You can’t teach an old dog new tricks!

 

So, they say, or so English playwright John Heywood said in 1546. He must have predicted the coming of digital media.

 

But can you really teach an old dog new tricks? I would offer up myself as Exhibit A in the argument that you can. I have been a professional Trainer for 30 years.

 

When I started, our presentations were made using overhead projectors and transparencies, many handwritten. If you had a big budget for material development, you broke ground using photograph slides and a carousel projector. I loved the sound the projector made as it transitioned from each slide to the next.

 

And then came computers, laptops and PowerPoint. I remember thinking “I am not going to like this,” and “what if something goes wrong in the middle of a class?”. I laugh now, as a self-taught PowerPoint connoisseur, but I experienced a lot of anxiety in those early days. But, as a middle-aged dog, I learned.

2020: Pandemic Pivot

Then it happened: 2020. An event never experienced in my lifetime: A worldwide pandemic. I watched it slowly begin to affect our business. First as a trickle, in Asia, as countries began implementing lockdown procedures and customers started cancelling their training sessions. Then it had grown to a wave as it reached Europe and the cancellations grew and we started closing our own offices.

 

By the time it hit the Americas it was like a tsunami. Our global training calendar was completely wiped clean. I had never seen such a thing. Sure, during my 30 years we lived through a few recessions and during those tough times, training was the first to go. However, our calendars were never completely empty. Then, our team came to me and said, “we have two words for you” -- trust me, a lot of options ran through my head -- but they continued, “Online Training”.

The Tide Turns: Online Virtual Training Begins

My team started listing all of the benefits of online training, as well as the many cost savings including: no travel expenses; safety (people stay home); global reach (no restrictions/take a class from anywhere in the world); lower prices (20-30% lower than onsite or seminar fees); comfort (no masks); less printed materials (almost everything is electronic); efficient use of time (1/2 day sessions); improved morale (people feel productive); improved comfort with social media.

 

The whole time they were speaking, I was thinking, “What if something goes wrong in the middle of a class?”.

 

We put together a committee to investigate our options. It included, trainers, sales, marketing and of course IT, who led us in our fact-finding mission. Being the least experienced, I put together my own simple “wish list” of features that I would want to see in the platform that we chose to deliver our online training service.

 

At the top of the list was “user friendly”. I also wanted a “break-out room” feature, the ability to control microphones, a chat section, a “raise your hand” feature, and the ability of the participants to present the results of their exercises. We went through a lot of demonstrations of various product options that did not have all the features we wanted. We were definitely shown a few unfriendly software programs.

 

Finally, we found one. It did everything we wanted, and it even looked easy to use. But still...what if?

Test Drive: What Went Wrong?

I decided that after we purchased the licenses that I would run an internal training session for our own employees. That way, when the inevitable happened…something went wrong…well, at least no one was paying for it. NOTHING went wrong.

 

When the big day came, with real paying customers, the session was flawless. The relief I felt was unbelievable -- it really worked. As I thought about it more, I realized that it was not that different from the very first time I stood in front of a live audience to deliver a training class. There was a group of people looking to me to teach them about a specific quality engineering tool. I believe it was Statistical Process Control if my memory serves me.

 

It was something new. They paid for the service. And we delivered.

 

Thirty years later, TRIGO delivered again. Virtually. Who knew?

 

By Bob Muir, Director of Global Training Services