Being Smart About Smartphone Training

Why You Should Consider Smartphone Training When Training Your Employees 

In this article I will share my thoughts on why organizations should consider smartphone training to train their employees:

I bought my first smartphone in January 2013 (yes, I was a little slow), and I quickly got excited about all the things I could do with it: Check baseball scores, find weather forecasts, listen to podcasts, and occasionally even call people. I decided I would build my professional life around this amazing new tool, and I was soon using it to take notes in meetings, schedule client visits, and answer emails. I began to imagine a future where I didn’t need a computer at all – my smartphone would be my only device.

I was about three months into this personal technological revolution when I realized that just because I COULD do things on my phone didn’t mean I SHOULD. The notes I took in meetings suffered because I couldn’t get everything transcribed as quickly as when I wrote in my notebook, and the emails I wrote took much longer since, as a punctuation-obsessed English major, I made sure to use every Oxford comma.

So I began scaling back. I took pen and paper to meetings, I wrote emails from my desk computer, and I’m writing this blog post on a tablet. I still love my phone –it has revolutionized the way I watch baseball, and I’m never going back–, but I no longer think it’s the right tool for every task.

Turns out I’m not the only one. Americans still use smartphones a lot – a recent eMarketer report said it roughly averages out to three hours a day in 2015. And the amount we use them is still increasing, but the growth rate has slowed considerably in the last five years, from 100% growth rate between 2011 and 2012 to just over 10% growth rate between 2014 and 2015.

Even more revealing is how we now spend that time. A sizable majority is spent engaging with video, audio, and social networks –  we still like those tasks designed for smartphones, but we like less and less those that aren’t: Time spent surfing the web on smartphones has declined in the last 3 years. All this is to say, we are being more discriminating about how we use our smartphones and when we want other tools more suited to a specific task.

This is an important lesson for training. There are certain training tasks that work very well on a phone; some even require a mobile device of some kind. One of our clients, a major telecom company, recently needed Performance Support Tools (PSTs) for their technicians who were running into unfamiliar situations when connecting service for new customers. No matter how detailed the walk-through in a classroom setting, it was often impossible to remember all the steps out in the field. So they produced a series of smartphone training videos, meaning training videos that could be easily accessed on smartphones, showing the technicians every step they would need for a variety of installation scenarios.

Many other training tasks are less suited for smartphones. Complex concepts often require conversation with experts or peers, so they work well in face-to-face settings. In-depth application of principles to detailed scenarios requires significant interaction and will work best on a desktop or laptop where interactivity is less cumbersome. Detailed overviews can be effectively shown in interactive infographics, but they require a large screen to effectively absorb the big picture.

Simply put, the physical setting of our training matters, especially when we are considering smartphone training: If a salesperson is going to be sitting with a customer, showing a brief product video on a smartphone can be a nice, impromptu training session. Our client’s technicians benefited greatly from the ability to pull up process tools in the field. But if we want smartphone training because our learners aren’t doing anything else while they ride the train home anyway, let’s rethink. We want our learners to be in a setting that maximizes the learning potential by providing the most effective interactivity with the right tools. Let’s not use smartphones for training because we can. Let’s use them when we should.

Want to learn more about other top 10 training trends? Check out AllenComm’s #Trending 2016 eBook.

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