Enterprise Learning Initiatives.
Training on the UnthinkableEffective learning experiences are realistic and repetitive, preparing well-chosen people to create the new habits they need to perform. We have trouble imagining that training teachers to use guns will meet those criteria.
Why training teachers to actively resist won’t work.
“Houston, we have a problem.” That single line, paraphrased and popularized in the 1995 blockbuster Apollo 13, revealed much more than the harrowing events of a near-fatal NASA mission. It hinted at the power of effective learning.
Without a realistic simulated environment on the ground, drilling astronauts on worst-case scenarios, the entire crew would have been lost. It is powerful proof that good training drives real results.
Talk of arming teachers, to save the lives of their students and themselves, has us thinking about the Apollo 13’s training triumph.
Could teachers be effectively trained to defend against an active shooter?
Emerson develops learning programs our clients use to teach people to follow new processes or systems, up their performance, or deliver excellence for customers. What does that have to do with training astronauts or teachers to save lives? It all comes down to creating new behaviors. We know how to do that.
Let’s examine the training principles we recommend to effect new behaviors, and how those principles would work if we trained teachers to resist a violent intruder.
Match competencies to the role.
This is something our clients do outside of training. Every role has a competency profile – the skills and capabilities a person needs to be right for the job.
This is a common-sense but critical element of great performance. Yes, training helps people perform, but there are certain gaps that are hard to bridge with training. That’s why recruiters and managers take such pains to pair people and positions.
Needless to say, we hire teachers for their excellence in instructing our kids. They need teaching certificates, along with intelligence, communication skills, perception, compassion… If we were hiring people to neutralize violent intruders, the list would be different. So, before we even approach training, we have a potential performance problem.
Make it realistic.
The closer training is to reality, the better. Why? In order for people to perform, they need to transfer what they learned in training to on-the-job performance. The further the learning environment is from the performance environment, the less likely it is that the learner will transfer those new behaviors to real life.
Part of it is the setting. “State-dependent learning” says people perform better in the physical environment in which they learned to perform. That includes all the sights, sounds, smells, tools, and people. So, ideally, the learner would receive training in his or her performance environment—the real workspace.
Part of it is the scenario. We try to present learners with exactly the inputs and stimuli they will face on the job, and give them exactly the resources they will have at hand to solve the problem.
Could we apply that to teacher response training? They could certainly train in their own school buildings. That would be critical, as—aside from state-dependent learning—each building is physically different; those differences would require a custom response. But what about the scenario? That’s more of a problem.
It’s hard to anticipate exactly what would happen when someone is literally trying to take people by surprise.
Which brings us to our next principle…
Train on the exceptional.
We build training to include both the default and likely exceptions. Let’s say we’re designing training for department store employees. We might include scenarios on accepting purchase returns. In the common situation, it’s relatively simple: (1) Scan receipt. (2) Enter return reason code when prompted. (3) Press the Return button. Great. But then we ask, “What if…?” What if the customer doesn’t have a receipt? What if it’s past the time window to accept the return? What if this makes the customer mad? What if there’s a technical issue like an error message or a system outage? We must train employees on each of these scenarios.
But what if the default situation is already chaotic? If an active shooter going from classroom to classroom trying doors is your baseline, what other scenarios would we train? Imagine teachers learning to respond to one grave possibility after another.
Create unconscious habit.
We tell our clients that knowing what to do is not enough, especially in high-pressure situations. New behaviors must convert to habits, through repetitive practice cycles made up of a trigger, the right action, and some kind of reinforcement. Consider this comment on the police response to the Uvalde school shooting:
In the past two years, the Uvalde school district has hosted at least two active shooter trainings, according to reporting by The Times. One of them was two months ago. …Law enforcement officers need to be mentally prepared before they arrive on the scene, so they can respond immediately.
Repetitive training builds practice and confidence. Big gatherings for training every few years are more expensive and less effective for muscle memory. Instead, departments should consider more virtual tabletop exercises they can run through in an afternoon. Have officers walk through schools and talk with one another about how they would respond. Require officers to check all their gear before they begin a shift.
Learning experts know that, even if you drill during training, you can’t let new behaviors go stale and expect performance. We recommend our clients train only what is needed or will be used immediately on the job, providing natural repetition. Then we extend the learning experience through check-ins, on-the-job challenges, or learning networks, giving learners as many opportunities as possible to apply new skills after training.
So how would that work, if we were training teachers to forcibly resist?
They can’t actually use those new skills on the job until the unthinkable happens. Are we prepared to invest the time, effort, and emotional energy to effectively drill teachers, over and over, on their worst nightmare? Because that’s what it would take to create the right behaviors to make any difference.
Effective learning experiences are realistic and repetitive, preparing well-chosen people to create the new habits they need to perform. We have trouble imagining that training teachers to use guns will meet those criteria.
Five Questions to Ask When Implementing ERPEnterprise resource planning can be an invasive and expensive undertaking. If you get these five things right, you’re on your way to a return on your investment.
A global retailer once hired me to help install PeopleSoft—it was their 3rd attempt. Their pain is not uncommon. Enterprise resource planning, or ERP, is a vital management tool, but its implementation can often be a nightmare.
For example, the average cost of an ERP implementation is $4.5 million or 6% of revenue. The average time to implement is 1-3 years. (!) With these painful stats in mind, it makes sense the Wall Street Journal once described SAP implementation as a “corporate root canal.”
Here are five questions you need to ask and answer before implementing an ERP.
- Who is on the team? The most common mistake is to assign responsibility to IT and whichever department will use the system the most. Those two silos typically don’t appreciate the implications of their decisions on the groups who will input, maintain or receive outputs from the system. This can scuttle your ERP. Instead, get a cross-section of expertise on your team. Every group interacting with the system should be there.
Your ERP team should be made of your best employees—their decisions will impact how this system (and your business) will run for years.
- What one behavior drives the business case? If your team is serious about the business case, they must articulate what they need people to do in clear, tactical terms. Then focus, focus, focus; focus relentlessly on that. An IT firm spent millions on enterprise resource planning to help them make money on license renewals. The one activity they needed most from their sales team was to call clients the month before their contracts expired. Because they didn’t make that specific request, sales people didn’t do it consistently. The firm could not hit the business case; it was wholly based on “license renewals”—a lovely concept that no one acted upon.
- How are we managing first impressions of the system? Shteingart, Neiman & Lowenstein’s 2013 research, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, shows that “first experience has a disproportionately large effect on subsequent actions,” something they labeled “outcome primacy.” In other words, first impressions matter. So the first employees who touch the system—starting with requirements definition—had better be wowed. Only someone in marketing should be giving the project a name. And if user acceptance testing sucks, stop implementation. As Kahneman and Tversky found, we feel the pain of loss more acutely than the pleasure of gain. We compulsively avoid anything that smacks of failure. Manage the employee experience as rigorously as you manage the project itself.
- Who will be our first users? In the 1960s, Everett Rogers published a book called the Diffusion of Innovations, which analyzed why certain ideas and products capture the public’s imagination. He mapped those who adopt the idea against a bell curve, showing that 3.5% of the target group are eager early adopters, and 13.5% are positively predisposed to change. You can use this to create momentum. If you want your ERP to look like a winner, find the early adopters. Enlist the 3.5% for system test, and the 13.5% for UAT. Pilot with these employees intentionally. They’ll make the system seem safe and successful to everyone else.
- How are we ensuring the system is employee-centric? Employees don’t think about the system. They think about their jobs. Training must be about how to use the system in the context of their jobs. What will they do, day to day? Where will new tasks and handoffs take place? Where are the data and tools they relied upon—which will stay and which will be replaced?
Generic ERP training is a waste of time and money. Train people to do their jobs, not use a system.
Enterprise resource planning is one of the most invasive and expensive undertakings your company will ever face – even if it’s “cloud-based” and “intuitive.” If you get these five things right, you’re ahead of the game and on your way to a return on your investment.
- Who is on the team? The most common mistake is to assign responsibility to IT and whichever department will use the system the most. Those two silos typically don’t appreciate the implications of their decisions on the groups who will input, maintain or receive outputs from the system. This can scuttle your ERP. Instead, get a cross-section of expertise on your team. Every group interacting with the system should be there.
Your Most Important Priority Now: How You Approach TrainingYour organization has to figure out how to embed and use information to be competitive. Read about five trends that shape the future of training.
“I can get people to buy once. But they buy again based on having a great experience.” – Kathy Housman, National Sales Director for Redwood Hill Farms
Your business success—whether through profitability or scale—is based on consistently replicating your brand promise.
And delivery on that brand promise depends on institutional knowledge—specifically, your ability to evaluate, synthesize, distribute, and embed knowledge. Nelson Mandela understood this perfectly. Every day, while he was doing hard labor at Robben Island, he led men to a small cave in the quarry to educate them. His mantra: “Each one teach one.” Over time, this changed South Africa.
Knowledge resides in our people, our documentation, and is only as good as our ability to use it. And now that many of us work remotely, we have a new barrier to accessing what our colleagues know.
We need to foster knowledge more intentionally than ever before.
These are the trends that are changing how we do that.
- Knowledge Velocity. We have more information pushed to us through more channels than ever before. According to Forbes contributor Bernard Marr, about 7 megabytes of new information are created every second for every human being on the planet.
It’s overwhelming. A friend of mine recently took a CTO role at a major corporation. To get oriented, he began creating flashcards, one for each technology the organization was using. Within his first few weeks, he had over 400 cards.
Yet, we have become more comfortable not knowing everything; we’re confident we can find the information somewhere when we need it. Just Google it.
The glut of information has also distributed our ability to innovate. Because everyone has access to the building blocks of inspiration and progress, anyone can create the next big idea. This further accelerates the volume of what we know.
- Encoding Capacity: Today, anyone can capture information at any time. TikTok has modeled “micro-learning” so many are comfortable creating an educational video. Every email that goes out, or presentation someone creates, is encoded content: knowledge captured in a retrievable form.
And AI is making it possible to worry less about how we capture content, because the technology can scan what’s there and retrieve what seems relevant.
So now encoding happens in a non-linear fashion—we have asynchronous, mass encoding.
But this distributed capacity comes with risk. Not everyone who records a home video can make a blockbuster movie.
We need expertise to turn content into value.
- Human Capacity. We are limited by our available time, energy and intellectual ability. We compensate through selective perception—we naturally screen out data that’s not immediately relevant. If you want a terrific example of this, watch The Invisible Gorilla.
In 1964, political scientist Bertram Gross coined the term “Information Overload.” He recognized the implications of overwhelming our limited brains. He worried that when we are flooded with information, we make poorer decisions.
The challenge is determining what we want our people to screen out or prioritize. We don’t want the organization to waste energy on “overflow” information—content that is delivered, but not retained or used.
But here’s the challenge: One person’s overflow is another person’s treasure.
- Permeable Borders. We might have in-house intellectual property, but the boundaries are getting more porous – people now liberally and openly share knowledge across corporate borders.
Consider open-source code, for example. The idea that we can build a business on someone else’s free—or close to free—software is now normal. Salesforce, the world’s dominant Customer Relationship Management company, has opened their intellectual property so other businesses can operate on it. According to their website, it runs over 4,600 apps. Our Apple phones are the same—their technology underpins over 9 billion apps. The video game platform, Steam, uses the same business model, and now hosts over 50,361 games.
- Speed to Irrelevance. As innovation speed increases, it’s easier to become outdated. A 2020 IBM study suggests that workplace skills become less valid in about five years, with technical skills expiring in half that time.
So, the training and documentation we create has an expiration date and must be perpetually updated. Compounding the challenge: the more time we spend alone and away from conferences, social media and face-to-face chance encounters, the higher risk that we become myopic.
What does this mean for organizational learning? We need a new approach.
- Modeling – We need to evaluate the knowledge landscape as systematically as we do our market. We’re placing resource bets on content; we need a point of view on what proactively triggers an investment in learning or in documentation.
- Attention – Where and how we focus people’s attention now impacts the organization’s relevance in the future. How we manage attention will be an organization’s most important strategic capability.
- Curation – Given the increasing volume of information in the world, we have to get better at selecting what to serve up to our team—what external, existing knowledge to bring into our organization and the internal knowledge that differentiates us. We need to think of ourselves as a fine museum, choosing what to display from our own collection versus what to borrow from others to create a unique, enriching, and revolving experience.
- Standards — What are our expectations for:
- Speed? How soon do we expect learners to perform? That’s a strategic decision. Speed drives expectations around new openings, hiring volume and expected turnover. It underlies assumptions around what level of performance is acceptable, and the investment in employee development.
- Mastery? Here, we are talking about the continuum of expertise. What do the levels of performance look like as a person moves from novice to expert?
- Fluency? The more we practice, the easier it is to perform. When we perform unconsciously, we’re fluent. We can be fluent at any level of mastery. The question here is, where do we expect fluency?
- Retention – Some knowledge should be institutionalized, and some can be fleeting. We need to define the criteria that determine what is essential to operations, so we internalize it, maintain it, and measure it.
- Roles – Our environment is creating new informal roles defining people’s relationship to content. These include:
- Dabblers. People will increasingly dip in and out of content based on what attracts their attention. Dabblers help an organization be creative and relevant.
- Specialists. Some people will become nodes of information and resources to the organization. People will seek out colleagues who are deep in single skills.
- Connectors and Synthesizers. Organizations will rely on people who know how to coordinate with specialists, creating synergy and meta solutions.
Everything about your brand experience—the reason customers choose you over other options—has to do with trust. Your customers trust you to deliver consistently. So, as your team develops new products or services, turns over, or grows, the only thread connecting them to your customer is what your team knows. Your ability to focus your team’s attention and convey critical knowledge in this increasingly noisy, saturated world is your competitive advantage.
Jump-starting Facilitative LeadershipThe magic of facilitative leadership lies in how we get people thinking and talking in a way that helps the organization move.
Lead • er • ship (noun)
The action of influencing or directing a group of people or an organization
Fa • cil • i • tate (verb)
- to make easier
- help move forward (an action)
- assist the progress of
Early in my career, I was working with a team of engineers in Phoenix. Their communication with other teams were a dysfunctional political minefield. Specifically, poor collaboration with their marketing team was impeding their business goals. They needed help. They asked me to improve the way they communicated their software updates so that the marketing team could get the right information out to clients before a launch and promote new features, improving sales.
I planned a 1:00 pm on-site meeting on a sunny day in July. About an hour before the meeting, I ran an errand. I parked my car for a quick in-and-out. When I hopped back in my car, it wouldn’t start. The battery was dead, a casualty of the Arizona summer. I was totally stuck, and sweating. And beginning to freak out. I was at the mercy of anyone willing to lend aid, and jumper cables, in the scorching heat.
By the time I got back to the office, I just had a few minutes to prepare before the meeting started. One look in the mirror confirmed that I needed to explain my appearance—my face was shiny with sweat; my hair had frizzed up. I was a mess. I was thinking, “How am I going to explain this?”
Here’s what came to me: As a facilitator, I’m like those jumper cables. We have a hot, sticky situation between two parties who can’t find a way to move toward their destination. And I’m here to make the right connections that will jump-start their performance.
The magic of facilitation lies in how we get people thinking and talking in a way that helps the organization move.
Over the years, this metaphor has occurred to me often. But not necessarily when I was in a room “facilitating.” It applied to most of my challenges as a leader.
Finding a way through the biggest leadership challenges I’ve faced has always involved facilitating a group of people toward a business goal. The value of my skills in strategy, management, and planning pale in comparison to the value of good facilitation.
Here are some of the “jumper cables” a good facilitative leader employs:
- The Power of Inquiry. Leaders should use the organization as a source of wisdom, experience, expertise, and insight. Skilled leaders know how to draw out the best from the team.
- The Power of Improvisation. Good leaders are nimble; they foster creativity and innovation, so the organization can respond to challenges with strength. For example, behaviors from improvisational comedy — like “yes, and,” “make your partner look good,” and “making random connections” – create synergy and bubble-up the best ideas.
- The Power of Process. It takes patience and experience to trust the process of collaboration. It’s not the shortest path to a result, but it does produce the best result.
When we jump-start productive work with groups of people, we all get stronger. That’s what leadership is all about.
Three Ways to Use Agile Principles in Your Learning ProgramAgile, as you might get from its name, is all about speed and flexibility. Here are a few ways to use Agile principles in learning programs.
Agile principles can improve your training.
Agile is not just a software development methodology, but a mindset. One that can transform any kind of work, including learning program development.
What is Agile? Well, what it’s not is “waterfall”—the traditional development approach rooted in the industrial economy. Waterfall projects plan everything at once, then move on to design everything at once, then develop, and so on. Some of the benefits of a waterfall approach are consistency and accuracy—the team has a set of standards and it takes great pains to maintain them, across the initiative. That’s good, but it can take a very long time. And, by the time the end user sees anything useful, they have lost months (or years!) of benefit, and the landscape has probably changed.
Agile, as you might get from its name, is all about speed and flexibility. It reserves the right to be smarter today than yesterday. It’s about failing fast, adjusting course, and trying again. It’s about getting better and better, while effecting real-world change.
Here are a few ways to use Agile principles in learning programs.
Size. Here we’re talking about size of scope, size of teams, and size of the “batches” of work. Often, our teams are responsible for an entire curriculum. Subject matter and technical experts are available to the entire team. Once an instructional designer completes design of one module, they move on to the next one. When design is done, they start developing courses. The entire curriculum reaches each milestone together.
Instead, try micro. Build a team of one instructional designer, one SME, and one technical expert. Focus them on one course, to deliver one tight set of learning objectives to one set of learners. And then let them run; Agile teams call it a sprint. They should design, develop, pilot, and launch the training as fast as they can.
Worried your courses will be “all over the place?” First of all, they might, and that’s ok. Second, all consistency is not lost. As you gather feedback on course drafts and tests, craft a prototype module. This will be your gold standard – all great, client-vetted and universal design ideas go here.
Agile will deliver skills to your learners, fast. And the team will learn a lot; they aggregate lessons learned so all can benefit in the next sprint.
Focus. Learning team members often serve many masters: learning executives, business function leaders, technical team leads, project sponsors… Each entity wants oversight, to ensure consistent quality, style, format, and learner experience. Reviews ripple through the curriculum as it’s being designed and developed, requiring revisions and new standards. Subject matter experts might have to swallow changes that have nothing to do with their learners, but serve the program as a whole or please a particular executive.
Agile is all about the customer, and no one else. One of its lessons is “Be willing to disappoint.” That is, disappoint anyone but the customer. Using an Agile mindset, the learner is king. The SME represents the learner on the micro-team for the course. So if the SME believes a piece of content, a delivery method, or a particular style works for the learners of the course, you use it.
To sharpen your focus, create a “learner persona.”
Work with your SME to build a profile of the learner for this course. The learner’s responsibilities, location, technical acumen, etc. help you choose the right stories, metaphors, interactions, and delivery modalities.
And Agile would say let the learner tweak your product. So if you get quickly to a pilot test and then a launch of your course, let learners into the process. Ask them how to make it better; go beyond the “smile sheet” and let them be designers for a day. Then build their best ideas into the next version of your course and share it with the other teams, so they can benefit as they sprint.
Mindset. Does this all sound messy? It is. That’s why everyone involved must understand and adopt the Agile mindset if this is going to work.
It’s easy to frame Agile in a positive light. Chaos breeds creativity. Get comfortable with uncertainty. It’s an opportunity, not an obstacle.
But we have to accept that it’s a big change. Agile requires people to give up traditional control, watch as things fail and get better, tolerate inconsistency, and be part of a process that feels chaotic at times. How can you get everyone on board with Agile?
Here’s where we bring out our change management tools. Once you have the main decision-makers on board with this shift, make it familiar, controlled, and successful.
- Our brains see anything new as dangerous. To dampen fear, make this change feel familiar. Compare the new approach to other innovations that brought great things to your organization. Don’t dwell on the old learning development approach; frame the new Agile learning approach as another big success story—whatever success story resonates with them. That makes this change feel familiar and safe.
- People crave predictability and control. So give them something solid to grab on to. Roll out the shift to Agile using a timeline, and let them know what’s happening as you hit each milestone. And give people choices whenever possible. For example, you might ask for volunteers to try the Agile approach first. Any “early adopters” in your group will make the next steps feel doable for the rest.
- Winning feels good. So engineer success into the transition. Call out and celebrate your first Agile course achievements. And remember to reward the new mindset—we embrace failing fast, right? So, when you find problems in the first pilots or conducts, congratulate those teams for their boldness, courage, and valuable lessons learned.
Remember: Familiar, Controlled, Successful
Agile is a big change, with big benefits. Our software brethren have gone there, but why should they have all the fun? Learning teams who use Agile principles can deliver big benefits, fast.
(Articulate) Rise to the OccasionTraditional in-person training isn’t feasible during a pandemic, so consider blending your curriculum with digital assets like Articulate Rise.
Looking to move your curriculum online? You’re not an expert in eLearning development and digital delivery? You’re not alone.
Now more than ever, people who have never built an online course are tasked with making the switch, and for good reason—traditional in-person training just isn’t feasible during a pandemic.
There are also significant advantages to blending your curriculum with digital assets. Improved access at point of need, reduced classroom time, and flexible learning mediums are good for the long-term health of any learning program, regardless of what the future holds.
But embarking on this new online adventure can feel intimidating. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be.
Enter Articulate Rise 360.
With this innovative technology in-hand, the barrier of entry for web-based training development is lower than ever. You don’t need a degree, certificate, or background in eLearning to build rich, engaging online content. It’s a simple-to-use platform that is actually as intuitive as other technology claims to be.
Don’t believe me? Let’s explore using the 5 Ws:
- WHAT – Articulate Rise is a web-based eLearning authoring tool. It helps you build responsive online training that automatically adapts to the device your learner is using. With a flexible outline format, you can string together blocks of content (e.g., embedded videos, articles, image hot spots, accordion interactivities, quizzes, etc.) into lessons, and then deploy your training through a single URL in one click (or an LMS if you need reporting data).
- WHEN – Turn to Rise when you need to get content online quickly. It’s the perfect tool for rapid development. The menu of easy-to-use out-of-the-box content blocks lets you add or remove with a single mouse click. Combined the with aforementioned outline format, you can largely fast-forward through the design process. You can jump right into developing your course, on the fly, without learning complex scripting or trigger manipulation.
- WHY – It’s easy to use. You don’t need a background in instructional design, or a certificate in eLearning development to create a course. It’s an industry-leading tool that is compatible with your learning infrastructure. If you don’t have an LMS, you can build out a full curriculum and still publish at the click of a button. It also gives you the flexibility to use the more powerful Articulate Storyline to build complex, custom interactions, if you need them.
- WHERE – Check out their free 30-day trial, learn more about the platform, and join the Articulate Community to find all the help, tools, and resources you need to get started.
- WHO – You! I can’t stress this enough; you can do this. Rise is designed so that anyone can quickly build engaging, visually pleasing online courses.
No, I don’t work for Articulate, I just happen to be a big fan who knows how challenging and rewarding eLearning development can be. I want it to be accessible to everyone; the more who use it, the better humanity’s training resources will be. It’s the kind of cycle I want to be a part of.
If you’re not happy with what you built, keep practicing, or reach out to me (email@example.com). Emerson Human Capital Consulting has expert instructional designers and eLearning developers who can take your curriculum to the next level. As an added bonus, all it takes is 30 seconds to transfer ownership of the course to you, so you’ll be ready to make changes as needed, with no hassle.
9 Tips for Curating LearningUse this checklist to make sure your organization gets the most out of off-the-shelf training.
Easy ways to get your new workforce training curriculum up on its feet faster.
“Don’t reinvent the wheel.” Good advice, with an asterisk.
Across the globe, companies have been making a fast move from in-person, instructor-led training to remote learning. Moving existing high-profile, custom, instructor-led training to a virtual or eLearning format is a no-brainer.
But what about new training? Learning professionals know the design and development process takes time. So why not take advantage of all the existing virtual training available?
It’s a great solution, provided you do it right. Use this checklist to make sure your organization gets the most out of off-the-shelf training.
- Be sure you’re getting value. What business outcomes will this training support? How much are they worth to the organization? What will the learner be able to do after the course? Make sure those skills support the business outcomes you want.
- Think about measurement. Are the learning objectives observable and measurable? You want people to be able to demonstrate new skills, not just talk about them.
- Estimate the cost. Will you need a corporate subscription, will you pay per learner, or is it “free?” (And if so, what’s the downside?)
- Consider the source. How much training do they produce? What’s their history with learning? Check the credentials of their leadership and designers. Can you look at ratings or reviews?
- Sharpen your focus. What are the essential skills for each of your learner roles? How “on-target” is the training? Is the course teaching what you need AND a whole bunch of stuff you don’t? Avoid making learners sit through training that won’t help them, just to get the bit that will.
- Think about your culture. What works with your learners? Facts and figures? Storytelling? Authority? Collaboration? Humor? Make sure the nature of the training will get traction with your people.
- Engage the learner. Don’t make learners watch endless presentations. Is all the learning passive? How much interaction is built in with peers or the instructor? Does the course include realistic activities? How will learners demonstrate new skills?
- Make sure the platform is strong. Check out the website they run on and the services they provide. Will they help you trouble-shoot on demand? Can you easily track training completion? Will they give you learner assessment data? Does it incorporate artificial intelligence to recommend courses?
- Customize. Structure a curriculum that works for your organization and develop custom “wrap-around” content for your learners. For example, can you connect the courses to others these learners have taken? Will they understand why they’re taking this course? Think about the path learners will take and how to connect it to their jobs. You might need to build new content to fill gaps and make the training feel like part of your organization.
There’s no need to invest in new remote learning if it’s already out there! Investing time and effort to evaluate new courses will pay off for your organization.
We love our SMEsInstructional Designers rely on Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to make learning initiatives successful. Here’s how to build a trusting relationship with your SME.
Tall SMEs, short SMEs, loud SMEs and quiet SMEs…they all have one thing in common—I LOVE them.
Trust is essential. The instructional designer relies on the SME for accurate information that will make the training fit the audience. The SME wants to know the learners are in good hands—that the training will make their lives easier and the team more effective.
Here’s how to build a trusting relationship with your SME:
- Aim for the same target. Align with your SME on the learning objectives, and then stick to them. If the SME wants to add irrelevant content, remind them of the objectives you agreed to. If you’re at an impasse, offer to place the additional content in a “parking lot” for a future course. And then follow through on your promise; if you transition off the project, make sure that content doesn’t get lost.
- Be grateful for their time – show them and tell them! Your SME probably has a full-time job that is not about helping to build your training. They are giving the project their time and effort, on top of their normal duties. Be flexible. Keep meetings focused. Prioritize your requests for their time. Tell them that’s what you’re doing; the SME can help decide what will work best for both of you. And let them know you appreciate their time and wisdom!
- Remember that you’re an expert too. You are the learning expert. If you believe a certain activity, tool, or delivery method will be best, and your SME disagrees, listen. Make sure you understand their objections. You will learn something about their organization, the learners, or their history with this kind of change. If you still believe in your approach, stick to it. Walk the SME through your thinking. Chances are good they’ll understand, support it, and appreciate learning something new.
- Make it fun! Being a SME for this training project is probably very different from their day-to-day work, so take advantage of that. Make it a refreshing and fun collaboration. Your enthusiasm for your work—taking an idea and turning it into a great learning experience—can be contagious.
Hip-Hip-Hooray for all those SMEs out there! We appreciate you.
Learning From SuccessGreat athletes learn from success and failure. Great businesses do the same.
I’m a big sports fan, so I know that any athlete worth his or her salt learns from failure. The football coach who lost the game when the team couldn’t convert on 4th and 1…A baseball player who goes 0/3 because he is rolling his hands and grounds out three times…The golfer who hits the ball in the rough because of a slice. The list goes on and on. They focus on the skill that’s not up to par and they fix it, to avoid future losses.
It isn’t only athletes who learn from failure, of course. It’s common in our work lives too.
Project lookbacks and hot-washes are common when things go wrong. We typically focus on identifying why we didn’t get the outcome we wanted. We talk about and document lessons learned so we can be better next time. We consider failure such a rich learning experience, we even build training around it.
The reality is that the line between success and failure—between good and bad outcomes—is sometimes very small. And when we get the outcome we want—in athletics or in business—few of us examine the experience.
Does the baseball player who goes 2/2 at the plate with a walk and two ground ball singles between 3rd base and shortstop analyze his swing after the game? Probably not. The player goes home feeling good and relishes the outcome. What about the football coach who won the game when his team narrowly converted on the short yard situation? What about the salesperson who exceeded her quota on the back of a large deal in the final month of the quarter?
Most people feel good about situations like this and chalk the positive outcome up to their skill.
We can all see that this logic is flawed. Each of these situations could have very easily turned out differently. Why don’t we do anything about it? Why don’t we learn from our successes?
Annie Duke, the poker champion, writes about this in her book: Thinking in Bets. It’s called self-serving bias. People naturally attribute positive outcomes to their own skill. That means a positive outcome requires no action. On the flip side, people label the positive outcomes of others as good luck.
Think about it—have you ever said, “He was so lucky: the deal practically fell in his lap.” But how many of us have said that about ourselves? According to science: not many. We examine ourselves only when we fail.
So what should we do to guard against self-serving and overconfidence bias? Here are a few tips:
- Acknowledge it. It’s real. We’ve all been guilty of it at times.
- Reflect. Challenge yourself and others to think critically about what happened and what could have changed the outcome, whether it was positive or negative. What was the tipping point? Then work backwards to discover what actions led to the result.
- Identify and practice key behaviors. Think about the leading indicators. Based on our reflection, what are the behaviors that give us the highest probability of success? Build a plan to practice these behaviors.
Learning from success takes discipline, but it doesn’t have to be a heavy lift. Check your ego at the door, and be honest with yourself and your team. Great athletes learn from success and failure. Great businesses do the same.
Tough Times Need a Tough TeamFaced with unprecedented challenges, your leadership team needs to get aligned and then sound aligned.
Imagine this: your senior managers are hosting virtual meetings. In each one of them, someone asks a question. “What are we doing in response to the pandemic?”
- Manager 1: “We are doing everything we can to keep all of us safe.”
- Manager 2: “I know we all hate these Zoom meetings, but we will be back in the office as soon as possible.”
- Manager 3: “You were sent an email on June 14, outlining our response to the pandemic. I suggest you read that.”
- Manager 4: “What are you concerned about? Let’s talk about what I can do to help.”
Which is the right answer? All of them, and none of them.
None of the answers is wrong. But they are all wrong because they are so different.
People have a fundamental need to feel safe in order to function. Control and predictability create feelings of safety. Four different vague or evasive answers create just the opposite. The costs of this kind of uncertainty: resistance, lost productivity, and an organization even less focused on its business goals.
Faced with unprecedented challenges, your leadership team needs to get aligned and then sound aligned. That’s a tight team.
We have tightened up many executive teams. We don’t tell them what their goals and message should be; we facilitate. Here is the essence of our process:
- Gather your team and ask them four questions.
- What’s the challenge we’re faced with?
- What’s the solution to the challenge?
- What’s the approach we’ll take to execute the solution?
- What’s the result we want?
- For each question, brainstorm a one-word hint: start broad, then narrow down to the top two to three words, and then down to the final one.
- Once the four words are selected, generate facts and examples to use when you deliver the message. Each of the four words needs its own supporting details. Now you have a message frame.
- Bring it all together in a 30-second story – the four words, buttressed by facts or examples.
- Practice telling the story. As you practice, customize it for who you are and whomever you’re addressing. That is, use different examples for a Marketing employee vs. an IT employee. Each executive’s story will be slightly different, based on their communication style, area of expertise, position, and audience.
- Practice it a few more times, imagining different scenarios.
- Use the message frame as the foundation of all communications on this subject.
Let’s try our scenario again. Four Zoom meetings. Four employees with questions. Four responses from leaders.
“What are we doing in response to the pandemic?”
Feel that? It’s peace of mind.