This is part two of a five-part series. Check out part one here:
In the latest installment of our employee engagement series, we speak with Garrick Greenhalgh, senior training manager at CLEARLINK in Salt Lake City, Utah. One of CLEARLINK’s mottos, “break things,” reflects the company mindset: Just because something worked before doesn’t mean it will work today.
If anything needed to be broken, it was CLEARLINK’s classroom-based approach to training employees on its business partners’ new products—so the company adopted Bridge LMS from Instructure to improve employee training. This new LMS software has not only made training digital, organized and comprehensive, but has also resulted in happier salespeople.
“Now [with Bridge LMS], [employees] don’t have to leave their desk, and they can interact more with the training. They can interact with it visually; they can hear it; they can see it; they can think about it. Then they can self-assess. And that’s much, much deeper than we’ve ever been able to get.”
Garrick Greenhalgh, Senior Training Manager, CLEARLINK
Q: What type of company is CLEARLINK?
We’re a customer acquisition organization. The goal is to create long-term customers for our business partners, [which include the likes of AT&T, DTV and Dish,] so we do online marketing and advertising, and then we have a sales center to do point-of-sale. We have approximately 1,300 employees.
Q: What are your primary responsibilities as senior training manager?
I oversee all content development, including all technology related to training delivery and facilitation. I work directly with the vice presidents of sales in tracking, measuring and improving trainee-to-new-employee performance.
Q: What did the process for training employees look like before you got Bridge?
Before we got Bridge, everything was instructor-led. So say AT&T wants to put out a new product. They would send us all of the physical paperwork on it: sales guides, PowerPoints and things of that nature. Then one of their trainers would travel and spend a few days going over the material in a classroom. We’d have 20 to 30 salespeople at a time per one instructor, and then they would go back to the phone and do something with [the training].
It was very disruptive; very chaotic. There was no real testing of the information, no way to track retention or comprehension—none of that.
Q: What was the employee sentiment about training pre-Bridge?
They hated it. They liked getting off the phone for the breaks, but they hated the feel and the engagement of the classroom. They considered it a waste of time, especially because it was costing them [commission].
Q: What were some issues that arose because of your old training process?
Any time we take someone off the phone, it’s going to have an impact on our answer rates and conversion rates. There’s also a cost associated with taking a person off the phone: their hourly wage that’s now a cost, and the opportunity cost of the sale that they could have made. Then you also have the cost of the training staff that are involved. If I have 20 people off the phone for an hour-long training, it can be costing me thousands and thousands of dollars in wages and production.
Quality also suffered any time there was [training], because [employees] weren’t required to fully interact with lessons one-on-one. They were able to hide in a classroom, and a piece of paper isn’t very interactive nor does it drive retention.
Q: Was there a “straw that broke the camel’s back” that led to the decision to look at LMS software? Or was this something that gradually happened over time?
It’s scale and growth. Since 2012, we’ve doubled in size. When you’re smaller, and it’s easier to communicate, to track [communication] and [to] control the outcome, you may not need a LMS as much. But as we’ve scaled, the LMS allows that control, and that ability to ensure that employees are being engaged the right way.
Q: When did CLEARLINK start to look for software?
When I came into the picture two years ago, it was being discussed. I think it was April of last year that we really started narrowing down the list.
Q: Were there any specific features you were looking for when you started considering software? Were there any “must-haves”?
One of the things we all agreed upon is that we did not want to invest in a LMS that was confusing, complex or cumbersome. For us, we wanted the ability to write our own content within the system and also … to upload any SCORM package. The analytics is also something that is important to us. Cost was another important factor, as well.
Lastly, having a system that was mobile-friendly was another big ask. We’re very concerned about content and making sure that things are accessible on mobile where [employees] go.
Q: What made you decide on Bridge LMS?
I had finished my master’s some years ago at Utah State, and during that time, Utah State had begun using Canvas, [Instructure’s education-focused LMS]. So [Instructure] definitely had proven [its ability] in the higher-ed landscape.
I don’t think we necessary looked for [this], but it was nice that Instructure was a fellow local company, as well. We signed on with them as a beta, which allowed us to help shape the user experience and the look and the feel. That was very attractive to us.
Q: So after deciding on Bridge, how long did it take to get implemented?
It was less than six months. We soft-launched [Bridge] with our new-hire onboarding process, and we began authoring some of our own courses using the internal authoring tool. We rewrote a lot of the [(human resources)] HR and company policy trainings [in Bridge,] and introduced [new hires] to the specific product they were being trained into.
They took right to [the system], and immediately interacted with it and consumed it. We got very good feedback. Then we had an opportunity, with a system upgrade, to hard-launch [Bridge] and showcase its capabilities, so we did that.
Q: What does training look like now through Bridge LMS?
Because we have Bridge now, companies [we partner with such as] Dish, DTV and AT&T are able to share e-learning courses that they’ve developed with us. We can now immediately consume the same training that [these companies] have created for their people. We load the courses into Bridge, and break the users up into specific groups so we can track user participation, completion and things of that nature. We then give them a window [of time] in which to complete the trainings.
And now they have the opportunity to take training right at their desks, which had never happened before. They can actually have the training running in the background or in-between calls, so they can be productive.
Now there is quizzing built into the actual training, so users have to get certain [assessment] ratios in order to pass; otherwise, they have to go back and retake the training. We also provide a voluntary or mandatory follow-up situation, based off where they settle with their assessments, to help feed them that knowledge.
Then there’s also a survey and feedback tool, similar to a SurveyMonkey tool, that we leverage. We get great feedback that they like a certain course, but we’ll also get feedback that one course is a little bit long, or maybe one has a technical glitch. It allows us to do some good data-mining.
Q: Would you say employees enjoy training more now than before?
Yes, they absolutely do. Some of them still don’t like training, because you can’t win them all, but we’ve given them flexibility on when and where they take training. We’ve given them a virtual way to interact with training one-on-one instead of just using a piece of paper.
[Employees] like the repetition. Before, the only time they had to interact with a product update was one time, in a classroom setting, with heaven knows how many people. Now they can do all of that virtually, and they can go back and interact with it as often as they need to.
With our employees, there’s so much information being thrown at them every day that it would be illogical to expect them to remember it all. Accessibility, the user-friendliness and the ability to go back and repeat information [are] a big deal.
The feedback we’ve gotten from this format is very good. [Employees] appreciate not being taken away [from the phones] for long periods of time. The knowledge is going deeper, and it’s easier for them to recall the concepts, figures and prices.
Q: What are some benefits you’ve seen as a result?
In some cases, we’ve seen as much as an 80 percent in reduction in training costs. That’s taking a class that was going to take eight hours for everyone to finish, and now it’s only an hour, because they can do [it] at their desk in their spare time, between calls.
I use the completion rate reporting that I can get from Bridge and I compare it to our data warehouse production reporting, and between those two reports, I can identify the impact our training has had on production rates, within a window. I can track lists of every employee who viewed their training, and if they’re applying it.
In some cases, I’ve seen a whole team of 160 people go up in conversion several percentage points—and at the same time, I’ve seen that same team have a reduction in gifts offered, meaning my agents are selling better and begging less. It’s costing us less to make that sale. And that’s one area I directly relate to trainings we put through Bridge.
Our units per sale on one of our big teams went from a low 1.3 to 1.8. We jumped nearly 40 percent in units per sale, and Bridge has definitely influenced that by how an agent can access, and refresh with, data on the products.
We did a DTV product launch earlier this year, and last week, we got feedback from DTV that our product launch was the best launch they’ve ever had with a partner. They cited specifically that it was due to our training.
Q: So what’s next with using Bridge?
We fully intend to increase the amount of game-based trainings that we offer, so we’re working with a company next week to finalize details on a partnership around that. In fact, next month we’re launching our first gamified training. It will be an integral part of the engagement that our employees have with knowledge and production.
We’re actually considering hiring some professional e-learning developers [who] can produce professional-grade content that we’ll start housing. We’ve barely begun, but we’re all in.