How to design and implement an app-based learning intervention
Raghav, Head of HR at FSG Pvt Ltd has been faced with an important business problem to solve for the upcoming year viz, to make learning a commonplace amongst sales workers who not only form the largest share of the employee base but also are directly responsible for driving company’s growth. Just like any other HR professional, the challenge that Raghav was trying to battle was to prioritize between time investment required for learning causing corresponding loss to immediate selling targets and long-term benefits from learning. Raghav is aware that the moment he puts up a proposal to conduct classroom training for even one day, he will be challenged by business leaders across the board to justify the loss of sales for the period of absence of these employees from the field and the corresponding effectiveness.
In addition to this, there will also be a big blow to the training budget, given the extensive travel and lodging that would be required, given large numbers of employees to be covered. Amidst all this, there would be a favorite question which someone from the board would pose for sure: “Is the ROI justified?” It’s at this point that the decision starts facing a big risk of taking a backseat. With all these thoughts in mind, Raghav has been mulling over finding a smart and innovative way that converts the “Learning for sales” to “Learning and sales” by leveraging the power of technology.
FSG is a leading conglomerate with a footprint of Rs 20000+ Crores annual turnover with 5000+ white collared employees and 12000+ salesforce distributed across all states, covering various cultures and ethnicities. Each day these 12000+ salesforces hit the market making a sale of worth Rs 50+ Crores. FSG has been strategizing to transform themselves between 2018 and2020 by leveraging technology and break their own records in term of business growth.
The leadership is keen to evaluate their key business processes and apply digital to simplify, enhance efficiency and effectiveness across the board. The leadership team has also called out learning as a key enabler for unlocking the growth ambition. The board is keen to build a learning organization with a special focus on salesforce as this set of employees would have a direct impact on the business growth
Applying “Digital” to learning
Traditionally, a large part of learning has been seen as conducting day-long classroom training sessions and workshops, followed by on the job training. In a few evolved setups with more resources, this would be augmented with providing mentors/coaches to the learners. To apply a similar methodology for a large employee base may prove costly yet ineffective. Being well aware of this Raghav started exploring an option of developing an App-Based learning for the salesforce.
Design is the key
Deploying app-based learning meant a mindset shift from supervised to largely unsupervised learning which calls for an intricate and careful design of learning modules to keep them interesting, easy to comprehend while enabling natural progression to subsequent levels of difficulty.
It’s equally important to ensure easy availability and accessibility as the more intuitive it is, the more pull it will create for the users. Realizing this, Raghav deployed a core team consisting of design experts and functional managers to layout content, user interface, and delivery tools. This team would decide– a) Day wise content arrangement b) Module timing, c) Mix of visuals, quizzes, and audios d) Content language e) Linkage to on the job application exercises f) Utility post one-time course completion.
After the research, the team came up with following recommendations-
- Content should be divided across 8 days
- Modules should be created in 6 languages- English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada
- Each module will be followed by real-time market activity
- Subsequent modules can be unlocked only post completion of current module and associated market activity
- Every module will be followed by a quiz clearing, which the user can progress to the next section
- Module length to range between 7 minutes-10 minutes each. At a stretch, no more than 10 minutes should be spent to read on a single topic
- The learning modules should be compatible on android version 2-7 and should be accessible on the internet
- User should be able to access the module when he/she is not connected to the internet as well
- Content to focus on functional priorities of sales execution, product knowledge and reinforcement of behavioral standard expectations
- App size should not exceed 50 MB
It’s important to ensure easy availability and accessibility as the more intuitive it is, the more pull it will create from the users.
Once the design principles were codified, the core team started working on the actual creation of modules. The modules were created around a personified cartoon character to make the experience interesting and fun. The pop quizzes, engaging games were created at each checkpoint of completion of a topic to reinforce understanding.
Once the content was ready the platform had to be chosen. Raghav had 2 options in mind-
- Develop an app from scratch with the content hosted
- Use existing plug and play platforms to host content
Each approach has its pros and cons as below:
Raghav decided to use the plug and play platform to host the content as that would provide an agile solution to pilot and at this stage flexibility to make changes and faster turnaround were key priorities.
The team created English language content and created an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) for piloting in different parts of the country with diverse pilot groups. These control groups were closely observed for many parameters. To name a few - usage patterns, navigating behaviors, comprehension patterns at various difficulty levels, quiz performances etc. Raghav and team obtained great insights from this exercise. They deployed this to pivot the product by sharpening the content and app design. Once the team obtained satisfactory results, they scaled this up to all other groups across regions by releasing the product in 6 languages.
The line managers were encouraged to use the app and the objective this time was not to “train them”- Rather, it was to make it so intuitive that it becomes “DIY (Do It Yourself). This became a roaring success across the regions, as people were thrilled and curious to use this app and go through interesting stories and modules. It’s for the first time that people saw a “pull” being created for otherwise monotonous training.
This methodology of learning enabled Raghav and team to have a clear view on a daily basis on employee wise completion status of training. This provided a great mine of insights for the team. There could be more data based additional capability/behavioral interventions established in patches, which showed slower completion/low results. Even LMs could get an access to valuable insights about each person in their team. Moreover, there was no need for people to stop working in the market during peak trade hours, as they could access these modules once they were back in their offices. They could complement their learnings with OJT exercises in the market on a subsequent day.
This helped solve the conundrum of “Learning or Sales?” effectively. Within a span of 4 months 100% salesforce was covered and within a year positive impact was seen on execution parameters which were identified as gaps during the design phase. This made a compelling case of ROI for the learning and specific data-driven interventions enabled by technology.
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