Training and improved Performance

Please read the case and answer the questions at the end. Please respond to two of your peers. Do you agree or disagree?

Sales at a large telecommunications company were down for the third quarter. Management reviewed several strategies to improve sales and concluded that one solution would be to improve training for the large, dispersed sales force.

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For the sake of expediency, the training department began using a needs assessment it conducted several years before as a basis to develop enhanced training. The plan was first to update the original needs analysis, and then to develop new training strategies on the basis of what it found. The department also began investigating new training technologies as a possible means to reduce training delivery costs. However, management was so intent on doing something quickly that the training department was ultimately pressured into purchasing a generic, off-the-shelf package by a local vendor.

One of the features of the package that appealed to management was that the course could be delivered over the Web, saving them time and expense of having the sales force travel to the main office to receive training. Hence, even though the package was costly to purchase, the company believed that it was a bargain compared to the expense of developing a new package in-house and delivering it in person to the sales force.

Six months after the training had been delivered, sales were still declining. Management turned to the training department for answers. Because no measures of training performance had been collected, the training department had little information upon which to base its diagnosis. For lack of a better idea, members of the training department began questioning the sales force to see if they could determine why the training was not working.

Among other things, the salespeople reported that the training was slow and boring and that it did not teach them any new sales techniques. They also complained that, without an instructor, it was impossible to get clarification on things they did not understand. Moreover, they reported that they believed sales were off not because they needed training in basic sales techniques, but because so many new products were being introduced that they could not keep up. In fact, several of the salespeople requested meetings with design engineers just so they could get updated product information.

Questions:

Outline the key decisions made from the beginning to the end of this case. Who made each of those decisions, and why?
Describe the ideal process for handling the concern about declining sales, ignoring for now the pressure from management.
What arguments could be made to convince management that working with an outdated needs assessment is not wise?
If you were asked to develop a training program for these sales agents, what content, method, and media would you choose? Explain your answers as best you can, given the limited information provided.

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