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If I could go back in time to a year ago and tell myself that I would become a Salesforce Certified Instructor, I wouldn't have believed me! Being educated and experienced in hospitality management, I’ve personally seen a substantial increase in the importance of a client-focused approach in business, and this extends far beyond the borders of the hospitality industry.

Like Salesforce, I'm a firm believer that businesses should always have their customers at the front of their mind rather than their business processes. So working with the Salesforce platform was the perfect fit for me when I joined Nextview. Starting as a Senior Consultant, I spent most of my time with clients. My number one focus was to help them get the best out of their Salesforce environment.

But every now and then, I would also deliver some training or a workshop for different levels of users: administrators, super users, and managers. Soon I found that the more training I delivered, the clearer it became that learning Salesforce goes far beyond just explaining how things work.

 

Demand is high for Salesforce-skilled people.

It's been reported that demand for Salesforce-skilled people is going to create 3.3 million jobs in the Salesforce ecosystem by 2022. And as a company that is focused on upskilling people on Salesforce, we're experiencing this fast-paced growth first hand.

Year after year, new faces appear at our company with various levels of Salesforce experience. As we worked to bring these new hires all up-to-speed, we began to realize that if this level of growth continued—not only within our company but within the whole Salesforce ecosystem—we would need to rethink our approach to learning. 

 

Combining the best learning methods.

We started by looking internally. We considered how our existing staff got their Salesforce product knowledge on par and found they used a wide variety of ways. Some attended Salesforce expert-led classes, some focused on Trailhead online learning, some became Salesforce-certified, and some used the documentation created by the shared internal knowledge that was passed from one colleague to another.

As a Salesforce Authorized Training Provider, we wanted to drive the most effective learning we could. We decided to combine the best of all these learning tools into a Blended Learning approach—learning that spans across both devices and modes of delivery. This method was implemented both internally with our own people and externally with our Nextview School attendees. 

 

Adding people and business to the technology mix.

Being in the professional services business, we soon realized we needed to teach more than just the ins and outs of the different Salesforce clouds. To be a well-rounded consultant, we believe that it's important to combine technical knowledge with business knowledge and people skills.

We decided to enrich our training with Trailhead to take advantage of the personalized learning paths and gamification of learning that Trailhead does so well. Modules like Public Speaking Skills and Trust and Influence along with trails on Managing the Salesforce Way and how to Cultivate Equality at Work were a perfect way to do this. We also added real-life business cases from our personal experiences, as all of our instructors are consultants as well.

We then took a Design Thinking approach—a creative, human-centered form of problem-solving—to the program. This methodology helps participants to develop their problem identification and solving skills, enabling them to create solutions on the Salesforce platform that focus on the people who will be using them. One of our students, Tamara de la Loza, remarked;

“Learning and practicing Design Thinking is more applicable to everyday work experiences, where you will be challenged to strategically and creatively implement successful solutions.”

 

Leading by example.

It's not just our students who benefit from a Design Thinking approach to learning. We also have our Track Lead Programme for each of our divisions, or “practices,” within Nextview including Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud, App Cloud, and ISV Apps. A Track Lead per practice coordinates training and resources so that the whole company is on track with their Salesforce learning.

Salesforce follows a customer-centric innovation process which is also reflected in Trailhead content (check out the Innovation Basics module). As the Track Lead for the Service Cloud practice, I can say with certainty that;

“Trailhead, and especially the trailmixes I can create and assign to my team, is THE key part of my training 'toolkit'.”

All practices have their own learning and development plans designed to ensure the right knowledge level and Salesforce certifications are earned by people across all roles. In my practice, this means two-thirds of us and counting are already at Mountaineer rank (having earned 25 badges and 18,000 points) and higher. Plus, we're striving to attain our AdministrationPlatform App BuilderSales Cloud Consultant, and Service Cloud Consultant certifications.

 

Trailblazing to Ranger status together.

As a Salesforce Platinum Partner, we monitor all staff certification and Trailhead progress in the Salesforce partner portal. To maintain our Partner status, we need to ensure 85% of our consultants have reached the Mountaineer rank or higher. We mandated that ALL our consultants reach this rank by the end of 2018—and we're 85% there already. Next stop, getting all of them to Ranger status!

Through this learning development, we've also realized that being a Certified Instructor and getting training delivery experience is an essential part a consultant's skill set. This is now being promoted internally as a development path for senior consultants.

 

Transforming Salesforce admins into internal consultants.

By pursuing the goal of adding more trained professionals with a problem-solving mindset to the ever-growing Salesforce ecosystem, we don’t believe in “just” teaching Salesforce basics.

“By using Trailhead, we can combine technical knowledge with the soft skills needed to develop more well-rounded Salesforce professionals.”

By enriching our courses with business and people skills using a Design Thinking methodology, we aim to transform administrators into internal consultants. But more than that, we're teaching our students—as well as our own people—how to technically build and maintain the platform, empowering them to build user-centric solutions with the power of Salesforce.

If you're not using Trailhead to help upskill your teams and a Design Thinking approach that puts people back into solutions, now is the time to make a change.

 

Stef is 6x certified and has a Mountaineer rank on Trailhead. He lives in Antwerp, Belgium with his girlfriend, Ine, and their cat, Ruby. In his downtime, he enjoys cooking and beverage tasting.