Brian Berry, VP Technical Solutions at Veson Nautical, recently chaired a session at Veson’s ONCOURSE 2023 client event, focusing on the topic of continuous learning. We sat down with Brian to discuss how companies can improve their staff retention, reduce burn out and increase their ROI from digital platforms by implementing continuous learning programs throughout their organizations. 


Q: Hi Brian, it’s great to speak with you. Tell us about what you get up to day to day. 

I’m the VP Technical Solutions, which covers support and education services, responsible for the day-to-day success of these for our clients. I make sure we respond to their questions, knock down any roadblocks, work cross-functionally with other teams to get answers, and provide a quality resolution in a reasonable time frame. We’re always looking to provide solutions at a faster rate, and part of improving that is looking at how our clients adopt our product within their organizations. 

Q: What are the biggest trends you’re seeing in digital platform and product adoption? 

As digital platforms become more complex and more integrated into our daily lives, the need to understand and get the most out of these investments keeps growing. Previous designs of education programs were designed around a “super user” approach, where one person on the team would go through intensive learning and then teach their peers.  

Over the years, we’ve seen that this approach can cause several problems where the super user quickly becomes overloaded and stuck in a cycle of training others. They spend their time maintaining the team’s level of efficiency, rather than on strategies to improve ROI from the technology, such as improving the quality of usage from the platform, testing new features and going through the advanced training courses. They’re firefighting support, providing basic training and onboarding new team members, and as a whole, the organization never improves its strategic usage of the platform. This model of learning can take many hours and can pretty quickly lead to burn out for the super user.  

This is where continuous, self-service learning becomes integral to organizations. Each team member is responsible for their own training, to be taken at a self-administrated pace. Our team can then provide answers when clients get stuck on an issue or empower users to leverage advanced functionality.  

Q: What’s the evidence behind continuous learning? 

There have been many studies conducted which prove continuous learning is the best available approach for digital systems. According to Forbes and Deloitte, 89% of employees want training available anywhere anytime, 1 in 3 employees say their organization’s training is out of date and 66% are unsatisfied with job specific training. This all leads to turnover. Retention rates are higher 30 – 50% with strong learning cultures, where companies invest in learning. 

We work closely with clients to ensure we provide the best support available. When looking at a client’s support requirements overall, we need to exercise caution when looking at client support data. Sometimes seeing support request numbers go down isn’t always a good thing. For example, some clients may stop asking questions when their product adoption is not prioritized. So while we always want to reduce the number of tickets submitted by a company, we also need to see the reasons behind this behavior.  

By applying industry proven digital learning models, customers can source solutions themselves and increase product adoption internally. The organizations we see prioritize learning typically submit less lower complexity problems which saves time. This evolves interactions between support and customers to be more meaningful and higher value.  

I’m encouraging clients to consider continuous learning an investment in people, not technology. The Learning Management System (LMS) market is growing exponentially. It saw a huge bump during COVID-19, but it was already trending that way as new generations of employees enter the workforce with digital learning demands. They will expect to be onboarded differently to the way previous generations were.  

Q: What is Veson doing to support continuous learning?  

Veson Nautical has been expanding its digital learning offerings over the last few years with a wide array of resources such as our Help Center, fully searchable Knowledge Base, and interactive video-based learning paths in Veson University. 

Our Education Services team is focused solely on the learning aspects of our services. They are dedicated to Veson University which has excellent content focused on our clients’ challenges, and we work with product and engineering to maintain and release new content that reflects the changes to the product. These programs are designed to support all customers throughout the entire length of their contract with Veson. 

When onboarding new members of the team, clients see a big cost saving immediately by reducing hours spent on training, both for the new members of the team and the one doing the training. In 2021 when we implemented Veson University within our services teams, we reduced our Annual Training Spend (ATS) by 50%. This has since been rolled out across all departments and every new employee at Veson is a Veson University student. 

With the majority of training effort being digital, we reallocate a portion of time for interactive group discussions. These interactive peer sessions provide a complimentary, face-to-face learning layer. This allows new joiners a chance to meet with an expert, connect with colleagues, and address challenging concepts early in the onboarding process. 

We also work to upskill those who are already experts in maritime but who may be new to our solutions and services. As a client-first organization, we’re constantly innovating our products to improve them in line with client feedback. This means that clients need to know about these new features to continue getting the same return on investment from the platform. This also supports individual career paths as people progress in their professional lives.  

Q: You recently presented at ONCOURSE 2023. Could you tell us a bit more about your session and who you spoke with? 

My topic was titled “Creating a Culture of Continuous Learning”. 

It was well attended with great live dialogue amongst clients. I contribute the high level of engagement to the validity of onboarding and learning struggles we all face. We are all onboarding talented people into a complex industry. Without a clear plan it’s a wild west approach to finding information which doesn’t scale.   

We were lucky to have a key customer NORDEN there who spoke at length about how they had tackled this issue and were willing to share their great results. NORDEN started by using Veson University to train their staff on our products and services, and then started adding their own content, creating a centralized repository for training.  

When a new member joins their team, they are onboarded through Veson University, starting with their custom NORDEN content. They then move onto Veson content to follow specific learning paths based on the individual’s role within the company.  A new IT member may need to cover all areas at a high level, whereas a new charterer needs to be in the weeds of a Voyage Estimate. And NORDEN have the numbers to back up their investment: they have more effective employees and higher employee satisfaction rates. Now their internal support teams can focus on leveraging newer technologies within the Veson product suite and beyond.  

Q: How does shipping compare with other industries when you look at the adoption of digital, self-service learning? 

Investing in learning is one pillar in the journey of digitalization. Companies must consider investing in their workforce. I see a lot of discussions at events and in the shipping media about digitalization, with large investments in cloud tools and SAAS systems. But these are not joined by discussions about the importance of investing and training people in how to thrive during the transition to these tools. Instead, this is seen as an HR thing and ends up falling to the wayside. Shipping leaders should pay more attention to how their teams are utilizing business critical tool functionality to hit their targets and make things better. Too often the focus tends to only be on beginner level tasks. 

Q: What companies have you seen outside of shipping implement really strong digital and continuous learning solutions? 

Most of my research has been on what successful digital learning companies are doing to innovate and drive learner engagement. Learners need to see the value for their career, it needs to be relevant, concise content.  When I started consulting at Veson in 2009, I struggled to understand our client’s commodity desk challenges because I lacked a trading background. I still recall using Khan Academy to understand the difference between put and call options. I’ve followed them since then and really love what they are doing. It was highly self-serviceable and provided instant gratification. I felt like a real trader once I started earning badges. Although I didn’t retain everything as Amazon stock was under $6 a share, I missed that opportunity. The company’s learning strategy was to condense a textbook down into short video chunks. Not very different than TikTok and other social media apps that focused on instant, impactful doses of entertainment.  

At Veson University, we are heavy on video and want to do more, as we’re inspired by these types of learning styles. We believe that on demand, short training videos work well, especially when tailored for a specific audience. This means we’re working with marketing to develop persona-based video content. For example, if you’re a charterer, we know with 95% confidence what you should take for learning at any stage in your onboarding process and at time-based milestones throughout your employment.