Microlearning Thoughts – Conversations With Learning Leaders – Episode 2

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Episode 2 – Amit Garg speaks with Lizbeth Alpizar

As part of our Go Beyond campaign on Microlearning, we are having conversations with learning leaders on their experiences with microlearning.

In this second podcast of the series Microlearning Thoughts, I spoke with Lizbeth Alpizar of the HPE’s Worldwide Sales Enablement Team. lizbeth here emphasizes on two things in particular – one, identifying your employees’ pain points and making them granular; and two, employees being able to access the microlearning nuggets relevant to their needs to fill any learning gap they might have.

Watch the insightful podcast here:

Below is the transcript of the full discussion:

Amit: Hello and welcome to this second podcast in the series that we’re calling Microlearning Thoughts.

We are talking to learning leaders about their microlearning initiatives. Today we have Lizbeth Alpizar who’s the design and development manager for the Worldwide Sales Enablement Team at HPE. Welcome, Liz. Thank you for joining us on this podcast series that we’re calling Microlearning Thoughts and we’d love to hear what you have been doing, and especially around microlearning. So maybe we could start with how do you define microlearning at HPE, how do you go about identifying or telling people what is microlearning?

Lizbeth: Great, Hi Amit. So first of all, thank you for inviting me to this podcast series. It is a pleasure to share some of our thoughts and learnings in HPE with Upside Learning and with everyone. Answering your question, microlearning for us is content that can be divided into smaller chunks of information so that the people can consume it in an easier way. Also, it’s easier for them to digest, to understand, and to remember anything that they are getting as part of that information that is important for them.

Amit: Fantastic, I like that. It’s quite simple and clear. Yeah, because a lot of times people may get a little lost into defining microlearning and they’ll add a lot of variables. So yes, something which is short enough and it is more purposeful so they get something which is memorable and doable. That’s what I hear, fantastic. Alright. So what makes microlearning attractive to your area of work? Where do you see it fitting in your overall strategy?

Lizbeth: Yeah, so for us microlearning has become so important because things are moving so fast, and in the sales area even more. Now the sales people have to be kind of attending and putting their attention in so many things at the same time and also being able to shift from one thing into the other with their customers also. So in today’s world where everything is moving so fast that we need to provide that content in an easy way for the people to get the content to understand it and to apply it immediately. So, that is where microlearning comes. If they are getting the part of the content that they are needing in those small chunks of information while they are maybe waiting for an appointment with their customer and they have 5 minutes, they can see “Okay, what do I have for five minutes for me to consume” and that is that the motion of the sales people right now. They have to take advantage of every single moment that they have in their day. And if they can take advantage of that moment, learning what they need to do or learning that information that they need to be more successful with their customers, that is what they have to do. So that is making it accessible for them is the best way for us to go through the microlearning strategy.

Amit: Fantastic, yeah I think not just the sales people, everybody has become very busy and we’re trying to get the most of our times but more so the sales people as you mentioned. And if I want to think about almost living in those moments, or micromoments if we can call it as Google had defined it, so it makes perfect sense to feed in the right kind of information and knowledge in those moments for sales people. But tell me, is it just the product knowledge that you are delivering to your people or is it other types of learning or information also that goes out as microlearning to your sales people?

Lizbeth: Yeah, so right now product knowledge has been our main focus for microlearning, but we are going right now further. We are going for instance with competitive information and/or with skills information where we have kind of those main insights for the people to be successful in their sales skills or in their competitive notion of that. And that is something that we are right now doing each time more through podcasts or through videos, so that people can get it in a very comprehensive way, but in very short kind of snips of that application or knowledge or whatever they need now… insights.

Amit: Interesting, so that’s a whole list of things that you do – product knowledge, skills, training, competitive advantages, all of that going out and also in different formats. Excellent.

Okay, let’s talk about your experience with microlearning. You’ve been doing it for some time; what have you learned over these years as you implemented microlearning and rolled it out to teams, what is your experience with it?

Lizbeth: So we have gone through a long journey with this. I would say maybe five years ago, we were doing long and boring presentations on demand or PowerPoint with voiceovers we can say mostly, and one of the things that I could witness sitting side by side with the sales people is that they clicked Play and left. And then they left to a meeting, they left or they were answering calls, but the training continued there. It didn’t matter what happened. So that has been something that it was a big learning for me because it was trainings that we were doing maybe that were thirty, forty, fifty minutes, sometimes even up to two hours of ‘death by PowerPoint’. So we have transitioned from that, and that is where we said “Okay, no this is not our way to continue going. We have to break the content down. We have to make it interactive. We need to have the people playing with the training, playing a role there, in order for them to be able to kind of focus on what they’re doing. And even if that focus span is only of 3-4 minutes it’s much better than having no focus for 40 minutes.” So that is what we are looking for. It’s for them to be able to get that knowledge and kind of “Okay, these are the really things that we need to put attention that the sales people need instead of providing them with endless, we can say content that is of no usage for them. So if we break it, if we make it interactive, and then make them play with the training, it is much more effective than having those never-ending trainings that as I said were boring and were a ‘death by PowerPoint’.

Amit: It resonates so much, hitting that Play button and going off to do something else. I think a lot of people do that, especially for mandatory training, and I’m sure for other kinds of training also that just is not somehow meeting their goals, if it has been pushed onto them, absolutely. And yes, I like what you said – 5 minutes of focused time is much better than 40 minutes of unfocused distracted time in any case. Well, fantastic, so now is there a time limit that you keep your trainings – 10-15 minutes – or are you still having many long-form trainings or everything has been moved to short-form now?

Lizbeth: In the product area right now everything is very short. We have a very clear outline of what we are calling our blueprint, where we have “Okay, this is a one module and this is hot-for-me-module – and that module has to be one minute long, no more. And each one of the trainings it’s modularized in these smaller microlearnings, and that way people can consume what they need on one side, and I would say our regular sales training is no more than 15, maybe 20 minutes. The whole list of modules, and if you consider that a training might have maybe 7 to 9 modules in 15 minutes. Each one of those modules are 2-3 minutes. So that is kind of the way that we are going. It’s restructuring everything in that way. Now in the case of skills trainings, yes the trainings are longer, but we are also transforming them in order to make them, maybe with a blended approach so that that way also by mixing things, it’s another way and finally going back again to the product or even I would say not only to the product side, one of the things that we have been doing also a bit it’s what we are calling adaptive learning where you have first of all a pre-assessment where people can see “Okay what do I know about that topic?” so that that way they can focus only on the gaps that they have instead of having to take the whole training. So those are kind of the things that we have started testing out, we have been able to see “Okay, how does that work” and it has worked really well. People are really appreciating kind of the return of their time by having this change in the focus.

Amit: Interesting, I picked up two main points from there. One was about granularizing – making it shorter, and then also making it adaptive by giving them a choice based on their own scores, and I think both of them are very powerful in terms of how adult learners would like to consume training or learning because they can make some choices themselves and that brings in, in my view, a very strong sense of motivation and ownership. Because if we if we force them, they might just run away and do what you said earlier, Play and go away. Yeah, fantastic.

Lizbeth: Yeah, I’m going with that. I think we need to treat our employees are adults and you mentioned it. They have to have that liberty or freedom of choosing what they need instead of forcing them to go through an end-to-end training. Now if they already know something, well there’s no reason why they have to go again and again and again and again. Of course practice makes mastery, but on the other side if they are already mastering something, well they can skip that and go on the part that they need. Or on the other side it’s “Okay, right now I need to talk with my customer about competition. I’ll go into my competitive module and that’s it. I do not need to go through the whole thing right now. I do not have the time so I can focus on my interests.”

Amit: Yeah, yeah. Again a very important point that you just talked about which is, you know our employees are adult people and we sometimes end up making the mistake and it’s become common language between learning leaders and others talk about ‘learners,’ and these are really not ‘learners’ in the strictest sense; these are people who have a full-time job, these are adult people and they are always trying to get something done and learning can only be an enabler or a secondary activity for them  most of the times. So yeah, absolutely. Alright. Let’s look at what tools or development of microlearning…how do you go about doing that…any tools, technologies that you prefer, processes, how do you do that?

Lizbeth: We do microlearning basically in three ways — podcasts, videos, and interactive training or learning modules. Podcast and videos, mostly we have used them as reinforcers. So we have a training and then maybe in a podcast they will get a summary or something like that that will reinforce and maybe add a little more information. Also, of course yes we have standalone podcasts, we have our podcast channel. And also we do the interactive training modules. All those learning modules what we usually do is we use Articulate Storyline, we use Rise and HTML5. For HTML5 mostly we rely on our partners, that’s Upside Learning. They are kind of one of our trusted partners where those that are maybe a little more complicated trainings – we get that support from those. And everything is deployed through our Sales Pro Learning Center Platform that is based on MindTickle.

Amit: We are always pleased to work with HPE, thank you. What is this Sales Pro? I’m sure our listeners would love to understand a little more how HPE has structured this particular platform for its use.

Lizbeth: Sales Pro overall is our one-stop shop for getting any enablement that the sales people need. So they will get access to our podcast channels, they will get access also to our video channels, and also they will get access to the Sales Pro Learning Center — all of those things are based in the MindTickle platform. Also, Sales Pro provides more information about their curriculums, we have our learning catalog, everything there in Sales Pro, but specifically the learning site it’s a Sales Pro Learning Center, where as I said based on MindTickle is where we have hosted everything there. And all the time we’re looking forward to enhance the learner experience, navigating in Sales Pro and in the Sales Pro Learning Center in order for the people to be able to access the trainings in an easier way. Also, being able to find what are the right learning solutions that they are looking for, and within Sales Pro Learning Center we have lot of capabilities because as I said, yes they have access to the trainings, but now we are also working and we have been working also for some time for instance on what MindTickle has as missions where people can record themselves delivering a pitch and then they can get feedback from — one from the tool that it has some AI there and also from their managers, etc. So that has been proved that it has been very successful that the sales people have been getting used to do these kind of videos where they can record themselves. One of the things that we have seen is people record themselves and they then see it, and until they feel comfortable for them to say, “Hey, now this is the one that I will send to my manager” they have already practiced 3-4 times. So for when that moment that they go in with their customer, they’ve already mastered it because they have practiced, they have received coaching one from the tool and then from their manager, so it’s something that now they will be feeling much more comfortable doing those kind of things. And the whole Sales Pro Platform and the Sales Pro Learning Center have provided us all these tools and ways for us to be able to deploy the trainings.

Amit: Fantastic. Yeah, absolutely. So it looks like a great place, specially for the sales teams to go and find what they need; at the same time it has enhanced capabilities for practice and coaching & guidance. And I absolutely like what you said about such a system, it gives people an opportunity to practice themselves – until they’re happy they’ve actually practiced a few times already. So yeah, it’s not just giving an answer and forgetting it. You’re doing it again and again and again yourself, you just first to be happy with yourself and then you get feedback. So yeah, I’m sure it does allow for that practice to build those capabilities in a more stronger manner. Fantastic, thanks for sharing that.

All right, Liz, tell us about how do you go about measuring the success of your microlearning initiatives? Is there a particular way you look at this?

Lizbeth: Yeah, consumption of the trainings has been our main measure and seeing that people kind of how they’re consuming the trainings, what is kind of the behavior that they’re having through consuming some of the trainings, because then we can also measure what are their interests based on now and we can see maybe one specific product has much more visits than others and there is where we can see, even to be able to provide that information back to the business saying “Hey, the interest of the people is here.” There might be something there. So that is one of the things. The other also is of course we have satisfaction scores and those kind of things, and we are always looking to see that the training is meeting their satisfaction and the relevance scores that we are looking for. So those are kind of our two main ones. Right now we are also trying to link the consumption, maybe, of the trainings and see what is the impact on the business. So we can see that the people that are consuming I would say maybe 3 I think it was around 3-4 trainings per month, they have more opportunities in their pipeline. And that is also something that we have started to measure, maybe starting 3-4 months ago and till today, and that is also something that we will continue doing in order for us to be able to see ‘Okay, where do we need to focus our efforts and to focus the resources that we are having so that we can continue providing the sales force that the right information or where are the gaps so that that way we can provide those insights that the sales people need.’

Amit: Fantastic. So what I’m hearing is number one usage data, which is something that we’ve always done, you know, some sort of a completion data; then satisfaction data which is level 2 feedback, learner satisfactions; and then you are also looking at relevancy, which is kind of an aggregate level of data where you are seeing which teams are probably looking at which topics a little more and maybe there is something to do over there — so that becomes at an aggregate level some sort of insight for the management team and sales managers and even product teams to work on, and finally what I heard I really liked was when you try to kind of save this, you trying to correlate between level one data which is consumption and the actual business outcome which is either opportunities or actual sales, so that’s fantastic. I mean though it is early days, 3-4 months, but I’m sure if you have a more consistent correlation, positive correlation that you see, yeah, it could be a very important measure to prove that this training is working.

Lizbeth: Yeah, absolutely, and that is also something that we have been focused on quite a bit. It has been always a struggle to link those parts to say “Okay what is the real return of investment of one training?” Well, it’s really hard to measure a real return of investment of any training, because there are so many things around the sales motions that it is not only specific to learning or training. But trying to find that correlation between the size of the pipeline or the number of opportunities, and how many trainings are people taking, etc., it hasn’t been a very, very interesting exercise lately for the whole organization. And yes, therefore, it’s something that we’re really looking forward to continue doing to see, what else? It’s there for the sales people that we need to make sure that the people are consuming as well.

Amit: Yeah, it’s so much like you know how a marketing team would think because it’s very difficult for marketing, I assume, to point out any individual initiative which may be bringing in a lead to their door, because there may be other impact points that may have happened before this particular element because of which somebody came in as a lead or a prospect, so it may not be just that. Linking one particular training with impact would be difficult for the whole gamut of offerings and what you’ve been doing as initiators, that would be a little easier to possibly correlate with business data. That makes sense. Thank you for sharing that. And one final question for you, Liz then. Since you’ve experienced this for some time and if I’m sure you’ve had your own challenges while you delivered microlearning and you’ve learned along the way, what would you like to tell other L&D leaders who may be wanting to get on with microlearning specifically, they may not have done much of it already.

Lizbeth: Yeah, I would say the most important thing is to know our audience. And one time I heard the phrase of Walk the Mile; we need to walk the mile with them. We need to make sure how is their day today, how they are transitioning from one thing to the other during their day in order to see which are the moments that they have. I think that is the most important thing. I think we need to know their interests, we need to know how their day today is, what are the things that they need, and we need to listen directly from them. It’s not something that someone told us — it’s something that the people that we are working for we can say because they are our clients at the end —we need to hear it directly from them. So as I said before, I had in the previous normality the opportunity to be sitting side by side with the sales people so I could see them directly, I could talk with them, I could go and work with them and say “Okay, so what do you need or what do you think about these?” etc. So that way we can feel their pains also and that way we can support them in the best way.

Amit: That’s very, very important, and in fact possibly the most important aspect of creating any sort of initiative – knowing your audience very well and when will they use it, why will they use it, why will they find it important, how will they really benefit from it, etc. Just kind of mapping it out at the start of a program or any initiative is so very important. Thanks for sharing that. Thank you. Now this being very insightful, Liz, really appreciate you shared, you know, in a quick 15-20 minutes you’ve shared your journey with microlearning and I’m sure our listeners will take away a lot from this. So thank you very much. Really appreciate your time today.

Lizbeth: Thank you Amit, it was a pleasure and I am really looking forward to listen also to the other we can say chapters of this series of podcasts because I know that I will be also learning quite a bit from others in the industry. So thank you for inviting me and for letting me share a little bit of what we are doing in HPE.

Thank you.

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