simply hasn’t been trained properly.

The Lesson: Train your staff to listen. If you can recognise when you’re being delivered a script on the phone – and I bet you can, your customers can too. Scripts not only convey rigidity and inflexibility, they also make your staff switch off. Get rid of them.

If you’re anything like me, the words “I’m sorry, but that’s our policy” have the ability to raise my blood pressure like only drivers who don’t wave when I let them into my lane can. Your staff shouldn’t be saying it. No one should be saying it. Your number one policy should be doing everything you can to fix your customer’s problem. If you’ve heard your staff say these unholiest of words – it’s time for skills training.

If listening to your staff on the phone makes your skin crawl and if the words “I’m sorry, but that’s our policy” are your company’s catch-cry, consider this: it is six to seven times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one, and on average, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase. If you want a successful company, you want happy customers who stick around. The first step to achieving this – invest in training your staff.

– Steph

Skills Training – How to master a habit in 66 days

A sustainable business is one that invests in skills training for its staff. That looks great on paper, but it doesn’t mean much if the skills taught during the training sessions lay dormant in the back of your employees’ minds.

Let’s rewind for a moment. A few months back I decided to do something about my sleeping patterns. Having a busy mind, I always found it difficult to settle in for the night while my mind was whirring away. To counter this, I aimed to change two behaviours: the first was no alcohol on week nights (goodbye wine while cooking!) and the second was adding breathing exercises before bed. A month later, I wasn’t any better off and began to doubt the effectiveness of my new habits.

There’s a widely accepted belief that it takes 21 days (or three weeks) to form a new habit. It’s the magic number – a time frame just short enough to be inspiring, yet long enough to be believable. This didn’t happen by accident. In 1960, Dr Maxwell Maltz – a plastic surgeon who first noticed a strange pattern among his patients – published a book called Psycho-Cybernetics. It was in this book that Dr Maltz observed that “it requires a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to jell.”

A recent study conducted by the European Journal of Social Psychology found that the number is more like 66 days. Depending on the behaviour, the person, and the circumstances, that figure could be as long as 254 days! So why did I fail at nailing my sleep patterns? Because I didn’t allow myself enough time to make drifting off quickly & easily habitual.

66 is the magic number if you’re considering skills training for your workplace.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but if you’re considering skills training, it’s not just to make your boss & customers happy, right? Sure, that’s an added bonus which will pay dividends come performance review season. The real reason you’re up-skilling is to increase your job satisfaction and make your own work life easier. But that only happens when you implement what you’ve learned and make it a habit.

Make skills training work for you!

To make learning a new skill set easier, we must first understand the mechanics of forming a habit. First, there is a cue; a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. After that we kick off the routine, which can be physical, mental, emotional or a combination of all three. Finally, there is a reward. This is the carrot that helps your brain figure out if a particular loop is worth remembering in future. Over time and with repetition this loop becomes more and more automatic.

Despite being a little put off by my lacklustre results, the reward of a good night’s sleep kept me focussed on mastering my new behaviours. I kept reminding myself of how good it would feel to fall into a deep, restful sleep quickly… and how good I would feel in the morning. A few months later, I no longer miss cooking with a glass of wine and I really look forward to the part of my night where I can simply lay down and clear my mind for the evening.

Put simply, if you want to get rid of a bad habit, you have to find out how to implement a healthier routine that’ll provide you with the same- or greater reward. In the workplace, that reward may be in the form of job satisfaction, better relationships with your co-workers and customers or an improved workflow – all of which are achievable through skills training.

What skills training delivery method should you choose?

When it comes to up-skilling in the workplace, you don’t need intensive workshops and or week by week mentorship for the majority of training. That method is only okay if you’re looking for a piece of paper that’ll offer you a cheap tax break.

To transform all-important skills into habits, I’ve found it’s worth investing in something you (or your staff) can engage with daily and make a habit out of. I’ve seen more businesses than ever opting for video training – and with good reason. It saves a lot of money, the videos engage viewers to get maximum effect, and those employees are able to revisit the training as often as they like – cementing what they’ve learned and building habits faster.

Remember that there is no magic bullet for learning a new skill. The timeline is flexible, so you should be too. The three key takeaways to keep in the back of your mind when considering skills training are:

  1. Remind yourself of the reward you’ll receive for the skills you’ll learn.
  2. Pick a training method that allows for repetition.
  3. Give yourself two months before you evaluate what you’ve learned.

– Lachy

Aim Carefully, Don’t Over Shoot

I’ve worked in customer service, in a variety of different settings, for many years now and until recently I didn’t really ponder the dynamics of the customer service relationship too deeply.

A couple of weeks back I had the displeasure of shopping at a chain of clothing

“What do you mean you don’t need my help?”

“What do you mean you don’t need my help?”

stores whose staff have been mercilessly beaten with an attitude of “push, push, push” and the result is a flow-down effect on the customer. I entered their store and after about 5 minutes of contented browsing I was approached by a young man whose face was split by a smile that was not reaching his disinterested eyes.

How are you today man?” he boomed in faux-enthusiasm. I replied that I was great and returned my eyes to the racks.

You looking for something in particular, because these are made and designed in Oz” He said at me, while holding up a shirt from a nearby rack and pointing at it suggestively. I replied that I wasn’t and I was just browsing. However, this seemed to be like waving red to a bull – how dare I attempt to browse this store without his input.

Yeah, I get that all the time. Did you know that all those jeans are handmade? You’d rock the mauve ones” He said pointing behind me. I thanked him and told him that I was just browsing – again.

After an awkward silence he exclaimed “You look lost!” and moved far too close to me. I assure him that I was not, and I was exactly where I wanted to be.

Are you sure?” He asked. I repeated that I was fine but I now had a sinking feeling that I will not be allowed free reign of the store without being rude to this “salesman”.

Well, you sure look lost. Hey, you’d look good in one those jackets. I’m thinking you’re a dark blue kinda guy” he says while physically grabbing my arm to drag me somewhere. It was at this stage that I decided enough was enough and told him, in no uncertain terms, that I didn’t want anything anymore and left the store.

I think this kind of persistence is something that, if we’re honest, we’ve all experienced in a sales environment. For me, it drove home the importance of ‘reading’ a customer. Great salespeople will tell you that a good sales pitch gets the sale and a repeat customer. The ‘brute force’ method of mercilessly pushing a product will sometimes get the sale, but it will likely deter the customer from coming back to you because they found the experience to be uncomfortable or intimidating.

By no means should customers be ignored, what I’m trying to illustrate here is that it’s equally detrimental to overshoot in the other direction. A salesman who’s obviously faking his enthusiasm, and covering the customers like his opponent in a footy match is more likely to put off customers than keep them coming back.

– Kyle