SI Review: June 2010

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The Wow! of Webinars, SI Review June 2010

By Julie McCoy

When QPS Employment Group did a major upgrade of its software last year, the Brookfield WI-based staffing firm held a Webinar for internal staff, to train them on how to use the new technology.

QPS also held a Webinar for internal staff when it made changes to its benefits program -- to explain the new program and where staff could find information about the changes on the company Intranet.
And this spring, when QPS began implementing a pay card program, it held a Webinar for internal staff once again, to show them how to set up the card and how to educate associates about it.

The Webinars have been a nice supplement to the individual, in-person training the company provides, says training coordinator Mark Milan.

Tapping into Webinars
Staffing companies are using Webinars not only to train internal staff but also to educate clients. What are some of the benefits of using Webinars, and are there any disadvantages? How can staffing firms get the most out of Webinars? Who should be in charge of them? What service providers are staffing companies using for their Webinars? And is Webinar usage expected to increase in the future? SI Review spoke with staffing firms that
are tapping into the technology and to Webinar service providers to find out.

Benefits
The primary benefit of Webinars is that they are an inexpensive way to provide training to many people at once. They are less expensive than in-person training because there isn't any travel involved.

"We can reach out and train an entire company within minutes," explains Leisa Stallard, director of training and development at The Reserves Network, which began using Webinars in late 2009. "It's very low-cost. [There's] minimal expense to communicate."

She adds that, "With the economy the way it has been, all companies are trying to lean out and lower travel costs. Our travel costs have decreased because we don't have to go to every branch and sit side-by-side. We hit so many people in such a short time period."

Says Joy Medrano, training manager for SFN Group, formerly Spherion: "Instead of flying everyone in, it's an effective way to bring everyone together for a virtual classroom. For cost-saving purposes, when we need to do something virtual, that's our answer."

Disadvantages
One disadvantage to using Webinars, though, is that there isn't any personal touch, explains Don Palmer, VP of MATRIX Resources. "We think you lose that personal touch, the opportunity to have a relationship-building opportunity with folks," he says.

Adds John Niedermeyer, VP of strategic services for SOS Staffing: "You lose that face-to-face contact with your audience."

By comparison, when the training is done in person, "You can see who is engaged and not engaged," Niedermeyer says. "I love that eye-to-eye contact to see who is engaged."

Geoffrey Toffetti, VP of strategic solutions for ZeroChaos, says: "It's always good to be in a room with someone. You can read their body language."

It's hard to gauge whether attendees are understanding and grasping the information when you aren't actually with them, observes QPS' Milan. "Working side-by-side with somebody, you can see if they're really getting it," he says.

Courtney Dickson, director of marketing for the Nelson Family of Companies, points out that people tend to multitask during Webinars. "They're checking their email or doing something else," she says.

ZeroChaos' Toffetti says: "Sometimes you're not getting their attention 100% because they're in their office and can do whatever they want."

Scott Wintrip, founder and president of StaffingU, says Webinars don't meet the needs of tactical learners, who learn best by touching or doing. "I have watched people in Webinars, and they actually will be sitting there doodling something with their hands because they need to be tactical," he says. "If they focus so much on their doodle, they will miss content."

There's always a risk of technical difficulties with Webinars, notes Lindsey Sparks, client marketing manager for Express Employment Professionals. The Internet could go down, for example.

And sometimes the voice and video quality may not be the best, says SOS' Niedermeyer. "In some cases you're at the mercy of the bandwidth [of the presenter, the service provider or participant]," he explains. People sometimes lose or forget their log-in information as well.

Tips for Success
How can staffing firms get the most out of Webinars? For one thing, it's important to promote them, says The Nelson Family of Company's Dickson. "Advertise you've got a Webinar and what the topic is going to be," she says.

Beth Gilbert, product marketing manager for Webinar service provider Citrix Online, recommends promoting a training Webinar about two weeks in advance. You don't want to do it much earlier than that, because otherwise people will forget about it, she says.

ZeroChaos' Toffetti recommends sending a calendar invitation to attendees with all of the information a day in advance.

Whoever is hosting your Webinars should rehearse and practice what is going to be said ahead of time, says QPS' Milan. "Preparation is probably the biggest thing," he says. "If you're not prepared, you're just going to lose their interest pretty quickly."

It's also important to test the technology beforehand to make sure everything is working OK, Milan says. "Don't assume that because it worked last week it's going to work this week. Test it anyway," says SOS' Niedermeyer.

You should have a technician available to overcome any issues that might arise, Niedermeyer says. Additionally, you should have a backup plan ready to go should a glitch arise, Milan advises.

Milan sends an outline of key topics to attendees in advance, so they know what is going to be covered and when. "If I do any kind of training, I'll send out an outline ahead of time," he says. "That way people have something in front of them that they can follow. If there's an item they're interested in, they can see when it's coming up and when it's going to be talked about."

Mark Metzendorf, VP of marketing for Manpower, says you need to make sure you provide valuable content. "The key thing is to have compelling content," he says. "From a Webinar perspective, content is king. We [at Manpower] primarily focus on thought leadership and education. That's how we get the most from Webinars, is keeping the content most relevant."

You also need to be concise and to the point, says Kyle Ketcham, training manager for Sapphire Technologies. "Show what you need to show and move on."

Rebecca Amesbury, VP of marketing and communications for SkillStorm, says whoever is hosting the Webinar should be passionate and knowledgeable about the topic, and disable any pop-ups on their computer.

Webinars tend to work best if you have more than one speaker, Amesbury says. "Having two people to kind of play off each other gives the presenter a safety net, and it's more interesting for the audience because you have two different voices," she explains.

You want to make sure the participants are involved and doing something, rather than just sitting there, says Citrix Online's Gilbert. "What you don't want to have happen is they are just watching a recording," she says. "You want it to be interactive, engaging." Says TRN's Stallard: "Give the participants visuals to look at and create an interactive environment using polls, white boards and break-out sessions."

Participants should be able to talk and ask questions, StaffingU's Wintrip says. "A Webinar without verbal interaction is passive learning. One with verbal interaction is active learning. The distinction between active and passive is important. Active learning is required to truly learn and integrate new skills."

Keep the time to 45 minutes at the most, recommends QPS' Milan. If it goes any longer "people will drop off the call," he says. Adds Citrix Online's Gilbert: "Industry average is keeping it to an hour in length. As much as possible, you don't want to prolong something. Keep it to about 45 minutes and allow time for Q & A."

Manpower's Metzendorf says he's personally found that attendance is best at Webinars that are held in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week and in the middle of the month.

Ideally, there should be less than 50 people in the audience; 30 is even better, says Sapphire Technologies' Ketcham. When the audience gets too big, it can be difficult to control, he says.

ZeroChaos' Toffetti recommends password protecting every Webinar you do. Otherwise competition can log on and see and hear them and know what you're doing, he points out.

Inevitably, there will be some people who, for whatever reason, can't attend a Webinar. Perhaps you've got some people who are traveling or are out sick, for example. So it's a good idea to record the Webinar. That way, anyone who missed the Webinar can hear it at another time. QPS uses a program called Camtasia to record its Webinars, Milan says. "It's not very expensive," he says. "It's just a program you install."

Who Should Be in Charge
If you're using a Webinar for training, then someone from your training department should be involved. If you're doing a Webinar for a client, someone from your marketing department or an account manager should handle it.

What Service Providers Staffing Firms Are Using
What service providers do staffing companies use for Webinars? QPS uses GoToMeeting, which at just $49 a month, more than pays for the two to three Webinars the company does each month, Milan says.

Sapphire Technologies also uses GoToMeeting, as well as GoToWebinar, according to Ketcham. "It makes for easy sharing on online resources, the ability for me to pass on controls," he says of GoToMeeting. "You can view anybody's desktop that's on the call. From a training perspective, it's fantastic. It's way more interactive than a conference call."

Both GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar are provided by Citrix Online, a division of Citrix Systems. With GoToMeeting, you can have an audience of up to 25 people, whereas with GoToWebinar, you can have an audience of up to 1,000 people, says Citrix Online's Gilbert.

SFN Group switched its provider to WebEx about a year ago and has been very happy, Medrano says. "Their technology is a lot more user-friendly from a client perspective," she says.

ZeroChaos also uses WebEx and is happy with it although it's expensive, Toffetti points out. "There's cheaper alternatives, but you get what you pay for," he says. "We're paying the premium for the best product."

Express uses Microsoft Live Meeting for the presentation part of its Webinars and another service for the phone part, Sparks says. "It's very easy to use. You can go in and upload your PowerPoint."

MATRIX uses Adobe Connect, which is provided by a company called Premiere, according to Palmer, and The Nelson Family of Companies uses Netspoke, Dickson says.

A Tool That Helps Keep People Educated, Informed
SFN Group holds Webinars for new hires to teach them about company policies and procedures as well as their roles, and to provide them with harassment training, Medrano says. SFN Group also uses Webinars for quarterly Town Hall meetings, for example with CEO Roy Krause.

Sapphire Technologies holds Webinars to teach internal staff about its applicant tracking system and to let them know about updates and new features to the system, Ketcham says. Additionally, it uses Webinars to provide internal staff with general sales and recruiting training as well as updates on company policy, Ketcham explains.

SkillStorm holds one companywide Webinar a week to keep internal staff informed about what's going on, says Amesbury. "Even though we're spread out across the country, we can keep that open door policy that we promise employees, whereby we report everything that's going on in the company to employees," she says. "We want to make sure they know how well we're doing toward our goals."

Management also holds a Webinar once per week, says Amesbury. "It's a lot more numbers-based," she says. "It's a smaller audience. It's a longer call. We go into a lot of detail about what we're doing. It's a lot more focused on accounting."

Penmac Staffing typically does two Webinars for internal staff per month, one that is business skill-related and another that is HR-related, according to trainer Aimee Nichols. Past topics have included background checks and changes in the Family Medical Leave Act. Penmac also holds a Webinar on unemployment claims twice a year. Some of the Webinars are mandatory while others are not, Nichols explains.

ZeroChaos holds Webinars not only for internal staff (employees all over the world attend a lunch-and-learn session that is essentially a Webinar) but also for client managers and suppliers, to increase outreach to them, Toffetti explains. "What's new from the supplier standpoint is providing them with ongoing education," he says.

A Good Educational Tool for Clients, Too
Express provides Webinars to its clients that cover such things as how they can make the most of social media. And now that President Obama's proposed healthcare legislation has passed, Express plans a Webinar for both internal staff and clients on what they will need to do and how things will change for them, Sparks says.

MATRIX will begin holding Webinars for clients no later than the third quarter, Palmer says. Some of them will be technical in nature while others will focus on soft skills. Topics to be explored include cloud computing, project management and how to be a good leader in bad times, Palmer explains. The Webinars will be a scaled-down version of the in-person meetings MATRIX does with clients, according to Palmer. MATRIX will not charge for the Webinars. "We call it added value," Palmer says.

Lessons Learned
What have staffing companies learned from their Webinar experience? TRN found a lot of people were logging into Webinars late, which was disruptive, so now the company locks people out
if they try to log in after the Webinar has started, Stallard says.

What the Future Holds
Webinar usage has grown over the last few years and is expected to continue to become more popular in the future. "I think the market overall will continue to increase," says ZeroChaos' Toffetti.

Sapphire Technologies' Ketcham says he envisions Webinars becoming "more and more ingrained in any company's training environment."

Citrix Online used to have to explain to people what a Webinar is, whereas now most of the education it provides is about the different ways in which a Webinar can be used, Gilbert explains. "I absolutely see it's going to be an effective means of communication," she says. "It's going to continue to grow."

How to Get the Most Out of Webinars

  • Promote the Webinar in advance.
  • Whoever is hosting the Webinar should be prepared and rehearse what is going to be said ahead of time.
  • Test the technology beforehand to make sure everything is working well.
  • Make sure you have a technician readily available to help overcome any issues that might arise.
  • Have a back-up plan in place in case a glitch arises.
  • Send out an outline to attendees of key topics to be covered.
  • Make sure you provide valuable content.
  • Be concise and to the point.
  • Make sure whoever is hosting the Webinar is knowledgeable and passionate about the subject.
  • Have more than one speaker.
  • Make sure the Webinar is interactive and that it involves the participants.
  • Keep the time to 45 minutes at the most.
  • Try to shoot for the middle of the day, middle of the week and middle of the month.
  • Password protect the Webinar so your competition doesn't have access to it.
  • Record the Webinar for those who can't make it.

Benefits of Webinars

  • They're inexpensive.
  • They reduce the need for travel.

Disadvantages of Webinars

  • You lose that personal touch.
  • It is difficult to gauge if someone is understanding and grasping the information when you're not personally with that individual.
  • People tend to multitask.
  • The needs of tactical learners aren't being met.
  • There is always a risk of technical difficulties. Your Internet service could go down.
  • Sometimes the voice and video quality may not be the best.
  • People sometimes lose or forget their log-in information.

Service Providers Staffing Firms Are Using

  • GoToMeeting
  • GoToWebinar
  • WebEx
  • Microsoft Live Meeting
  • Netspoke
  • Adobe Connect

Listening to Other Companies' Webinars
Sometimes those in the staffing industry don't hold their own Webinars but listen to another company's Webinar, which can be valuable as well.

Staffing Industry Analysts, for example, holds monthly Webinars for staffing firms that provide updates about the state of the economy, employment trends and developments in the industry.

The Webinars also offer forecasts by industry segment and sector, insight into what the buyer community is thinking and a round-up of SIA's proprietary research.

The hour-long Webinars are included in SIA's corporate membership, or cost $199 apiece for noncorporate members. The Webinars all begin at 10 a.m. Pacific, 1 p.m. Eastern.

SIA's next Webinars will be held on June 8, July 7, August 10 and September 8.

Teleclasses Rather Than Webinars
StaffingU does teleclasses instead of Webinars, according to founder and president Scott Wintrip. "[The reason] why we do teleclasses is people retain 400% to 500% more from teleclasses
compared to Webinars," he says.

The teleclasses differ from Webinars in that participants use a workbook instead of a computer. The only time participants use a computer is to schedule the session and to download the workbook they use.

"The more interactivity you have, the less a computer component is required," concludes Wintrip. "Or, the less important it becomes. Interactivity is key. It's always more engaging for a listener or a learner to be interactive as opposed to being talked to. If you're just sitting there, it's so easy to tune out."

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