The Future of Agent Training - TODAY!
by Bill Pomakoy
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The training paradigm is shifting fast. eLearning is here
to stay. In 2000, according to OnLine Learning magazine (Aug 2001), more
than $1 billion was spent on eLearning "and that figure is projected
to increase tenfold by 2003
". Technology firm IDC sees the
eLearning industry continuing to grow at a 50% annual clip, topping $18
billion in 2005. What does that mean for insurance agents and corporate
training departments? For agents, it means less time out of the field
to get the information they need to be successful with a product line.
For corporate training departments it can mean a variety of things. One
of the obvious benefits of web-based training is that it can practically
deliver agent training 24/7/365 without a training department.
But the most successful companies already using the web
for training have recognized that a blended learning approach works best.
Blended learning incorporates the best of both worlds. It's using both
methods of teaching -instructor-led and web-based - to get the best results.
Corporate training departments have all they can do to conduct product
training throughout their company footprint. Historically, corporate trainers
have had the unrealistic charge of not only educating agents on company
products and promotions, but also inspiring them to reach corporate sales
goals - with limited budgets and staff. Simply unrealistic! Now, with
the evolution of web-based training, corporate trainers can spend their
time conducting things like product rollouts while agents receive their
basic training via the web. A perfect solution to a compound problem.
And, the next generation of eLearning is already starting to appear with
the evolution of eCoaching. eCoaching is a great way to keep the momentum
going in an organization using email and the telephone.
Will agents hear the web-based training call? They'll simply
have to. Many large corporations like McDonalds, GE, GM, Motorola, Cisco
and Microsoft have already recognized the value of web-based training
and the insurance industry is beginning to follow. In a recent management
training initiative, eLearning delivered a 2284% ROI to IBM (Nucleus Research,
Oct 2, 2001). You simply can't get that type of return on investment with
on-site training because of all the ancillary costs involved. It is estimated
that agents spend an average of between $500-$600 to attend a two day
training class if you consider the tuition costs, travel costs, hotel
and expenses. And that doesn't include the loss of productivity for the
time out of the field.
With web-based training, most of those costs are eliminated.
Some companies are already saving upwards of 80% by implementing eLearning
programs. According to U.S. News & World Report, "Even before
the 9/11 attacks, which left many employees reluctant to travel, some
experts predicted that 80% of corporate training would be delivered electronically
in three years." And, corporate America is catching on. In a recent
survey of 223 corporate training, HR and business execs, "84% said
senior-level management has become committed to eLearning in the last
12 months" (Netg survey, April, 2001). Companies are going to web-based
training for a variety of reasons including:
· Overall cost savings vs. instructor-led classes
· Consistent delivery of information
· Ability to track agent training progress and knowledge proficiency
· Immediate production for new agents
· Improve core competency of existing agents
Another reason companies are embracing eLearning is because
most college students who are being recruited are used to learning via
the web. Many schools make it mandatory to complete web-based training
courses to prepare students for the corporate world. Those companies who
have eLearning programs are more apt to keep their recruits if they are
cutting-edge in the eyes of the new employees.
What could be the most important benefit of an effective
eLearning program may be reduced exposure to E&O claims. Think about
it. If XYZ Insurance Company is able to roll out new products with consistent
training, coast-to-coast, agents are more apt to sell the right product
the first time. And what about those agents who have failed to bring up
LTC insurance to their clients, for example, because of a lack of education,
aren't they cruisin' for an E&O claim?
A great web-based training program allows companies to get
training to the field quickly and efficiently while reducing the chances
of E&O claims. OK, I did say "great web-based training program"
didn't I? That is the most crucial part of the eLearning process. There
are many ways for companies to get started with an eLearning program.
You can build one from scratch by purchasing an eLearning chassis (Learning
Management System) from a variety of manufacturers like NinthHouse or
DigitalThink, to name a couple, and build the content into the chassis.
Or, you can buy a program from a third-party vendor that specializes in
specific content that your organization needs.
My company, LTC Consultants, has spent three years developing
our web-based training for long-term care insurance and I can tell you
from experience that it is not an easy task. We formed a relationship
with a company that is headed by an academy-award nominated producer who
partners with a cognitive scientist so we could be sure that there was
just the right mix of entertainment and knowledge transfer. Studies prove
that your eLearning program MUST be interactive so agents become engaged
in the learning process. Whatever you do, don't make the mistake of putting
pages of text on the screen with a quiz at the end and expect people to
complete the course. Your course completion ratio will be in the tank
along with your investment.
So, agents and companies, get on the eLearning train. It
will take you to places you've never been before. Enjoy the ride.
Vice President of Marketing