The Starting Point
Answer: I don’t even know where to start.
Question: What is the most common revelation heard by ASA Education Foundation staff when talking to a company about employee training?
“For years, we’ve talked to companies of all shapes and sizes about their training needs,” states Amy Black, executive director of the ASA Education Foundation. “The Board of Trustees has worked to develop useful and practical training tools and resources, giving companies what we believe is the key to creating an effective training program. And they’re great for the companies that have a program in place; they take the courses and plug them right in to their plans. However, the vast majority of our members don’t have a training program in place. For them, we were missing one crucial step - the starting point.”
In 2009, the ASA Education Foundation (ASAEF) launched ASA University, a comprehensive training resource that encompassed all the programs ASAEF had to offer. Within ASA University, the extensive library of training courses were converted into an online format and tied to a learning management system (LMS) to provide tracking of student progress.
At NetworkASA 2011, Mark Hanley, president of the ASA Education Foundation Board of Trustees, presented a revolutionized concept of ASA University, which is that in addition to the comprehensive training courses, users will be able to follow a specific curriculum of training, based on job functions and responsibilities.
“It was the classic ‘AHA!’ moment for a lot of people in the industry,” shares Black. “The roadmap now exists to start a training program, every company now has a starting point.”
The new ASA University is an all-inclusive resource to help companies become more efficient, more productive and more profitable by enabling employees to be better at their jobs and succeed within the company.
All roads lead to ASA UniversityOnce a distributor gets past the starting point and starts creating a training plan, frustration can arrive in the form of a disconnect between knowing what is needed and being able to find what is needed. “ASAU is a portal to access one-stop-shopping for performance management, coaching and learning,” Hanley told the NetworkASA 2011 audience.
ASAU Online is a complete library of engaging courses - currently 64 total courses available, and growing - housed within a system that allows the user to track performance. ASAEF reports that 2,039 courses have been purchased in the last 18 months.
“The tracking feature provides the measurement needed for ownership and management to see what kind of progress is being made by employees enrolled in the training program,” Black says. “The online component of these courses takes the burden off of staff to manually track and evaluate activity and completion, it’s all done for them. That gives back a lot of time to the business, yet still provides hard data that can be used during performance evaluations and when trying to make decisions about an employee’s future opportunities.”
The Competency Models/Performance Management tools, complete with rubrics, offer both participants in the training process - management and employees - measurement tools that assist with job performance.
Each party begins with a comprehensive job description with key behaviors and competencies built in. “Everyone involved understands what’s expected because it’s all clearly defined,” continues Black.
Managers use the tools to help identify behaviors that are appropriate for each position and can refer back to the data as an on-the-job evaluation tool. Employees can use the same system as a career advancement tool, looking at what is needed to perform better in a certain position or as a guide on what skills are needed to move up within the company.
“The big news today is the curricula that is now a standard part of ASA University,” Black shares. “That’s the starting point, that’s where industry volunteers and ASAEF staff worked together to identify training, learning and coaching opportunities and then directly connected it to the performance management tool.”
Any ASA University curriculum goes beyond the basic book and online courses to list pertinent seminars and workshops, recommended reading, on-the-job actions and mentoring. Individuals can drive their own development and use it as a road map to see how to achieve their career goals.
Colleges of KnowledgeA cornerstone of Hanley’s presentation was the introduction of two ASA University Colleges: The College of Sales and Sales Management and the College of Leadership and Executive Management.
Both colleges offer complete job descriptions for sales and management positions, a comprehensive curriculum to address the job skills each position requires and performance measurements to track each individual’s progress in the specific skill area.
“Each college is a turn-key, one-stop shop for coaching and developing many of the most important people in our organizations,” Hanley told his audience. “Outside salesmen can learn how to better utilize their time and penetrate accounts, showroom consultants can learn how to better qualify customers and increase closing rates, inside salespersons can learn how to maximize margins and increase sales, and branch managers can learn how to better develop and lead their teams.”
Next year, ASAEF expects to launch a College of Purchasing and Inventory Management, a College of Warehouse Management and a College of Business.
Make it your ownThanks to ASAEF’s deep involvement in the overall industry, it has been clearly understood that not all things apply to all businesses. “What’s important to understand about these starting points is, they’re just that - a place to start,” Black emphasizes. “Every business out there has attributes that make them unique, whether it’s the company culture, budgets, time available for training and the product they sell. That’s where the ASAEF staff plays an important role in this program.”
The knowledgeable staff of the Education Foundation acts as an advisor in tailoring an existing curriculum to a company’s individual needs, refining the starting point even further and developing a training program that brings even greater value to an organization.
“We’ve been working with companies for the better part of 18 months and are able to see the real-world workability of what has been developed,” Black says. “This has allowed us to identify changes that were needed, enhance areas that required more attention and collect best practices to share with each successive company we worked with. We are able to apply what we’ve learned and create more value for our members.”
In 2012, ASAEF staff will travel to help interested ASA members assess their training needs and develop individual training solutions tailored to each company’s budget.
“Training is now more than a one time event and much more relevant than ever before,” Hanley concluded. “There has been nothing in our industry like ASA University. Until now.”
For more information on ASA University, please contact Amy Black at 312.464.0090, ext. 202, email@example.com or visit www.asa.net.