Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Evolving Technology of Learning

The following column first appeared in Southern PHC Magazine...

Training in service companies is about to undergo a revolution. The widespread diffusion of broadband Internet access will make more training available for more people, more conveniently.

Want an example? Omega Plumbing’s Allan Ferguson brought in Charlie Greer to conduct a training class for his plumbers. Omega Plumbing is located in Sydney, Australia. Charlie is based out of Fort Myers, Florida. Charlie trained a group of plumbers on the other side of the world using video conferencing from his personal computer. Charlie was projected on the wall larger than life in Sydney, while he watched the audience on his screen.

This may sound miraculous (and it is), but it’s no longer all that unusual. Well, it’s no longer unusual outside of the service trades. With exceptions, the service trades are likely to be among the last to embrace changes in training technology. It won’t be the first time.

Twenty years ago I ran marketing for the geographic division of an HVAC manufacturer. While I was based in California, I spent a lot of time attending meetings in Texas. During one of the plane flights it struck me that the entire notion of a geographic division was an anachronism. It was a relic of the days when people traveled by train and getting from North Texas to Northern California required days, not hours. Eventually, this was recognized by top management. The geographic divisional offices were closed. Fewer people provided better support from a central location.

Just as the industry was slow to recognize the impact of changes in the economics and availability of travel technology, we’re probably going to be slow to accept changes in training technology. However, there are exceptions. One of the exceptions is the new Service Nation Alliance.

Service Nation is embracing technology at a deeper level than any other contractor group. Here are three ways the organization is using technology to improve training…

Multi-User Video Conferencing

Broadband has made it personal computer based, multi-user video conferencing feasible. Small groups of contractors meet monthly to share financials, hold each other accountable, solve mutual problems, and push each other to higher levels of performance.

The alliance is also using multi-user video conferencing to create support groups of managers and contractor action teams to focus on best practices. While contractors think twice about flying service managers across the country to meet with the service managers of non-competitive companies, it’s virtually free online.

Distance Learning

The office staff of most contracting companies seldom receive much formal training. Yet, the CSR is the public face of the company. He or she is the first person the prospective customer engages. If there’s any position that merits training, it’s the CSR. Thus, Service Nation is using distance learning training so that CSRs, for example, can receive training at the desktop through short training modules that contain specific learning objectives and post-module testing to ensure the learning objectives were realized. Through the alliance’s learning management system, owners can easily track the progress of each employee.


Many contractors have attended a webinar. Most webinars today are glorified sales pitches, disguised as an online seminar. Service Nation is using webinars to reinforce and review their boot camp training class, giving graduates an constant refresher without leaving the office.

Streaming Media

Service Nation is bringing in top consultants, contractors, and vendors to offer short training clips for contractors to use in service meetings. It gives meetings an extra kick and another voice than the boss to reinforce the message.


The proliferation of smart phones and tablet computers is further revolutionizing the training arena, making it possible to easily deliver training resources to field employees.

Will these changes in the technology of learning eliminate the need for face-to-face meetings and in-person training classes? Hardly. There will always be a need for people to interact and converse. It’s built into our DNA. However, the evolving technology of learning will allow us to train more people with better systems for less money.

While it may take longer for the majority of the organizations in the service trades to apply new technology than other industries, it will happen. In fact, it’s already begun.

For more information about the Service Nation Alliance, call toll free 877.262.3341.

1 comment:

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