Dallas based BSN Sports, a Varsity Brands company, is the largest distributor of team sports apparel and equipment in the United States. With over 1,000 Sales Professionals regionally based who serve in communities in all 50 states, BSN Sports provides a broad array of solutions that support the needs of any athletic program, thus giving coaches more time to impact the lives of athletes. That’s why BSN Sports is committed to enabling its sales professionals – getting the information to the right person at the perfect time so they can perform at their best. For BSN Sports, a traditional LMS just wouldn’t meet the on-demand and just-in-time needs of its field-based sales pros. Therefore, BSN began searching for a next generation learning solution. It found the solution in Learner Mobile – a completely configurable and flexible platform accessible in any environment.
I wanted to know more and was thankful that Eric Harper, Vice President of Talent and Learner for BSN Sports, agreed to sit down with me and answer a few of my questions.
Question: I understand you’re a bit of a maverick – pushing the learning and talent development industry to innovate for the sake of faster and better progress. Completely changing direction on how your large organization uses and engages with an LMS solution is certainly a big challenge. Where did you begin?
Answer: Thank you. You’re kind. I’m a giant fan of our industry and believe we are just barely touching our potential. We can certainly do more and be more for our business, our customers, employees and our communities. Regarding the LMS, the traditional solutions just seemed to move a bit too slow and were a bit too limiting for our dynamic business. We started by looking for a solution that was mobile optimized, focused on just-in-time microlearning, and allowed for us to push content to learners and allowed learners to pull the content they wanted. We also wanted a smart system; one that could predict the individual needs of the learner through algorithms. By being predictive, we could set up our sales pros for greater success. But we also needed this solution to do the fundamentals well – things like SCORM. We became even more excited when the solution we found provided rich analytics as well, so we could know what was working and what wasn’t from a content perspective.
Question: How did you get the organizational buy-in behind such a big change initiative?
Answer: It was a bit tricky because we wanted the influence of the business and the various business unit leaders. Our Talent and Learning (T&L) organization met with business unit leaders including those in sales and marketing to understand their unit strategies, goals, priorities, threats and opportunities. T&L also visited various markets around the country and talked to dozens of sales pros in the field to understand how learning and enablement happens best for them in their environment. We discovered that traditional technologies, such as eLearning, weren’t keeping pace with the frequently changing information. We needed a more flexible and dynamic way to get timely and updated content out more quickly. We learned that there was too much for our sales pros to know at any given time, so they needed content prioritized for them that was easily and quickly consumed. For our business … just like any business, time is money and we needed people to learn and apply the right behaviors quickly. Basically, it came down to a business decision – not just a learning one.
Question: What were the key drivers for ensuring your success as you transitioned to a next generation LMS?
Answer: User adoption was key. We had to think like marketers – knowing what the learner’s “reason to buy” was. We had to really nail that value proposition and be clear about how it was going to help them perform and succeed. Within the first few weeks, we were delighted to see a 75% adoption rate among our sales pros. That was huge. That meant that content was good, the system was easy to access and navigate, the user experience was engaging, and that the solution helped their performance.
It’s easy to see why BSN Sports is an AXIS Award winner in the category of Performance Improvement. Thanks to Eric Harper for giving us a helpful glimpse into the success of BSN Sports.