"Training initiatives are not done unless there is a business reason to do it," she says. "When we get contacted to do something, we ask, 'which of our key performance indicators it's designed to move,' 'what results we expect,' and 'how will it affect our customers?' Then we make the decision of how to support it from a training perspective."
Giving sales and customer service reps the information they need to move more product, and keep buyers happier, is a clear business need, so last year the training department began providing certification on the Verizon Wireless line of data products, such as its text messaging, wireless Internet, video, and GPS navigation services.
The certification program is based on a four-step process, says Tedrick. During the first stage, known as "learn it," the employee receives initial instruction both online as well as in the classroom; the second stage, "show it," includes an activity-based demonstration to managers of knowledge attainment followed by feedback; the third, "prove it," is where workers take the test that decides whether or not they've earned the certification, and also includes an examination of post-training performance indicators, such as individual sales achievement and customer service quality ratings; the fourth step, "earn it," is devoted to recognizing those who gain certification.
"If they hit everything they were asked to do, took the training, passed their test, did their 'show it' successfully, and at the end of that quarter, when we looked at their results, hit the targets they were expected to hit, then they get recognized," Tedrick explains. Managers acknowledge the certified employee in front of his or her peers, and if the employee meets a "stretch goal" set for a performance measure, such as sales, they are rewarded with an incentive gift such as a personal digital assistant (PDA) to use for the quarter.
Quarterly, the company's four national operations regions each identify key data products to feature for certification. "They're typically the ones they believe will move their numbers the best," says Tedrick. In any given quarter, one region may choose to certify employees on Verizon Wireless's suite of PDAs, while another might choose to focus on e-mail and text messaging services. When there is a national launch of a new product, such as this summer's release of the Chocolate MP3 player and phone, all regions feature certification.
Since the start of the program at the beginning of last year, 80 percent of the company's sales and customer service reps have earned data certification. And, it hasn't been for nothing—Verizon Wireless exceeded its data revenue target for the year.
The company's data certification training to sales and customer service reps requires more than competent trainers and enthusiastic learners—it also takes a hearty learning management system (LMS) and effective information management. Last year, enhancements to the software further customized it to meet the company's needs, and made all the difference to supporting programs like certification.
"As a training organization, you have to have the infrastructure to execute," says Tedrick of what it takes to pull off certification at a large company. "So, you have to have a good LMS." You also need access to employee and learning results data. "We brought together data from our LMS with employee data, as well as sales and service performance data," she points out. "That was essentially three different systems we had to pull the data from and massage it to quickly get the results."
The ability to analyze and report the level of detail of interest to Tedrick's department, and the senior leadership backing it, was essential. "More than just tracking who passed and failed, it's the capability to stratify results down far enough to reveal performance differences between sales regions or operations areas," she notes. "You've got to be able to slice and dice the data because different leaders ask for the data different ways." One may want a company-wide view, while another might want performance data for each call center.
"We were looking at all elements," says Tedrick, "and then would dice down to the individual."
Indeed, the enhancements have been invaluable to the successful implementation of data certification training, but the benefits of a powerful LMS also was put to good use in another training initiative last year. "We've used LMS as a competitive advantage with third-party business partners," says Tedrick of the tailored training on Verizon Wireless products that the company is able to deliver to the employees of other companies, such as national retailers, who sell the items. "They're outside the Verizon Wireless employee population, but from our customer's perspective, they're just another group that sells our products and services," Tedrick observes. To make sure their understanding of the products is as thorough as that of its in-house employees, the vendor provided customized online learning portals for each third-party partner.
"The business need we had was to provide these groups with product, compliance, and system training so they could effectively support our customers," she says, "but we had to do it in such a way that we could get their new hires trained quickly, and address their rapid turnover."
To meet this challenge, Verizon Wireless worked with an undisclosed LMS vendor, taking a hosted platform approach, to provide the custom portals. "If I'm a Best Buy employee, when I go in, it's branded for Best Buy," says Tedrick, "but the content behind it is all the same."
The portals have made life easier for the sales account managers that oversee these third party salespeople. Besides having the ability to receive reports from the portals on each worker's learning level, account managers "can now look at where they're not hitting their targets, and I can be much more laser-like when I go into their stores to deliver training," she says. "I don't need to deliver the fundamentals to them because the fundamentals are delivered to them online."