The Adapter’s Advantage: Pat D’Amico on Virtual Training Methods
“The number one thing is how learner wants and needs have changed, and ways in which the emerging technology can be leveraged to meet those needs.”
Pat D’Amico is the founder and CEO of About-Face Development, a Senior Performance Consultant with Matrix Achievement Group, and an accomplished speaker, author, facilitator, and business professional with over 30 years of experience—and a definitive expert on meeting learners’ needs through developing technologies.
D’Amico joined me on The Adapter’s Advantage podcast to discuss his various areas of expertise from learning and development to recruiting and organization, sharing valuable insights about:
- Adapting your learning models and virtual training methods to fit the desires and needs of your students
- Investing in and maintaining a top-caliber sales team
- Learning from unanticipated challenges—like COVID-19—to emerge better and stronger
#1 Embrace Shifts in Methodology and Models
“I ask, ‘When you need to figure out how to do something, what do you do?’ And they say, ‘I go to YouTube and I look for the shortest video that’s going to show me how it’s done.’ And I think that alone suggests the paradigm shift in how people want to learn.”
This development within the educational space has pointed to a few key changes to hone in and capitalize on, including curating content that meets these updated expectations:
- Video content – D’Amico argues that video content is a more effective virtual training method because students can see and engage with it directly. It becomes more concrete for them, even if they’re watching it through a screen.
- In short spurts – Attention spans are limited and Zoom fatigue, as people are calling it, is undeniable. Short but engaging videos will likely be better retained than long drawn out lessons chock-full of information that goes in one ear and out the other.
- Aggregation of experts – D’Amico pinpoints one major change as the transition from simple distance learning to socialized learning, specifically in regards to sharing best practices instantaneously. “Folks want to see how the best people and most successful people are doing things. They want to hear it from them. And there’s a big difference between reading that in an email, and actually hearing them speak it, the inflection, the passion.” Despite the physical distance, we’re closer than ever to experts through the digital sphere.
This virtual training method of pulling experts from all across the industry to use as your educators and resources also speaks to the value of skill and credibility in inciting change or the shift to a new perspective. “Do you have the credibility to really be able to put forward what folks can and should be doing, versus leveraging the experts within an organization, or leveraging the experts in the industry?” D’Amico asks.
With increased access to virtually anyone in the world, there’s no reason not to leverage the experts with the most to offer. There’s also added value in hearing new perspectives and experiencing a slight change of pace, no matter how minute.
#2 Maintain the Best Possible Version of Your Sales Team
“To retain top talent, organizations really have to invest in the development of their people.”
D’Amico mentions a clear shift in the interviewing, hiring, and onboarding culture based on the response to one very telling candidate question: “What development are you going to be providing me in this role?”
“It likely would have offended the interviewer,” he continues. “Folks were clamoring just for a potential opportunity back then.” Now, this is a standard industry question that necessitates a genuine response and the infrastructure to back it up.
Here are some of the most important factors D’Amico points to:
- Compelling people to buy into the vision – “In order to achieve success, you have to create a compelling reason for folks to buy into the why that you’re asking them to do something. If you don’t, or you can’t paint a vision of a better future for them, you’re going to face resistance that you won’t be able to overcome.” He compares this to his time in the military, but it’s no less true in major, hierarchical corporations.
- Using the remote platform to promote deeper critical learning – By delivering skill-building and leadership training through a remote system, coaches have time to focus on in-person practice, feedback, and the most important critical competencies during live learning sessions.
- Investing in long-term, continuous development – The combination of in-person and virtual training models also allows for ongoing development efforts. D’Amico mentions the importance of stressing to employees that these aren’t just quick, one-and-done events. “This goes on a year, this goes on two years. And that’s what people want and need because it’s not a finish line. You’re always continuing to develop.”
- Hiring for and developing soft skills – “Organizations see things like product knowledge and, with many of my clients and my experience, clinical knowledge, as a must, which is fantastic. But soft skills, like sales and negotiations, are just as critical, as well as leadership development. And too often, they don’t receive the attention that they need.”
#3 Use Disruptions as a Catalyst for Change
“So the challenge, of course, is always going to be change, and helping leaders understand, appreciate, and really accept that change is challenging. But the fact that they found themselves in a situation that needed a solution has helped move that along.”
Like everyone, D’Amico can point to several difficulties in adapting to COVID-19 and the complete reconfiguration of workplaces and sales forces. But he also notes a few unanticipated benefits, specifically lessons we’ve collectively learned and can take with us on the other side:
- We can do things without being face-to-face – This was a lesson that no one meant to learn, but everyone discovered rather quickly. Out of sheer necessity, organizations were forced “to look at newer, and often better, ways to do what they were already doing.” Some things are immensely valuable face-to-face, but others are faster and more efficient when done remotely. “What if we just test the hypothesis as we go along and sort of figure out?” host Mark Magnacca posits. “‘Do I really need to be in person on this one? Or is this one of those ones we can replace?’”
- Virtual training is an effective learning model – “I think there are a lot of people who say, ‘I didn’t know we could do that.’ Actually we can,” D’Amico insists, “and we’ve been able to do it for probably four or five years. You just haven’t been paying attention.’” This begs the questions: What virtual training methods are we overlooking? What else would we be able to do if only we reevaluated the current model?
- We don’t have to be available in-person all the time, but we do have to be there when it counts – D’Amico compares the old method of in-person case reviews to the current model of remote consultations. Instead of physically reviewing the film, discussing the plan, and sizing the equipment, the remote sales reps receive a digital copy of the film to review and point out any equipment or considerations the physician might be missing, if any. D’Amico has already noticed a serious boost in efficiency that doesn’t have to change post-pandemic.
Sometimes—as was the case with COVID-19—we’re forced to change our stance, but what kind of possibilities would we uncover if we reevaluated our perspectives regularly?
Adaptation is a Vital Skill to Move Forward
“Leaders always have to be evaluating ways in which they can do things differently to be more competitive and learning development leaders need to be open to ways that they can tackle today’s challenges, but utilizing new options.”
Adaptation is the ultimate soft skill to hone and perfect.
To learn more about virtual training methods, listen to the full episode of The Adapter’s Advantage: Training the Next Generation of Leaders.