Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA), by Steve Roden
Connecting Pharmaceutical Manufacturers to Pharmacists, by Nick Prine
More Support for the Pharmacist's Mission, by Steve Roden
5 Questions to Ask about an LMS..., by Brian Vann
The Value of Training in an Economic Downturn, by Rick Fuelling
A Conversation about Store Brands, by Steve Roden
Smart Enough to Ask the Experts
Steve Roden, CEO
I like experts and I like winners.
So when my honored friend Kenji Kato recently contacted me about collaborating on using QR codes to deliver education, I felt like LearnSomething had been touched by good fortune.
Kenji is president of Fujitsu Learning Media (FLM), one of the largest eLearning companies in Japan and part of a major global company that has earned enormous respect among competitors and partners – and with good reason.
Kenji’s world-class insight on how business works best by serving clients and, in equal share, the company puts him in a rare and invaluable class.
Our hope is to establish an ongoing collaboration where we can cross cultures, share ideas and find business opportunities for marketing our products in Asia Pacific, and create joint ventures for FLM and LearnSomething in the U.S.
Kenji’s generous proposal included allowing one of his rising stars, Yusuke Nakayama, to join LearnSomething for an extended stay.
Yusuke, who graduated from Northeastern State University, in Oklahoma, and is familiar with our culture and language, would be our guide to understanding the way QR codes have succeeded in Japan, where this technology was born and has taken strong roots.
QR codes are probably the most common universal symbol in Japan and much of the rest of Asia, appearing on everything from products and ads to the sides of buildings and even T-shirts.
And they are used for a wide range of applications, from product promotion to ordering groceries.
But our interest, and FLM’s, is in harnessing this technology to deliver education.
QR codes offer incredible possibilities, but the vast potential also means there are plenty of pitfalls to avoid. And that’s why studying its use from the experts and winners is so essential.
After just a few weeks, Yusuke has already helped us see what might have taken us many cycles of trial and error.
The fact that FLM and LearnSomething are founded and operate in different cultures only makes the collaboration more intriguing and potentially more fruitful.
It’s exactly this cross-pollination that Kenji and I see as a potentially perfect practice for our companies.
I try to remind myself every day of our tagline: LearnSomething is more than our name. And what better way for us to learn something than to reach half-way around the world to innovate with a company that has become an expert at winning.
Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA)
Steve Roden, CEO
Friends of LearnSomething…
This blog entry is an unusual departure for me and not something I write lightly. However, I am compelled to share with you our very deep concerns about legislation pending in both the US House and Senate that could have a negative impact on companies like yours and ours.
You may have heard of the legislation that’s causing us concern. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate are attracting a lot of attention and debate. These (possibly) well-meaning but dangerously misguided pieces of legislation are intended to curtail online piracy–a problem concentrated around music, films, and software but one that certainly affects all classes of copyrighted material that can be reproduced electronically. As a software developer and a company that produces a large amount of copyrighted content for our clients and ourselves, we are certainly concerned about piracy… Unfortunately, in this case the cure may be worse than the disease.
The legislation currently being considered–legislation that will pass without significant action from stakeholders like all of us–will impose unacceptable costs and risks on internet companies like ours and companies that use the internet like yours. This legislation will have a particularly direct and negative impact on e-learning where the trend is taking us toward more and more active participation on the part of learners who engage in social learning.
We all want and need full and active participation on the part of e-learners, and we want them to be able to post, discuss, share, and collaborate in countless ways. We want to continue to innovate and to find new ways to make it easier for all individuals to engage in dynamic and valuable learning communities.
If the legislation being considered becomes law, our freedom to do that will be considerably curtailed. We will all be forced to police content in ways that at the very least will drive up risks and costs, and at the very worst will make it impossible for us to continue the push toward social learning that we know is the future of e-learning. One mistake–on our part, or yours, by regulators, or even a competitor–could cause irreparable harm under the rules proposed by this legislation
We are not alone in our concerns. On January 18th, 2012, dozens of the most innovative and valuable companies on the internet went "on strike" to send a clear signal to Congress and the world that this legislation is a terrible idea. Google, Wikipedia, and dozens of others will suspend normal operations–either shutting down completely or posting information about this issue on their webpages.
At LearnSomething we are fortunate to have many customers to support and therefore we can’t afford to shut down; instead we’ve posted a banner linking to more information on this issue. You can also learn more here. It is my sincere hope that you will take time to learn more and then take action. Reach out to your elected representatives and let them know how you feel about this misguided legislation.
With best wishes for your continued success,
Connecting Pharmaceutical Manufacturers with Pharmacists
Nick Prine, VP Sales – National Accounts
Doctors and patients rely on pharmacists to know what’s going on with the latest drug treatments for many common diseases, but until recently the methods of getting that information out to the people who want it has been time consuming and not always reliable.
Identifying the need…
Historically, pharmaceutical companies sent reps out to the various pharmacy contacts (often the pharmacist on duty) to give them a brief presentation about new products, changes in existing products, and so on. This was quite time consuming, and often by-passed the pharmacy technicians altogether. There was really no effective way of getting the message out that was timely, efficient, and covered all the product information coming down the pipeline.
Surveys from both the manufacturing and the retail sides showed that an information exchange was desirable, but in a much different delivery method from what was the norm. Pharmacies often had their own information networks online, but they weren’t connected in any useful way to the manufacturing sector. DrugAdvisor™ has changed all that.
The way the program works is brilliantly simple, yet incredibly effective. It doesn’t require costly training sessions or complicated web development and deployment – instead, it builds on connectivity that’s already in place and makes highly condensed content available with the click of a mouse.
The DrugAdvisor™ concept in a nutshell:
• Takes the content drug makers want to share and turns it into short 5-7 minute “courses.”
• Puts those courses on pharmacy retailers’ existing web portals.
• Gives retailers the means to assign and track staff access to the courses.
• Gives manufacturers the means to track, by retailer, the use of their content.
As a leading provider of eLearning, LearnSomething’s role in this two-way conversation is a no-brainer. Take timely content and turn it into a clinically relevant mini-course that’s trackable, and you have a winning solution.
Results and rewards…
The concept is very powerful: subscribers pay for the network access. Then, for the pharmacy, it's business as usual; there’s no disruption of the pharmacy staff’s busy routine – content is delivered in short bursts and the results are easily tracked.
The DrugAdvisor™ advantage in a nutshell:
• There’s no costly network to build.
• DA mini-courses look and feel like training the pharmacy staff is used to.
• Tracking systems allow manufacturers to chart program reach & impact.
Building bridges between manufacturers and retailers – that’s what it’s all about.
More Support for the Pharmacist's Mission
Steve Roden, CEO
Sometimes I wonder how I got lucky enough to be given my own space to talk about projects that really excite me.
Recently, one just jumped off our development board and spiked my interest. It’s the online Nutrition and Lifestyle series we’ve created, in collaboration with FMI, for community pharmacists and dietitians.
Community pharmacies have one primary mission: to help improve their patients’ outcomes.
With Nutrition and Lifestyle, we’ve found an ingenious way to support that mission.
Basically, we’re taking advantage of pharmacists’ frequent interactions with the public. Half of all adults take prescription meds, and about 20 percent fill three or more prescriptions.
That’s a lot of potential face-to-face contact with pharmacy patients, and a lot of opportunities to provide helpful information.
Pharmacists also score very high in general surveys asking about health care professionals people trust. That means they have both opportunity and credibility — and that’s a powerful combination.
So we developed Nutrition and Lifestyle to show pharmacists how to take advantage of their contacts with pharmacy customers and explain how food-drug interactions, diet and other behavioral changes can help manage chronic disease states and improve wellness.
Of course, if simply providing access to health information was all it took to create change, then our collective health care bill would probably be billions less than it is today.
Part of the challenge is overcoming a patient’s sense of being overwhelmed by both the information related to his or her disease and the effort required to make lifestyle changes.
So our series provides models for how pharmacists can interact supportively with patients. We all know that the way you introduce an issue, especially one as sensitive as behavioral change, strongly influences a patient’s reception. And providing periodic support and face time really boosts success rates.
The series curriculum includes intro courses on general information and best practices for interacting with patients, and individual courses focused on specific diseases, from diabetes and dyslipidemia to metabolic syndrome and osteoarthritis.
The entire pharmacy industry is making a concerted effort to recapture that traditional community relationship with patients — when customers depended on pharmacists to be an active health care provider. As I said at the beginning, I’m really excited that we can participate in that endeavor, and that we can do so in partnership with our friends at FMI.
5 Questions to Ask about an LMS…
Brian Vann, VP, Corporate Sales
1. Is it easy to set up and quick to deploy?
An LMS should be designed to be easily configured and rapidly implemented. The retail community is filled with poorly performing or unused software that requires complicated configuration.
2. Can it support all eLearning strategies?
A cost-effective LMS manages all types of eLearning, from multimedia online courses to blended learning strategies. The alternative is spending money on features you may never use.
3. Does the LMS provide single sign-on for easy access?
An LMS worth its salt provides seamless communication with your system, so one sign-on opens authorized access. Otherwise it could undermine your eLearning strategy, not support it.
4. Are reports available in many formats?
A robust LMS can export data in multiple formats and communicate with other systems. Flexible, seamless functions are essential, not optional.
5. Can the LMS push reports?
Today's robust LMS can automatically push reports to regional, district and store managers, alerting them about employees' overdue training. If this process isn't easy and automatic, it's going to take valuable time from your HR department.
Find out more by contacting your LearnSomething representative.
Why is retail training important during an economic downturn?
Rick Fuelling, COO
When we’re in an economic downturn, as we are now, we can discover a lot about who we are as a business. The stuff we value gets supported and the other stuff gets put on hold.
Many companies are now limiting their training to technology, compliance and other types of curricula considered “essential.”
The thinking goes like this: My corporate employees need to know how to use the software or we’ll slow down, even shut down, but my retail employees can manage without training just fine!
There’s plenty of truth here – and no reason to deny it.
But there’s also little wisdom here.
Resourceful retailers are seeing how changing conditions can open up opportunities to outsmart competitors who, during a downturn, just “manage,” carry on business as usual or are unable to adapt quickly.
Innovative retailers, on the other hand, find ways to excel by:
- Redefining “value” at a time when prices are rising – and consumer confidence has plummeted
- Gaining market share by taking it away from their competitors who are unable to adjust to shifting market conditions
- Becoming a more efficient and cost-effective operator who is positioned to do well when the market improves
The challenge is to be aggressive and imaginative. Aggressive and imaginative companies who survive and even prosper during hard times must be able to look beyond the present, to overcome the constraints of tradition, to see the company from a new perspective, and to do business differently. Retailers that are continuing to grow their employees’ learning and development will be the ones who have not only survived but will be in a strong position to hit the ground running when things become more stable.
Change the culture of your organization and define value as something other than price. Instead, focus on providing customers with solutions. When you sell products as items, you are competing on price. When you sell solutions and regimens, your customers take home value that they’ll use and appreciate … every day. This methodology will encourage consumers to create a long-term relationship with your store and staff.
How to get from here to there?
Your retail employees are friendly and helpful. But selling solutions takes more. It takes knowing product categories and having the skills to interact with customers. It takes transforming your employees from friendly product locaters (“That’s in aisle four”) to solution builders (“Would you say that your hair is dry, oily, or normal?”). Once your employees know how to interact with customers and discover their needs, they can suggest product regimens and best practices for exceptional results.
That’s why we developed our shopper education program. The program enables your staff to educate your shoppers to routinely think differently about the value of a product category:
- “It’s a meal solution, not just a piece of meat.”
- “It’s a skin care solution, not just a moisturizer.”
- “It’s an energy cost-saving solution, not just a light bulb.”
- “It’s a trusted solution for emergencies, not just a battery.”
- “It’s a natural wellness solution, not just an herbal supplement.”
Maybe you’d prefer to just hunker down, ride out this economic downturn and hope to make up ground on the other end. But if you want to prepare to prosper, you’ll need to take action while others are just managing.
What makes custom-developed online training so attractive?
Brian Vann, VP, Corporate Sales
Suppose you’re a company that’s had to reduce the number of training programs to save money. That probably meant letting go of trainers and facilitators – not to mention cutting funds for course development, classroom rental and travel expenses. Your company has probably prided itself on having knowledgeable associates, so losing your training component has been a hard decision.
You believe that informed associates add value to your business, but you can’t afford the old way of doing things. What are your options?
The clear answer is to take your valuable content and put it online. It allows you to reduce the costs associated with delivering instructor-led programs, such as travel costs, time off-the-job, meals and other classroom expenses.
It also has an effect on labor dollars. Labor dollars have become a huge factor in the retail/grocery store arena because instructor-led classroom training adds up in terms of an associate’s time off the job. So, from an economic standpoint, moving your classroom training to an online delivery mechanism can help save both direct and indirect costs. Plus, it ensures your message and content are completely consistent because they’re coming from a single source.
If you’re a retailer with hundreds of locations, you can quickly get new skills training out to everyone who needs it. For example, new software or regulations training can be deployed across the board faster and at much less expense via online learning. It’s really a no-brainer these days to make full use of online training. But as anyone who’s suffered through a poor e-learning program knows, it’s not all that easy to accomplish. That’s where LearnSomething’s custom developed online training is so valuable.
Take Hannaford Bros., for example. They have always been a big believer in training, and for a number of years had their own pharmacy training coordinator with a staff of 10 people. Managing their instructor-led classroom programs and sending trainers across 5 states had become a huge expense. So they began looking for a way to reduce their face-to-face instruction and find a cost-effective way to distribute their accumulated content. That’s where LearnSomething entered the picture.
We proposed the idea of building a “Pharmacy University.” They really liked this approach and could see the value in it. We described how their system of training could be converted to or supported by online learning. Then we introduced them to our 7-step development process of instructional design – Planning, Analysis, Design, Development, Production, Quality Assurance, Course Deployment and Evaluation.
When we presented this initial proposal to the Pharmacy heads and their Training and Development staff, it led to another opportunity. HR asked, could we build them a Corporate University? We answered, absolutely!
For Hannaford’s Pharmacy department, we determined the types of training programs they should have, laying out the various tracks such as pharmacy technician, pharmacists, pharmacist managers, regional managers and so on. We then began working with Hannaford managers to develop custom content in all those areas.
For their HR department, we are developing a suite of courses including Interviewing Skills, Performance Appraisal, and Performance Counseling. Our custom development approach means they will sign off approvals at various milestones, and on a week to week basis they get email updates on where the project is and who’s doing what, and what’s needed to get to the next step. Their reaction is that no other custom development company they’ve worked with in the past has done this level of interaction and involvement.
Clients like Hannaford like our transparency, our highly skilled and knowledgeable staff, and especially our solid base in instructional design theory (our senior VP for Product Development has a Ph.D. in Instructional Design from Florida State University, a premiere online learning school). They totally get the value we’re providing them as we’re developing these programs. They have total confidence in us to take their content and shape it into accurate, effective training programs. Plus, they truly appreciate our fully integrated processing that involves the client every step of the way, as little or as much as they want, in building their “universities” at both the departmental and corporate levels.
Here’s an example of how well online training works. Hannaford had 140 managers who needed to be trained in food safety, take the required exam, and become certified within a month. There was no way they could do that with their instructor-led training program.
But when they put the training online, they successfully got 140 people through the training program and all passed the exam within a month. Recently, someone who’d taken the online training scored 100% on the exam! This pretty well answers the question of whether online training is as effective as face-to-face classroom learning, or even more effective.
Many companies are now seeing the value of moving their classroom training programs online. Some vendors just provide off-the-shelf, one-size-fits-most programs, but LearnSomething’s custom development approach takes online training to another level entirely.
5 Ways to Save Costs with Custom-Developed Online Training
1. Training staff
Instructor/facilitator salaries greatly reduced or eliminated
2. Training site
Rental costs of offsite classrooms and training facilities eliminated
3. Travel expense
No travel costs involved — for trainers or learners
4. Labor cost
-Greatly reduced for employees who take time off the job for training
-Seat time cut in half or better
5. Content update
-New skills or content available across the board to all installations of a company through mass online
-Certifications acquired quicker, with accurate up-to-date content as laws and requirements
A Conversation about Store Brands
Steve Roden, CEO
In past posts, I’ve mentioned our ShopperAssist™ programs that show retail employees how to change their thinking, and that of their customers, about shopping. In other words, when customers unpack their shopping bags, we want them to see product solutions, not just individual items.
Today I want to share with you how our ShopperAssist program meshes with one of retail’s fastest growing areas – store brands. That’s right … store brands have now come into their own. In fact, they’re exploding out of the box. Typically, store brands have cruised somewhere below the radar of sexiness when compared to the glitz of national brands, but now … they’re hot!
The fact that customers are turning to store brands in big numbers shouldn’t be any surprise. The perception of store brands is changing: instead of seeing store brands as inferior, cheaper substitutes for national brands, smart consumers now know that store brands can represent a great value for their hard-earned money.
The benefits of store brands from a retailer’s perspective are considerable when you think about it – in fact, healthy sales of store brands can have a storewide effect because they are available in all four Heath & Beauty product areas: Personal Care, Beauty, OTC Health Care, and Nutrition. And this is where our Store Brands associate training course can be a life saver, or to be more specific, a store saver.
The bottom line is this. Customers want quality and value, plus a lot of choices. Retailers want customer loyalty and increased profitability. In today's uncertain economy, these desires can support each other. And that, friends, is where ShopperAssist fits into the picture.
As a retailer, ask yourself how effective your associates are when faced with a customer who has questions about store brand products. For example, do your associates know how store brand multivitamin compare with national brands? Or suppose a customer asks, “Are these store brand headache tablets as safe to use as the national brands?” Your associate might assure the customer they are, but what if the customer then asks, “Why?” Will your associate know the answer? A sale might hinge on just that small amount of extra information.
As you can see, the associate’s role is essential in helping customers understand store brands so they can make informed choices. Our new Store Brands course trains sales associates to understand the value of store brands, but it’s more than that – we help them bridge the knowledge gap. For example, they’ll know how store brand and national brand over-the-counter health remedies compare and can explain why a store brand headache remedy delivers the same results as national brands.
Our new Store Brands program is a smart approach for tough economic times. Associate training plus the store brand explosion – it’s a win/win situation.
Here’s the payoff for investing in Store Brands training. Customer engagement skills, backed by category education and solid product knowledge, can turn the sales associate into a company’s miracle worker in the aisle, delivering increased product category sales and greater customer satisfaction. Which leads to repeat buying and customer loyalty for a store’s brand.
Not a bad tradeoff for a half-hour training session!