In-Process Learning

Before I go into detail on this subject let me give a little background.  How do you train your staff on new products and services when you launch them?  The answer is probably something along the lines of;

1.    Bring all the staff to head office and tell them what to do.
2.    Use train-the-trainer tactics to get the message across the company
3.    Use e-learning or video/audio technologies and hope the staff use it.

With most of these strategies there is a big down side, and this is not just the cost, or the fact that your staff are off duty for long periods.  It is that you do not know how effective this training has been until it is too late – customer complaints, incorrectly sold products etc.

The concept of “In Process Learning” is that the staff will be given the instructions and guidance on what they should do when and where it is needed.

The easiest way to explain this is with an example. Imagine you are the director of a bank and want to launch a new type of loan which is targeted for people who want to buy a car.  As we have already discussed the loan application would now be completed by either the applicant, a broker or staff member by using an Intelligent Electronic Form.  The form would be built with fields to capture all the relevant information that you need to authorise the loan, but this time we would also add the following features to help the user complete the form correctly.

Roll-over help. If the user does not know the meaning of any form information, by placing the cursor over the field additional help text is displayed. In our example it is probable that the user will have to enter “Net Income”. When the cursor is placed over the prompt a message will be displayed “The income after all deductions including tax and insurance”.

Mandatory Information. A lot of wasted time can be saved by letting the user know what is the minimum information needed on the form, this can be dome with coloured markers.

Data Validation. A lot of the information entered into the form must be of a certain type, for example Salary must be numbers.  By only allowing the user to enter numbers into this field can guide them to know what information is required.

Making Recommendations. Now this is the clever bit.  Because the Intelligent Electronic Form can perform calculations then in our loan example we can work out the risks involved with this application.  So this banks rules could be that this new car loan is only suitable if the buyer has put down at least a 25% deposit.  If the deposit is less then the bank wants a sell a secured loan.  The form should have mandatory fields that contain the total cost of the car and the amount they want to borrow.  When these two numbers have been entered the form would display information like; “Recommended product – SECURED LOAN.  Not Recommended – CAR LOAN. Reason – Deposit too low, must be at least 25%.  This then gives the buyer the opportunity to increase the amount of the deposit to meet the requirements of the better loan option.

Approval Process. By building approval rules into the form it is actually possible to reduce the training needs of the user.  If, for example small loans can be approved by the local manager, whereas large loans need head office approval the form can examine the amount that has been entered and automatically send the form to the appropriate person.

In summary the forms can be used to teach and direct staff on what they should do and how they should do it. In some cases it can reduce the need for formal training by removing repetitive tasks.

Now here are a couple of related points I would like you to think about.  When you have started to use Intelligent Electronic Forms for a couple of application areas and your users are familiar and comfortable with them, then you want to add a new application, expense claims for example.  How much training would your users need to start using these new forms?  Do you think it is possible that the training could be As simple as; “we have now started using electronic forms for expense claims, the name of the form is ‘EXPENSES’”?

Then take this concept to the next level.  You want to implement a new complex computer system, ERP or similar.  By fronting the application with these Intelligent Electronic Forms they have already been using then the training for this new system would be considerably reduced because all they need to know is what forms they have to fill out and when.

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