Every L&D leader knows how important it is to deliver exciting in-house learning experiences tailored to team needs and priorities. One thing we don’t always talk enough about? How to do the same for our clients and customers.
As an audience, customers have a different set of learning needs than internal teams do. They need to be brought up to speed with your product gradually, with a focus on the fundamentals. The challenge for L&D leaders is to design learning experiences to match these needs.
Recently, I sat down with Heidi Kirby, Manager of Learning Solutions at Datatrak International, and the host of the BLOC podcast (Building Learning and Organizational Culture). We discussed Datatrak’s four-step playbook for delivering great customer learning experiences, and Heidi’s areas of focus as an incoming L&D leader.
We started by chatting about the world of clinical trial software.
“Datatrak is a clinical trial software company,” says Heidi. “We have offices in Cleveland and in Texas, but our workforce and our clients are spread all over the world. We provide eClinical applications for the management of clinical trials from inception to closing.”
“Our company itself is pretty small: we’re about 50 people. But we have thousands of clients we train on our software products every year, and they’re located all over the world. As the person overseeing the learning solutions team, it’s up to me to deliver this training.”
Alongside the challenge of working with a small team, Heidi is facing another challenge: establishing herself as an incoming L&D leader. “I’ve now been at Datatrak for a little over two months. The person in my role before me was at the director level, and oversaw a couple of different departments alongside another learning solutions specialist. Between the two of them, they were running training almost constantly to keep up with the needs of our clients.”
According to Heidi, Datatrak offers a range of learning activities and resources to match these client needs. “We offer a knowledge base, online training courses, and virtual or classroom training. This mix of resources is key, especially if a client wants to talk about their particular setup, or their particular clinical study and how it functions within our software.”
So, how does Datatrak deliver this learning in practice? It’s all about using a four-step playbook.
We offer a knowledge base, online training courses, and virtual or classroom training. This mix of resources is key, especially if a client wants to talk about their particular setup, or their particular clinical study and how it functions within our software.
As Heidi explains, Datatrak uses a four-step playbook to deliver the right customer learning experiences. “I look at it as a four-step approach. I’m trying to find the right way to leverage our existing expertise, as well as migrating training to digital platforms. Then, we also need to measure our impacts, and focus on giving our training a distinctive branding and structure.”
“As the learning solutions team, one of our key end products is our knowledge base,” says Heidi. “Before I started, we had a team member specifically brought on to write articles for our knowledge base, and to document and share his subject-matter expertise.”
“If you’ve ever tried to create a new seat at your organization, you know how difficult it can be to find the right resources. That’s why his insights have been so helpful. This team member is an expert when it comes to knowledge bases, and we’re planning on leveraging his expertise to migrate our knowledge base from its current platform to a new platform.”
This expertise isn’t just useful for Datatrak’s customers: it also helps Heidi get her feet under the desk. “Our subject-matter experts (SMEs) are a hugely important part of what we’re doing. Some of these experts have been with us for years, and they have a great knowledge of what we do. Because I’m still new, I’m relying on them to help produce our online training.”
If you’ve ever tried to create a new seat at your organization, you know how difficult it can be to find the right resources.
Alongside this focus on leveraging subject-matter expertise, Heidi is also focusing on migrating standardized training to digital platforms to save people time and effort.
“When our previous director left, the training she was responsible for was scattered throughout the organization,” says Heidi. “We had a couple of wonderful people step up to offer training in her place. They’ve done a fantastic job, but they also have other roles and responsibilities they need to take care of.”
“So, one of the things we’re trying to do is migrate our high-level standardized training onto a digital platform. This way, we can save everyone some time, and let these people get back to what they were hired to work on.”
Our subject-matter experts (SMEs) are a hugely important part of what we’re doing.
As the third step of her customer learning playbook, Heidi is focusing on measuring her training impacts. “Metrics are another big area of focus for me. It’s something we’re looking really hard at. Part of our larger customer satisfaction project I’m working on with our director of operations is about implementing learner surveys at the end of our training.”
“Implementing these surveys is a relatively easy step, but it’s an important one,” says Heidi. “We need to get that initial feedback from customers, because right now a lot of our evidence is anecdotal, either from our sales team or our trainers. We’re trying to build a much clearer understanding of our performance.”
For her final step, Heidi is focusing on standardizing the customer learning experience. “We want to create a greater focus on consistent branding and structure within our training. We’re creating some templates and processes to structure what we produce.”
“I’d like to bring a distinctive feel to our training, and a greater element of standardization,” says Heidi. “This will also help to create content faster, because people don’t have to start from scratch when they’re building a new course.”
And speaking of fast content creation…
We need to get that initial feedback from customers, because right now a lot of our evidence is anecdotal, either from our sales team or our trainers. We’re trying to build a much clearer understanding of our performance.
Executing this four-step playbook for great customer learning experiences is going to take energy, effort, and focus. As Heidi explains, it’s also going to take the right investments.
“One of the things we really want to do is update our internal LMS,” she says. “I have an unpopular opinion in the L&D field: I think some of our traditional authoring tools take a really long time to develop courses or training content. I don’t know why it has to take so long.”
“Now, there are much better programs and software out there we can utilize to create courses faster, especially with technical software training where you’re talking about including a lot of screencast videos. That’s one of the major impacts we’re driving for. We want to create courses faster, and to make them as simple as possible for our learners.”
For Heidi, this focus on simple content reflects the needs of Datatrak’s customers. “Our clients have to take the training to access our system. They want to get through it quickly, but they need to have a solid grasp of the fundamentals. So, we need to make our platform as user-friendly as possible, and make it easy for people to find the content they need.”
“Right now, our platform isn’t as user-friendly as it could be. You have to really know what you’re looking for. By migrating that over, we’re hoping our learning content will be used more often, because our customers will have a place where they can easily find what they need.”
We finished off our discussion with another of Heidi’s main focus areas: keeping Datatrak’s internal teams prepared for future product updates.
I have an unpopular opinion in the L&D field: I think some of our traditional authoring tools take a really long time to develop courses or training content. I don’t know why it has to take so long. We want to create courses faster, and to make them as simple as possible for our learners.
“We’re constantly updating our software, whether it’s incorporating a new feature, or a whole new arm to our product,” says Heidi. “This means we have to bring our teams up to speed with these updates, and match these updates to the demands of their specific roles. That’s our key responsibility besides our client-facing learning.”
“We have a couple of major updates to our product line scheduled this year, and it’s our responsibility to make sure that each person in the organization gets the right training. We need everyone to be comfortable with these updates, and to understand exactly what they mean for them.”
Thanks again to Heidi for taking the time to share her insights! Heidi also hosts the BLOC Podcast (Building Learning and Organizational Culture), so have a listen if you’re looking for more great discussion with her!
While you’re here, check out my expert interviews with Kristi Conlon of DPR Construction about how virtual training and onboarding can help every new L&D leader, and with LaRissa O’Neal of Allied Electronics about how she created a positive impact as an incoming L&D leader.
Want more peer insights on transforming workplace learning? Check out #CLOConnect, our interview series with top L&D leaders on driving growth and scaling culture through Collaborative Learning. Or you can subscribe (below 👇) to our weekly newsletter to receive our latest posts directly in your inbox.