Misha McPherson is director of worldwide sales enablement with a San Francisco-based provider of cloud-based digital marketing software. She is responsible for creating and managing the onboarding and ongoing sales training for 250 field sales personnel worldwide. Prior to this, McPherson was director of global learning and development at Yammer, and also held senior sales training management positions at Monster and Yahoo!. You can follow Misha on Twitter at: @MishaMcP
Mindflash: How does your company fit into the space of marketing technology?
MM: We help orchestrate marketers across multiple channels and help companies maintain individual relationships with their customers. For instance, customers such as Nordstrom and Williams-Sonoma use our product to have a consistent relationship with their customers in stores and online. While email is our main focus, we work across display advertising, mobile and web communications. We strive to enable marketers to deliver personalized, highly relevant messages to customers based upon their needs or desires.
Mindflash: How have your training needs evolved?
MM: We have a widely-dispersed salesforce across the U.S., APAC and EMEA. In the past, we were dependent upon managers training their people in a casual, ad hoc manner, which wasn’t super effective. We needed a scalable solution to deliver ongoing training for salespeople wherever they are working. I joined the company a year and a half ago to develop our training program. I had used Mindflash’s eLearning platform when I was at Yammer, and I was excited that we were able to bring the solution on board here as well. Online learning has proven to be an easy, cost effective way to deliver training to new hires and to provide new trainings to our existing salesforce.
Mindflash: How has online training changed the corporate training industry?
MM: eLearning used to be a very siloed activity. You needed experience in the tools, you needed a learning philosophy and specialized skills and it was also expensive to license the software. Now, though, newer web-based technologies have democratized online training. Pretty much anyone can create a training program and post it online. This is really powerful although we still need to pay attention to how we deliver the training, that we aren’t just using PowerPoint slides. This is the same advice I have for classroom trainings. We aren’t there yet but I can see a day when individuals across a company will be developing and pushing out trainings. More and more, learning is not owned by a single person or group. If a sales rep comes up with a best practice, she should have the ability to create a course about it and share it with colleagues.
Mindflash: Do you have a particular training philosophy?
MM: At Yammer, our product training was based on MVP, or minimal viable product. I think about this tactic a lot because I think it’s important to be nimble and frequently test the responses of students to the trainings. I aim for a course to be 70-80% done when we release it. All courses are open to being reviewed and changed and we often make tweaks to the courses later on. I began my career in sales and I used to complain to my manager about taking a course. I didn’t want to take time away from selling. As a trainer, my goal is to avoid that situation. And the only way to ensure that employees aren’t balking about doing training is to pay attention to their reactions. This is more important than their actual score. If it helps them, they will use the information and even replay it.
Mindflash: So what’s the best way to get that student feedback?
MM: I receive email notifications in Mindflash so I know exactly when someone starts a class and when they finish. I actually love it when somebody cheats and runs through the course too quickly. I can see this in my reports and notifications, which tells me if the student is spending enough time in the course. If they’re not, I may guess that it wasn’t effective for them and I can revisit the content. I can also see if somebody replay parts of the course, which tells me that the material is a useful reference. While I do use surveys, they’re not always objective or detailed enough. It’s a starting point, but I often find I need to have one-on-one conversations with people to get all the details.
Mindflash: Do you get much pushback on training by your salespeople?
MM: No, I really don’t, which is fortunate. We also use other methods to help people learn and improve on the job. The online training program serves as a backbone for other interactions, such as peer-to-peer exercises with their mentors, which we call advisors.
Mindflash: What’s the next stage for online training innovation?
MM: The primary need is to make online training more live and connected. The danger is that people can feel isolated sitting in front of their screen to learn. I focus on how we can get out of that box of eLearning and connect people to a larger community. We do this by integrating a social element, Salesforce Chatter, into the trainings. This means that you can make comments about courses you are taking or see what other people have written about them.
Creating an online discussion around the courses is helpful because it develops an element of seriousness that is implicit in a live training. When you’re in a classroom with your peers, you might be called on to answer questions and then you need think about what you’re saying, and if you’re being judged by others. By integrating social tools with online training, it creates a higher sense of importance and also reinforces comprehension. It’s about showing that you understand what you have learned with others. I might direct people within a section of the course to search for a hashtag on Chatter and respond to a question there. Right now, this is an extra step for people. Ideally, we should be able to access that tool without leaving the course, so I’m hoping that eLearning companies will do more of this integration down the line.
The final feature that I would love to see is the integration of video and PowerPoint. So while the instructor is talking, you’ll be able to see him making notes on the side of your screen. The concept of seeing and hearing a lesson at the same time is very much like what we experienced in a lecture hall at college.