How Mindflash Uses Mindflash to Train Its EmployeesJanuary 29, 2014 by Erin Osterhaus
Online learning management systems (LMSs) have revolutionized the way companies train employees. No matter where their employees are, companies can administer courses on employees’ schedules, track their progress and provide feedback based on individual learning curves.
There are currently hundreds of LMSs on the market. One of the earliest of those was Mindflash, founded in 1999 and headquartered in Palo Alto. Back then, most training was done in person, and while some was migrating to the web via platforms like WebEx, these courses only “synchronized” learning. In other words, the trainer and trainee both had to be online at the same time.
Mindflash saw several problems with this state of affairs. Traditionally, all training was based on one schedule: the trainer’s. The availability of employees working from dispersed locations and their varied paces of learning weren’t taken into account. Now, Mindflash allows companies to create flexible courses that fit the employee’s schedule and learning pace.
As a company that has pioneered the tools available in the learning management space, I thought it would be helpful to learn about training best practices from the experts at Mindflash. I sat down with Randhir Vieira, VP of Product and Marketing, to see how the company uses its own product to train its employees, and to learn what benefits other companies may experience if they do the same.
Welcome Courses Provide a Shared Knowledge Base and Improve Retention
First and foremost, Vieira recommends taking advantage of your LMS to create a welcome course that will serve as a knowledge base for new and current employees—at Mindflash, the course is known as “The Welcome Wagon.” Such a course has helped Mindflash improve employee performance, as well as keep employee turnover low.
Mindflash’s Welcome Wagon Course
Vieira notes that having a uniform course that all employees must take allows new hires to feel plugged in much more quickly than if they were to be trained on an ad hoc basis, and says the course has helped improve employee performance on what he calls the soft skills—for instance, communication between departments and acting as a team player. “They learn those things a lot quicker than if they were left to fend for themselves and try to figure this stuff out,” Vieira says.
While The Welcome Wagon provides new hires with a preliminary knowledge base, it is also a resource for current employees. The course is updated on a regular basis to ensure that standard procedures are shared across departments—which is especially important for Mindflash, as its workforce is distributed all across the country. According to Vieira, “We don’t have every new employee starting here in our Palo Alto office. We have people in Vermont, South Dakota, Phoenix, southern California and Seattle.”
So, no matter where employees are—either geographically or in terms of tenure—Mindflash has a standard knowledge base that everyone can access. In the end, Vieira says that the company’s use of its own LMS helps with retention because employees “feel plugged into a community of colleagues.”
Social Learning Results in a 90 Percent Course Completion Rate
When people have the knowledge to do their jobs well and a community that will support them, they’re much more likely to feel connected and engaged. Moreover, according to a Gallup Organization survey of more than 5 million workers, 56 percent said they were more engaged and productive when they had friends at work.
In order to ensure their dispersed workforce is able to collaborate and develop camaraderie, Mindflash uses one key component of its LMS platform: social learning. This means Mindflash has integrated its courses and trainings with its enterprise social network, Yammer. According to Vieira, this allows trainees to interact more casually outside of formal training modules, creating an environment of easy and open communication.
When a trainee has a question, for example, they can post it to the company-wide Yammer page. If the question is in regards to a specific training course (departments such as marketing, product development and sales have their own courses), the employee can post to a group created specifically for that course. By encouraging employees to work together throughout their training, Mindflash has fostered a sense of camaraderie among a dispersed workforce.
The social aspect also creates some healthy competition, which leads to extremely high course completion rates: 90 to 92 percent, Vieira reports. “When people complete a course, they can post their success back to Yammer,” he says. “Usually when other people see that, they think, ‘Oh, John just took this course and scored 100 percent. I should complete my course and post that back.”
Employees Create Courses to Learn the Product and Connect with Colleagues
According to Anne Dranitsaris, PhD and corporate therapist, “The more employees discover links between personal ideals and a meaningful organizational mission, the greater their commitment to their goals.” To ensure its employees connect with Mindflash’s primary mission—to make learning online as easy as possible—it does something unique: all new hires must create their own course.
The course can be about anything the employee desires. “We have one course on the difference between F1 Racing and Nascar racing,” Vieira says. “We also have a person who’s very passionate about tea, who was appalled at the way people were brewing it in the office. So she created a course on how to make good tea.”
This practice encourages the company’s employees to become more familiar with their own product and mission. But even if your company isn’t in the LMS business, having employees share their interests and knowledge via internal courses allows your staff to get to know each other better. This can help people form those important work friendships that lead to higher engagement and productivity.
Invest in Training That Makes Sense for Your Company
While many smaller companies may think that an LMS isn’t for them, Vieira encourages them to reconsider. “One of the things that we’ve learned is that the number of employees isn’t necessarily a predictor of the usefulness of an LMS,” he says. “Some of our customers are relatively small in terms of the number of employees—but they may have resellers or partners or customers, and it’s those people that they’re training.”
The first thing Vieira recommends looking at when evaluating whether or not your company should invest in an LMS is how much training you’re doing today—internal or external. If you’ve found it difficult to execute on your goals with your current tools, then it’s probably time to take the plunge.
Vieira says to make a list that divides the features of your potential LMS into two categories: “critical” and “nice to have.” Then review what’s on the market. Once you have a short list of products that support the features you want, try them out and see what works best.
After you’ve found the right product, follow Mindflash’s example to create a work environment that fosters learning. You might just improve your workers’ performance, increase employee retention and create a workplace with a sense of community and camaraderie.