Enhancing Training Effectiveness thro’ the Law of Diffusion of Innovation

Any form of training is ultimately a change management program where the organization expects its executives to approach a problem with a different behaviour, attitude, or a skill. In a highly competitive market where customers are spoilt for choice, the main challenge for salespeople is to effectively demonstrate the value of their products and services to handle the discount issue. There are two approaches in scheduling a training program: a conventional Giving-on-a-Platter (platter) approach and a rarely practised  Earning-One’s-Stripes ( Stripes) approach. The following example will compare and contrast both the approaches.

Aristo India is a leading manufacturer of  sliding wardrobes and kitchen cabinets with HO at Bangalore.  Mr. Kuruvilla Kurian, the Sales Director had a different approach to having a Value-Selling training for his pan-India team which include:

  1. Voluntary Participation: Only those salespeople who are interested can apply for the program. In a Conventional Platter approach, attendance is compulsory as decided by the  senior management and HR.
  2. Efforts prior to Participation: Application for a training program does not guarantee enrolment. Each  applicant needs to write a 500-words essay to articulate one’s raison d’ etre. The essay was carefully evaluated by Ms. Sudipta Shetty, Head-CRM to understand the applicant’s sincerity and the originality of thought.                                  – In a platter approach, there are no efforts. Participants either click on a link to register or fill up a form for enrolment.  
  3. Post-Training Implementation: Based on their essays, a 2-day program titled Value-Selling of Premium Wardrobe Solutions was designed. During the program commencement, the participants stated the challenges which were predominantly  external factors like customers do not listen, they are price sensitive, they are interested only in discounts etc. During the training program, the participants underwent role plays simulating the  real-life situations. By the program conclusion it was shown that some of the problems had an internal locus of control for the sales team like inappropriate body language of the seller, miscommunication, lack of probing, listening etc. The videographed role plays were replayed with exhaustive debriefing.

Post training, Kuru and Sudipta decided that conducting similar role plays for each region internally  could be a better way of enhancing the learning effectiveness. Sudipta took the initiative in arranging  the same. A review session with the trainer on a virtual platform was subsequently arranged for implementation of the action plan.

  • In the platter approach, normally the program gets concluded with a standard feedback form.  

THE DIFFUSION OF INNOVATION theory describes the pattern and speed at which innovative ideas, practices, or products spread through a population which can be correlated in the present article to bringing a cultural change (in beliefs, attitude, values etc.) through training. The main players in a group are classified as innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards. The new ideas are adopted sequentially first by the innovators and lastly by the laggards.

  1. Innovators ( 2.5%) : They are willing to risk and accept any new ideas.
  2. Early Adopters( 13.5%) : Are already aware of the need to change and are comfortable adopting new ideas.
  3. Early Majority (34%) : They need the evidence that the innovation works before willing to adopt it.
  4. Late Majority ( 34%): They are sceptical of change and will only adopt if it has been tried by the early majority.
  5. Laggards ( 16%): Are bound by tradition and are conservative.

The characteristics of the Platter approach are:

  1. It targets the entire population irrespective of their intent and the degree of willingness to change.
  2. Being mandatory it may degenerate into an ‘event’ in  terms of food, ambience, entertainment thro fun/videos and freebies for the majority (early and late) and the laggards.
  3. A CHRO from a renowned construction company shared that their managers are interested only in branded programs from IIMs where the main motive is certification.
  4. Quite often the line managers are reluctant to nominate their reportees for the program  complaining that it affects the completion of their immediate tasks. I am not sure whether they too belong to the majority and the laggards.

How does the stripes approach differ from the platter approach? The former targets only the early adopters rather than the entire group.  It also does not link training program to certification, promotion, or increments but only to the interest and the initiative of the participant. The diffusion of training to other segments like majority and laggards is ultimately decided by the program quality and the way the early adopters spread the message.

The platter approach makes training mandatory treating all the subgroups like early adopters, late majority, laggards in the same bracket whereas the stripes approach creates a demand for training. The first batch of Value Selling program for Aristo India was targetted for the early adopters. This in turn has created so much buzz that others are willing to enrol for the second batch but only after going through the rigour of an essay and a selection process. Remember, anything that is given on a platter is never valued. The difference between the two approaches is summarized in the table below.

PLATTER VS STRIPES APPROACH

 PlatterStripes
Management ParadigmTraining is mandatoryTraining is optional
Target SegmentRandom, no specific targetEarly Adopters
EnrolmentBy DefaultSelection thro’ an  Essay
Participant MindsetReactiveProactive
Locus of ControlExternal  like certificationInternal – Job Enrichment
Efforts by HRNormalExtensive
Buy-in from the non-attendeesNot ApplicableCreates demand depending on  the program quality and the buzz.

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