The Amazon approach - Problem solving with elearning

Posted on Oct 21, 2015

Elearning

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Focusing on the learning outcome is all important in elearning design. Finding the one goal that you need to accomplish and building really effective training to achieve it.

One company that has led the way in focusing on customers and getting them the information they need is Amazon. The world’s biggest retailer, Amazon has had to solve some of the biggest problems facing any business.

We’re going to analyse their innovative ideas and show how an elearning approach can help you use the same techniques to solve some common business training problems.

At Amazon.com, it’s our goal to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy...

Amazon’s primary goal is to sell more products to their customers, in order to do that they need to compete for customer’s attention, loyalty and money.

Let’s see how we can overcome some business training issues with the help of elearning and the Amazon approach.

1.   Time away from work: 1-Click

Amazons one click buying service could inspire you to make it easier to get to the knowledge your learners need.

One of the problems with training is the time that workers need to spend away from their job.

The genius of Amazon’s patented 1-Click buying process is reducing the necessary steps of purchasing an item to the absolute minimum.

Don’t necessarily think about this as a parallel with micro learning or creating bite-sized sections of content focused on one thing.  It’s more about the process by which learners reach the content in the first place.

One click buyers still see the photos, description and reviews for each product, it’s only at the point when the decision is made that all obstacles are removed. One click learners should be given all the information they need to choose the right course for them and have it available immediately.

Opening up all areas of a course to learners can accelerate their progress as they decide which pieces of the content they will benefit from most.

Elearning, specifically combined with a customisable LMS (Learning Management System), allows you to make learning accessible quickly and easily for all your learners. A bespoke, streamlined approach to the course selection process that is tailored to your staff will give you the best chance of getting people into the learning.

2.   Lack of feedback: Amazon reviews

Allowing learners to review your content like Amazon does is a good way to get their feedback

L&D can struggle to get useful feedback from employees about training, but it’s an essential part of a good learning strategy and can inform the whole process of career development.

Getting feedback on products is valuable to the supplier and prospective customers.  If you have feedback from learners on a course, consider sharing it with staff who will take the same training in the future.

Amazon has their Vine program which encourages suppliers to provide products to Amazon that they then send out for free to their most helpful reviewers, as voted for by the customers browsing the site. They also publish a leaderboard and hall of fame for the top reviewers on the site, gamifying the process of giving feedback.

Introducing reviews for elearning becomes a lot easier with an LMS in place. There is a Moodle plugin which makes it simple to add Amazon-style star ratings and reviews to your courses, for instance.

It can also be automated and anonymised so it can work on a large scale and give you the most valuable feedback.

Acting on that feedback is the next step and it requires a thoughtful approach to ensure continual improvement of the course for the next round of employees.

Of course, the system is open to abuse and, just like Amazon, you may need to step in to make sure it’s being used properly so it gives your staff a genuine view of the course.

3.   Unnecessary training: Recommendations

Amazons recommendations offer a good model for recommending courses to your learners

Getting the right training to the right people is a constant challenge for L&D teams.  Creating a more personal experience for employees can really help create engagement and boost outcomes.

By building on reviews and incorporating other items that customers have purchased, Amazon pioneered the idea of a personalised shopping experience.

Having the data to be able to recommend the best course for your learner takes a few steps and we can follow Amazon’s lead on each one.

First the basics: collect the essential data required, name, job role, location etc. This helps you put the right content options in front of the learner.

Amazon Garage is a service which collects your car’s make, model and age and then makes sure that car-related products are compatible with your vehicle. That way you only see the items that you might need for your car.

Having your learners get specific on the details of their work allows you to make sure they only see relevant courses, this is especially beneficial for compliance where no-one wants to complete a course that they don’t need to.

The other approach is to use the learner’s input to steer them in the right direction for their needs. Adaptive learning techniques like pre-course assessments and branching scenarios can be employed to create a more personalised route through the content for each participant.

Interactive video provides a great way to offer engaging, adaptive content that matches a learners needs closely.

4.   Lacking a learning culture: Amazon Prime

Help create an Amazon Prime style loyalty program for your elearning

Making learning and development part of the culture of the company is a goal for many L&D teams. Giving staff the opportunities to progress and gain knowledge throughout their time at work gives them motivation to continue their personal growth.

The Amazon Prime subscription service is a loyalty programme, it offers advantages for members that mean they are more likely to choose to buy from Amazon than a competitor. They looked at their key advantage, originally logistics and speed of delivery, and now cloud data storage and streaming, and used it to come up with a compelling reward for subscribers.

In order to create a culture of learning you need to start by identifying the key advantage that training can offer employees. Look at the values of your company, what makes it unique? What development opportunities can you offer that no-one else can?

If you have the right rewards your staff will repay you with their time and effort to receive them. Don’t be afraid to try different approaches. Some people will respond well to a chance at networking opportunities with senior colleagues, others will thrive on self-paced courses that they can complete on their mobile.

The lesson to take from Amazon is to look at your strengths and create clear benefits based on them.  If your company wants to promote all regional managers from within the business in 2 years, make this clear and create a way for employees to prove their worth.

An elearning provider needs to have a fundamental understanding of the company’s goals in order to foster a culture of learning that promotes them.  Creating campaigns that include elearning can be a great way to introduce these ideas to your strategy.

5.   Change in workforce behaviour: Kindle

Amazon created the most popular ereader in the world when ebooks threatened their business

Amazon started out selling books because they were cheap and universally popular. Even before e-readers started threatening the physical book market, Amazon were prepared to create their own hardware and marketplace to compete in a new field.

The Kindle is now the most popular e-reader in the world, and Amazon controls up to 95% of the e-book market. When it looked like tablets were going to overtake e-readers as devices for consuming e-books,  Amazon released their range of tablets too.

The equivalent for L&D professionals is the rapidly changing nature of the workforce. With younger employees, better connectivity and cheaper access to technology there is a clear move to more mobile working and learning in many areas.

Elearning mirrors the growth of Amazon’s original business for many of the same reasons; it’s available online, any time and the costs are therefore lower than face-to- face training.

Now the way people are accessing the internet is changing it’s time to react and give the learner what they want. Well-designed elearning gives you the flexibility to deploy your training content in different ways.

Being willing to pivot your elearning strategy to include the needs of new learners will make it possible to keep ahead of dramatic changes. Going with an elearning provider who uses the latest techniques helps benefit from the changes rather than seeing them as an obstacle.

In summary here are the five ways thinking like Amazon can help elearning overcome your business problems:

  • Time away from work – streamline the process of getting your learners onto the elearning they require by giving them all the information they need and delivering it online
  • Lack of feedback – encourage reviews for courses and make them available to both learning designers and learners themselves
  • Unnecessary training – target your elearning using employees roles and abilities and use adaptive learning through pre-course assessments and branching scenarios
  • Lacking a learning culture – make your staff aware of the unique opportunities they have to develop their skills in your company and incorporate these in your elearning campaigns
  • Change in workforce behaviour – elearning has the flexibility to help you react quickly to changing trends in workforce behaviour like the increase of mobile devices in the workplace

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