International Rectifier, a global manufacturer of power management semiconductors, found its solution in e-learning and through collaboration with the IT department.
“The number and complexity of new product introductions continues to grow at an accelerated rate, and our global sales force requires immediate access to product knowledge in order to effectively service our customer base,” said Robert Grant, executive vice president of sales corporate marketing for International Rectifier. “In addition, this new method of training has enabled us to reduce our training costs by 75 percent.”
Busy salespeople require a flexible training solution to accommodate their hectic schedules and remote geographic locations. In addition, effective communication must always be a two-way street. Just as important is an evaluation system to measure training effectiveness.
Before e-learning was introduced as a training solution for the IR sales force, a more informal training process was in place. Although well received and fairly effective, it was a “catch-as-catch-can” situation, requiring a lot of effort and expense. Several days of selling opportunities were lost.
An interim solution using an Internet conferencing platform was introduced, and International Rectifier set up monthly product training sessions. Because of the different time zones, multiple training sessions were needed to accommodate the worldwide audience. The benefit of Internet conferencing became apparent immediately, since “real-time” visual and audible communications with the presenter via live chat and conference calls were available. The sales force also liked attending training sessions from their “home base” at a time most convenient for them.
Although convenient and effective, there was room for improvement in terms of available seats, session security, process evaluation and learner progress reporting.
International Rectifier responded to these challenges by launching the Power Tech Learning Center, deployed using GeoLearning’s GeoExpress Learning Management System (LMS). The LMS was implemented in two phases. In Phase 1, the LMS platform was customized to include the previous Internet-based conferencing solution. The unique user ID and password scheme was discarded, and the registration process was automated. Attendance reporting and administration management were also integrated into the LMS. In Phase 2, the Personal Learning Plan module was added to the LMS. In the PLP module, multiple programs can be created for different job functions. Each student is enrolled in one or more programs and is required to complete a curriculum courses every quarter. In return for successful completion of training, learners are rewarded through a commission and incentive plan.
In addition, International Rectifier’s in-house recording capability has been enhanced. All monthly product-training events are archived so the sales force can access training sessions at their convenience. This in-house recording capability reduced course-development costs by as much as 90 percent, and course development time was reduced by 80 percent.
Approximately 300 sales “students” from International Rectifier have completed 4,353 courses over the past nine months. The cost to deliver the training is less than $12 per student per course. The cost includes LMS, Web conferencing and recording media. The company saved approximately $250,000 during the past year with the online learning system, compared to the on-site training.
Using e-learning, International Rectifier is now able to train its worldwide sales force in an effective and timely manner. Salespeople can refresh their memories and sharpen their product knowledge before meeting with customers at any time. And sales management is able to identify the skill and knowledge levels of each individual sales professional for ongoing support and training.
From a technology standpoint, International Rectifier’s IT group was involved in the vendor evaluation process to ensure two things about the e-learning solution that was selected: that it would require minimum internal IT resources and that it did not affect existing IT architecture.
“Because the e-learning solution is based on an application service provider (ASP) model with the application being hosted and supported externally by GeoLearning,” said John Boyland, director of system architecture at International Rectifier, “we determined that the application would have little impact on our network. All support, maintenance and hardware issues are outsourced to capable vendors, alleviating any demand on our critical IT resources.”
Vivian Ng is the global sales trainer for International Rectifier, a leading manufacturer of power semiconductors and systems solutions. She oversees IR’s e-learning strategy for its global sales force.