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Intro to Training & Development

Use this guide to learn the basics of corporate training and how it helps achieve your business goals.

by | Jun 24, 2020

What is corporate training?

Corporate training is a set of educational activities designed to improve employee knowledge or skill attainment in the workplace. 

For companies, training is an important function for long-term growth of the organization and their internal talent. It’s a way to increase productivity, improve process efficiencies, reduce turnover, and develop a rock-solid company culture. Training provides benefits to both the company and its employees.

▶ Companies benefit from training by receiving improved productivity, efficiencies, teamwork, and talent retention.

▶ Employees benefit from training by developing their personal and professional skills, which helps them become better at their current jobs and improves their future career options.

Training is used to solve business problems. Most often, these business problems are attributed to gaps in employee skills and/or knowledge. All internal departments across all industries use employee training to reduce these gaps.

A few real-world examples of corporate training are:

• Manager / leadership development training

• New employee onboarding

• Customer service training

• Software training

• Customer education communications

• Change management training

• Compliance training

• Workplace safety training

• Cybersecurity training

These types of training programs can be delivered in a variety of formats – instructor-led, eLearning, virtual, and others. We’ll learn about delivery formats later in this guide.

To achieve optimal growth, companies should be thoughtful and deliberate about their corporate training strategy. The overall strategy and program is typically owned by the internal Human Resources team. Sometimes they have an organization dedicated to training and development, sometimes called learning and development (L&D). This group is tasked with identifying training needs, building a strategy, and implementing the various programs across the organization.

In this guide, we’ll review all the foundations of corporate training to get you started. We’ll cover training benefits, ROI, types, strategies, examples, and future trends.

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Benefits and ROI of corporate training

Talent is any company’s most important asset. The people that make the organization go. Having the right people with the right skills is imperative to moving any company forward. With a fast-changing corporate landscape, companies must invest in their people in order to sustain growth.

Even with this in mind, corporate training can be a difficult sell to internal stakeholders. Teams are busy with projects and deadlines. Training is often viewed as an added activity that takes away employee time. Time that could have spent on other projects.

The truth is that both organizations and professionals benefit from effective training programs. Here are some ways that training benefits both employers and employees. If you need to sell the value of training to your leadership team, here are a few places to start:

1. Minimizes skill gaps

Lack of skills creates big headaches for organizations. 75% of HR professionals admit to struggling to find quality candidates due to skill gaps. One estimate suggests that unfilled jobs due to skill gaps cost the United States economy a shocking $160 billion a year. That’s a hard figure to ignore.

The World Economic Forum reported that 54% of all employees “will require significant reskilling by 2022.” The skill gap is real. And the number of gaps continues to increase. Organizations need to tackle this problem head-on. They need to arm themselves with robust training processes and teams to minimize the skills gap and be prepared for continuous, adaptable training.

2. Improves employee retention (reduces turnover)

Employee turnover is an expensive problem. The replacement cost of a single employee is about 150% of their annual salary – which means for an employee making $100K, it costs the company $150K to replace that individual. One of the best ways to reduce turnover rates is by offering training and development as a benefit. When a company is willing to invest in employee development, 94% of professionals are more inclined to stick around long-term. Candidates prefer companies that are willing to invest in them, making them more inclined to stick around long-term.

For recruitment, 42% of employees say that access to learning and development (L&D) opportunities is the most important factor they consider when choosing an employer. By providing developmental training as a benefit, companies can significantly reduce turnover, savings millions due to reduced voluntary turnover.

3. Increases employee productivity

How much time does it take Employee A to complete a task? Often, this amount of time can be significantly improved with proper training, improving overall productivity. Training ensures employees have an adequate skill set – allowing them to complete tasks more quickly and with greater efficiency. From an ROI benefit standpoint, improved productivity tends to lead to higher profitability. More widgets can be built in the same amount of time, decreasing a company’s overall labor and/or personnel costs.

4. Standardizes business processes

The most efficient machines are the most consistent. Training programs provide standardization of the best possible process. When processes are standardized, they become more predictable. When processes are predictable, business leaders can more accurately understand the state of the business and where the future will lead. A good training program provides employees with a standardized path to success. In an ideal scenario, it wouldn’t matter if Jim or Jessica were completing the task, the end results should be the exact same. That’s the value of effective training.

5. Improves job satisfaction and morale

When employees feel capable and supported, their confidence rises, leading to higher morale. This boosted morale aligns with higher levels of job satisfaction. Happy employees provide a long list of benefits for companies – a supportive working environment, increased innovation, reduced turnover, improved recruitment branding, increased collaboration, increased brand loyalty, improved productivity.

6. Minimizes risk and reduces waste

In manufacturing, when a product is flawed, it often has to be discarded. Those mistakes come with a cost. Well-trained employees are less likely to make mistakes. And therefore, less likely to lead to physical and financial waste. Error rate reductions, across any industry, mean less time is spent focused on corrections. Sometimes these mistakes can be dangerous or physically harmful. This opens up companies to increased liability that could cost millions of dollars. Proper training minimizes risk by providing the safest, most efficient process for completing a task.

7. Establishes a culture of learning

Learning is a continuous act, best practiced at all times, throughout a person’s entire life. Companies that embrace this idea create a supportive company culture of learning. This culture can help reduce aggressive, power-hungry egos. It reframes how people interact, helping them recognize that it’s ok not to have all of the answers. Continuous learning is what helps us grow. When your culture shifts, your workforce views daily tasks and everyday challenges as learning opportunities. They may be better equipped to adapt to new technologies, shifting priorities, and emerging trends.

8. Improves succession planning

Succession plans help organizations plan far into the future. They predict which employees will be suitable for specific future roles, based on skills, knowledge, and experience. Every company needs a robust succession plan. It ensures business continuity even if someone in a critical role leaves unexpectedly. Training and development makes succession planning much simpler. It helps shape an ideal candidate by targeting specific skills needed for future positions.

When the day arrives, and the candidate moves into a new role, the company will have documented evidence that they’re well prepared for the job. It makes it much easier for the candidate to start in a new role and hit the ground running. As a result, they reach full productivity faster, allowing the company to minimize losses that would otherwise occur during a transition.


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Uses for corporate training

What is corporate training used for? The answer is: many things! Corporate training can take many forms depending on your company’s goals. Your goals serve as a primary reason for developing a training program in the first place.

Let’s take a look at the various uses for corporate training.

▶ Onboarding

Every new employee should experience onboarding training. Even highly-skilled new hires need guidance when they start a position. They need to familiarize themselves with your company culture, environment, personalities, processes, and preferences. Once the basics are covered, different jobs will require different information for role-specific onboarding. As a result, this training has to be adaptable and customizable, adjusting to fit each new hire’s needs.

▶ Technology implementations

Fast-growing companies implement new technology all the time. The most common examples are enterprise-wide software (ERP) implementations, which impact nearly every function within an organization. These types of projects require fast and efficient training, most often coordinated by an outside training consultant.

▶ Process / Methodology implementations

In supply chain and manufacturing, fast-growing companies often need to adapt their processes to keep up with increasing demand. This results in a need to adapt their prior processes or methodologies. Changing to a new process is extremely time-intensive. It requires a detailed training strategy to ensure all employees have the proper capabilities.

▶ Technical skills development

Also known as hard skills, technical skills are qualities acquired by gaining expertise in performing physical or digital tasks. Examples would be software proficiency, programming languages, technical writing, and data analysis. With varying skill levels, there is always room for improvement. A technical skills training strategy can significantly improve efficiencies in any organization.

▶ Soft skills development

Soft skills are non-technical skills related to how an employee works. The soft skills in highest demand right now are creativity, persuasion, communication, collaboration, and emotional intelligence. Any employee at any level of the organization can benefit from soft skills training. They help improve productivity, teamwork, efficiencies, and company culture.

▶ Product training

Often times, most of the people working at your company don’t know about your product. For example, a tax accountant working at a shoe company probably knows very little about the shoes themselves. Product training helps current employees, new employees, or external contractors/vendors learn about your product.

▶ Sales training

For any company in a capitalist system, sales is the lifeblood. And there is room for improvement. Sales training teaches sales skills and knowledge to drive seller behavioral outcomes. It usually involves a combination of selling tactics, product training, relationship building, personal confidence, buying cycles, and customer management.

▶ Safety and compliance

Mandatory training is a norm in many industries. Safety and compliance-related coursework are the most common examples, where failing to ensure your whole workforce completes the training can come with legal penalties. Workplace safety training often includes guidelines for reducing incidents, taking pre-cautionary measures, and identifying hazards.

▶ Anti-harassment and ethics

Harassment prevention training is required across many states in the US. These policies are aimed to prevent harassment by managers, colleagues, contractors, and vendors. Most companies purchase approved out-of-the-box e-Learning courses and require all of their employees to complete them.

▶ Role transition

When an employee moves into a new role within the organization, extra training usually comes with the transition. This training process is a watered down version of onboarding, yet shorter in length and more focused on new roles and responsibilities.

▶ Professional and career development

Many medium to large-sized companies have programs dedicated solely to professional and career development. Often viewed as an employee benefit, these programs are referred to as learning and development, L&D, or training and development. Offering a wide range of learning topics, employees typically have flexibility to learn new skills at their own pace. At times, managers create career paths and competency frameworks. These outline specific skill sets and qualities that employees should develop, in order to move into a higher management position.

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Delivery Formats

How should training be delivered to your audience?

Training program effectiveness relies heavily on the chosen delivery format. That is, the way the information will be presented to the learners. Selecting the best delivery format depends on your company’s needs and resource constraints. You’ll want to consider available time and budgets. As we’ll see, some delivery formats take less time and money to build, but may not be the most effective for learning.

The decision is up to you, your business, and your stakeholders to determine the most effective output to solve the business problem. Most of the time, you’ll combine a few delivery formats. Blending a mix of mediums can provide learners with a more robust and functional learning experience.

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular delivery formats in corporate training today.

Instructor-Led Training (ILT)

When it comes to training, face-to-face instructor-led training (ILT) is the most traditional method. Typically, employees will gather in a large room while a trainer shares information, guides them through exercises, and facilitates the learning process. This delivery format is most popular in corporate training, simply because it is the most familiar to us – we all have experience learning in this format from our years in K-12 education.

+ Pros: Can highly interactive, engaging, and personalized (when delivered properly). Format is familiar for many employees. It’s flexible and easy to adapt to changing business needs. Participants can get immediate feedback and answers to questions. They have the ability to collaborate with peers. Can have real hands-on experience with activities and practice opportunities.

– Cons: Expensive (often requires employees to fly to a central location for training). Not scalable. The size of the room limits the number of potential participants, and the quality of the instructor impacts the experience. There may be issues with standardization.

▶ When to use instructor-led training (ILT): Use instructor-led training if you have a small population that needs to be trained. If you’re teaching complex processes that require hands-on experience and practice. If peer-to-peer engagement and networking is important. If you have available time and budget for full-day or week-long training.


Virtual Instructor-Led Training (VILT)

Also called synchronous learning, virtual instructor-led training is online learning that happens in real time. This approach puts a modern, digital twist on the classroom-based alternative. The trainer essentially has the same role and responsibilities. However, employees gather using online video conferencing software, eliminating the need for a physical classroom. This allows nearly an unlimited number of participants at a time, which can be convenient. The session can also be recorded, enabling your company to use it again down the line.

+ Pros: Lower cost than in-person training. Highly scalable as participants can be anywhere geographically. Can be recorded for later use. Instructors can still provide immediate feedback and facilitate discussions in real-time. There can also be a self-paced component, moving a larger percentage of learning outside of the “classroom.”

– Cons: Less engaging than in-person training. Requires a highly-trained VILT facilitator to create an effective learning experience. It’s technology-dependent, so poor internet connection could cause issues. Employees who aren’t tech-savvy could struggle.

▶ When to use virtual instructor-led training (VILT): Use VILT if you need a highly scalable approach to training. If you need to train employees globally, but have limited budgets for airfare/hotels/travel. If you’re in the middle of a global pandemic and much of your staff is working from home.

On-the-Job Training (OJT)

On-the-job training is a hands-on training format for teaching skills and knowledge. Employees are placed in a real-world environment where they can learn and practice skills. Often, senior team members conduct the training to ensure safety, answer questions, and help the learner acquire new capabilities. This requires a train-the-trainer program, where senior team members learn how to effectively train employees. This tends to be the most active approach, as “learning by doing” occurs often.

It isn’t uncommon for on-the-job training to also be the most inconsistent. There isn’t a set formula for sharing the information, so one employee’s experience can vary greatly from another. However, this approach is the most adaptable, as well. It can be adjusted based on the employee’s progress, even at a moment’s notice. This can make it exceptionally efficient if the employee who is acting as a guide is adept at teaching.

+ Pros: Highly customizable to your company. Allows employees the best opportunity to practice skills. Best for efficient learning and knowledge retention. Quickest method for learning new skills.

– Cons: Very resource intensive, both with time and money. Requires many trainers/SMEs to guide learners in small groups, or one-on-one. Tends to be inconsistent as training is difficult to standardize with a vast quantity of trainers.

▶ When to use on-the-job training (OJT): Use OJT for technical processes, such as manufacturing and engineering. If you need employees to learn new physical skills quickly and efficiently. If your company has a large change in software, such as retail POS machines or enterprise-wide ERP software. If you are experiencing significant delays in productivity and have pinpointed lack of skills/knowledge as the issue.


eLearning, also called asynchronous learning, is training in a digital format that is 100% self-paced. This means employees can access the training at any time by connecting to an online learning platform such as an LMS. eLearning has increased in popularity over the past few years as it can be standardized, scalable, and significantly lower cost than in-person training.

Online training does lack the social and collaborative aspects you find in instructor-led synchronous options, where all the learners attend together. It also requires technology, which can come with issues. Similarly, employees that aren’t tech-savvy might be uncomfortable with the approach, harming their experience.

+ Pros: Fully customizable to meet business needs. Consistent training for entire population. Scalable for employees in all geographies. Lower cost than in-person training. Flexible as its fully self-paced. Allows for unlimited creative formats such as gamification. Easy to measure and track data in LMS. Accessible on mobile.

– Cons: Lacks peer-to-peer collaboration and engagement. Less accountability for completion. Historically low completion rates. Must be well-designed to drive actual learning outcomes. Can be difficult to edit for future iterations. Can experience technological issues. Not a great format for extremely complex subjects or teaching physical skills.

 ▶ When to use eLearning: Use eLearning if you have a large, global population (such as your entire company) of employees that need to know the same information. If your target information is mostly knowledge-based, as opposed to skill-based. If you have a fully remote population. If you have limited budget, but need to train a lot of employees.

Video-based learning

In recent years, video has become a game-changer for online learning. It’s one of the most popular formats for learning new information and the trend seems to be continuing. YouTube has proved that video-based learning is an effective medium for learning. And video training in a corporate setting appears to be following suit. Video training types can vary depending on your training goals and target audience – animations, instructor-led, screen capture, how-to, and interactive videos.

Video learning is flexible for learners to review at their own pace. They are usually sliced into small bite-sized chunks, allowing learners to easily digest the material. While historically expensive to produce, training videos become less expensive every year due to advances in technology and software. Note that videos alone won’t get the job done. Video-based learning must be paired with activities and assessments to maximize learning effectiveness.

+ Pros: Extremely flexible as employees can watch on any device, at any time. Fully customizable to meet business needs. Scalable for employees in all geographies. Lower cost than in-person training. Eliminates human error of live training. Easy to measure and track data in LMS. Accessible on mobile. Great for capturing processes.

– Cons: Lacks peer-to-peer collaboration and engagement. Must be paired with activities and assessments. Historically low completion rates. Must be well-designed to drive actual learning outcomes. Can be difficult to edit for future iterations.

 ▶ When to use video training: Use video-based learning if you have a large, global population (such as your entire company) of employees that need to know the same information. If your training is about how to use software. If you want to create a powerful brand statement in your training. If you need to capture a process. If you have a fully remote population.

Blended Learning

Blended learning is simply any approach that combines two or more delivery formats. Most often, this means combining online learning and in-person learning. There are many different blended learning models to choose from. This option is extremely effective for training as it allows for full customization and personalization of learning.

When used for corporate training, blended learning gives you the ability to select the best format for the situation or for the employee. The biggest drawback is that it can be hard to oversee, as the processes aren’t standardized. It can also be expensive, especially if you have the same material presented in more than one format.

+ Pros: Combines in-person interactions with online self-paced. Customizable for each business situation. Personalized to each learner’s specific needs. Can train larger groups of employees (compared to classroom-based). Lower total costs than fully instructor-led training. Increased engagement and higher participant satisfaction.

– Cons: Expensive and time-intensive to design and deliver. More complex to measure and track. Requires technology for participants.

 ▶ When to use blended learning: Use blended learning for deeper learning experiences. If your population is spread out in different regions. If you want to limit the amount of in-person training (both costs and time). If you want a more effective learning experience than a self-paced e-Learning.

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Examples of corporate training

What are the top companies doing with corporate training?

It’s always good to learn from the best. Let’s explore a few case studies of industry leaders and see what we can learn. You can use these examples to spark some ideas for your own training program.


New Employee Training

Starbucks Barista Basics training is world-renowned as one of the most successful and efficient training programs. The L&D team created a blended learning program, using on-the-job training and e-Learning.

Here’s how it works: New baristas first experience onboarding training in small groups at a regional training center. This onboarding training, called The Starbucks Experience, covers company history, culture, and social responsibility. It also provides info on coffee types, locations of roasting, farms used for sourcing, and the corporate leadership team.

All new employees are given a training booklet (also available as an e-Learning course). These self-paced modules are incredibly in-depth. They feature information on the POS system, customer service, coffee, equipment, company best practices, and many more. Each Starbucks store has a dedicated learning coach that is fully dedicated to helping train new baristas. The learning coach checks in at the end of each module to answer any questions and provide feedback.

The training program also uses fun games to engage and test new baristas. One of the most common games used is called ‘Drink Dice.’ These dice were rolled and would create a random drink. For example, it would say cappuccino, iced, vanilla syrup, decaf. The new barista would be tasked with accurately writing and verbally communicating the beverage.

With additional training tools and support, such as Coffee Passports and Green Apron Books, new baristas have a wide-range of training support as they start a new position. At the end of the program, baristas receive an official certification. To receive the certification, they are tested on actual real-world skills – creating beverages at the accurate weight and temperature, calling out beverages, and roleplaying customer service situations.

The training doesn’t end there. Starbucks prides itself on providing ongoing training to all employees. For new drink recipes, changes in company policy, or promotional updates, Starbucks always makes sure everyone is involved and aware. Also as part of ongoing training, Starbucks offers tuition reimbursement benefits to those seeking higher education to expand their skill set.



Compliance Training

American tire giant, Bridgestone, is making waves in the L&D world with gamification training. During their annual compliance week, Bridgestone puts on an interactive training game called the Bridgestone Compliance Battle Royale.

In the event, various internal departments “battle” by answering correct multiple choice questions. Using online testing platform, Kahoot!, teams are tasked with answering nearly 100 questions. Topics vary, but they are all related to compliance and policy. Notoriously vapid topics, the gamification aspect of this training boosts engagement, interest, and comprehension. At the end of the event, the winning team receives a trophy and are publicly recognized by leadership.

Gamification, when used properly, can be an immensely powerful tool for learning. It leverages human’s natural instincts around healthy competition. Healthy competition fuels learner motivation and engagement. And higher motivation and engagement leads to deeper comprehension of the learning material and higher satisfaction rates. Bridgestone has developed a simple and effective program that transforms a tedious topic into a fun, interactive learning experience.



Technician Training

ThyssenKrupp is a large multinational company that sells industrial products and services. One of their core products is elevators and elevator technology.

In 2019, ThyssenKrupp launched an innovative training program aimed to help their 24,000+ elevator service technicians across the globe. The problem was that elevator service malfunctions can be complex and time-consuming to solve. Their L&D team decided to create a solution using mixed reality smartglasses called Microsoft HoloLens 2.

The glasses mount on the head of the service technician. Through the glasses, they are able to see a fully augmented reality and interact with the environment. This augmented reality visually displays everything the technician needs to know – past service history, 3D images, on-the-job training opportunities, and access to phone experts. While this approach is certainly a hefty financial investment, it’s an example of extremely effective on-the-job training. Check out the video above to learn more.



Sales Training

SAP is global software company best known for creating enterprise software to manage business operations and customer relations. To improve competencies among their salesforce, their training team created the SAP Sales Academy. This nine-month program helps individuals build a foundation for a successful sales career.

The program was created using a blended learning approach, using both instructor-led and on-the-job training. It begins with six weeks of orientation and onboarding, three months of classroom learning, and four months of on-the-job training with experienced sales experts. This first year focuses on four key competencies to build: creativity and design thinking, sales strategy, on-the-job training, and communication/presentation skills.

SAP claims that its sales training program has been a significant boost to employee retention. They estimate that 95% of graduates are still employees. How? With such an in-depth, thorough program, new employees are able to build peer-to-peer relationships and quickly build expertise. Skills that would typically take years to master are expedited through their training program. You can read more about SAP Sales Academy in this article.


Water Bear Learning

Technology Implementation Training

Many companies decide to outsource training efforts to experienced professionals. In 2019, Water Bear Learning partnered with a large apparel retailer that was implementing a new enterprise-wide software solution, or ERP. This software was meant to consolidate business operations into a suite of integrated applications. Essentially, ERP software allows each function of the business to work together more easily, as all data is collected, stored, and managed in one place.

ERP implementations can take many years and require in-depth customization of the software, based on the clients specific needs. As a training vendor, Water Bear Learning developed and executed a training strategy for 2000+ end-users of a new ERP and POS implementation. Most of the training strategy involved in-depth train-the-trainers and focused on local, instructor-led programs. 


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Future Trends in Corporate Training

By 2025, 75% of the workforce will be Millennials. As a digital generation, they tend to favor technology. The youngest working generation, Gen Z, is also tech-savvy. This is going to lead to the continued rise of tech-based training solutions, especially those featuring microlearning.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is beginning to make waves in the corporate training world. It supports data-driven approaches and increased personalization, which could be critical for customizing learning plans. When implemented in chatbots, AI can also answer employee questions immediately, streamlining learning while mimicking a human presence.

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are more common in training as the technology becomes more efficient and lower in cost. VR and AR are quickly becoming the training method of choice for technical, on-the-job training. Especially for situations that are historically risky or unsafe. This technology allows learners to interact virtually, making an experience appear hands-on, aligning with real-world skills.

Workplace flexibility is also a trend impacting corporate training. Traditional synchronous approaches continue to fall out of favor. Instead, many professionals need to learn flexibly; at times and locations that suit them best. This will lead to more training programs heading online and being mobile friendly.

Soft skills training continues to be a trend in the L&D space. Creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, and emotional intelligence are the most in-demand soft skills of 2020. While challenging to measure, soft skills continue to be one of the key focuses for training and development teams.

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Finding a Corporate Training Partner

In many cases, companies partner with custom training consultants to manage their training strategy, learning design, and content development. Particularly for technology and process implementations, it’s typically more efficient and cost-effective to bring in outside talent to help on a contract basis.

You’ll want to make sure you select training consultants are tech-savvy, have extensive experience, are proficient communicators, and work on projects similar in the past. Efficient and effective training can make a world of difference when it comes to knowledge and skill retention.

Working with Water Bear Learning

At Water Bear Learning, we have 15+ years experience as corporate training consultants. With a focus on system and process implementations, we partner with clients to develop creative, engaging, and purposeful training. We combine our unique skill-sets in instructional design, marketing, and visual design to create a holistic training experience for learners.

Our three services of expertise are training strategy, learning design, and content development:

▶ Training Strategy: We partner with clients to define and execute medium to large-scale training strategies. Our detailed analysis and approach aligns learning outcomes with business goals.

▶ Learning Design: Leveraging UX and ID methods, we create learner-centered courses and modules. We excel at simplifying and organizing complex information into effective learning experiences.

▶ Content Development: Animated training videos, eLearning courses, instructor-led materials, and job aids. All guaranteed to be interactive, engaging, and visually stunning.

If you’re interested in hiring a training consultant, contact us here.

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About the Author:

Andrew DeBell is a training consultant and digital marketing strategist at Water Bear Learning. He helps companies develop effective learning programs, infusing marketing principles into each step of the design process. Give him a shout on Linkedin to learn more.


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