Sections

Embedded Learning: Integrating Skill Acquisition Into Day-to-Day Activities

Steven Hunt

Economies around the world are challenged with a chronic lack of skilled employees.  Despite high unemployment levels, many companies struggle to find people who have the technical qualifications and experiences needed to fill critical roles.

Traditional educational structures are failing to produce the numbers and kinds of skilled candidates companies need.  While there are many ways we can and should improve our educational systems to address the skills crisis, we should also be doing more to rethink the methods we use to develop skilled employees.

Rather than telling workers they must go to school to acquire new skills, its time to give people tools that help them learn from their current lives without requiring formal education.

To fully understand why, let’s look at the following:

  • Methods people use to acquire skills in the absence of formal training programs and why technology is enabling us to go “back to the future” when it comes to learning.
  • Barriers that prevent unskilled workers from acquiring more advanced job skills.
  • How we might leverage people’s day-to-day life activities as an under-utilized resource for acquiring skills.

How do people acquire skills organically? 

Going to school is not the natural way for people to learn.  Don’t get me wrong – I believe in the power of a good formal school system.  But if we look at the history of humans we did not develop schools until pretty late in our evolution.

For centuries we managed to learn without classrooms and courses.  So how did we do it?  The answer is learning from experience and observation.  People acquired skills by working alongside people who knew more than them and engaging in tasks that challenged them to think differently.  In other words, the most natural way for people to learn is through formal and informal mentoring and apprenticeship relationships.

The problem with the apprenticeship approach is it doesn’t scale well.  There simply aren’t enough apprenticeship opportunities available to produce the number of skilled employees we need.

In addition, not all experts make good mentors and coaches.  But technology is starting to change this.   YouTube is probably the best widespread example of how cloud based technology is allowing skilled mentors to share their expertise with people around the world.

Want to learn how to play guitar like Brian Setzer from the Stray Cats?   There’s a video where you can virtually “sit down” with him for an hour while he shows you various tips and tricks.  Want to learn how to cook like Emeril?   Check out videos where he’ll walk you through what he does to create unique flavors.  Public access video technologies like YouTube and private access social learning technologies like Jam are addressing the historic challenge of scaling expertise through mentorships.

We now have technology that allows us to manage many issues that historically limited the value of apprenticeship based training.   This technology makes things possible around learning that weren’t possible 10 years ago.

But technology by itself does not solve problems.   You have to use it correctly.  So what is required if we are to use this technology to develop underskilled workers?

What prevents under-employed people from acquiring the skills needed to advance their careers? 

There are three major barriers that make it difficult for under-skilled workers to acquire advanced job skills:  lack of on-the-job learning opportunities, lack of time and resources for formal training, and limited awareness of what kind of skills will provide the greatest career opportunities.   I will discuss each of these in turn.

One of the myths about technology is that it eliminates jobs.  People have visions of robots replacing workers.   But the reality is a bit more complex.  Technology actually creates jobs because it fuels efficiency and economic growth.  But the jobs technology creates tend to fall into two very distinct categories:

Highly-skilled positions associated with developing and maintaining complex technological systems

Low or unskilled positions associated with performing basic service tasks that are impacted by technology but that do not require an understanding of how the technology works.

There is also a third category of jobs that technology does tend to eliminate:  semi-skilled positions that people historically used to move from unskilled work to skilled work.

Consider the example of auto mechanic.  People used to become auto-mechanics by starting out in entry-level service station jobs that involved simple tasks like pumping gas and changing oil.

Over time they would perform increasingly complex automotive tasks such as fixing brakes or replacing spark plugs that allowed them to acquire the skills needed to become a master mechanic.

Contrast that to the modern career path to becoming a mechanic.   Thanks to technology, you could pump gas for years and never learn anything about what goes on under the hood of a car.  When you do look under the hood you are confronted with technology complex machines that are for more complicated then the V-8 engines of the 1960s.

It is now very difficult to acquire the skills needed to be a mechanic simply by working in a gas station.  Most mechanics had to go to school just to learn to use the technology necessary to diagnose engine problems, let alone fix them.

The increasing gap between skilled and unskilled positions makes it hard for people to work their way into skilled jobs through on-the-job learning.  This has severely constrained what traditionally was one of the main ways people advanced their careers through skill acquisition.

The economic difference between being a skilled vs. an unskilled employee also places additional constraints on the ability of people to acquire job skills through formal education.

Unskilled jobs by definition can be filled by people with very little training or experience.  Because the labor supply for these jobs is relatively high the wages for these jobs tends to be quite low.

Many unskilled workers have to work multiple jobs to meet their basic economic needs.   They do not have the time or money to enroll in formal training programs.   This means the people that need skills the most often have the most difficulty enrolling in structured classes that teach them.

Last, unskilled workers may struggle to determine what sort of skills they should acquire because they are frequently isolated working long hours in jobs that provide little exposure or opportunity to learn skills that will help them advance their careers.

They do not have access to mentors or other advisors who can provide suggestions on what sorts of leaning opportunities will have the greatest benefit for their long-term job prospects.

A possible answer:  embed learning into life. 

One potential answer to this dilemma is to build tools that will help unskilled workers to acquire valuable career skills through normal life activities.   In the 1980s a series of studies were conducted showing that people who performed presumably mundane tasks at a very high level had found ways to use these supposedly simple tasks to develop relatively complex skills (e.g., Lave et al., 1984, Scribner, 1984).

For example, shopping for groceries can involve the use of complex mathematical formulas when people truly challenge themselves to buy the most groceries with the least money.

Similarly, people who excel at packing odd shaped objects in way that maximizes the use of storage space are able to do this because they have developed complex spatial reasoning skills. The phenomenon of acquiring complex skills through seemingly non-work related tasks goes beyond analytical reasoning.

Years ago I was interviewing a woman who had not worked in many years because she had been focused on raising her children.  When I asked her what sort of managerial skills she possessed she provided examples from her activities coordinating youth athletic activities that involved a level of organizational, relationship building, and financial skills that vastly exceed those of many people who have years of formal managerial experience.

What these examples illustrate is that the “everyday life” is rich with opportunities to acquire highly complex and valuable job skills.   The challenge is getting people to recognize and capitalize on these learning opportunities.   Social learning technology holds the potential to change this.

Imagine online videos that teach people how to perform day to day tasks in a way that is more efficient and economical and that also helps them develop valuable work-related skills.   This would allow people to use tasks such as scheduling children’s activities, performing home maintenance, or participating in volunteer programs as opportunities to develop skills and capabilities that make them more valuable employees.

People could be also be shown how to leverage public online computer programs to build technology skills while simultaneously increasing their efficiency performing routine tasks such as household budgeting.   To be fully effective, this online training would include advice on what skills are most in demand for different jobs and how to leverage skills learned outside of work to open up new career opportunities.

I am not suggesting this approach will be easy or that it will ever replace the need for formal educational programs and on-the-job learning.  But embedding learning into life does provide an alternative way to acquire skills that is cheaper, easier to access, and in many ways complementary to existing education and job-based skill acquisition methods.

And the upside is considerable. Instead of telling people they need to go to school or get a job to acquire critical career skills, we can encourage them to take advantage of the learning opportunities that are all around them.  Perhaps in the future the key to getting a better job will be to simply focus on living a more effective and efficient life in general.

Contact Steven at: shunt@successfactors.com

This article was written as part of The Future of Education research initiative.

References

Lave J.,  Murtaugh M., & de la Rocha, O. (1984).   The dialectic of Arithmetic in Grocery Shopping, in Rogoff, B.

and Lave, J. eds, Everyday Cognition, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 67–94.

Scribner, S. (1984). Studying working intelligence. In B. Rogoff and J. Lave, Eds., Everyday Cognition: Its Development in Social Context. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, pp. 9-40.

Comments

Steven Hunt

About Steven Hunt

Steven Hunt is the Senior Vice President of Customer Value at SAP. He is responsible for guiding the strategy and deployment of knowledge, tools and process improvements that increase the value customers receive from SuccessFactors & SAP Cloud software as a service solutions.

Higher Ed Offers New Opportunities For Digital Learners

Malcolm Woodfield

Higher education today faces considerable pressures. The cost of attending college is increasing at a rate that outpaces inflation, and many students are saddled with burdensome student loans.

All in all, higher education is becoming more like a business as students, parents, and alumni have a much more transactional relationship with institutions. Career centers are expected to serve as job placement firms as donors want to see returns on their investment in their alma mater.

A new educational landscape

Add to these expectations new platforms where learning is delivered directly to consumers. To academe, much of this content seems suspect—YouTube videos and Wikipedia are not the same as classroom experiences. Critics decry these mass-market, available-to-all educational options, saying they lack the rigor of traditional educational structures.

Here’s a provocative thought: Rather than thinking of these information providers as threats, traditional institutions should consider adopting the models themselves.

Higher educational institutions have the opportunity to exceed student expectations. They can use technology to deliver education offerings in new ways, ways that speak to how students have been learning their whole lives. In doing so, institutions can serve populations that have traditionally been overlooked.

Five drivers of technological change

For forward-thinking institutions, digital technology can be a way to address the issues of expectations and competition. New learning methods are creating unique educational experiences today. Already connected devices and online courses are changing the way students learn.

There are five core drivers to digital change today. Hyperconnectivity and the Internet of Things (IoT) is one. The IoT is defined as devices equipped with sensors, software, and wireless capabilities. These devices can “talk” with each other and collect, store, and send data. Mobile devices are  everywhere on campuses, fueled by powerful and free wireless connections. Access is easy—the real question becomes whether your content is easy to access.

Supercomputing is the second driver. Big Data enables analytics that fuel research not just in the natural sciences, but also in the social sciences and humanities.

Cloud computing is another catalyst. Data storage is more affordable than ever. Cloud-based platforms allow students and faculty to collect and use data in new ways.

The fourth factor is the growth of smarter technologies. Improvements in artificial intelligence, 3D printing, sensors, and robotics have vast applications in teaching and research. These technologies can reshape curriculum development, research, and the business side of education.

The final core driver is cybersecurity. Universities are the world’s libraries. They are repositories for information. Most commit to sharing that information with the global community. Protecting that information from increasing virtual and physical threats is paramount.

Online courses are the first wave

In 2008, a new acronym emerged: MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). Driven by improvements in content delivery platforms, MOOCs have become the new normal for many institutions, some of which offer them for credit, for free, and to students anywhere in the world. These higher educational institutions see it as part of their broader educational mission. Platforms such as Coursera and edX have became familiar standards to learners of all ages. Some of these classes are enrolling tens of thousands of students. Similarly, video gaming platforms are now often used to create educational content.

For early adopters, the opportunity is staggering. These institutions see high demand for these products and methods. Student recruitment and retention increases, along with better outcomes for teaching and research. Institutions see their rankings rise.

Let’s look at a fictional example of how this new educational might play out:

A student with a mobile device enters a classroom, and a signal is sent to the campus computer network. That signal accesses the student’s profile, which contains information that helps predict her learning style preferences and needs. The system pushes information to the student’s device and can measure her progress and understanding.

If the student is stuck, she can post a question to the learning management system’s online forum. The system can then push more information to the student’s device, or it can schedule a tutor to contact the student. These integrated systems have resulted in a far higher likelihood of success.

In implementing such a system, the university has not only helped the student learn, it has taken a proactive approach. Help is personalized to each student’s style and likely needs. Steps are taken to ensure that students can master the material with the appropriate help they need. These types of processes will improve student retention as well as outcomes.

In this scenario, the convergence of connected devices, Big Data, and cloud computing led to the positive outcome. A data-driven approach to the student experience can lead to faster learning and increased productivity for academic staff as well.

To learn more about digital transformation in higher education, click here.

Comments

Malcolm Woodfield

About Malcolm Woodfield

Malcolm Woodfield is the Global Vice President, Head of Industry Business Unit Education & Research, at SAP. He manages a global team accountable for the overall business, market, customer, and revenue success of the Higher Education / Public Services portfolio (including all Applications, Analytics, Mobile, HANA, and Cloud) globally.

New Tech Empowers Millennials To Ignite Modern Workforce

Malcolm Woodfield

It’s no secret – digital business is changing the world. One of the biggest advances in recent technology is the move into the digital world. New technology holds great opportunity in the field of education, not only for students and teachers, but to each educational institution and the workforce as a whole.

Millennials offer value to the workforce

The millennial generation is made up of avid readers. They’re reading text messages and social content on an almost constant basis. They begin learning networking concepts at a young age and they have come to expect a system to work as fluidly as they can think. This is why early adopters of rising technology are so successful. Millennials feel drawn to them, and they are disappointed with user experiences that come off as “clunky” or inefficient.

Technology solves many problems in the workforce, but it can work only if people use it. Giving millennials the digital skills they are already interested in doesn’t only benefit the next generation of workers. It will help bring the current workforce up to speed with new processes. When a digital-savvy college student begins a job or internship, the new employee will begin to change the attitudes of the other workers. It is natural to this generation of social media users to share their experiences with others, especially when it adds efficiency to their lives.

For this to happen, universities must shift education business models to implement a learning process that is not only made better by these new technologies, but gives students first-hand experience with what they are learning. Students are gaining valuable experience with digital platforms while they pursue their educations. They’re using them to learn.

Emerging technology can aid in student progress

A smart interface means a lot more to a millennial than a sleek-looking app. Processes must interact with one another to create harmony. At the same time, too much information at once can become overwhelming, and so a balance is needed. A well-designed system allows the linked information that isn’t necessary to the function at hand to fade into the background.

Today’s students also crave performance feedback in real time. The days of taking an exam and finding out the results the following week are over; universities should embrace this.

Students also need software that can help them shape their paths going forward. They can be empowered by student-directed learning. The same system can be utilized to connect them with employment and internship opportunities, guiding students down the paths they have created.

Technology can improve faculty performance and university success

This process of tracking and real-time results can have very positive perks to the faculty as well. With the same system, student engagement can be boiled down to a simple measurement. This allows an institution to reward the professors who do their jobs very well.

When employees feel that their success is recognized, productivity and overall performance improves. Additionally, employees who feel appreciated are likely to pass that gratitude forward. They treat their coworkers with the same appreciation. Essentially, positive reinforcement will go viral.

But this is only part of the benefit a simple, integrated system can provide a university. The same type of student engagement metrics that track instructor performance can reveal which subjects the students find the most appealing. With that information, administrators can increase sessions of popular courses. They can also add new subjects to educational programs based on student interest and the evolving needs of the professional world. This concept also applies to the research management. University research funding can be allocated for the areas that have the most impact upon students and prospective employers.

Agility: a requirement for success

The world is connected by new technology. Hyper-connectivity allows people to pool resources on a global level, which means that advances are made very quickly and on a constant basis. As industries adapt to emerging opportunities and challenges, new positions are created and old ones are left behind. An employee must be versatile to successfully navigate these kinds of rapid changes.

At the same time, employers must have some way of recognizing the talents of their workers to best utilize them. In the past, it was not uncommon for a person to work for the same company from the beginning to end of his or her working life. According to Psychology Today, many workers in their 20’s now hold jobs for an average of two years.

Yet millennials feel a sense of commitment to corporate culture. They want to give their loyalty to a purpose bigger than themselves, to which they can make a strong contribution. A young employee who feels valued is likely to excel. This can be very powerful for the companies that know how to empower and encourage them.

To learn more about digital transformation in higher education, click here.

Comments

Malcolm Woodfield

About Malcolm Woodfield

Malcolm Woodfield is the Global Vice President, Head of Industry Business Unit Education & Research, at SAP. He manages a global team accountable for the overall business, market, customer, and revenue success of the Higher Education / Public Services portfolio (including all Applications, Analytics, Mobile, HANA, and Cloud) globally.

Live Businesses Deliver a Personal Customer Experience Without Losing Trust

Lori Mitchell-Keller, Brian Walker, Johann Wrede, Polly Traylor, and Stephanie Overby

Trust is the foundation of customer relationships. People who don’t trust your business are not likely to become or remain customers.

The trust relationship has taken some big hits lately. Beloved brands like Chipotle and Toyota have seen customer trust ebb due to public perception of their roles in safety issues. Consumers continue to experience occasional data breaches from large brands.

Yet these traditional threats have short half-lives. The latest threat could last forever.

Most customers claim they want personalization across all the channels in which they interact with companies. Such personalization should create long-term loyalty by creating a new level of intimacy in the relationship.

sap_Q216_digital_double_feature3_images2But that intimacy comes at a high price. For personalization to work, brands need to gather unprecedented amounts of personal information about customers and continue to do so over the course of the relationship. Customers are already wary: 80% of consumers have updated their privacy settings recently, according to an article in VentureBeat.

Companies must get personalization right. If they do, customers are more likely to purchase again and less likely to switch to a competitor. Personalization is also an important step toward the holy grail of digital transformation: becoming a Live Business, capable of meeting customers with relevant and customized offers, products, and services in real time or in the moments of customers’ choosing.

When done wrong, personalization can cause customers to feel that they’ve been deceived and that their privacy has been violated. It can also turn into an uncomfortable headline. When Target used its database of customer purchases to send coupons for diapers to the home of an expectant teen before her father knew about the pregnancy, its action backfired. The incident became the centerpiece of a New York Times story on Target’s consumer intelligence gathering practices and privacy.

Straddling the Line of Trust

Customers can’t define the line between helpful and creepy, but they know it when they see it.

Research conducted by RichRelevance in 2015 made something abundantly clear: what marketers think is cool may be seen as creepy by consumers. For example, facial-recognition technology that identifies age and gender to target advertisements on digital screens is considered creepy by 73% of people surveyed. Yet consumers were happy about scanning a product on their mobile device to see product reviews and recommendations for other items they might like, the survey revealed. Here’s what else resonates as creepy or cool when it comes to digital engagement with consumers, courtesy of RichRelevance and Edelman Berland (now called Edelman).

Creepy

  • Shoppers are put off when salespeople greet them by name because of mobile phone signals or know their spending habits because of facial-recognition software.
  • Dynamic pricing, such as a digital display showing a lower price “just for you,” also puts shoppers off.
  • When brands collect data on consumers without their knowledge, 83% of people consider it an invasion of privacy, according to RichRelevance’s research, and 65% feel the same way about ads that follow them from Web site to Web site (retargeting).

Cool

  • Shoppers like mobile apps with interactive maps that efficiently guide them to products in the store.
  • They also like when their in-store location triggers a coupon or other promotion for a product nearby.
  • When a Web site reminds the consumer of past purchases, a majority of shoppers like it.

There are no hard-and-fast rules about which personalization tactics are creepy and which are cool, but trust is particularly threatened in face-to-face interactions. Nobody minds much if Amazon sends product recommendations through a computer, but when salespeople approach customers like a long-lost friend based on information collected without the customer’s knowledge or permission, the violation of trust feels much more personal and emotional. The stage is set for an angry, embarrassed customer to walk out  the door, forever.

sap_Q216_digital_double_feature3_images3It doesn’t help that the limits of trust shift constantly as social media tempts us to reveal more and more about ourselves and as companies’ data collection techniques continue to improve. It’s easy to cross the line from helpful to creepy or annoying (see Straddling the Line of Trust).

Online, customers are similarly choosy about personalization. For example, when online shoppers are simply looking at a product category, ads that matched their prior Web-browsing interests are ineffective, an MIT study reports. Yet after consumers have visited a review site to seek out information and are closer to a purchase, personalized content is more effective than generic ads.

Personalization Requires a Live Business

Yet the limits of trust are definitely shifting toward more personalization, not less. Customers already enjoy frictionless personalized experiences with digital-native companies like Uber, and they are applying those heightened expectations to all companies. For example, 91% of customers want to pick up where they left off when they switch between channels, according to Aspect research. And personalization is helpful when you receive recommendations for products that you would like based on previous in-store or online purchases.

sap_Q216_digital_double_feature3_images-0004Customers also want their interactions to be live—or in the moment they choose. Fulfilling that need means that companies must become Live Businesses, capable of creating a technological infrastructure that allows real-time interactions and that allows the entire organization—its structure, people, and processes—to respond to customers in all the moments that matter.

Coordinating across channels and meeting customers in the right moments with personalized interactions will become critical as the digital economy matures and customer expectations rise. For instance, when customers air complaints about a brand on social media, 72% expect a response within an hour, according to consulting firm Bain & Company. Meanwhile, an Accenture survey found that nearly 60% of consumers want real-time promotions; 48% like online reminders to order items that they might have run out of; and 51% like the idea of a one-click checkout, where they can skip payment method or shipping forms because the retailer has saved their preferences. Those types of services build trust, showing that companies care enough to understand their customers and send offers or information that save them time, money, or both.

So while trust is difficult to earn, once you’ve earned it and figured out how to maintain it, you can have customers for life—as long as you respect the shifting boundaries.

“Do customers think the company is truly acting with their best interests at heart, or is it just trying to feed the quarterly earnings beast?” asks Donna Peeples, a customer experience expert and the former chief customer experience officer at AIG. “Customer data should be accurate and timely, the company should be transparent about how the data is being used, and it should give customers control over data collection.”

sap_Q216_digital_double_feature3_images-0005How to Earn Trust for a Live Business

Despite spending US$600 billion on online purchases, U.S. consumers are concerned with transaction privacy, the 2015 Consumer Trust Survey from CA Security Council reveals. These concerns will become acute as Live Businesses make personalization across channels a reality.

Here are some ways to improve trust while moving forward with omnichannel personalization.

  • Determine the value of trust. Customers want to know what value they are getting in exchange for their data. An Accenture study found that the majority of consumers in the United States and the United Kingdom are willing to have trusted retailers use some of their personal data in order to present personalized and targeted products, services, recommendations, and offers.
    “If customers get substantial discounts or offers that are appealing to them, they are often more than willing to make that trade-off,” says Tom Davenport, author of Big Data at Work: Dispelling the Myths, Uncovering the Opportunities. “But a lot of companies are cheap. They use the information but don’t give anything back. They make offers that aren’t particularly relevant or useful. They don’t give discounts for loyalty. They’re just trying to sell more.”
  • Let customers make the first move. Customers who voluntarily give up data are more likely to trust personalization across the channels where they do business. Mobile apps are a great way to invite customers to share more data in a more intimate relationship that they control. By entering the data they choose into the app, customers won’t be annoyed by personalization that’s built around it.
    For example, a leading luxury retailer’s sales associates may offer customers their favorite beverages based on information they entered into the app about their interests and preferences.
  • Simplify data collection and usage policies. Slapping a dense data- use policy written in legalese on the corporate website does little to earn customers’ trust. Instead, companies should think about the customer data transaction, such as what information the customer is giving them, how they’re using it, and what the result will be, and describe it as simply as possible.
    “Try to describe it in words so simple that your grandmother can understand it. And then ask your grandmother if it’s reasonable,” suggests Elea McDonnell Feit, assistant professor of marketing at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business. “If your grandmother can’t understand what’s happening, you’ve got a problem.”
    The use of data should be totally transparent in the interaction itself, adds Feit. “When a company uses data to customize a service or offering to a customer, the customer should be able to figure out where the company got the data and immediately see how the company is providing added value to the customers by using the data,” Feit says.
  • Create trust through education. Yes, bombarding customers with generic offers and pushing those offers across the different Web sites they visit may boost profits over the short term, but customers will eventually become weary and mistrustful. To create trust that lasts and that supports personalization, educate the customers.

Procter & Gamble’s (P&G’s) Mean Stinks campaign for Secret deodorant encourages girl-to-girl anti-bullying posts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The pages let participants send apologies to those they have bullied; view videos; and share tips, tools, and challenges with their peers.

P&G has said that participation in Mean Stinks has helped drive market share increases for the core Secret brand as well as the specific line of deodorant promoted by the effort. Offering education without pushing products or services creates a sense that companies are putting customers’ interests before their own, which is one of the bedrock elements of trust. Opting in to personalization seems less risky to customers if they perceive that companies have built up a reserve of value and trust.

“Companies that do personalization well demonstrate that they care, respect customers’ time, know and understand their customers and their needs and interests,” says Peeples. “It also reinforces that interactions are not merely transactions but opportunities to build a long-term relationship with that customer.”

Laying the Foundation for Live, Personalized Omnichannel Processes

sap_Q216_digital_double_feature3_images-0006Creating a personalized omnichannel strategy that balances trust and business goals starts with knowing the customer. This can happen only when multiple aspects of your business are coordinated in a live fashion. But marketers today struggle to collect the kind of data that could drive more meaningful connections with customers. In an Infogroup survey of more than 500 marketers, only 21% said they are “very confident in the accuracy and completeness of their customer profiles.” A little over half of respondents said they aren’t collecting enough data overall.

Collecting enough of the right types of data requires more holistic data-collection techniques:

  • Take advantage of the lower costs for processing and storing terabytes of data, and develop a data strategy that combines and crunches all the customer data points needed to drive relevant interactions. This includes transactional, mobile, sensor, and  Web data.
  • Social media analytics is also a central tactic. Social profiles and activity are rich sources of data about behavior and character, merging what people buy or look for with their interests, for instance. Such data can feed predictive analytics and personalization campaigns.
  • Experiment with commercial tools that can filter and mine the data of customers and prospects in real time. This is a significant step beyond basic demographic data collections of the past.

sap_Q216_digital_double_feature3_images-0007Once the necessary data is available, companies need the technology, processes, and people to make sensible use of it in an omnichannel personalization strategy. Only when a company is organized as a Live Business can that happen. Here’s how your company can move toward being a Live Business:
Be live across channels. Having a consistent customer journey map across channels is core to omnichannel personalization. It requires integration across multiple systems and organizational silos to enable core capabilities, such as inventory visibility and purchase/pickup/return across channels. This integration also constitutes a major chunk of the transition to becoming a company that can act in the moments that matter most to customers. If all channels can sync in real time, customers can get what they want in the moment they want it.

Free the data scientists. Marketing rarely has full control over the omnichannel experience, but it is the undisputed leader in understanding customer behavior. While data science is part of that understanding, it has traditionally played a background role. Marketers need to bring the data scientists into efforts to sort through the different options for digitizing the omnichannel experience. The right data scientists understand not only how to use the tools but also how to apply the data to make accurate decisions and follow customers from channel to channel with personalized offers.

Walgreens’ Technology Approach to Personalization

Walgreens is a leader in building the kind of technology base that can enable real-time, omnichannel personalization. Its digital transformation is 16 years in the making, according to Jason Fei, senior director of architecture for digital engineering at Walgreens. At the heart of its infrastructure is a Big Data engine that feeds many customer interaction and omnichannel processes, including customer segmentation. The company adds third-party systems in areas such as predictive analytics and marketing software. Walgreens has a cloud-first strategy for all new applications, such as its image-processing and print-ordering applications. Other elements of the drugstore chain’s technology platform include:

  • Application programming interface (API)-driven architecture. Walgreens’ APIs enable more than 50 partners to connect with its apps and systems to drive customer-facing processes, including integrations with consumer wearables to drive reward points for healthy habits, as well as content partnerships with companies such as WebMD. “With APIs we can be an extensible business, allowing other companies to connect to us easily and help in the digital enablement of our physical stores,” Fei says.
  • Responsive Web sites. The company’s Web site is built using responsive and adaptive design practices so that the site automatically adapts to the consumer’s device, whether that is a mobile phone, tablet, or desktop computer. “We have a single code base that runs anywhere and delivers a consistent, optimized experience to all of our customers,” Fei says.

Making the Most of the Technology Base

This technology foundation has allowed Walgreens to push forward in personalization. For example, according to Fei the company uses sophisticated segmentation and personalization engines to drive outbound e-mail and text campaigns to customers based on their purchase history and profile. “We don’t blast out messages to customers; we use our personalization recommendations to be relevant,” says Fei.

The next phase of this strategy is to develop live inbound personalization tactics, such as recognizing customers when they come back to the Web site and tailoring their experience accordingly. These highly automated, self-learning systems improve over time, becoming more relevant at the moment a customer logs back in.

“When you search for a product, the Web site will take a good guess of what you might actually want. If you always print greeting cards at the same time of year, for example, the system would automatically deliver content around that,” Fei explains. “Everyone comes to Walgreens with a mission, so we can be very targeted with our communications.”

Walgreens’ mobile app combines real-time personalization with convenience. You can scan a pill bottle to refill a prescription, access coupons, send photos from your phone to print in the store, track rewards, and find the exact location of a product on the shelf.

Walgreens also recently deployed a new integrated interactive voice-response system that includes a personalization engine that recognizes the individual, says Troy Mills, vice president of customer care at Walgreens. The system can then predict the most probable reason for the customer’s call and quickly get them to the right individual for further help.

How to Get Started with Live Customer Experiences

sap_Q216_digital_double_feature3_images-0008As Fei can attest, getting Walgreens’ omnichannel and personalization infrastructure to this point has involved a lot of work, with much more to come. For companies just now embarking on this journey, especially midsize and large companies, getting started will mean overhauling an outdated and ineffective technology infrastructure where duplicate systems and processes for managing customer data, marketing programs, and transactions are common.

A bad internal user experience often transcends into a bad customer-facing experience, says Peeples. “We can’t afford the distractions of the latest app or social ‘shiny penny’ without addressing the root causes of our systems’ issues.”

Live Business Requires Striking the Right Balance

The boundaries of trust are a moving target. Sales tactics that used to be acceptable decades ago, such as the door-to-door salesperson, are unwelcome today to most homeowners. And consumers’ expectations are unpredictable. At the dawn of social media, many people were anxious about their photos unexpectedly showing up online. Now our identities are tagged and our posts and photos distributed and commented on regularly.

But while consumers are getting more comfortable with online technology and its trade-offs, they won’t put up with personalization efforts that make use of their data without their knowledge or permission. That data has value, and customers want to decide for themselves when it’s worth giving it away. Marketers need to strike the right balance between personalization and a healthy respect for the unique needs and concerns of individuals. D!

 

Comments

Lori Mitchell-Keller

About Lori Mitchell-Keller

Lori Mitchell-Keller is the Executive Vice President and Global General Manager Consumer Industries at SAP. She leads the Retail, Wholesale Distribution, Consumer Products, and Life Sciences Industries with a strong focus on helping our customers transform their business and derive value while getting closer to their customers.

Tags:

How Mobile Technology Impacts The HR Industry

Meghan M. Biro

We use mobile devices for nearly everything, from shopping and researching to scheduling our daily lives. In fact, more than 85 percent of U.S. millennials own a smartphone and use it frequently throughout the day.

Businesses are already optimizing their use of mobile technology to reach their customers and to make their employees work lives more efficient, but there’s one area where they’re overlooking a huge opportunity: Human resources. 

Mobile use for HR needs

Considering how tethered many of us are to our smartphones, it should come as no surprise that employees appreciate mobile access to information as much as customers. A recent study by ADP found that 37 percent of mobile users rely on their smartphones to access pay information through an HR app. That’s a significant chunk of the workforce already turning to mobile solutions—and those numbers will only continue to grow.

I’ve said for years that the world is growing ever more global and mobile and HR has to be, too. To reach the right talent, you need to be mobile-friendly in design and ease of usage. HR should always go where the talent is – and these days it’s on mobile.

Harnessing the power of mobile—and cloud technology—will provide business with opportunities to make huge changes for the better.

Use technology to attract a younger workforce

Baby boomers are quickly reaching retirement, and the new workforce is made up of tech-savvy millennials—with the equally savvy Generation Z not far behind.

These younger professionals have a different perspective, work ethic, and set of expectations for employment. Mobility is their calling card; one study by Aruba Networks found that the “#GenMobile” demographic prefers flexibility when it comes to where they work, and when. An estimated 37 percent of workers telecommute full-time, with the average worker telecommuting two days a month. Technology has given us not just mobile devices, but also a mobile lifestyle.

Competition in the job market is fierce; businesses are clamoring to find the best talent, wherever it may be. Many companies are changing their HR processes to attract and retain workers—not just by tossing around perks like flexible hours or unlimited vacation days, but also through the smart use of mobile technology.

Mobile HR apps

Mobile HR apps help put data at employees’ fingertips—but what does that really mean? Here’s an example: ADP’s mobile app already has more than two million downloads, and less than two percent of customers have opted out of the service. The ADP app allows employees to access data like pay information anytime, anywhere.

This kind of 24/7/365 connectivity is important to a generation of wired-in (or, more precisely, wireless) professionals. To take this example a little further, let’s have a look at what else employees can do with the ADP app:

  • View payroll statements.
  • Clock in and out.
  • Send messages if they’re running late or going to be absent.
  • Request time off.
  • Track their schedules.
  • Review benefits, savings accounts, and spending accounts.
  • Create or revise timesheets.

Mobile recruiting

Mobile technology isn’t just affecting how employees access information; it’s changing the way businesses recruit new employees. According to Capterra, a free service to help companies find the right software, 2016 will be the year more HR tools offer mobile functionality and HR professionals use their mobile devices to apply, recruit and work. Capterra projects that those numbers will continue to grow in 2016 as more of online activities move to mobile.

According to Deloitte’s Global mobile consumer survey, 97 percent of adults aged 18-24 check their mobile phones within three hours of waking up and check their mobile devices an average of 74 times per day. The same research reveals that 50 percent of users of all ages check their phones one last time, 15 minutes before going to sleep. Mobile is where the people (and the candidates) are and where they will be in increasing numbers as time goes on.

Social media platforms, like LinkedIn and Facebook, are quickly becoming the go-to way for businesses to find and communicate with potential candidates. An Aberdeen study found that 73 percent of 18-34-year-olds found their last job through a social network and 89 percent of recruiters have hired an employee through LinkedIn.

Undoubtedly, mobile technology and apps have made a huge impact on both internal and external HR functions.

Consumer products and technology have conditioned us to use mobile for a variety of needs, and employees expect the same responsiveness and ease of use in workplace applications. Mobile apps are beneficial across the board: They bring your business into the 21st century, increase HR accessibility, and allow you to reach a wider audience for recruiting, communication, and marketing.

Mobile is fast becoming the rule rather than the exception. Businesses need to get moving on the implementation of mobile technology throughout all departments, especially HR.

For more on how cutting-edge technology is transforming HR, see How Big Data Drives HR In 2016.

A version of this post was originally published on Converge.xyz.

.

Comments