How to Embrace an Omnichannel Approach to Training

By Annie Reiss - January 16, 2019
4 min read

It’s the beginning of a new year and 2019 prediction pieces from almost every industry are overwhelming your inbox, news apps and social media feeds. But before you think “here comes another slew of predictions,” understand we’re only going to talk about a single trend – and it’s one that’s not going away.

Omnichannel is taking over the world.

While omnichannel typically relates to marketing and retail, it could have a very positive impact on training. Not familiar with this practice? Wikipedia says the following:

Omnichannel is a cross-channel content strategy that organizations use to improve their user experience. Rather than working in parallel, communication channels and their supporting resources are designed and orchestrated to cooperate. Omnichannel implies integration and orchestration of channels such that the experience of engaging across all the channels someone chooses to use is as, or even more, efficient or pleasant than using single channels in isolation.” 

“…Omnichannel supersedes multichannel and includes channels such as physical locations, ecommerce, mobile applications, and social media. Companies that use omnichannel contend that a customer values the ability to engage with a company through multiple avenues at the same time.” 

Whether it’s those Netflix recommendations you love, purchasing your favorite face cream with Sephora loyalty points or eyeing the next product Amazon offers up, omnichannel is becoming the norm.

First, from an array of devices to social media platforms, the ways you can be reached today are nearly endless. A recent Cisco survey states: “By 2022, there will be 28.5 billion fixed and mobile personal devices and connections, up from 18 billion in 2017 – or 3.6 networked devices/connections per person.” Further, how we consume digital data has grown. Podcasts, videos, entertainment on demand – there’s a form factor for everyone.

Marketers, retailers and media companies are doing their absolute best to deploy omnichannel strategies as they strive to create a unified customer experience. It’s a tall order for any company, especially since the desired experience must meet high consumer standards for speed, convenience and service, according to McKinsey.

Training organizations should follow suit.

Still curious? Let’s explore some omnichannel and personalization best practices that could add power to your company’s training programs.

1. Understand that multi-channel is not omnichannel.

While there are some companies who’ve made great strides creating multiple ways to deliver training, it doesn’t mean the approach is omnichannel. True success requires an end-to-end integrated experience.

Let’s say you’re training both baby boomers, who notably prefer to sit in classrooms and work on desktops, and millennials, who famously prefer to *hide* behind multiple screens. Why not bring both experiences together?

Consider Timberland’s successful project to merge online and offline shopping with its digitally connected stores to appease all types of shoppers. What if you took the company’s approach when it comes to training employees? Employees’ training experience needs to be seamless across multiple devices, but training can be more impactful by engaging employees in ways that work best for them and their learning needs (in the classroom or remotely on devices).

If you don’t, you’re simply pushing out the same content across different channels.

2. Know your audience’s preferences.

Personalization engines are at work all around us. People expect individualized experiences. For example, Netflix movie recommendations are completely different for a comedy-loving 12-year-old than their mom, who loves documentaries, or father, who prefers thrillers.

Understanding preferences and learning intent is particularly important for training organizations because each learner has a different set of skills and learning styles.  Multi-generational and multi-cultural workers learn differently and are located across the world, and as such, need to be trained in ways that fit specific needs and preferences.

So how do you learn intent? Ask your employees what they want. Reward them for their feedback. Create opportunities to delight them in small ways as they train. Then ask them again in six months. You will see the rewards of an engaged workforce.

3. Plan your integration strategy.

What we do online and in life has begun to blur. As HubSpot recently pointed out, as people’s preferences change often, marketers, salespeople and customer support reps need to react accordingly. This requires disciplined integration, thinking and planning.

Still, omnichannel doesn’t happen overnight.

You want to determine whether or not you have the materials, people and technology to create a unified experience tailored to an audience of one. When students take action in a specific channel, their experiences on other channels need to respond accordingly. Think of Netflix and how a viewer can resume a film where they last left it, regardless of the device.

Sephora takes integration to an even higher level. Its mobile app recognizes when a customer has walked into a retail store and uses their past online and physical shopping behavior to make recommendations. It even supplies maps to guide the shopper to products they will enjoy.

Overwhelmed? Don’t be. Start with small moves and work with your team to see what feedback they give back to you. It’s well worth the effort. Not only will students enjoy the learning process more, they’ll likely be more engaged throughout training, producing better outcomes for everyone.

Think you’re ready to begin an omnichannel training experience for your employees? Get in touch so we can help.