Does Online Training Work?

I think the part of my career that I am most grateful for is my first stop in corporate. I started in retail in 1984 at a Radio Shack in Kokomo, Indiana selling computers and “doo-dads”. It was just me and my store manager handwriting every ticket. I eventually got my own store, then ran a group of stores, but when I came into the corporate offices, it was in the training and development department as a national sales trainer.

It was there that I learned some of the fundamental principles of adult learning that still serve me to this day. In fact, years later when I studied this as part of my PhD, I was a little sad how “out of touch” the academic world was with the reality of adult learning in corporate America – especially retail.

As I moved on to Director and VP and then COO and CEO, the part of my experience I drew on every step of the way – and still to this day – was the Principles of Learning taught to me by my mentor in 1990. I have applied them in management, in coaching, in marketing and especially my own personal development. Sadly, Ron Hill is not with us anymore, but what he instilled in me still is. He was an instructor in the naval academy for many years before going to work for Magnavox and then eventually Tandy Corp where we met. Ron made sure that everything we did was pinned to the Principles of Learning. And it worked unbelievably well – Violate them and the people did not learn. Use them and the people did.

Now, you may be asking yourself, why the long story about my past – it’s to answer the question –

Can online learning work? The answer is yes!

But before I go further, let me say this – online cannot replace the power of live, in-person training. Don’t believe anyone who tells you differently. I have tried them all and measured the results. There is no comparison.

However, the challenge is the cost. Even when I was a COO of a $50M operation, we could not afford a training department. Margins were tight and advertising was expensive and turnover was high. I concentrated my efforts in personally training all of the managers (store and district) to ensure they had a solid foundation. But I could not afford to do every employee myself, nor did I have enough profit to hire someone. For every trainer, there is a salary, but there is also a lot of expense. After all, they have to travel if they are going to train.

So this article is not going to propose that online can do as an effective job. What it will do, though for many, many, many retailers is a tremendous amount more than they are doing now! I get it, if you had the funds; you would spend them on training. But instead, you provide no training. So, the net result is no result.

That is why we created the Retail Online Learning Center – for independent retailers trying to compete with larger operations with unlimited budgets.

The key is that when we build a course, it stands on the firm foundation of the Principles of Learning (Readiness, Primacy, Intensity, Exercise, Effect.) That is why while we will offer some shorter courses, the core of our training will be in a “spaced-repetition” format. Which means you work on 1 piece at a time by

  • reading about it
  • then watching about it
  • then seeing it demonstrated
  • then doing an exercise around it
  • then doing a role-play yourself and
  • then being tested on it.
    (That is 5 repetitions of the information if you are scoring at home or in the back room of your store.)

The other key to our online learning is that it is built in “chunks” that are conducive to retail. For example, our Retail Sales Bible G.R.E.A.T. Selling Certification Course (perhaps we need to shorten that title) is broken into many parts – each one takes about 20 minutes to complete. So you are never pulling someone off the floor for a full or even a half-day of training – it fits into their schedule. And since it is online, the site knows where you left off and can make sure you do not skip anything by accident.

So, will online learning work for you – the @hudsonhead version will. We will not sacrifice the Principles of Learning to make a sale, just like you will not sacrifice your store’s values to make a sale.

Try one of our courses now.

Copyright 2016, Matthew Hudson is an award-winning retailer, keynote speaker, master sales trainer and author of over 4 books on selling, corporate culture, retail, and sales and marketing.

Matt Hudson

Master Sales Trainer with 31 years of sales & marketing experience. Author of 4 books including Advisor Selling and the Retail Sales Bible.