November 26, 2021 is a big day for us at SEC! It marks our first in-person event since our last time out in London in December 2019. Now, nearly 2 years later, we’re back in the home of Big Ben to celebrate sales enablement, and the incredible value it provides to organizations.

In 2019 Tas Hirani, Global Director of Sales Enablement at Salesforce took to our stage in London to discuss tactics to ensure onboarding success.

Little did any of us know how the world (and sales enablement as a result) would change just a few months later.

To celebrate our return to in-person events, we caught up with Tas to discuss how onboarding has changed over the past two, primarily-virtual years, and where its future lies.

We discussed:

And more below:

Q: How did you change your approach to onboarding in 2020?

A: Covid had quite a big impact. The in-person, bootcamp style of enablement totally went away and so there was a real hard pivot as we tried plugging the gap with a hybrid, on demand, semi-live virtual approach to programs.

Initially, people tried to run things over Zoom in the same way they would have done it live, and that fell on its ass. Nobody wants to sit on a Zoom call for seven and a half hours.

Over the course of Covid, onboarding has shifted from being completely live, in-person, consisting of a full week of networking, learning, fun, and engagement to a system where some portions are on demand, and some portions which are dial-in and will be a live experience. There'll be group lectures, which involve smaller groups, and more activity/workshop-style and that has really taken off for us.

We’ve incorporated a lot of gamification too, as well as trivia and fun to hold engagement for longer. Obviously when people are in a room with you, you can physically make eye contact with them, whereas when they're on the other side of the computer, it's more about how you keep them glued to the computer by using quizzes, breakout rooms, leader tables, and quizzes.

That's how we've done a hard pivot into this virtual setting.

Q: Is this a permanent change, or will you return to the old model as soon as you can?

A: There is a plan to continue with this now existing model. In the medium term, the on-site pieces will likely be much lighter in terms of the “let's get together, network, come together, and do something that is like a volunteering activity” or something that's a bit more lighthearted and fun.

I think the learning is going to continue to be in the format that we've changed to, at least for the medium term, because it really is much more efficient.

You get the same outcome for much lower expenditure in terms of taking people out (often on the road, on a plane, on a train). So for us as a global company, flying people all out to the Americas is pretty expensive and time-consuming.

Whilst it's really fun and adds value, you've got people with very different learning styles, and by testing the virtual, we've actually seen better results. So it's based on the results that we would keep our “COVID model”.

Q: Would you have transitioned to this effective model without Covid, or was that the spark?

A: I think Covid created the spark and we ended up with a more efficient model. As the world gets more global, doing things the way we always used to do it, by pulling people into a headquarters, is kind of old school.

You can achieve much better results by introducing localization, but doing it virtually. Where we do see some return of old practices, that is the in-person, localized meetings, but it’s in a different way to what we used to do. Instead of pulling everybody who's a newbie into San Francisco, these localized meetings are much more efficient. People get to network with people across their team and across their geo, so that works really well.

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Q: It’s been a radical change in just two years. Where do you see onboarding two years from now?

A: The way that people actually learn involves a learning curve and a forgetting curve, and then another learning curve and another forgetting curve. I can really see that learning is going to become much more integrated into the way people operate, and the learning curve will get longer.

The creation of on-demand and virtual learning means that the content is reusable, and doesn't necessarily need to be live. I don't see any reason for not using this kind of media.

We don’t need somebody to be repeating themselves over and over again, just for a different audience. I can very much see a playback followed by a live Q&A being the way that people will go, or having ‘ask the expert’ panel sessions.

Longer term, what I am seeing is learning being interspersed into moments that matter. So when somebody is doing something within their existing CRM, such as entering ‘the competitor is X’, then information on X and enablement on X is delivered at exactly the right point in time.

This is necessary because since the original boot camp or point in time that the information was originally delivered, there's been that forgetting curve. I'm seeing people really moving to that point-in-time enablement as a permanent solution.

Q: What’s your biggest learning from the past two years in regards to onboarding?

A: My one big learning from the last few years is that when you shove learning down someone's throat and make it mandatory, in a situation everybody has to do it en masse, you can document and create measurable results.

However, the learning that you create which is self-serve, which people absorb without any compulsion to do so, tends to actually garner a much better result

It’s not as easy to track, and really tricky to measure, in fact, when people are just self-serving, YouTube style.

However, if somebody wants to learn, they will. It’s kind of like your kids, right? If you tell them to do something, they’ll do it but not with the same passion and energy as if they're doing it because they want to do it for themselves.

So that's my big takeaway: providing self-serve, on-demand ways for people to consume. There is a limit to how much you can binge watch stuff, of course. But I’ve found that people really enjoy it and they'll find a way to make the time.

If they're interested, they'll continue watching. If it's not of interest to them, they'll stop and they'll move on to something else.

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