Sales at a large telecommunications company were down for

Sales at a large telecommunications company were down for the third quarter. Management reviewed several strategies to improve sales and concluded that one solution would be to improve training for the large, dispersed sales force.

For the sake of expediency, the training department began using a needs analysis that it had conducted several years before as a basis to develop enhanced training. Their plan was first to update the original needs analysis, and then to develop new training strategies based on what they found. They also began investigating new training technologies as a possible way to reduce training delivery costs. However, management was so intent on doing something quickly that the training department was ultimately pressured into purchasing a generic, off-the-shelf training package from a local vendor.

One of the features of the package that appealed to management was that the course could be delivered online, saving the time and expense of having the sales force travel to the main office to receive the training. Hence, even though the package was costly to purchase, the company believed that it was a bargain compared to the expense of developing a new package in-house and delivering it in person to the sales force.

Six months after the training had been delivered, sales were still declining. Management turned to the training department for answers. Because no measures of training performance had been collected, the training department had little information upon which to base its diagnosis of what had gone wrong. For lack of a better idea, members of the training department began questioning the sales force to see if they could determine why the training was not working.

Among other things, the salespeople reported that the training was slow and boring, and that it did not teach them any new sales techniques. They also complained that without an instructor, it was impossible to get clarification on things they did not understand. Moreover, they reported that they believed that sales were off not because they needed training in basic sales techniques but because so many new products were being introduced that they could not keep up. In fact, several of the salespeople requested meetings with the design engineers just so they could get updated product information.

The training department took these findings back to management and requested that they be allowed to design a new training package, beginning with an updated needs analysis to determine the real training deficiencies.

Questions

  1. What were the objectives of the training program? Write a training objective for the program described in the case that contains the key elements and components of a training objective. How would your training objective have helped in the choice/design of a training program? How would it have helped trainees & management?

  2. Comment on the company’s decision to purchase a generic, off-the-shelf training package by a local vendor. What were the advantages and disadvantages? Do you think it was a good idea for the company to purchase the training rather than to have it designed in house? Explain your answers.

  3. What effect did the use of the original needs analysis have on the content of the training program and the decision to have it delivered online? Do you think a new needs analysis should have been conducted? If so, what effect might it have had on the design of the training program?

  4. If you were to design the training program, describe what you would do differently in terms of (a) training objectives (b) training content (c) training methods and (d) active learning. How would your training program be different from the one described in the case? Would your program be more effective?

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