5 Ways to Launch Product Knowledge Training

As organizations grow their goods, services, and specialized personnel, they face an internal conundrum: it’s increasingly difficult for everyone within the company to keep up with everything the company provides. Departments can be far apart in physical distance, perhaps in opposite wings of a very large company space or even across oceans in the case of multi-national corporations. Personnel are intentionally specialized, yet at the same time, it’s important to be familiar with everything the company does, at least in general terms. For this reason, it’s essential for the company itself to set aside time for this very important product knowledge development.

Learn more about training in the workplace

Below, we have gathered five ways you can deploy product knowledge training in your organization.

1. e-Learning

In today’s technological world, developing a course and offering it online can be a very useful and productive way to develop product knowledge among personnel. With e-Learning tools, users are free to work independently and at their own pace, tuning in to new or challenging areas more carefully and glossing over known information. This saves time and helps the learner target the desired knowledge more specifically. Managers can rest assured that personnel who have completed a certain course or set of courses can demonstrate proficiency with the material presented. They can also improve weaker areas of a course over time, developing a very strong and effective tool for learning.

There is a wide range of e-Learning authoring tool vendors like iSpring. When focusing on personnel knowledge development, the optimal choice would be iSpring Suite combined with iSpring Cloud. While iSpring Suite supplements PowerPoint with some additional capabilities like narration recording, screen recording, dialogue simulations, and quiz making tool, iSpring Cloud makes it possible to share those items with your employees. Additionally, iSpring Cloud offers content view statistics and tracking information. With these handy tools, managers can easily see who has done how much of the e-course, which slides are most viewed, individuals’ presentation views, the slides they’ve viewed and how long they spent on each one.

Read more on the topic: 5 Best Ways to Track Employee Training

With the e-Learning options available in modern authoring tools, you will have everything you need to create a dynamic e-course, a place to store all training materials, and tracking tools to see who has completed what.

Out-of-pocket cost:  iSpring Suite: range from $697 for 1 license to 5 licenses for $2,716, labor in development.

Preparation time: time for the learning curve, 2-4 weeks to develop a course.

Advantages:

  • personnel are free to learn at their own pace,
  • can work independently,
  • can learn at their own desks and still available at their posts while learning,
  • courses can easily be distributed anywhere in the world without additional cost or effort.

Disadvantages:

  • cost investment,
  • course should be carefully thought-out and designed to minimize learner frustration and maximize knowledge acquisition.

2. Games

Games are a great and fun way to increase knowledge and awareness. One type of relevant game is a role-playing game. Personnel from one department assume the role of a consumer interested in purchasing a product or service, and personnel from another department play the role of seller. At first, the person in the role of seller is actually someone from her home department, selling the goods or services she sells every day. In later renditions the roles switch, and the person previously in the role of buyer becomes the seller, responsible for selling goods or services from another department. The person in the buyer role is a legitimate expert, so asks real-life questions about the product or service sold in her home department. She asks question after question, helping the person in the seller role familiarize himself with the item. These role-plays can be conducted one-on-one within larger groups quite easily, and people can change partners once they’ve each been in both roles. Several products and services can be discussed in one session. Forty-five minutes to an hour is probably enough for this type of activity.

Out-of-pocket cost: none.

Preparation time: a few minutes or possibly none.

Advantages:

  • low cost,
  • interactivity,
  • fun.

Disadvantages:

  • time away from the post,
  • requires advance scheduling,
  • needs a meeting place,
  • demands everyone be physically present,
  • low organizational control,
  • physical distance and time zone differences may prevent some staff members from participating.

Another possible game is similar to 20 questions, except it’s about the answers. This game involves breaking a larger group into smaller groups of 3-4 employees each. These groups can be from the same department or different departments. One group presents an item by relating its characteristics one at a time. People in the other groups try to identify the item based on the clues provided. Examples of clues might be a product’s dimensions, color, usefulness, and purpose. The “winning” group becomes the next group to present an item or service. If you like, you can have the groups keep score of their wins, so at the end there is definitely a “winner”. There are a couple of advantages in having the smaller groups composed of same-department personnel. Firstly, they can develop cohesion as a group by working together to win. Secondly, if they are from the same department, they likely can communicate with each other to come up with a better solution.

Out-of-pocket cost: none.

Preparation time: a few minutes for the presenting group to decide on a product to present.

Advantages:

  • low cost,
  • interactivity,
  • fun,
  • competitive,
  • builds departmental cohesion.

Disadvantages:

  • time away from the post,
  • builds “us-them” dynamic if participants are from the same department (might be better to sometimes create groups from different departments for this reason),
  • requires advance scheduling,
  • needs a meeting place,
  • demands everyone be physically present,
  • low organizational control,
  • physical distance and time zone differences may prevent some staff members from participating.

A third type of game is card matching. It works almost like the memory matching game for children, with a set of cards turned upside-down and the object being to turn over matching cards together. In this card matching game, the same picture is not a match as in the children’s game. Instead, on one card there is the product and on another one there its characteristics. It involves both memory, in remembering which cards are where, and cognition in matching products and services to their characteristics. This can also be developed as a computer application.

Out-of-pocket cost: the cost of a card stock.

Preparation time: a few hours to develop the cards.

Advantages: creative for those developing cards, fun to play, can be played independently, not necessary to take time away from the post.

Disadvantages: not everyone likes this game, may be overly simplistic for an organization’s purposes, relies on learners grasping connections the card creator intended.

3. Cross-training

Cross-training personnel is not a new idea, but it is a great way to improve product knowledge across departments. In this option, personnel from one department are trained as new personnel in another department. The main disadvantage of this option is its profound use of resources in both affected departments. If an employee is being trained in a different department, she is not at her post to perform her usual duties, placing a burden on her departmental co-workers or stacking up the work for her return. Also the trainer in the new department is working at a much slower pace in order to train the new person. Additionally, this option is somewhat complex and time-consuming, as it generally takes some time for an employee to become proficient in a new role. The advantages to this option, however, may outweigh the disadvantages. First, the company has trained personnel ready to step in at any moment and perform competently in a different department in the event of unforeseen absences or downsizing. Second, this gives the company a wide selection of fully informed and trained personnel able to discuss goods, services, policies and practices, which is beneficial to the company’s image in the eyes of clients and customers.

Out-of-pocket cost: substantial labor costs.

Preparation time: none.

Advantages: fully trained personnel ready to step in any time needed, personnel are very knowledgeable about other departments’ workflow.

Disadvantages: time-consuming, loss of productivity at assigned post during training, requires advance scheduling, demands everyone be physically present, low organizational control, physical distance and time zone differences may prevent some staff members from participating.

4. Regular meetings

Meetings intended to raise product knowledge can be very beneficial. Such meetings can be conducted like mini-classes during the workday. For these, a small group from a single department is assigned to present some products and/or services from that department. Presentations can be computer-enhanced, such as with PowerPoint, or they can be just live demonstrations of a particular product or service. After the presentation, the presenting group can ask the attending group pointed questions designed to further understanding, or vice versa. A lively discussion can easily ensue, involving sharing ideas and experiences.

It is important to keep in mind that the vast majority of people don’t learn things well after only one presentation and discussion about it. The workplace is not an academic setting where learners will study their notes and later be tested on the material. Instead, it is a dynamic interactive environment where people have their own jobs to do. As a result, it is a good idea to visit future products/services meetings. Attendees can also be asked to come to the next meeting with at least one question about the good or service presented, which encourages deeper understanding.

A total of two or three goods or services can be presented at each meeting. Presenting and discussing more than that brings the risk that attendees will get them all mixed up and actually learn less about each one. Meetings should be 60-90 minutes. The presentation portion of the meeting should last no more than 20 minutes. All attendees should be encouraged to participate in the ensuing discussion. If someone remains silent, that person should be called to join in with something like, “Mark, what is a question you have about this item?”

Out-of-pocket cost: labor time away from post for the meetings, any materials handed out.

Preparation time: time spent on a PowerPoint presentation creation and live presentation preparation.

Advantages:

  • everyone demonstrates expertise on the company’s products/services,
  • builds confidence in presenters,
  • widens the attendees’ knowledge,
  • attendees quickly discover who is an expert at certain areas and can be addressed with some emerging questions,
  • interactive.

Disadvantages:

  • not everyone responds well to this type of presentation,
  • time away from post; requires advance scheduling,
  • needs a meeting place; demands everyone to be physically present,
  • low organizational control,
  • physical distance and time zone differences may prevent some staff members from participating.

5. Quizzes and worksheets

Along with games, quizzes and worksheets can be a fun way to acquire new material. Depending on the company’s industry and resources, they can be paper- or computer-based, and placed on iSpring Cloud for easy access at any time. Personnel from a certain department develop all materials regarding their own department’s products and services.

Quizzes can contain questions that include a partial description of an item or service, its function, history, future, and how to use it. Several items or services are listed as possible responses. Be sure that the description clearly pertains to only one item in the list (i.e. that there is only one correct answer). One of your options here is to create multiple choice quizzes with iSpring QuizMaker.

Out-of-pocket cost: minimal. Cost of paper for paper-based quizzes.

Preparation time: 1-2 hours per quiz.

Advantages:

  • direct knowledge testing,
  • can be done independently,
  • not necessary to leave post to perform,
  • can be used as supplemental consideration in performance evaluations.

Disadvantages:

  • some people don’t like quizzes or have test anxiety,
  • questions must be carefully thought out,
  • low organizational control,
  • paperwork management,
  • manual assessments required.

A matching exercise can be a separate activity. Here, a list of characteristics goes in one column, labelled with letters. A list of goods and services goes in another column, labelled with numbers. The goal is to match the characteristics with the appropriate good or service. It is okay to have the list of characteristics much longer than the list of goods/services. It’s also okay to include goods/services with no corresponding characteristics.

Out-of-pocket cost: minimal. Cost of paper for paper-based worksheets.

Preparation time: 10-30 minutes per exercise.

Advantages:

  • fun,
  • can be done independently,
  • no need to take time away from post to perform.

Disadvantages:

  • must be carefully thought out,
  • products and services evolve and change, requiring upkeep on materials,
  • low organizational control,
  • paperwork management,
  • manual assessments required.

Creating crossword puzzles is another way to develop product knowledge. Similar to the matching exercise described above, the clues to the words become the characteristics of a good or service. Other clues can include fill-in-the-blanks, for example, “the dragon widget is intended to help _____ while driving.” These puzzles can be developed individually or in teams, and can be as much fun to create as they are to fill out.

Out-of-pocket cost: minimal. Cost of paper for paper-based worksheets.

Preparation time: a couple of hours.

Advantages:

  • fun,
  • can be done independently,
  • no need to take time away from post to perform.

Disadvantages:

  • must be carefully thought out,
  • products and services evolve and change, requiring material update,
  • low organizational control,
  • paperwork management,
  • manual assessment required.

Conclusion

If you would like to raise the level of product knowledge at your company, now you know at least 5 ways to do it. Depending on the time and financial resources at your disposal, you are free to choose the perfect fit for yourself, or maybe tailor one of the ways listed above to your unique needs.

Developing a product knowledge program can help each team member better understand what all of her efforts are for: it helps work much more effectively, as the goal becomes clearly seen. This will definitely help your Sales Department to communicate the benefits of the product or service. Plus, you will always have your back covered with black belts who can promptly redeploy in the company structure under unforeseeable economic consequences.

Remember that you can choose to digitalize some of the listed activities with the help of iSpring to grant your employees access to the learning materials on any device of their choice.

Have you come up with some other methods to train product knowledge? Feel free to share your experience and thoughts in the comment section!

Posted in e-Learning