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Problem statement:

How can we engage a group of sophisticated yet cynical high-level financial professionals in a series of webinars designed to enhance their professional skills?

Learners:

This group of individuals is consultants and global account managers, who help clients solve their business and productivity challenges.

This is a smart, accomplished learner base. Our learners have superb communication skills. They have a high level of marketing and sales verbiage and industry knowledge, so that they can comfortably meet with a chief financial officer, and have the ability to speak with sophisticated clientele. They also have top-notch negotiation skills. Their success within the industry shows that these professionals possess regimented time management and organization skills.

In the words of Merrill, “Real motivation comes from learning. Real motivation comes when students are able to do something they were not able to do before…The best motivation of all is for students to be able to learn some real-world task…If we can identify what that is and we can present that in the very first part of our instruction and say ‘at the end of this course’, ‘at the end of this module’, ‘you’ll be able to do this task’.”

Background: 

Based on background research, we have identified a need to create an online webinar course which will build on our professionals’ business acumen.

This will take the form of eight 60-minute webinars with different sales groups in the organization: service, sales, product, and learning. The goal is to break down silos and foster cross-functional collaboration.

Challenges:

Engaging these learners in this new online webinar course will be difficult.

Learners are very cynical towards the learning process. This manifests in three specific areas of challenge:

Challenge 1: Learners are skeptical that the webinars will offer value for time invested. They see training as eating into their busy professional schedules.

Challenge 2: Learners have had previous negative experiences with training created by course designers with no experience “in the trenches”. This created content which had little or no relevance.

Challenge 3: Learners work in a competitive environment; they are afraid to make mistakes in front of colleagues.

Solution

To encourage this audience to embrace intellectual risk taking and become more actively engaged in our online learning environment, we need to show them that we recognize their intelligence and accomplishment. We also recognize their time challenges, and acknowledge their past negative learning experiences, by showing them that these webinars are indeed relevant. We need to connect with them as peers.

To do that we propose creating a series of introductory podcasts that learners would listen to prior to each webinar.  These short roughly 10-minute podcasts would recognize the time constraints of our learners. Each would feature conversations with fellow senior colleagues, each who intimately understands the intricacies and demands faced by learners in their professional life. The podcasts would share personal in-the-field experiences on each of the eight topics, setting up the material in the upcoming webinar.

Our background research has yielded eight podcast/webinar topics:

  1. Negotiation – BATNA (Best alternative to negotiated argument)
  2. Time Management
  3. Conflict Resolution
  4. Global team collaboration and Cultural Nuances
  5. Financial Acumen
  6. C-Level conversation
  7. Kpi & Metric based conversations w/Executives (stakeholders)
  8. Strategic Management

The podcasts would reinforce the relevance of the learning to their day-to-day success in their careers. To connect with the learners, the podcasts would cite real-world case scenarios, referencing current problems. For example, one podcast could share strategies on account and client management. The hosts and guest would utilize appropriate verbiage and buzz words while sharing personal in-the-field experience.

Learners can listen to these on their own time: in the car, on the plane, wherever.

The goal is to connect with the learners, show them that this isn’t top-down irrelevance, it’s peer-to-peer story and information sharing. The podcasts would serve to increase engagement of the webinars by stressing the relevancy of our learning offerings, and to create a learning environment that lets them polish their craft in a stimulating and engaging discussion-based learning.

References:

Merrill, M.D. ETR&D (2002) 50: 43. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02505024