Musings on Education and Training

I have been thinking about education lately.  I live in the suburbs of Chicago, and the teachers in Chicago have gone out on strike.  Chicago school kids already go to school for fewer days than just about any school district in the country.  Yet, the teachers are striking because they are being asked to work more hours, and importantly, they are balking at requirements that are commonly called “pay for performance.”  The City of Chicago wants to enact rules which reward the best teachers, and prevent poor teachers from easily achieving tenure  I am a pretty simple guy, with simple ideas.  But, pay for performance is something that I can understand and support.  For all of us in the electrical business, or any industry for that matter, we have spent all of our professional lives in a pay for performance culture.

Now that I am in sales, a big chunk of my compensation is based on my performance.  Or stated another way, I get paid on how well my customers perform when it comes to buying, specifying and selling Woodhead® products.  Probably over 90% of Woodhead sales are through our distribution partners.  So it is of critical importance to me and my income that the distributors that are assigned to me are high performing.  I have a lot riding on the distributors’ performance, so I have thought a lot about how best to make that happen.

Here at Molex, a $3.6 Billion multinational behemoth, we have resources.  We have professionals who are experts in many fields  We have departments that specialize in marketing, product commercialization, and training, to name a few.  All of these groups can contribute to my success and ultimately to how successful my distributors are.  They all have a hand in how we educate our distributors.  We have many tactics at our disposal.  To educate my distributors about our products or programs, I can use webinars, e-mail blasts, cut sheets, videos, lunch & learns, etc.  I can bring in experts to meet and train the experts at my distributors.  We pay ElectricSmarts to help get the message out.

But is all of this working?  I have sat through many webinars, but I really didn’t learn much.  Was this education attempt successful?  I find that I do not mind receiving e-mail blasts.  But most distributors have 200+ suppliers on their line cards.  If they receive e-mail blasts from 200 suppliers on a regular basis, does anyone remember what Woodhead had to say?  Was this education attempt successful?

I have sat in on some lunch & learns lately.  I like the personal nature and typically smaller audiences of lunch & learns.  But lunch & learns have become so common, distributors do so many of them, I question how effective they really are.  Was this education attempt successful?

We have an absolutely wonderful online training module on our Industrial Communication products.  This module deals with the higher tech elements of our product offering, and it does it well.  Anyone who invests only about an hour taking this module will emerge significantly smarter about our products.  But sending a link to this training and espousing its virtues is not enough.  It’s a great training, but if it’s not taken, our education attempt is not successful.

So what does work best?  What is the best / most effective method of providing education?  Probably many answers to this question…..  I think we keep trying the old techniques.  We will keep lunch & learning, we will keep e-mail blasting, we will keep webinaring.  Because if we happen to spark the mind of that one distributor salesperson who thinks, “Hey I have a customer that just asked me about that,” or “I didn’t know that Woodhead made that,” then we will have succeeded.  If we can find one opportunity that we didn’t have before, then our education attempt was successful.  If we make an ally out of one distributor salesperson, we win.  Actually we both win.

But, we need to find new ways to educate.  So when I travel, I need to learn about what works and what doesn’t.  I need to learn what are best practices.  I need to learn what our competitors are doing.  In other words, I need to be educated.