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November 18, 1999
Model Corporate Training Program
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CAGO--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Organizations want and need instant results from human resource development efforts, but many see training as an expensive drain on the bottom line.

The key to success, according to Tina DeBrass, Head of Sales Training at Aerial, is the development and implementation of a focussed training philosophy. Aerial's training program is designed to give employees the information they need, motivate them for performance, and foster an environment of passion and pride that leads to productivity for the organization. "Of course, there are costs of training," said Ms. DeBrass. "But compare those to the costs of not training, in terms of lower productivity, poor morale, and high employee turnover -- the cost of not investing in training is much higher."

At Aerial, Ms. DeBrass and her sales training team use the "P-Model" training program: an interdependent approach that integrates people, process, and performance in a way that eventually leads to passion and pride among employees. It's a model that has helped Aerial achieve significant growth in the competitive digital telecommunications market. "Imagine a juggler with three balls in the air representing people, process, and performance," DeBrass said. "When these three components are flowing together successfully, the pride and passion are added in by themselves. That's when training really works."

You've Got To Have A Plan

Aerial Communications is a personal communication services (PCS) company. Headquartered in Chicago, the company provides digital wireless services in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Tampa/St. Petersburg, Orlando, Houston, and Columbus, Ohio.

According to Ms. DeBrass, the first step in implementing the P-Model involves planning. "One of the things everyone who comes to work at Aerial finds out early on is that we are a fairly laid-back company. So our planning processes involve appreciative inquiry and positive visualization, with a focus on where you want to be as opposed to what's missing. For example, we discuss the times when we have been the most passionate, prideful, involved and effective instead of looking to find fault or place blame. We don't get into that negative spiral. What we're really after is a way to make training a proactive partnership with the rest of the company," DeBrass said.

The goal is to help managers use training as a strategic asset, not as an afterthought. The focus of planning then becomes understanding who needs to be trained, what they need to learn, and how best to go about accomplishing the training. In the P-Model, the planning process is inclusive and open. "We want everyone's participation and input. And we believe not only incommunicating, but over-communicating. People's behavior is based on their willingness to buy into what you're giving them,so we tell them and tell them and tell them again."

It All Starts With People

Once the planning process is complete, it's time to "throw the first ball in the air." Implementing the P-Model always begins with people. Particularly in high-tech companies such as Aerial, it's common for people to be treated as numbers. By taking a people approach, Aerial shows its commitment to the most important factors in making the business work. She said that today's employees are primarily visual learners who want to be engaged and actively involved in the learning process. "We don't just teach them, we make them part of the fabric of training," she said. "We've developed a training philosophy that matches our corporate philosophy: Designed Around You."

To this end, Aerial created Aerial Sales University and the "Learn Big Things, Earn Your Wings" program. The program uses a "pull" strategy to get people motivated to succeed. "We don't force people into mandatory training. Our philosophy is that we provide the materials and the opportunities, and it's up to you to make the most of them. We try to inspire people to invest in themselves, to use their potential for their own benefit and the benefit of the company," De Brass explained.

Instead of a classroom approach to training, Aerial's P-Model brings the training materials to the field. The training materials are used to train Aerial employees, and salespeople of retailers who sell Aerial products and services. "We're more like coaches. We have a play book full of options that we know are going to work, and coach our people to implement them. It keeps us from having to play school marm," said DeBrass.

A Fun, Flexible Process

The next P-Model element is process. This is critical because the organization wants productive employees immediately, not after a six- or eight-week training period. To address this need, training at Aerial revolves around the Aerial Attitude -- a fun and creative way of learning, involving people in interesting games and activities that foster a deep sense of commitment to the business. "This is also where the 'push' part of training comes in. We focus on reward and recognition -- we give a lot of Learning Awards, so people see an immediate return on investment and that training can lead to tangible results."

The training process at Aerial is fluid and fast. "Change is constant. We can't keep people up to date with a static classroom program. So we're constantly finding ways to reach our audience more efficiently, with the information they need right then and there," she said.

Performance, Pride, And Passion

The third element of the P-Model is performance, exactly what every organization wants. "We measure performance by setting objectives and measuring against them," said DeBrass. "Of course, what every organization wants is performance that's stable and predictable. We think that's the result of successful people and processes." Which leads, she says to the pride andpassion that move the business to the next level.

"I can't tell you what a great feeling it is to work in a place where the pride and passion are high. It's magic when it works.

You feel as if you're part of a winning team, and that you're part of the solution. That's why people stay. In the end, it's not the amenities, the quality of the coffee or the corner office. It's the winning environment."

Aerial's P-Model training philosophy paves the way to predictable success. "Success in training is not an accident," she said. "You can recreate it time and time again when you have the right formula. We see it every day at Aerial."

Tina DeBrass is Head of Sales Training at Aerial Communications (Nasdaq:AERL).

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