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Training: Getting Up to Speed

Furniture World Magazine
Volume 149 NO.2 March/April


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Design & Designer Series: Jeanne Chung
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The sink or swim approach taken by many furniture retailers usually contributes to notoriously high turnover rates. So should you use YouTube for training?

Most days I find myself thinking about the newly hired men and women who show up for their careers as retail sales associates in furniture and bedding stores. I imagine them excitedly sharing news with their friends and family that they have embarked on a new profession that will be fun, fulfilling, and profitable. They have high hopes for paying rent, buying food, and keeping their gas tanks full.

Unfortunately, for half of them, it won’t take long to realize that selling furniture is harder than they imagined. They’ll be unable to reach their goals and will be forced to find new employment. It’s a terrible outcome for them and their families. It’s terrible, too, for dealers who lose countless customers and sales during probationary periods that ultimately end in failure.

The success of any business is dependent in large part on how well a company's employees understand and are able to perform their jobs. The furniture industry is no exception. Virtually all furniture dealers and manufacturers recognize the need to train employees.

Sales Training Challenges

But training a staff of any size can be a challenge. Training Magazine reported that in 2016 the average small business invested over $1,000 per employee in training. Many businesses struggle to find adequate time to consistently provide and manage training programs. Training Magazine also reported that the average employee received 43.8 hours of training in 2016.

Budget constraints, vague ROI, and scheduling difficulties cause many furniture retailers to explore easy and inexpensive ways to train their employees. Some have simply given up on training in hopes that employees will gain sufficient on-the-job experience as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, the “sink or swim” approach taken by many within the industry contributes to the notoriously high turnover rates within the ranks of furniture salespeople.

“Following the explaining step, a demonstration of the skill should be performed. It is very important to tell about the skill, then show the skill.”

Inexpensive Options

It's not a big surprise that companies looking for inexpensive and easy training solutions often turn to free video hosting services like YouTube, Vimeo, Lynda, MediaPlatform, Viostream, and others. Consider the following YouTube statistics reported by Fortunelords (2017):

  • 1,300,000,000 people use YouTube.
  • Each day 30 million people visit YouTube.
  • 5 billion YouTube videos are watched each day.
  • 3.25 billion hours of video are watched on YouTube each month.
  • 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

 

YouTube is free, it’s easily accessible on most mobile devices, and is utilized by approximately 180 million Americans (Statista). Who of us hasn’t used YouTube as a quick and easy way to find out how to do something? There are YouTube videos that address nearly any need someone might have. So it’s understandable that this, and other video-based services might be an attractive, "quick and easy" alternative for employers to train their workforce. In fact, hardly a week goes by that we don’t talk with a furniture retailer who tells us that they rely on videos to train RSAs. Many retailers tell us they also use videos created by manufacturers. The purpose of this article is to address the strengths and limitations of YouTube and other video-based services as an effective means for employee training.


“After each practice, the trainer should give corrective feedback, explaining which portions of the learner’s performance were correct, incorrect, and why.”

Elements of Effective Training

Effective training design includes the four elements: Explanation, Demonstration, Practice with Feedback, and Assessment.

  1. Explanation: The first and most basic element of training is an explanation of the new knowledge or skill to be learned. Explanations should include:
    • Important supporting knowledge.
    • Why the skill is important.
    • The context for applying the skill.
    • Detailed descriptions of the steps to take to perform the skill.

    Example: To teach a salesperson the skill of responding appropriately to a customer who says “I’m just looking” the trainer would explain several things about that skill. First, that “I’m just looking” is a common customer response and should not be taken personally. Then that the RSA who helps these customers in a positive way can increase their sales. Finally, the trainer would name and describe in detail each of the steps for responding appropriately to this type of customer.

  2. Demonstrate: Following the explaining step, a demonstration of the skill should be performed. It's important to tell about the skill, then show the skill.

    Example: After explaining the skill, include the steps of the process to demonstrate application of the skill. The demonstration should be a realistic encounter during which the trainer would perform each step of the process with an “I’m just looking” customer. The trainer presents multiple demonstrations to show the skill in a variety of different situations.

  3. Practice with Feedback: Practice is the opportunity for learners to apply a skill just demonstrated in realistic situations. Using a variety of practice scenarios is best. It has been shown that practicing a skill in routine situations also enables learners to apply it in non-routine situations (Mayer, 1998). After each practice, the trainer should give corrective feedback, explaining which portions of the learner’s performance were correct, incorrect, and why. Receiving feedback during the practice of a new skill results in improved performance (Mayer 2008).

    Example: Use multiple role-play scenarios that mimic real life situations. The RSA can practice responding to role-playing customers who tell them, “I’m just looking". This will require the learner to recall and apply each of the steps in the process described and demonstrated. Either during or at the end of each role-play scenario the trainer should offer corrective feedback by explaining what parts of the process were done correctly and which need improvement. It’s during these practice-feedback activities that the skill is really learned.

  4. Assessment: One purpose of an assessment is for the trainer to determine whether or not the RSA is proficient in applying the skill. In addition, and equally as important for learning, the assessment step lets the RSA know how well they are able to apply a new skill. That understanding can either emphasize a need for additional training, or instill confidence in a new hire that they are prepared to successfully perform on the floor.

    “As previously described, practice is essential for effective training. In fact, it’s during practice-feedback cycles that the most learning happens.”

    Since assessment is an opportunity for the learner to demonstrate their ability, feedback is typically not included during an assessment. The best training includes assessments that are similar in format to the practice scenarios, but without the corrective feedback provided during practice. Feedback may be given after the assessment is completed.

    Example: The trainer places RSAs in multiple role-play scenarios that mimic real life situations. The learner practices responding to role-playing customers who say “I’m just looking.” This will require the RSA to recall and apply each of the steps in the process. The trainer observes and notes how well the learner follows each of the steps.

How Effective is YouTube?

As mentioned previously, YouTube and other video-based resources are being considered by more and more employers as a training medium. Let’s look at YouTube and how it stacks up on a scale of one to five compared to proven standards of effective training.

  1. How good is YouTube at Explaining?

    Explaining, or telling about something is the most common element across all kinds of training, and YouTube is no exception. A bird's eye survey of education and training videos found on YouTube reveals that most videos include an explanation of the steps of the process they intend to teach. Videos on product knowledge typically include close-up images of a furniture item along with features and benefits provided by a spokesperson. Videos intended to teach soft skills, such as sales, typically include a spokesperson talking about a tip or idea salespeople should use to improve their sales.

    YouTube Score: Four out of a possible five.

  2. How good is YouTube at Demonstrating?
    “Use multiple role-play scenarios that mimic real life situations. The RSA can practice responding to role-playing customers who tell them, 'I’m just looking.”

    Much training is heavy on the "tell" and light on "show". For example, textbooks typically lack a demonstration of the skill to be learned. Video, on the other hand, is an ideal medium for showing how to perform new skills. Many YouTube videos are exactly this — a demonstration of how to do something. Others do well at explaining but do not include needed demonstrations. Videos intended to teach product knowledge typically include close-up images of the a furniture item and a spokesperson declaring its features and benefits. Videos intended to teach sales skills typically include a spokesperson providing a tip or idea salespeople can use to improve their sales. Demonstrations for soft skills are typically not included in video training.

    YouTube Score: Two out of a possible five.

  3. How good is YouTube at Practice with Feedback?

    As previously described, practice is essential for effective training. In fact it’s during practice-feedback cycles that the most learning happens. The use of video as a non-interactive medium means that practice in any form is typically excluded in YouTube-based training.

    Individualized feedback regarding RSA performance is impossible using YouTube or any other video-only training. YouTube Scores: Zero out of a possible five.

  4. How good is YouTube at Assessment?

    Assessments provide trainers and learners with important information about whether or not the learners have acquired the new skill. Since assessments are similar to practice, YouTube videos are equally poor at providing assessment information.

    YouTube Score: Zero out of a possible five.

Summary

Although the cost to create YouTube-based training can be lower, the overall effectiveness of traditional cloud-based programs, is much higher. For training to be effective it needs to include the previously mentioned steps of Explanation, Demonstration, Practice with Feedback, and Assessment. These four elements help to ensure an effective, and cost-effective program.


References:


About Mike Petersen: Dr. Mike Petersen is the president and co-founder of The Furniture Training Company (FTC). Mike's extensive educational background in learning and teaching is why FTC is able to create instruction that actually changes behavior and improves sales success.

About The Furniture Training Company: Designed to improve sales success, the Furniture Training Company's online sales training program has been used in more than 1,000 retail locations by over 30,000 salespeople. FTC is the creator of custom sales training for such notable companies as Klaussner, Cozzia, Guardsman, and O.W. Lee.


Mike Petersen can be reached by calling 866-755-5996 or emailing mikep@furnituretraining
company.com
.


Read other articles by Mike Petersen