We hear about all types of learning, but there is really only one kind: The learning that drives the desired behavior changes and business results. Period. Anything else misses the point.

Learning has evolved and comes in many varieties from instructor-led to CBT, eLearning, vLearning and now mLearning, along with the systems that support them like LMS, LCMS, CMS and more. The bottom line is that learning doesn’t end when the formal class or session is over. And that is where mobile comes into play, says Josh Klarin, vice president of Business Development for the Consulting Division of Sequent.

“Mobile devices allow us to extend our learning environment and make critical information, performance support tools, refreshers and much more available to our workforce when and where it’s needed,” says Klarin. “The notion of ‘moment of need’ and ‘on the spot’ learning takes on a real meaning with real impact and results through mobile devices. There are even solutions that do not rely on being connected to the Internet and still provide measurement. So, the ‘no bars’ situation is not a factor.”

Smart Business spoke with Klarin about how to incorporate mobile into your corporate learning strategy.

How have mobile devices changed the game?

Mobile devices such as iPads change the learning game not only by their portability, but more important, by their capabilities. The use of high-quality HD video for simulations, role plays, improved learner interaction and engagement have demonstrated improved results in learning and retention.

How do you know which mix or blended approach is right for your organization?

Here are a few questions that can be asked when considering your strategy. Does it:

* Help you achieve your business objectives?

* Make learning more engaging and effective?

* Drive real change and create a learning culture?

* Extend the learning environment?

* Reach all users, at all levels at all times, when needed?

* Reduce classroom hours?

* Reduce/eliminate retraining?

* Provide immediate feedback?

* Identify areas needing attention?

If you answered no to any of these questions, you should consider what an extended learning environment can do for your program. Mobility is the solution. Associates are bringing their own devices to work (and everywhere else), extending the classroom to not only increase engagement, but add value to content, redefine performance support, improve access and enhance the user experience.

What else is on the horizon for the mobile market?

* Think of mobile as a distinct, standalone capability. It is part of the delivery options that are increasingly being requested and required by the learners and their leaders.

* Mobile learning is not a novelty. It is part of a newly defined solution that deals with shorter engagements, lean learning, and access. The key is finding its place on the learning continuum.

* As the Millennials continue to hit the market and move to higher positions, the way they are learning, and have learned at all levels of school, will become the norm and they will influence and drive these changes. They are now expecting to learn in a connected, collaborative, social and, in many ways, informal environment.

* It will also be easier to access shorter, video-based learning.  This will include gaming and simulations.

* The perspective here is that mobility drives the behavior. It’s the access to content when and where it’s needed that’s key.

* Instructor-led training will not disappear by any stretch of the imagination. But the tools they use in the classroom and the extended learning experience are changing.

* Consider what the LD and CLO teams are facing. Learning is coming back to the forefront. This is due in part to improved accessibility and better employee engagement through the devices.  Learning can be fun again. And effective  And measured. And prove its ROI.

* As employment turns positive, more will re-enter the market, and the need to train, refresh, and reinforce will increase.

It has always been a challenge to sustain learning and extend the learning experience beyond the initial classroom or course delivery.

Mobile changes the game and allows the CLO to reach all the learners, wherever they are, whenever they need it. It opens up access to critical information and allows the enterprise to reinforce learning, check knowledge and provide refreshers when needed.

Mobile is a wonderfully enabling solution and should be an integrated part of every learning strategy and plan. We should look at it as a true game changer that makes learning more accessible, effective and yes, even fun, while effectively improving business results and employee engagement.

Josh Klarin is vice president of Business Development for the Consulting Division of Sequent where he specializes in learning environment strategy and execution and leads the company’s mobile learning practice. He has more than 25 years of HR experience concentrating on learning to drive desirable results using learning technologies to address all aspects of employee development and engagement. These solutions help to build and retain workforce, improve leadership and development, and strengthen strategic partnerships with lines of business and partners across the enterprise. Reach him at (888) 456-3627 or jklarin@sequent.biz.

Insights HR Outsourcing is brought to you by Sequent

Published in Cincinnati

Interested in learning why your company’s mobility strategy is failing?

Join Smart Business and Chris Surdenik, president of Call One, at 1 p.m. CDT on September 29th for an in-depth look at mobility in this digital age. Register today!

Surdenik started at Call One in 1998 at the recommendation of Ameritech. He had previously been a provisioning supervisor at USN Communications, where he was responsible for training and administration of the provisioning department.

He knew there was a better way to tackle telecommunications needs.

Now, 13 years later, Surdenik has proven Ameritech’s recommendation – and his decision – to be prescient. Call One has seen substantial growth, most recently being named to Crain’s Fifty-Fastest Growing Companies in Chicago and Inc. Magazine’s 500 5000 list.

Earlier this year, Smart Business sat down with Surdenik to discuss how he tackles business challenges. You can read the interview here.

The bottom line is that it's becoming an ever increasingly mobile world. And for business, that means you're conducting transactions on the go, holding meetings on the road -- and from remote locales -- and accessing your data from anywhere at any time.

So what does mobility mean, and how can you best take advantage of what's out there?

At this Webinar, we’ll tackle such topics as:

* Hardware: Smart phones, wireless devices and creating transparency in business communications.

* Client Experience: Mobility puts you in the "now" at anytime for clients, creating a dynamic customer service experience.

* Integrated Communications: How mobility plays an important role in a fully conceptualized integrated communications plan.

Register today as this is one Webinar you don't want to miss.

Published in National
Monday, 28 February 2011 15:07

Stephen E. Arnold

In September 2010, Google changed the way search results appeared. The new version, dubbed Google Instant, displays search results as the user types a query. In the old version of Google, the system displayed query suggestions in a drop-down box. Now the screen fills with search results.If you have not tried the new “search as you type” system, navigate to Google and enter a query. I tested the query for American Airlines, which I typically abbreviate to “aa.” Google displays AAA Official Site. The Triple A is the American Automobile Association. How do I get American Airlines? The solution is to enter the full query “American Airlines,” not the abbreviation “aa.” If you want to change your default Google settings, you can click on different links until you find the page that allows you to turn off Google Instant.

Most users just use the default settings. The result is that finding websites or information now requires some extra work. Granted, if you are looking for the American Automobile Association, Google Instant is a great benefit. But if you are looking for any other entry that includes a double “a,” you are going to be affected by Google Instant.

What’s behind this type of radical change to Google’s main search system? According to Google, “We are pushing the limits of our technology and infrastructure to help you get better search results, faster. Our key technical insight was that people type slowly, but read quickly, typically taking 300 milliseconds between keystrokes, but only 30 milliseconds (a tenth of the time!) to glance at another part of the page. This means that you can scan a results page while you type.” (Source:http://www.google.com/instant/).

Google continues:

The most obvious change is that you get to the right content much faster than before because you don’t have to finish typing your full search term or even press, “search.” Another shift is that seeing results as you type helps you formulate a better search term by providing instant feedback. You can now adapt your search on the fly until the results match exactly what you want. In time, we may wonder how search ever worked in any other way.

If American Airlines is affected by Google Instant, what about a smaller business? My testing reveals that Google appears to be focusing search results, particularly the first two or three letters, on larger firms. I did some spot-checking and could not discern a specific pattern. My conclusion was that a Google numerical recipe was looking at what the user typed and then consulting a list of results that were stored in various caches. The method seemed to deliver results for sites that receive high traffic. I tried to cross-match the results with online advertising, but the results were inconclusive. My research indicates that Google Instant seems to favor high-traffic sites and popular topics, such as the letter “g” displays hits to Google and Gmail, surely not an accident of chance? The query “ga” returns entries for games, which is a popular topic. (Popularity can be estimated using a number of different tools, but I rely on Google Trends at http://www.google.com/trends.) You can test the popularity of the queries in this column by typing the keyword in the search box and looking at the traffic reports. The public version of Google Trends does not show actual clicks per time interval, but you can approximate the relative popularity of terms by entering a multiword query like gaga, games. Google plots both lines. Lady Gaga recently passed a billion downloads of her videos, so you can see relative popularity easily. Games are more popular than Lady Gaga it seems. But when you enter “gag,” Google displays Lady Gaga.

But what about more obscure words and phrases? Consider the search for IP, an abbreviation of intellectual property. Google leaps forward with hits to Apple’s iPad. In order to locate documents about intellectual property, I had to run the full query “intellectual property.” The other fix I stumbled upon was to turn off Google Instant. Depending on your context within Google, you can turn off Google Instant via the “search settings” link at the top of a results page or click on the toggle “Instant is on” next to the search button. A click turns instant off.

Now what does this have to do with a small or midsized business getting found via a Google search? My opinion, which has been informed by my test queries, is that big companies and popular words and phrases have an apparent advantage. American Airlines, for example, will have to work harder to generate traffic to its website. But a more practical approach may be to invest in Google’s Ad Words to make certain that when certain queries are run, American Airlines turns up.

There are other approaches, as well, but some of these will require some time and effort to implement. Let me run down six suggestions for you to consider if the Google Ad Words approach is not suitable for your business.

First, you can sign up for Google’s local listings. The easiest way to get to the sign up page is to navigate to Google.com and run a query for “Google Places.” You will need a Google account to create a free listing. Keep in mind, however, that the free listing does not guarantee that your entry will appear quickly or that your listing will be permanent. The listing for my company, Arnold IT, has been under review for months even though I was an early participant in the program. Google will also offer for-fee options to increase your firm’s visibility. These are called Google Tags and provide a preferred listing in certain results lists. Tags are free for some registrants, but I have heard about fees for tags as a forthcoming feature.

Second, you can increase the flow of original content to your blog. That content can then be distributed via really simple syndication. Google offers a blogging service at www.blogger.com, but Google does not appear to favor users by blogging platform. Google is paying considerable attention to websites and blogs that produce original content on a consistent and timely schedule. My blog at www.arnoldtit.com/wordpress is indexed frequently even though my business is not listed in Google Local. Google’s different units and services are not tightly coordinated in my experience.

Third, you can look at advertising options on Facebook. For some businesses, Facebook offers advertisements that can be targeted to specific demographic groups. Some of the Facebook advertisers with whom I have talked report considerable success with Facebook’s display advertisements. However, some advertisers of more general products and services have found that ads are less effective than mounting a Facebook content campaign. You may want to test Facebook advertising and experiment with increasing the content flow to a Facebook page about your business.

Fourth, you may want to take a close look at your present website. Content, not graphics and high style, is more important than search engine optimization tricks. If your website is more like a motion picture trailer, you may want to think about adding more product information or more detail about your firm’s success stories. If your website has not been updated in months, you should invest in getting more substantive information into the website. My recommendation is that content is more important today than at any other time. But Google is keeping track of the frequency of updates to a website. One time content updates are less useful than regular content additions.

The problem of getting a business found via an Internet search is growing more complex, not easier. The emergence of mobile device usage across different age groups and business functions is changing search. Small form factor devices like mobile phones or tablet computers make it difficult to type 1990s style queries in a search box. On my BlackBerry, entering a query in the provided mobile browser is essentially an exercise in frustration for me. To address this problem, some businesses are creating “apps” that allow one click access to content. Before you dive into an Android or Apple iPhone app, you want to do some hard thinking. App development is not a silver bullet and any type of programming can chew through a marketing budget like a hungry raccoon raiding a picnic basket.

In my own business, I am focusing on the basics. I am updating my website and publishing new blog content on a daily basis. As I look toward the rest of 2011, I may have to open my billfold and invest in Google’s for-fee advertising programs. The Web is changing as user habits shift from the desktop to mobile computing. The good news is that change brings opportunities.

Stephen E. Arnold is a consultant. More information about his practice is available at www.arnoldit.com and in his blog at www.arnoldit.com/wordpress.

Published in Akron/Canton

As we enter the month highlighting romance, it is interesting to note that one of the closest relationships people have today is with their mobile device — judged by their constant proximity to it and the instant attention paid to it.

“With many indicators showing an approaching dominance of mobile Internet usage by business and retail consumers, there is an increasing urgency about having a mobile online presence,” says Kevin Hourigan, the president and CEO of Web designWeb development and Internet marketing agency Bayshore Solutions. “But, before a business jumps blindly onto the mobile bandwagon, there are key strategic factors to consider.”

Smart Business spoke with Hourigan about how to know when you’re ready for the mobile Web and how to best engage in it for your business.

What are the mobile trends that are important to businesses?

Recent industry studies show the extremely fast growth of users accessing the Web through a mobile device or smartphone. These studies say that mobile Internet users are projected to exceed desktop Internet users by 2014, one in five mobile users will watch video on a mobile device by 2013, and more than half of mobile users will be Web-enabled by 2013 (and that represents 40 percent of the U.S. population).

As more and more people are accessing the mobile Web, what are they doing there?

More studies reveal these types of mobile activities are gaining popularity:

  • Looking for directions and locations
  • Looking for coupons or promotions
  • Price, availability and support comparisons
  • Reading reviews about products, services and professionals of interest
  • Buying
  • Utilizing the services or processes of a business (checking in for a flight or an online banking transaction, for example)

How do mobile trends affect a business?

This all goes back to Marketing 101: know your customer. If you deliver a product or service that a target customer might be looking for on their mobile device because they are away from their computer, can they find you or do they find your competitors? If they do find your company’s website, does your website’s appearance from a mobile device leave an impression you are proud to show to potential customers?

If your website can be found and seen from a mobile device, what are the most common questions and transactions (both informational and monetary) that your customers will have? If they attempted any of these while on a mobile device, what are their chances of success? Aligning your business’s availability and offerings with today’s mobile trends can have a major impact on its success.

Because our mobile culture increasingly pivots on instant access, answers and gratification, if your business cannot be found and deliver this, then potential customers will simply click to the next competitor who is ready at their fingertips.

When should I establish a mobile presence?

It is critical to first understand the amount of visits your website receives from mobile devices. Google Analytics can show you how much of your traffic is coming from mobile devices, what pages mobile visitors are viewing or attempting to view, and growth in this over time. Analytics will indicate that a mobile Web presence is warranted and what Web pages to spend the most attention on based on your mobile traffic. For some businesses this could be 40 percent, for others as little as 5 percent. If it appears your business would benefit from a mobile website, first make sure your core website’s analytics and strategies are in order. With that in place, it will lead to a coordinated, cost-effective extension into a successful mobile Web presence.

What are your top tips for achieving great mobile Web results?

The hallmark of a successful mobile Web presence is one that is easy — easy to find, easy to track and measure performance and results, and easy for visitors to experience. But, accomplishing all this is not so easy. Strategic elements in developing your mobile presence include:

  • Solid integration with your analytics, CRM systems and marketing and sales lead management processes
  • Search engine marketing that orchestrates your mobile website with your other online (and offline) channels
  • Functionality that accurately understands and even anticipates your mobile visitor’s expectations and needs including making sure the mobile site works on the iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, Palm, Android, etc.

A business’s mobile site should not be the soup-to-nuts replication of its main website. In fact, Internet users have fundamentally distinct motivations, behaviors and expectations when accessing websites from a mobile device. Essentially your mobile site should help the mobile visitor get in and get to what they need while they’re on the go. Just a few items that support this would include:

  • Skipping the flashy home page in favor of one-click access to the information or service the visitor needs
  • Simplified copy and link activation to accommodate fingers versus a mouse, and a smaller screen surface
  • Navigability back and forth to your main site to accommodate more detailed user needs.
  • Location, map or driving directions that are immediately accessible.
  • All phone numbers displayed have click-to-call functionality

Take a strategic approach to solidifying your core Web presence and extend to a mobile presence at the right time, for the right reasons and in the right way. This will yield a much more successful result in growing your business.

For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions’ Web marketing methodology, visit www.BayshoreSolutions.com/method.

Kevin Hourigan is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or www.BayshoreSolutions.com.

Published in Florida