Posts Tagged ‘Versitas’

Thinking Long Term

April 12th, 2010 - by Angela

gold-watch1Last week, I wrote a friend of mine an email for her birthday.  I started thinking about how long we had been friends…over 32 years! I met her when we moved to Texas when I was just a little kid.  My sister and I walked around in our neighborhood and asked if there were any little kids to play with at each house.  We met Krista on our second day in Texas.

Over the years, we developed a strong friendship with Krista and her parents.  We had so much fun on our adventures, along with getting in trouble, too.  Despite those times when we were grounded after getting in trouble, my family and I still look back down memory lane at the fond times we spent together.

My sister and I were very shy at the beginning of our friendship with Krista. It took some courage, some faith, and sometimes the benefit of the doubt in those early days of our friendship.  Thankfully, we had many, many laughs mixed in, which definitely helped us solidify our relationship over the years.

In light of the reflections on my long-term friendship with Krista, I think about my business relationships through Versitas.  I am so blessed with several clients that we have developed great relationships with over the years.  It has been nice to watch the relationship with these clients bloom over time.

I find it very rewarding to be able to go back to do a class and to get to visit with students I’ve helped in a previous class.  I love hearing about how they are using the skills that they learned in a prior training session to work more effectively. Getting to see the results of my labor really makes my day!

From a trainer’s perspective, it is great to have these long-term relationships with clients.  It tells me that they like what we are doing in training and that they realize how important training is to their corporation.

Of course, every client has to start out as a new client. We enjoy every class that we do, even if it is just a one-time session.  Don’t get me wrong…I love meeting new people and working with new corporations and individuals. I like the diversity and change that comes with new clients.

I’m thankful that at Versitas I get to work with a great mix of new clients and long-term clients.  It is great to watch the development from a new client to into a strong training partnership over time.

Engaged Training

March 8th, 2010 - by Angela

6a01156fc46070970b01157026cd4b970cI was reading an article recently by Jeanne Meister discussing trends in corporate learning.  She tracks trends in learning at different private and public corporations and institutions.  I am always trying to find out more information about learning and trends in the corporate sector, which is how I ran across her article.

The article was very insightful and matched what I have seen with the companies that I’ve done training for over the past year.  She narrowed down the learning trends to focus on five main features of learning for the upcoming decade: social, mobile, collaborative, engaging, and fun.

One of the statements that really made me stop and think was, “Employee engagement will continue to be a top issue on the dashboard for HR and Learning executives. The reason is simple: according to a survey conducted by the Corporate Executive Board, (CEB), companies with highly engaged employees demonstrate a 3-year revenue growth of 20.1%, compared to the 8.9% their industry peers will average.” Coming from a training background, I realized that training is one of the keys to keeping employees engaged.  If employees feel abandoned, or left to fend for themselves to learn, they may lose interest and move on to a corporation that provides that learning environment.

In order to attract and retain the top talent that can help a corporation stay competitive, corporations need to promote a culture that engages its employees, encourages them to collaborate and learn from others, and has fun in the process.  I believe that corporate training can be a key to creating that culture.  If corporations do not stay on the cutting edge with their corporate learning programs they may not be economically viable.

One of the other points that Meister made in her article also seemed to hit the nail on the head.  She stated that the group style learning model is slowly fading.  From my experience, I am doing more one-on-one training in the past couple of years versus previous years. Many of my clients have told me that they do not have time to go to a regular class but need the customized, individual training at their desk or home.  

I’m so grateful that Versitas provides the option for me to do all different kinds of training to meet the changing needs of our clients.  We are also pretty good at incorporating another of the five trends into our classes…FUN!

New Year’s Resolutions

January 11th, 2010 - by Angela

2010newyearsresolutionWell, it is almost half way through January.  Have you kept your New Year’s resolutions?  Statistics show that many of us have already failed in keeping our resolutions.  I’ve enlisted the help of my husband (a.k.a. healthnut) to help me stay on track with working out on our elliptical trainer here at home.  He’s a great encourager and accountability partner.  

I was thinking about this in terms of training.  Was your New Year’s resolution to better your skills and increase your productivity to solidify or advance in your career?  If you are like me, you might need a partner who will help you succeed in your goal.  Like in my exercise goal, it helps to have a good trainer when learning new software skills.

In the current economic conditions, every little bit can help.  Ensuring that your skills are at an expert level or adding another program to your resume can be the one thing that helps you advance to the next level at your current company or at another.  A good trainer can help you with both of these areas to become more efficient or learn a new software application. 

You do not necessarily need to spend a great deal of time away from your desk to get this training. You can have a trainer come right to your desk and work with you for a half-day on any custom topics that you’d like to learn. You can mix and match software applications, too.  I’ve done Versitas 1-to-1 training for individuals when we’ve covered three different software applications in the same session.  

Spending a little time and money may help you accomplish your goals for 2010.  Training is a great investment and usually equates to much more cost savings over the long run when you look at your productivity and efficiency.

I know that my investment in the elliptical machine will pay off in better health for me in the long term, too.  That’s one resolution I’m determined to keep!

Office 2010 Review (Part I)

December 30th, 2009 - by Angela

imagesI’ve been researching Office 2010 lately.  Based on my first impression, I’m pretty excited about adopting it when it is released in the first half of 2010.  As a trainer for Versitas, I can see so many fun ways to integrate the new elements into a great “new features” class.

I must admit that I am an early adopter.  I started using the full desktop version of Office 2007 as soon as it was in beta version.  It did take a little time to get used to the updated interface without my memorized menus, but I really like how user friendly it is!  I had not had the time to play with any pre-release version of Office 2010 yet so this was my first go-round with it.

I have to start off with the WebApps version change. Office 2010 Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote applications will now be available to use (with limited functionality) in a web browser (Explorer, Firefox, and Safari).  Here comes cloud computing!  Users will only need to use SharePoint 2010 or a Windows Live Account.  For those people who use a netbook, this would work really well because it wouldn’t require a great deal of hard drive space. The WebApps are available to anyone who purchases Office 2010 or free to those who don’t mind having an advertising pane on their screen.

Another new feature, called BackStage, replaces the File menu.  It allows you to integrate tasks across multiple documents like printing and sharing. If BackStage works like it is supposed to, I’m going to love this facet of Office 2010.  As someone who integrates documents across the Office applications, I’m very much in favor of making it easier to share or print by putting everything in one place and under one tab.

Office 2010 will be installed much faster with what Microsoft calls Click-to-Run.  It will be an on-demand installation so that only the features that are needed will be initially installed. Whenever you need a feature that has not been enabled yet, you just click to quickly download that element.  The element activation will take less time because they have streamlined the install process.  Most of all, you don’t take up space on your machine with extras that you are not using.

New computers will come packaged with Office 2010 Starter version.  It will not have full functionality and won’t include all of the applications.  There will also be a fixed advertising pane within it.

Great Tools!

December 15th, 2009 - by Angela

toolsThis past week, I did a customized 1-on-1 deskside training class on specific topics in Microsoft Excel, Visio, and Project.  It had been a while since I’d done training on Visio and Project. As we went over the individual’s questions, I was reminded of what great tools Project and Visio are.  (Note: Versitas doesn’t sell any of these products, so these are just my personal thoughts on the software.)

If your company uses either of those applications, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.  If you don’t, I’ll fill you in.  Visio is a drawing software that lets you turn your designs, diagrams and maps, etc., into visual documents easily. You can create flowcharts, organizational charts, maps, and much more.  There are stencils available with all kinds of shapes to use for your designs.

The student I was working with was mainly concerned with floor plans.  She had scanned in her floor plans and wanted to plot items on those plans. She had an Excel spreadsheet listing all of the items and their dimensions/specs.  I showed her how to import the Excel spreadsheet items in a list in Visio that she could use to drag those specs onto the items/shapes she had plotted in Visio.

It was all so easy!  She thought she was going to have to go shape by shape and type in all of the information.  It was one of those “happy trainer moments” to see the look of relief on her face when she realized the time she was going to save.  Also, she was now going to be able to WOW her clients with the quality of her presentations.

We also worked with some Introductory topics in Project.  Project is a project management software that assists in developing task timelines, planning and managing budgets, assigning and tracking resources, and assessing progress.  Some people think Project is too complex.  With a little training, it doesn’t feel overwhelming at all.  In fact, it really can help a project manager in so many aspects.

Most of my student’s projects initially followed a similar pattern and format setup.  I told her that she would need to spend some time setting up a generic template.  After creating the first one, she could use that template for her other projects.  She would have some date adjusting and other tweaking to do but those would require little time if the template was set up correctly.

We really had a fun training session.  She was excited to see how these tools could work for her.  I was happy to see what a great help the software would be for her with just our half day of training.  It made me realize once again that the software we use can be so useful to our jobs!

Lending a Hand

December 7th, 2009 - by Angela

volunteering11As I was recently reflecting on Thanksgiving and the holiday season, I made a list of all of my blessings. (Amazingly, I don’t think of training all day every day!)  Making my list took longer than I expected.  There were so many blessings!  I actually do this daily on a smaller scale, too.  I think of three things that I am grateful for each day.  About five years ago, a friend and I started emailing these three things to each other every day.  What a difference it makes in my daily outlook!  

When I look at all the blessings I have, I see that I have so much while those less fortunate may not have as much.  At that point, my thoughts often turn to ways that I can give back or help others in the community. I see every day how much our communities benefit from volunteerism.  My Versitas colleagues feel the same way.  We all know how many services and organizations could not run without their volunteers. 

During this holiday season, I know that many people look for ways to give back within their community.  They sponsor a child or family on the Angel Tree, give to the Salvation Army, or volunteer in a soup kitchen. I think it is important to do this all year round, though.  I’ve included a list of volunteer opportunities with links to the sites for those organizations.  You can start volunteering this holiday season and hopefully continue throughout 2010. 

1. Volunteer Match - Don’t know where to start? These folks can hook you up with a need in your community.  

2. America’s Volunteer Database - The U.S. volunteer database for opportunities around the country.  Another place to get started. 

 3. Feeding America - (Formerly known as America’s Second Harvest) Volunteer or donate at your local food bank. 

4. Red Cross - Many volunteer opportunities ranging from giving blood to helping after a disaster. 

5. Idealist - Another great database of volunteer opportunities. 

There are many other organizations within our local communities that desperately need volunteers.  Some groups even need virtual volunteers, which would allow you to help even with a busy schedule.  I hope you’ll check into one of these opportunities or just reach out and help a neighbor in need.  Think about lending a hand today, it’s a truly rewarding experience!

Budgeting for 2010

November 30th, 2009 - by Angela

happy_2010_new_years_2010_greeting_cards-p137059697326968539q6k5_400As 2009 is rapidly coming to a close, I know many companies are evaluating 2009 and planning their budgets for 2010.  This year has been a rough one in terms of the economy.  However, it looks like we are having some good indicators that we are at least beginning the recovery process.  Some companies cut back on training budgets for 2009.  As a proponent for training (as if you can’t tell from my blog posts) I have been thinking lately about how to encourage organizations to add that training component back to their budgets for 2010.

A favorite quote of mine is:  “If you always do, what you always did, you will always get, what you always got!”  I think that quote applies here for companies that want better productivity and effectiveness from their employees but haven’t been willing to change how they do training. I think that it is vital that companies look at their training “return on investment”.   How have the current training practices translated into increased production, engagement and employee development? 

In a recession environment, more is required of every employee.  Training is even more crucial in this setting.  As just one example, I think about how Versitas Outlook training classes that I have done have helped employees process their email, schedule, and other items more efficiently.  Many people are self-taught Outlook users and so may not know about some helpful practices to manage their electronic inboxes and schedules.

After the Outlook training sessions, I’ve received feedback from many students about how the tips and tricks they learned would help them feel less overwhelmed in their jobs.  Many of these classes were 1/2 day training sessions, so only required 3 hours!  Having a feeling of empowerment over the huge number of emails received daily can make a big difference in how productive a person is in their job.

Obviously, corporations working on their training budgets want to develop their priorities and align those with the training classes they need.  I think it is important to make sure the training provider is able to customize and focus the training sessions to be efficient and effective.  I think they should ask how they can get the best value for their clients and stakeholders.  The recession has caused all of us to look at how to work smarter. I think training deserves to be considered a key component of that thought process.

One-to-One Training

November 23rd, 2009 - by Angela

blank_logo_opt1After talking with a couple of people last week about one-to-one training, I realized that some people do not know how useful this type of training is.  After almost every one-to-one (sometimes called deskside) training session I’ve done for the first time with someone, they tell me how much they wish they had known about that type of training long ago!  I guess that since I’ve been doing this type of training for years, I figured that everyone was aware of customized one-on-one deskside training.  That’s what I get for assuming…

My one-to-one Versitas training session last week was a great example of how beneficial this type of training can be for a person (and for a company). The training was actually one-on-two since there were two people from one company that I trained at the same time.  One person was at her desk computer and the other brought her laptop.  The setup was very quick and easy.

I sat where I could see both screens.  The focus of the training was Excel so we worked on their own spreadsheet files.  One of the comments I received from them was how nice it was to use their own files instead of example files.  Everything we covered was completely relevant and applicable to their jobs. 

Our main focus was formulas and functions, but we also covered a few math concepts, too, to make sense of the formulas. We would never have been able to do that type of customization in a big class. Both of the students were delighted that we could address all of the questions right on their very own files.

The person who designed the spreadsheets did quite a bit of linking and complex formulas.  After a basic explanation of Excel formulas, we went through most of the formulas on the spreadsheets that they didn’t understand. They caught on quickly and soon they were creating some complex formulas themselves. 

Both of the students told me how much they liked the completely customized training session.  One of them said that she had gotten more out of the first hour of our session than out of any of her past Excel classes. She was excited to be able to now take some of the work off of her supervisor’s already overloaded shoulders.  I truly believe that the training was a great benefit to both the students and their company.

I am hoping that this post will help spread the word about the value of one-to-one training sessions.  Try it - you may never want to sit through a full day class again!

Training and the Bottom Line

November 16th, 2009 - by Angela

bottomline4In my reading, I ran across a great quote that really got me to thinking about training and its costs/benefits.  The article was by a workshop facilitator who said something that I had heard before but was glad to be reminded of again.  Her statement was, “What if you train them and they leave?  What if you don’t and they stay?” 

I’ve heard some corporations say that they don’t train people because they will just leave and use that knowledge to help a competitor.  I think the above quote is a very good argument against that type of thinking.  Training can be a large expense for a corporation.  From my experience, it is definitely worth the cost.  In my own life, I can see the time savings after learning how to do something better or faster after participating in a training class.

Outside of my own experiences as a trainee, I’ve seen it happen many, many times as a trainer, too. Once when I was teaching a Versitas Advanced Excel class at a corporation, I showed the students how to setup and run a macro.  I heard a gasp come from one woman after we had gone through these steps.  I immediately went over and asked her if everything was okay.  She said she was about to cry because she was so happy.  That made my day! 

She went on to tell me that she had to format a report that was downloaded from a database 2-3 times every week.  She would spend at least 2 hours each time formatting the report (deleting columns, adjusting numbers to a custom style, etc.).  If she set up a macro to do those steps for her, it would save her about 4-6 hours each week!! 

I thought about how much those 4-6 hours each week could save the corporation she worked for over the period of a year.  If she made $25 an hour (I’m guessing here since I don’t know her salary) times 4 hours each week times 50 weeks, that would be $5,000 in savings!  The training class for the whole group of 10 people would not have cost that much.  So, for one person alone, that training class paid for itself to the corporation in terms of its bottom line.  Not to mention how much time the other participants in the class were able to save the company with the new skills they learned.

But, there’s more.  The lady came back for the afternoon part of the training class. She had been so excited that she had shown her co-workers how to do the macro during lunch. The other co-workers did the same report she did each week. She had told her supervisor about it, too.  She was happy because she could now spend more time each week following up with vendors, which she had not had time to do in the past.

In the training industry it is sometimes hard to quantify or put an amount on how much training contributes to the bottom line for a corporation.  This example, though, made me realize that corporations cannot afford not to train.  Not only does training save employees time (which saves the corporation money), it makes for a happier, more loyal workforce.

Setting Up A Software Training Room

November 9th, 2009 - by Angela

training_roomWhen some organizations think about providing training for their employees, they sometimes worry about the logistics of having the training on-site.  What they usually find out is that they needn’t have worried at all.  You don’t need to have a dedicated training room to have a successful training class on-site.  The training room setup can prove to be very simple.

Over the years I’ve seen numerous different approaches to training room setup. Usually, the first step to find out is how many participants will be attending the training.  After that number is set, the training room size can be determined.

Depending on the size of the training event, many companies simply use a conference room.  If the participants have their own laptops, the set up is usually very quick and easy.  Just make sure there are enough power cords to provide for the laptop battery plug-ins. Then, set up an instructor computer and projector. Generally, it is best to provide the instructor computer with an overhead projector so that the participants can see the demonstration by the instructor.  If possible, it is best to set the projector so that the students don’t have to strain or turn around to see the projected image. 

I remember one time a corporation had flown in their field sales personnel from all over the country for a three-day long workshop.  While they were all together, they scheduled a training class at the hotel where everyone was staying.  Since it was near the airport the salespeople could attend the class and still have time to make it to the airport to catch their flights.  It worked out to be a very convenient location and a great class!  

If laptops are not available for all participants, an organization could use desktop computers relocated to their conference room.  One time I did training in an open lobby area on-site where they had set up tables to accommodate everyone.  We projected my instructor computer onto a large wall.  I received several comments from students about how much they learned from the class and how glad they were that they did not have to attend a class off-site. 

After considering the physical logistics of a training room setup, the software for each computer should be double-checked. It is important that all students have the right software version for the class being taught.  Most software can be checked for version by opening the software and click on the Help menu.  On the Help menu will usually be an item beginning with “About” and the name of the software.  It is especially important to check with the participants if they are going to use their own laptops to make sure they have the correct version of the software. 

Other software considerations include networking and Internet connectivity, if needed.  While most MS Office applications do not require any special setup, the setup for Outlook or other software that require networked computers may require the use of a organization’s Information Technology group.  If the training requires access to files on a network or shared drive, that should also be set up and tested ahead of time . In some of my Versitas training classes, we use exercise files for the lessons.  In that case, those files can be sent and loaded ahead of time.  If that is not possible, then I have loaded the files before the training class begins. 

Having a training class on-site can be a great experience!  And, if you have any questions, the staff at Versitas, can help you through the process.