The School of Management and Innovation at Steinbeis University Berlin and the Sparda group of cooperative banks have developed a new model for using Web 2.0 applications to secure sustainable success in sales training. The project involved four steps. First, training needs were ascertained across all sales project teams at Sparda banks. Next, the experts worked out learning solutions for selected Sparda banks and wrote teaching concepts. Once training programs had been implemented, they were then evaluated.
Training needs were assessed by surveying 693 employees at the Sparda bank and their cooperative partner, DEVK Insurance. Respondents were asked how important and useful Web 2.0 applications are for in-house training. It emerged that low earners and trainees do find Web 2.0 important, but not particularly useful. The eldest respondents (over 60) found Web 2.0 both important and useful. The findings indicate that trainees tend to feel Web applications are for leisure time activities, not work or learning. Conversely, older employees may feel confronted with technological change and believe they need to be part of it. In contrast to both groups, higher-earning managers had little interest in the introduction and use of emerging technology.
Based on the survey of requirements, three training programs were identified. A course for trainees to improve teamwork, a course for sales staff to improve their use of an enterprise solution called Prisma, and training for higher-level one-on-one customer advisors who help train other employees. The learning environment was based closely on the design of social networks like the German business forum Xing and Facebook.
The courses involved 79 employees from three Sparda banks, 41 of whom completed a final evaluation. An online survey was used, allowing course participants to score course preparation, the running of courses and the extent to which course content could be applied to their working environment. 39% of respondents said the course was an improvement on previous training. 41% wanted to see more teaching using this method. The opinions relating to course preparation and running showed some interesting correlations regarding satisfaction and recommendations to others. If people gave course preparation a good score, it was almost impossible to improve their overall course assessment through positive experiences during the learning process.
But if they gave course preparation a bad score, the overall assessment improved significantly through the positive learning process. Positive learning experiences were, to a large extent, influenced by good preparation, but learning satisfaction and being prepared to recommend a course to others generally developed during the learning process. The outcome of the project was warmly received by the Sparda group of cooperative banks. After the pilot program, the customer- oriented use of sales software rose by 29% and indirect training costs went down from € 6,000 to € 2,900. Absence during courses was reduced from 60 days to 30. The trainees and the instructors were so enthusiastic about the new training programs that the Sparda group decided to make a firm commitment to use Web 2.0 for more future training.
The evaluation and research findings are documented in a report which includes recommendations on the use of Web 2.0 in in-house training, described in more detail in a practical guide which is available through the School of Management and Innovation.
Prof. Dr. Joachim Hasebrook
School of Management & Innovation (SMI) Steinbeis University Berlin Berlin/Stuttgart