Ian Lurie // Aug 11 2011
How the hell do I teach my team internet marketing? Why do we all suck at it?
I spend a lot of time on this puzzle. My company’s survival depends on it. I have to find ways to teach, and to teach teachers, while working it around everyone’s busy schedule. And I have to find ways to teach clients, too, or their investment in us burns up the moment we’re gone.
I’ve studied the success/failure of:
Here’s my random collection of theories. I have a favor to ask: Read this. Then tell me what you think:
Training in person sucks. I love doing it, but the truth is, it’s of limited value. Here’s why:
Yes, ‘real life’ training has advantages, but they’re all related to accountability, not educational value. You pile your employees into a break room for a 4-hour lecture on customer service because you know they’re physically present. As a manager, you can check off that budget line item with pride: Training Complete.
That is a godawful justification.
On the other hand, teaching via recorded material—writing, video or audio—works well.
This is the core of Khan Academy’s program for classrooms: Students listen to the ‘lectures’ at home. Then they go to school and do the exercises with a teacher present to help them out.
The UCSD writing center worked in a similar way when I worked there. Writers would come in. We’d facilitate as they worked on their writing. Then, they’d go home to complete that work. No lectures at all, actually.
It makes even more sense in on-the-job, internet marketing training: The stuff you’re learning is the stuff you’re doing, every day. Don’t do ‘homework’ or ‘exercises’ during slow times. Instead, study the lecture-style stuff during quiet time. Then apply it again and again while others are around to help out.
This is going to sound harsh. But with self-paced training, the people who don’t want to learn slack off. If they have training and support, then “I went to the class!” is no longer a free pass. They have to learn.
The enthusiastic students can bolt ahead, and I as an employer can reward that behavior. Internet marketing requires constant learning. I want to encourage that in my team.
You can’t just throw your staff a bunch of books and say ‘go learn’, though. You have to set time aside, one way or another, for them to do it.
That’s really hard. It’s why I still succumb to the periodic ‘training day’. Work has a nasty way of scheduling itself. If I go to everyone and say “OK, Wednesday from 9-10 AM is learning time,” it’ll fail. Clients will call. Stuff will break. Etc.
Somehow, though, you have to create time for your employees to learn. And it can’t be in a single, marathon 4-hour session. They have to be able to learn in little bites.
Let me know if you figure that one out, OK?
Finally, you have to verify that learning’s going on. I hate standardized tests. They’ve ruined American education, probably forever. But somehow you have to know how folks are doing. That’s the only way you can provide extra help where needed, or reward those who are truly kicking butt.
I haven’t figured this one out, either. By the time the employee is applying what they learned to a client, it’s too late.
This is a work in progress. I’ll post more about it as time passes. If you have ideas, or think something I’ve said is horrible, feel free to comment.
I still love conferences. I’ll always go. But here’s the thing: A well-run conference has lots of short sessions where you pick up one or two great tidbits. Then you can immediately try ’em out on your laptop. Plus, you get to drink until the wee hours. Whole different ball game, really.
Ian Lurie is founder and CEO of Portent Inc., an internet marketing agency that has provided internet marketing, including PPC, SEO, social and analytics services, since 1995. Read More