Taking Your Training Business Global
Your organization is now expanding across the globe – as a result, your customer is now located anywhere in the world. This new growth will require you to shift your thinking to a more global perspective. This will most definitely add a degree of complexity to your Training Business. At a high-level, to get started you will need to take stock of your training organization’s delivery, pricing & support capabilities.
What time zones, languages, currencies, revenue rules, & support hours can you handle? In addition to your platform & personnel issues, your training content is also very important… I will touch on this in various aspects below.
At first, this will seem and frankly can be, somewhat overwhelming & actually is not a trivial undertaking. In fact, we recommend our customers try to take a phased approach with their global deployment, whenever & wherever possible. Basically, to use the old expression, you should “eat the elephant” one bite at a time. It is ultimately very do-able & provides some excellent new revenue streams for your organization, but does require some forethought & strategic planning.
What is Different about Global Training?
Part of this upfront planning is to recognize what is different from your domestic or current training delivery model. First, you will now be dealing with a much more diverse audience…
For instance, you will now be confronted with students that speak many different native languages – will you require they interact with your training platform in English only or will you support the presentation of your training offerings in different languages?
In what time zone do they currently live? In North America, you are already likely dealing with 4 or more time zones and you have no doubt altered your delivery model accordingly. But, are you ready to tackle 10, 15 or all 24 time zones? Yes, I had to look up how many time zones there actually are out there.
Will you alter your user registration & training registration process? Will your registration process now need to capture global addresses, different payment methods & your customer’s preferred currency? Are you ready for international taxation requirements?
With a global rollout, you will likely choose to view your training business regionally. These regional or geographic divisions will bring different data summary & roll-up requirements. Will you be prepared to provide your management team the appropriate reporting breakdowns, aggregates & totals by region?
Finally, you will absolutely need to consider your training content… you will want to consider your delivery methods, style & language. A number of our customers have chosen, whether based on their product or services or other reasons, to deploy English-only content, while others have developed different language versions of their content. This may also be driven by whether your delivery method is live “instructor-led” – either in a face-to-face or virtual classroom – or as online, on-demand e-learning.
Branding & Languages
Let’s tackle these items in more detail… a good place to start “eating the elephant” is with the user experience you would like to provide your new global audience.
This includes several topics – for instance, what level of personalization do you want to offer? You can choose to present a single face or “portal” to the customer or many. Generally, you’ll want to ensure your training platform (if licensed from a Learning Management vendor & not home-grown) looks like your customer-facing website. It is important to provide a seamless experience for your students and integrating your corporate website’s look-&-feel eliminates the “speed bumps” you will experience with a one-size-fits-all platform.
Note that you will want to also review your current training website graphics and text to ensure your messaging is universally understood & appropriate… you’ve likely heard about some of the interesting issues that have resulted when culturally offensive graphics or words have been inadvertently used when deploying to various regions. Nothing can be more detrimental to customer satisfaction… resulting in, at best, an annoyed customer or, at worst, an abandoned shopping cart & loss of customer.
Support for multiple languages will be a major topic of discussion. Will you need multiple portals to support your multi-lingual requirements? Does your vendor’s user interface support the languages you need to offer? What are the added costs when adding one or more different “language packs”?
If possible, a good way to start would be with an English-only interface (including your content) – but, do your global students have expectations for more than an English experience? If so, that will require you to prepare for providing your course names, descriptions and any other text you enter to be translated. You can hopefully count on your vendor to provide the static components of the interface to already be translated, but not those text & graphical items specific to your organization.
This may also be an issue with your reporting – if your corporate standard is English, will you be able to decode the translated course names to adequately analyze your training metrics? The ability to equate for reporting purposes your English ‘Product Skills 101’ with your French ‘Compétences de Produits 101’ course will be an important consideration.
A slightly different or additional topic for your student’s user experience is regional or “localized” support. For instance, this will include your ability to support the many time zones I mentioned earlier.
Time zone support goes hand-in-hand with the training delivery methods you will employ. If you have instructors located in a particular region and they are training students in the same or nearby time zones, your primary concern may only be that the communications that go out to your students utilize the appropriate regional time and, of course, support the regional date/time formats.
However, if you are offering virtual classroom training and your prospective students range across many time zones, then it is imperative the course registration details & communications correctly align with your students’ locations. You will want to ensure your vendor has superior capabilities for this delivery option.
And, that brings us back to our old friend – content. The localization of content has several important distinctions in regards to your training business… it is both the presentation of your courses in the course catalog & identification of which languages the actual classroom and online/e-learning content is delivered. You will need to think about what will be offered and the ease at which your students can access the version they prefer.
This again raises the subject of ‘portals’ or views you will offer your students. Generally, different views are based on a specific language presentation – for example, the ability for your student to select their language or country from a drop-down list or perhaps pick a flag icon. Localization is an important consideration as you rollout globally.
So, how will you support pricing for your global deployment? This will likely require you to offer both different currency and payment options. Will you want to support all currencies in the areas you do business or just select a few? Perhaps, you’ll choose to just permit payment using the US & Canadian Dollar, British Pound & Euro to start? Or, if your training business is more expansive, other international currencies may be needed from the get-go.
Companies may choose to support pricing in many different ways: allow their students to pay with credit cards based on a course price in their local currency, or they may have a regional price and offer the student a selection of different currencies, or even set pricing based on recognizing their region or country upon logging into the system (known as country-based pricing). Keep in mind that not many LMS solutions support these options.
Note that a financial ramification of allowing multiple currencies will be the daily fluctuation between your domestic and foreign currency rates. Based on the frequency at which you alter your pricing based on these fluctuations, you are subject to a foreign exchange risk that could possibly have an impact on your training revenue. Whether your training system allows for easily changing these rates manually or, better yet, automating this update on a regular basis will be important to understand. Of course, updates to your training pricing based on currency fluctuations present another interesting challenge.
Alternatively, pricing may not be based on any specific currency. You may wish to offer courses priced by training credits. This is a “universal currency” of sorts. You can determine how much your credits will cost (in your currency of choice) and allow your students or their companies to pre-purchase these training credits to use by one or more students when registering for a course. A number of training businesses use this approach to eliminate the complexity of dealing in multiple currencies at the point of sale.
Do you want to give your customers the ability to choose different payment methods based on the delivery method of the course? Perhaps you want all classroom-based courses paid in one (or more) currencies, but you prefer that e-learning require training credits or an annual subscription (yet another payment method).
Another global or regional decision will be related to discounting and whether you want to offer optional pricing based on a specific region, customer type or other promotion. We frequently see the need to offer a course with some percentage discount in various regions, perhaps to incentivize some regions to register for training, yet hold firm on pricing for other regions.
Finally, an often overlooked component of global pricing is taxation. Many countries require a value-added tax be included for all or some types of training. Be sure your vendor can support the inherent complexities that result from international taxation regulations.
How to Measure Success?
To wrap up, it will be important to consider your reporting needs when rolling out globally. Reporting may be related to specific student registrations, revenue & other numeric aggregates. This can be made more complex if dealing with different languages or currencies, as discussed earlier. But, you will need to also take into account your global corporate hierarchy – ensure your corporate structure can be modeled to provide the appropriate roll-up and enterprise training data.
Other reporting needs may potentially be more difficult to align if not constructed properly. An example we see fairly often is related to survey or evaluation results. If your questionnaire requires text answers, the roll-up of this data will become extremely complex due to different language issues. Consider employing only numeric answers (e.g. 1-10 Likert scales or similar), this will make the global roll-up of these results both easier to manage & more universal for reporting.
Revenue reporting based on multiple currencies from multiple regions can be very challenging… as well as the ability to report based on your global revenue recognition policies. It will be very important to select a vendor that allows you to setup any number of revenue recognition rules in their system, permitting it to be an easy task to manage and to provide timely & accurate reports to your financial group. This can otherwise be a very daunting monthly and/or quarterly exercise.
Finally, having the appropriate dashboards at your disposal will be important. Can you easily access your key metrics by region? How are your training registrations tracking by delivery method in different countries? Why are you more profitable in Region X compared to Region Y? These are of course all very important analytics in general, but can be further complicated with a global training business.
Hopefully, this overview of taking your training business global has provided some food for thought & will help with your planning.
Steve Stubbs is the Director of Sales at rapidLD and 15+ year veteran of the Learning & Talent Management industry. rapidLD (www.rapidLD.com) is a learning & talent management consulting firm that provides our clients extensive experience in professional consulting & benefits from the ‘lessons learned’ of companies that have gone before you. rapidLD leverages sixteen years of service dedicated to Learning and Talent Management technologies.
Thanks to Terry Lydon, VP, Training Operations Products at CallidusCloud, for his contributions & industry insight to this post. CallidusCloud’s ViewCentral cloud-based training operations management system has been helping businesses deliver extended enterprise training since 1999. ViewCentral was recently named a Top 10 Partner & Channel LMS vendor by Talented Learning. ViewCentral was recently acquired by Callidus Cloud.