Enterprise Learning Initiatives.
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.
Guiding Your Organization Through Coronavirus FearsThe vast majority of the world will not be affected by coronavirus, but we all feel its presence. The people in your organization are no exception.
The coronavirus is not only infecting people’s bodies, it’s in their heads. The vast majority of the world will not be affected by the virus, now named COVID19, but we all feel its presence. The people in your organization are no exception. The global health threat affects them emotionally, and that means it affects your business.
So what can you possibly do in the face of something so much bigger than your organization? You can make the experience feel familiar, controlled, and successful.
We use the science of the brain to help our clients navigate big challenges. These three principles are key.
- Creating connections between the current experience and other experiences makes people feel it’s familiar. This dampens the brain’s fear responses so people can hear you and engage.
- No one wants to step forward in the dark. Feelings of control disrupt that paralysis and help people use their higher brain functions to solve problems and take positive action.
- Winning and sharing success release “feel good” and “connection” chemicals, which reinforce those positive actions and create the engagement you want.
But seriously, the coronavirus? Yes, you can use these principles to help your people get through this very uncertain time.
How do you make an unprecedented event feel familiar? Well, you tap into past positive experiences.
Was there a big threat to your organization that you handled well? Compare this experience to that by reminding people how you got through it together. “Ten years ago, the H1N1 presented us with similar risks. Here’s how we handled that.” “Remember 2017, when we faced that disruption to our supply chain?” Talk about how dire the situation was, and the progress milestones you hit along the way.
Are there people or processes they are used to? Use those. If employees have a place they go for reliable information, make sure information on the health threat is there. If there’s a leader who delivers consistent and reliable information, make sure that’s the voice they hear. Familiarity turns off the fear response so employees can turn their focus to business as usual.
What? Isn’t an epidemic the very opposite of “controlled?” It is, but there are ways to encourage feelings of control.
One way is to create predictability. Tell employees what will happen, and when. And then deliver. When will you give them updates? Who will deliver them? What preventive measures will they experience? Make sure you speak in plain terms, not medical jargon, so all listeners feel sure they understand your message.
Another way to create control is to give people agency – in other words, let people take some action to help themselves and others. Feeling helpless is the enemy, so give them something to do. Give employees a channel for asking questions — then make sure you answer them! Introduce safety processes, no matter how simple, that employees can act on. For example, you might make it easier for employees to wash their hands properly. You could allow employees to put themselves on a “no fly” list temporarily, opting out of non-essential international travel. You could ask employees to post company updates on progress against the threat in common spaces. You might publish simple safety practices for employees’ families, as well. Meaningful actions, no matter how small, make people feel they are doing something to protect themselves.
What are you, the CDC? How can you successfully fight the coronavirus? You can’t, of course. But you can make the people feel successful at what they want – to be safe from it. Share positive updates, like safety measure implemented. “100% of employees now have access to our weekly update.” “All business travel to Asia has been suspended for the time being.”
And share successes for the world outside your organization. If infection rates drop in a particular country, let them know. If scientists have a target date for a vaccine, make sure it’s out there. Visible successes create a sense that the organization is moving through the crisis and will emerge healthy on the other side.
We’re all in uncharted territory, and we look to our leaders for guidance. You can do more than that – you can make a significant positive difference for your employees and your business by using the science of the brain.
Good Learning Design is Good Experience DesignIncorporate these design elements to create a lasting learning experience.
I wrote an unusual learning objective for an onboarding course I created a few years ago:
After completing this course, learners will FEEL GOOD.
I designed the course to be one of the first experiences a new employee completed when hired. It had one simple learning objective. Or was it simple?
Typically, learning objectives measure what learners will be able to do, but I wanted learners to feel something specific after taking this course. I wanted them to feel good about their decision to join our company. To feel proud of our company’s mission and purpose. To feel optimistic about this new path in their professional career. How would I build a course that achieved this learning objective?
I started by creating a storyboard, and it was like weaving a tapestry – every thread contributed to the overall design. Every image symbolized our values. Every word sent a message about how we speak to one another. In essence, this course would reflect our company culture.
Here are some learning design elements and the messages they convey:
As a learning architect, every learning experience we create leaves an impression. Learners gain new information and skills by participating in training and they also leave with a feeling. And while this is especially true with onboarding (you know what they say about first impressions), it’s also true with any type of training.
What I learned
Be intentional about the feeling you want your learners to have when they finish the training. For example, do you want them to feel motivated, moved, powerful, or proud? Be sure this aligns with the learning objectives, training content, and company culture. Then be deliberate about how you construct and weave each element into the learning experience.
Use Compelling Stories to Influence ChangeGive learners a reason to change by organizing your content with stories.
Stories are a series of interconnected events that tell how and why life changed. They generally follow a common structure of setting up the situation, providing some complicating sets of circumstances, and resolving the complications with a lesson about what has changed and why it’s important to you. Stories are powerful learning tools and motivators.
At Emerson, we use stories in change and learning settings to make a strong case for why people need to behave in a new way.
Follow me as I tell a personal story about why taking a risk can have enormous payoffs.
I was adopted as a child. At the end of last year, I decided to take a DNA test to see if I had any genetic anomalies that might cause health concerns. I used 23 and Me because it is their specialty. The good news: I don’t have any known indicators. The more interesting news was finding people I am related to, but really distant relations. I never really wanted to know the identity of my biological family since I already have a loving, supportive family. But seeing all of these people inspired me to try Ancestry DNA since they specialize in family relationships.
I sent my sample off and about a month later my results came back. It matched me to my biological father. My life had changed from that day forward. I immediately researched him. Once I learned all I could and asked for advice from friends about how to make a smooth connection, I reached out to him through Ancestry. I shared some of the details of my life and made an invitation to continue the conversation. He responded almost immediately saying, “you’ve got the right guy.” He gave details about his life and asked if I wanted to talk live.
Later that week we talked on the phone. I had a plan for what I wanted to say and how I wanted to come across, but all of that flew out the window the second I heard his voice. We talked about our lives up to that point, our interests, and health. I learned about my extended family, half-brother, nieces and nephew, uncles, and grandparents. And he told me what he knew about my biological mother. We agreed that we wanted to meet each other and made tentative plans to connect in early 2019.
I met him face-to-face in January. It was all I could have hoped for and more! Suddenly, I have a large, crazy family that I never knew about. And my journey continues as I learn more about my increasingly growing family.
Stories are powerful learning tools. They inspire action and show people how things can be different. My story may inspire other adopted children to change the way they think about finding their biological parents. Instructional designers can use stories to help learners make sense of what they’re learning and to provide context. A good story can set the tone for the information to come. How do you use stories when communicating with your employees?
Three Ways to Add Humor to TrainingHow can you help learners stay engaged, focused, and happy? Use laughter.
Q: Why was six scared of seven?
A: Because seven “ate” nine.
Did you smile or laugh? Laughter “appears to cause all the reciprocal, or opposite, effects of stress,” says Dr. Lee Berk, who studies laughter’s impact on the brain. It improves blood flow, memory and can be used in the training room to help make the message stick. When we laugh, we trigger a chemical reaction in our brains that makes us feel good. The more we laugh, the better we feel. Naturally, we associate the people who make us laugh with those good feelings. Using humor during training sessions helps learners stay engaged, focused and happy. Though humor and laughter are frequently used in ice-breaker sessions, they can also be applied to serious subjects. A big group laugh can break a tense moment or add energy just when we need it.
Are you funny? Some of us have a natural gift for humor, while others may want to develop their funny side. If you are looking to add some humor to your training, here are some options:
Option 1: Find a good joke
If you are new to this, sharing your first joke with learners may be daunting. However, trying the same or different joke in diverse settings and scenarios will build your confidence. Present a joke and watch everyone’s reaction. Try to pick jokes that are relevant to your training session. For instance, if you are training bank employees on how to help customers check their account balance, try something like this:
“I was waiting in line at the bank. An old lady asked me to check her balance, so I pushed her.”
Option 2: Seize the Opportunity
If the opportunity for laughter pops up during your session, seize it.
Don’t be silly, opportunity doesn’t knock twice!
This takes a bit of practice and the ability to understand your audience. Some of my best training sessions have been the ones where I was light-hearted and spontaneous. What really triggers genuine laughter in a group is timely remarks aligned with the specific humor pattern of that group. It helps if you are constantly interacting with the audience instead of playing videos/reading text from a PowerPoint slide.
Option 3: Find your funny
Everyone has a funny side to them. Often this means relaxing and sharing some of your imperfections and vulnerabilities with others. Don’t try to be funny. Just try to have fun. Acquaint yourself with your natural sense of play and allow other to enjoy that with you.
Using laughter in your training sessions can help the message stick for your learners. The easiest way to add laughter is by letting others enjoy your imperfections, seizing opportunities and by just being yourself.
If you want more learning and development advice, read some of our other insight into training.
Park, A. (March 2019). Curing What Ails You, The Science of Laughter, Special Time Edition.
Three Ways to Prioritize Learning BehaviorsFocus on the Three C's: the Common, the Critical, and the Catastrophic.
Several years ago, I worked with a major national drugstore to develop a multimedia eLearning program for the implementation of a new pharmacy system. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my career. This large, complex system had robust functionality. We didn’t have the time or budget to train every pharmacy employee on every possible thing the system could do. As a project leader, my biggest challenge was focusing my team on the target learning behaviors to drive the program benefits.
Fortunately, I had learned a handy approach to this dilemma – hone in on the Three C’s. I had my team prioritize the Common, the Critical, and the Catastrophic.
- The Common – as you can imagine, a number of activities happen all day, every day in a pharmacy: capturing data on new prescriptions, calling prescribers to authorize refills, measuring dosages, checking insurance coverage, and collecting payments. Pharmacy employees must be proficient on all these activities, so most of our training scenarios gave plenty of practice with these common tasks.
- The Critical – pharmacy employees deal with confidential health information, which is protected by law. Revealing sensitive information could embarrass a patient and lead to financial liability from fines or lawsuits, so we included learning scenarios that reinforced the importance of maintaining patient confidentiality and carefully protecting privileged information about the patient’s medical conditions and treatment plans.
- The Catastrophic – in the classic movie It’s A Wonderful Life, the town pharmacist, Mr. Gower, suffers tremendous emotional and social distress when George Bailey is not around to prevent him from dispensing the wrong medication and fatally poisoning a patient. This is a very real concern for pharmacists today. They could lose their license and livelihood if a patient is harmed. Because of these potentially catastrophic consequences, our training included showing pharmacists how to check for patient allergies, therapeutic duplications, and adverse interactions between medications. And in all our scenarios, we made sure that all pharmacy employees could validate that they had accurately identified the patient before dispensing medication.
By prioritizing the learning behaviors, we avoided a fire-hose approach and created a cost-effective learning program. Our solution delivered tremendous value to the organization by focusing learners on the essential behaviors. Upon completion of the training, our learners felt confident in handling common situations, protecting critical information, and keeping patients safe.
Good Reads for Learning and Development ProfessionalsStart your new year thinking a little differently about our industry.
As the saying goes, sharing is caring! We’d like to share some great ideas with you. We’ve curated a list of articles to get learning and development professionals thinking about the industry. It includes thoughts on hot topics like learning in the digital transformation age and way to evolve as an L&D professional.
What trends are you noticing in learning and development? In her interview with the Association for Talent Development Cindy Huggett notes, “we are moving to shorter and shorter chunks of learning … [and] the second big trend is mobile.” In addition to her state-of-the-industry observations, this expert on virtual learning shares important skills for virtual learning designers. She also discusses pitfalls facing virtual learning instructors.
We’re professionals. You don’t have to remind us that learning should never stop, but we’re glad the Harvard Business Review is advocating it, too. Most organizations demand that employees focus their energies on achieving results rather than broadening skillsets. This culture of efficiency and performance can stunt professional learning. HBR has four tips to maintain your intellectual curiosity and continue to learn – even if an organization doesn’t officially promote it.
This LinkedIn think post features insights from four experts — their predictions for skills that will become more important to L&D professionals over the next five years. “We are currently in a business environment that is seeing more transformation and volatility than at any time in the recent history,” said Dan Rice, a West Point graduate and president of the Thayer Leadership Development Group. “L&D leaders need to be able to empower a culture of learning by creating leaders of character capable, of cascading lessons, providing feedback loops to evolve quickly and allow businesses to adapt, react and thrive in this type of environment.” Consider these four skills. Do they meet with your predictions for the field?
At Emerson, we are no strangers to the complexities of technology change. That’s why we found this particular piece valuable. This post from EdTech focuses on integrating new tech for professional learning. It’s intended for teachers, but we think the advice works for corporate learning professionals as well. Consider these tips the next time your organization wants to use technology in the classroom.
Stay tuned for more of our favorite content from around the Internet. We’ll find the thoughtful content so you don’t have to.