In 2003, my company faced a critical challenge: how to effectively deliver training to a nationwide field force. The solution, we found, lay in supplementing in-classroom instruction with educational content provided via the Web.
Securian Financial Group is a Minnesota-based financial services company that distributes its products through a career agency system–the Securian Financial Network–comprised of 1,800 advisors nationwide. When members of the network needed training, the company flew them into the home office in St. Paul. The number of trainees flying in from around the country had increased by 60%, while the facilities and equipment required for hands-on training remained steady.
Instead of the typical 20, schools of 50 or more financial advisors would spend 3 or 4 business days at the home office. As trainers, my colleagues and I had an hour and a half to deliver hands-on instruction to the people who sell our products, but the space no longer allowed us to provide useful face-to-face interaction.
We looked to the Internet for a solution, thinking that posting pre-recorded training sessions online would better prepare advisors for classroom instruction and improve the quality of class time at Securian. After searching for and finding an easy-to-use program, we provided students with prerecorded online training presentations, which included built-in tests to help retain audience attention and identify areas where additional training was needed.
Students were required to complete the activities before coming to St. Paul, allowing trainers to spend face-to-face time addressing students’ questions. We could even assign follow-up work after they went home. Advisors reported a high level of satisfaction with the training and liked the opportunity to study at home on their own schedule.
The next step was to implement a live e-learning capability to make the training even more interactive. Other business units in the company were facing similar training challenges, and we partnered with them to buy a joint license for live, Web-based meeting, event and training software. Some of the divisions even created their own user interfaces to customize their training. This year, Securian hosted more than 3,000 Web-based presentations for their customers and field personnel–a 300% increase over 2005.
My division, Securian Advisor Services, delivers from 15 to 20 interactive sales and marketing classes to firms and advisor groups every month. We use a variety of tools, such as quizzing, polling, and animation, to ensure the sessions hold the audience’s attention. Every 3 minutes, we make sure students are engaged by asking them to draw on a white board or type answers.