Training expert: Hands on and in the field

"More and more every year, people are looking for ways to revolutionize their classroom training and provide a hands-on experience that can be done remotely."

Training is often times an undervalued component of any corporate business strategy. It can be the first thing on the chopping block during budget cuts yet is most often the first thing missed when performance begins to suffer. It is not a direct profit center for most organizations and yet without it, profit potential can never be maximized.

The security industry is one market where training takes on a particular importance. It takes an ongoing and consistent training strategy to stay current with the latest technologies, product launches and ever-changing market dynamics. In just the last decade, the security industry has been revolutionized by the advancements in computing technology, approaches to project management and convergence.

That is why the largest organizations in the industry put a primary emphasis on educating their people, partners and clients. Manufacturers need to educate dealers and distributors on new products. End-users need to know how to use their equipment and interface with monitoring stations, technicians and support staff. Installers must have a solid grounding in basic practices, construction and low voltage. But unlike previous generations, the installers of today also need to learn networking, TCP/IP and structured wiring.

Approximately 62 percent of the training being delivered in the industry today is done in the classroom. Just five years ago that number was more like 80 percent. More and more every year, people are looking for ways to revolutionize their classroom training and provide a hands-on experience that can be done remotely. Courses are delivered at the manufacturer’s site or at trade shows but many people are also offering training that is truly in-the-field and is delivered at the dealer, rep and end-user locations.

Who’s taking it to the field

Those that do offer classroom training courses are trying to take them to the streets so to speak because it is very difficult to get people out of the field to attend training. Time out of the field can mean money lost and in today’s economy, that is a tough sell. Taking the training to the field cuts down dramatically on the time it takes to deliver the course; the student does not need to travel.

For Jeff Roach, training manager for the Americas’ for Gallagher Security Management Systems, their hands-on training is all face to face. “Globally, of our instructor-led training courses, 80 to 85 percent is hands-on,” he explained. They have tried to focus on two major initiatives when delivering in-the-field training. First, they come directly to you at the dealer or end-user site. Second, they use a trained educator to provide technical knowledge rather than using a technical person who may not have any training background.

What they are currently doing with in-the-field training will remain a high priority but 2010 will bring some changes. The company is exploring using eLearning for re-certification training. This will help them continue to deliver high quality training without spending a tremendous amount of money on travel. Next, they are examining how they can provide follow-up support after classroom training via learning modules such as podcasts, Webinars or eLearning that re-address what happened in the classroom. This will help with retention. Finally, they are looking to develop a bank of courses in a virtual environment that can be accessed at any time that are not necessarily product specific.

Others like Pelco just take example straight from their own in-the-field training mantra: “we go anywhere, anytime to train any Pelco customer!”

“We have a strong commitment to in-the-field training because not all of our dealers can get to the Pelco training center, so we know we have to go them,” explained Barbara Morgan, global training director for Pelco. This strategy has proven to be a great way to train in the field, as Pelco trains at rep offices around the country.

According to Morgan, Pelco’s goals for 2010 involve adding Webinars for people in the field. These work especially well for their training that does not need a lot of hands-on work. Pelco has also been experimenting with a new technology they call “equipment pods” that allows their customers in the field to remotely connect (via the Internet) to the Pelco equipment in Clovis for training purposes. This allows the person in the field to test and setup the equipment and not necessarily have it at their location.

Connie Moorhead is the president of The CMOOR Group and founder of based in Louisville, Ky.