Successful training starts with a good marketing plan according to Bruce Chen, CEO of KochaSoft Canada, a division of a cloud tech company focused on building learning and training products for the enterprise. In this Powered by Learning episode, Bruce shares some keys to motivating employees to learn and the benefits the training can have for the organizations.
00:00 Female Speaker: This is Powered by Learning, a podcast designed for learning leaders to hear the latest approaches to creating learning experiences that engage learners and achieve improved performance for individuals and organizations.
Male Speaker: Powered by Learning is brought to you by d'Vinci Interactive. For more than 25 years, d'Vinci has provided custom learning solutions to government agencies, corporations, medical education and certification organizations, and educational content providers. We collaborate with our clients to bring order and clarity to content and technology. Learn more at dvinci.com.
00:41 Susan Cort: Hello, and welcome to Powered by Learning, I'm your host Susan Court. Today I am joined by d'Vinci CEO, Luke Kempski, who's going to talk to our guest Bruce Chen. Bruce is the CEO of KochaSoft Canada, a division of a cloud tech company that's focused on building learning and training products for the enterprise. Welcome, Bruce.
Luke Kempski: Glad you could join us, Bruce.
Bruce Chen: Nice to talk to you both. Thank you for having me on, the pleasure is mine.
Susan: Thank you. Bruce, let's start off by telling us a little bit about KochaSoft and your background as well.
01:12 Bruce: Yes, absolutely. I'll start at the beginning where KochaSoft in 2016, they started out as a corporate training consultancy. They were a team of SAP Platinum consultants, and there was a big need, a niche in the learning and development market to teach IT professionals about SAP on cloud, which is very niche. But what ended up happening was fast forward to 2020, they were unable to offer their sessions in person anymore. What they needed to do was invent a virtual training piece of software in order to deliver these trainings.
Now, I had a background in HR tech and I was fortunate enough to be recruited to the Canadian division, which was going to focus on learning and development. I just saw it as a good opportunity at the time to be the director of marketing. Recently, I was promoted to the CEO of the Canadian division, which focuses on the learning management software.
01:14 Luke: That's great, Bruce. I know we're so excited to talk to you because of your experience in both marketing and training. It seems like in your career you've had a lot of experience in trying to get organizations to invest into IT training specifically. If you look at all those experiences that you've had, what have you found that is most effective and inspiring organizations to invest in training?
Bruce: I answer this question from two perspectives. The first one being the time where I worked for an HR tech organization that was focused on up-skilling. Now, our customers were enterprise customers. What that means is back in 2018, '19, the sexy thing to think about was acquisition of new talent. If you need to hire 10,000 skilled IT professionals, the way to do it was just to recruit them. Hire a recruiter, train them, retain them.
03:06 The problem with that is on so many levels, if they left, attrition is expensive, hiring and training is expensive, never mind getting new employees to adapt to a certain working culture within an enterprise. The marketing messaging that I always espoused in those situations was, frankly, that it's just cheaper. It's better from a cultural perspective to train and upskill your employees that are with you right now and overall, from an organizational perspective, that is the best outcome for you.
The messaging is a bit different for me today. At KochaSoft we're lucky enough to work with large GSI's and consultants, whose mandate it is to help large corporates upskill and train their employees. Why that was a little bit different is a bit circumstantial. I think in 2021, it's a little more common knowledge that upskilling in IT and the cloud is incredibly, incredibly important.
04:10 Luke: Yes. You talk a little bit about in terms of how do you inspire organizations to make those investments, but you also have to get the learners to want to take training, to set aside the time to invest and going through training, to do things to upskill so that their learning and their skills are more relevant to what's next and what's now. Can you talk about the messaging and what you try to do to reach the end users?
Bruce: That's a great question. For our specific niche it's easy. I'll explain how it is in our niche, but all break down how this can apply to any learning development topic.
For KochaSoft, our niche is training IT professionals in SAP on cloud, which is a big thing in large orgs. Almost every Fortune 500 company runs their technology on SAP anyhow. That is just something that inherently exists.
The other thing is, it's quite easy to convince those professionals that SAP on cloud skills are very critical to their career. A little thing about SAP on cloud is that all SAP organizations, which is again, most large organizations in the world, need to move their workloads from on-premise, their data centers are on premise, to the cloud, by 2027 for SAP, for investments like SAP S/4HANA. Again, if you don't understand anything about SAP or S/4HANA, all you need to know is the way we always position our content is it's something that's going to keep somebody relevant, and their career future-proof for the future.
05:58 Luke: Yes, that makes sense. Have you had any experiences where you've really been able to create almost a campaign to get people motivated to want to change and want to upskill?
Bruce: On one of our old HR tech campaigns, the platform was upskilling and development. Our client was a large telecoms company. What we did is we configured the upskilling platform for them. Now, what they needed was they needed a lot of their own employees to go on to this platform, and actually use it, actually use it to take courses, and skills, and whatnot, for this large telecoms company in their L&D department. That was going to give them justification that like, "Oh, wow, our employees are actually interested in learning and development," that this platform works, and whatnot.
06:52 That was our challenge. They paid us to configure this platform as a proof of concept, as we call it in the software world. I had just come on as the marketing professional at the time and they were saying, "Hey, sir, are there any tactics that we can do to get a bunch of these employees on this platform?" I don't know if your audience might be familiar with Facebook ads and the basics behind Facebook ads.
The basics behind Facebook ads are that you can choose where your audience is, you can target them by their company, you can target them by their gender. They've removed some of these things because of discrimination stuff but back when I did this, you were allowed to be quite liberal about how you could target people.
07:38 The idea behind it was, okay, so our learning platform is white-labeled by this large telecoms company. There's a large barrier to entry, to get the average employee to use it. You have to log in, you have to find it, you have to go into your work email, and click into it, and log in. What I did as the marketer is my boss gave me a budget, I started spending money on these targeted ads. The messaging was, "Get ahead in your career at--", insert the name of the telecoms company. We put the telecoms company's logo on it and we put a bunch of company collateral in the pictures.
08:18 Then imagine this, you are an employee of this telecoms company. You go on to Facebook or Instagram, you're expecting to see ads for your favorite shoes, or your favorite makeup or whatever and you see this weird thing where it's like, "Wait, what? Get ahead in my career at this telecoms company?" They were like, "What?" They clicked into it. A bunch of people started using the platform, which was really, really cool, because a couple of weeks later, our clients were like, "Yes, a bunch of people are using the platform, we don't really know how this happened."
Luke: When you think about a process, what would you advise in terms of a process from a marketing standpoint? You're a learning and development leader, you have to figure out a way to really engage the targeted learners you're trying to reach - what would be step one? How would you progress into creating the right messaging and the right tactics to reach that audience?
09:15 Bruce: The answer I'm going to give is so crazy biased coming from a marketer's perspective, but I firmly do believe this, that learning leaders need to, or at least should, accept the basic principles of marketing if their goal is engagement, retention, upskilling.
I'd like to break it down to four things to think about. You don't need to have a marketing degree. It's not like you need to go on LinkedIn Learning and learn paid advertising or SEO. Just think about it like this.
Number one, who's your audience? Number two, what channels are they on? Number three, what type of content do they like to consume? Number four, what are their pain points? If you can just think about all the content and all your L&D offerings within the basic lens of those four things.
10:08 Luke: Those are really good four ways to guide that approach to marketing your learning programs. I know, Bruce, you've had a lot of experience with technology overall, and then you've had experience specifically with learning technologies. I know there's a lot of different trends with newer learning technologies to engage learners, and to inspire them to participate, and to be able to answer those pain points that we have in our careers these days. Are there any particular learning technologies that you're most excited about?
Bruce: Yes. I'll try and say a few things. I'm obviously really excited by the idea of… I feel like this is a common answer, so I'm going to say it, but I feel like the idea of using AI, machine learning to aggregate lots of data points to give people the right course recommendations for their career paths. Say you get on a learning platform and based on the data that you feed the algorithm, they're just able to tell you, "You should be taking this class, this class and this class, if you want to get this type of certification."
11:14 Something more specific and maybe something that people haven't heard about as much, at least in my mind, that I think is going to be really, really good. Not as much talked about, but in LMS platforms. I feel like more and more LMSs are creating customizable content templates for L&D professionals. What do I mean by that? If Luke and Susan are the heads of L&D at a very large telecoms, I'll just use that example, and they want to train me and my team and SAP on cloud, IT, S/4HANA, whatever it is, right?
Well, they have the content, somebody technical will design the content for them, but it's a bit of a tedious process. At least from what we've seen in the marketplace. They have to upload a bunch of files, they have to coordinate with producers to get the right videos, to upload them to platform, whether it's Microsoft Teams or an internal LMS.
12:16 It's a bit of a boring, arduous process. What I'm really looking forward to in the future is with these learning platforms to not just be glorified, like Google Drive in our internets, where a learning professional can log on and say like, "Okay, so I'm looking to train people in this topic."
When they do that, the learning platform is able to spit out these templates where it can make it very, very simple for the learning professional to get their message and their content in an engaging way across. We're probably a while away from that actually being done well. One way that I always think of explaining this to people, is almost like when 20 years ago, you needed a business and you wanted to develop a website, right? That was impossible, right?
13:12 If you didn't know how to code a website, and there was no platforms, you'd be like, "Oh gosh, I got to hire somebody to code my website for me," or whatever, but nowadays it's super easy. Anybody can build a website. You go onto WordPress or Squarespace, and you're like, "All right I'm starting a hair salon," you type it in, and then literally they spit out all these templates, for all these gorgeous websites with gorgeous templates. All you do is type in the name of your business, you type in your tagline, and you're pretty much good to go.
I'd love to see us, from a technological perspective, get to that similar type of place with a learning platform, with the learning platform market, where if Susan and Luke want to go on and say, "Look, our mandate is to get everyone certified in Google Cloud Platform or AWS. I got this stack of files here that I got to translate to this internal intranet. Ah, no, how do I do this in a way that's engaging that people are actually going to get on and learn it?", but if there was a way that this learning platform can just spit out through the templates, just upload the content and people will love it.
14:28 Luke: It really would make it a lot more efficient for the learning and development leaders to develop and distribute learning quickly, to be able to adapt to the rapid changes that are happening in their businesses and the industries that they're in. Thanks so much for joining us today, Bruce, and sharing your experiences both as a marketer and as a training leader.
Susan: Yes, Bruce, really interesting and I love-- We always talk about the importance of focusing on the learner from a training perspective, but good to remember that we have to focus on the learner from a marketing perspective too, in order to reach them.
15:00 Bruce: I think ultimately, content and marketing sometimes butt heads, but I think if you take away nothing from this today folks, it's just that there are things you can learn from the marketing side. For me, it was an accident, being a marketer that just fell into a role where I'm building learning products. Just remember, folks, at the end of the day, whether you're marketing to somebody to try and get them to buy something, or you're trying to get someone to ingest content to learn something, it's an audience. You have to capture their attention, and you got to be engaging. Those principles really hold true either way.
Susan: Great. Thanks, Bruce, appreciate you taking the time to talk to us, today.
Bruce: Thank you, Susan and Luke. The pleasure was all mine.
Susan: Luke, that was quite an interesting conversation with Bruce. What were some of your key takeaways?
15:55 Luke: It definitely was a good discussion. He told us about KochaSoft, and his background in marketing, technology, and training. He also mentioned upskilling as the major driver for organizations wanting to invest in IT training these days. It really helps them retain and develop existing employees versus hiring new ones. I know we've heard this from other guests as well. He also talked about the demand for SAP on cloud training, SAP 4HANA, which we've also heard about from other guests.
He said learners are highly motivated to get this training because they know it can help future-proof their careers. He talked about his experience getting a telecom company's employees to use a new learning platform by engaging them with a highly targeted Facebook ad campaign on the public web. We also got some marketing advice from Bruce for other training leaders.
16:47 First, clearly define your targeted learners, reach them on communications channels they currently use. Connect your training with content you know they already consume and position your training as relief for their pain points. Lastly, we talked about innovation, like LMSs using artificial intelligence to provide learners with personal training and certification recommendations. We also talked about LMSs that have embedded customizable learning content templates to simplify content development and speed up distribution. A lot of good stuff from Bruce wouldn't you say, Susan?
17:26 Susan: Absolutely. Bruce certainly went over an awful lot, great advice for all of our listeners. Thanks, Luke. Many thanks to Bruce Chen from KochaSoft for joining us today. If you have any questions about what we talked about, you can reach out to us on d'Vinci's social channels, through our website, dvinci.com, or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Male Speaker: Powered by Learning is brought to you by d'Vinci Interactive. For more than 25 years, d'Vinci has provided custom learning solutions to government agencies, corporations, medical education, and certification organizations, and educational content providers. We collaborate with our clients to bring order and clarity to content and technology. Learn more at dvinci.com.