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How Agencies Think About Virtual and In-Person Training

As agencies seek to create a competitive, sustainable advantage, more focus will be placed on a scalable and repeatable training environment.
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How Agencies Think About Virtual and In-Person Training

On a recent call with an agency leader, I was asked, “When will you be able to come back and train us in person?" Not a surprising question, as many agencies strive to go back to what life was like before COVID-19 turned everyone's world upside down.

As I considered their question, I realized there is a tendency to romanticize in-person training and view virtual training as second best. I've been known to do this as well. 

I miss seeing our clients in person. And it isn't just the face-to-face training that I miss. It's sharing meals and engaging in more casual conversation. It's answering questions in the hallway during a break from a producer who was reluctant to speak up in a group setting. These small but important interactions help to build relationships, credibility and opportunity.

But over-romanticizing in-person, classroom-style training can distract from the many benefits of non-classroom training—and there are many.

First, let's define non-classroom training. There are two forms: virtual instructor-led training (VILT) and self-directed online training. Each has its pros and cons. 

VILT marries technology and live instruction. Participants benefit from being able to ask questions in a variety of ways, through features such as a chatbox and online Q&A. In addition, they still get feedback because the instruction is live.

Self-directed training is exactly that: Participants learn at their own pace and on their own schedule. New, robust technology leverages video coaching, chatbots and participants can be directed to additional training based on courses they've selected.

On the downside, what both these types of trainings can't offer is the human connection we all crave, like eye contact or a handshake. While behavior and participation can be rewarded in non-classroom settings, earning a badge by completing a level of learning may not feel the same as your instructor gushing over your in-person role-playing demonstration.

Yes, in-person training is great. But it, too, has its downfalls. It's expensive. Once you factor in hotel, flights, ground transportation and meals you can spend more than four times the cost of the course in travel-related expenses. In addition, out-of-field time is increased, something most sales leaders try to avoid.

At the end of the day, what really matters is the effectiveness of the training and its impact on performance. Sales representatives who participated in online training had twice the confidence of representatives who participated in live training, according to a study by Corporate Visions. Participants trained using online methods had 45.2% more pipeline than their peers who received no training, and 23.2% more pipeline than those who received traditional classroom-style training.

Training is an ongoing investment, and it's unlikely that a single delivery method will meet the demands of all audiences. But as agencies seek to create a competitive, sustainable advantage through highly trained producers and service teams, more focus will be placed on creating a scalable and repeatable training environment.

It is likely the path forward for many will be a blended learning approach which joins self-directed learning, in-person and virtual instructor-led training.

Susan Toussaint is cofounder and partner at Oceanus Partners, a ReSource Pro company. Oceanus Partners is a firm dedicated to helping insurance professionals working in all lines of business insurance improve sales and client retention.

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Thursday, October 29, 2020
Recruiting, Hiring & Training