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How to Integrate Product Knowledge Into Your Launch Curriculum

It’s here! The time has come! Your company’s new product is about to launch and it’s time for the launch event. Reps are flown in from all over the country, or the world, to learn about the new product they will be selling. Excitement is high and, ideally, reps will leave enthusiastic and ready to sell. But amidst all the hype, what will they actually take away from the meeting? What will they learn?

Most importantly, will your reps be ready to effectively sell that new product after a day of information sharing? Probably not.

When a new product launches, a huge assortment of new facts and knowledge must be internalized by the reps who will sell and support it. Many product launches consist of a single in-person launch meeting, as described above, or series of regional meetings. Reps receive the new information and are expected to leave the meeting start applying it in customer conversations.

If the organization is highly spread out, the local and country-specific groups will have to make sure the information is accurate and up-to-date as well. This is a tall order.

So in the midst all of the excitement that surrounds a product launch, what is the best way to present the new knowledge to sales reps? How will they become familiar with features and benefits, strengths and weaknesses, and ways to position the product against competitors?

Our Product launch framework

In her white paper on learning solutions that support product launches, Nancy Harkness presents the product launch curriculum as a set of learning solutions broken into three parts. We use this framework with most of our clients:

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Product knowledge has a place in each one of these three parts. The key is placing the right amount of detail in each phase of the launch.

Turn Product Knowledge Into Pre-work

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In the curricula we design and develop, we typically teach basic facts and introductory knowledge via a series of prelaunch solutions. These solutions are usually online and consist of eLearning courses, games, videos, and mobile apps. Reps can start learning about the new product in small chunks whenever it is convenient for them to do so. This way, they arrive at the launch meeting with at least some exposure to the new product knowledge and competitive landscape before face-to-face activities begin.

Cover the Highlights During Launch

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While product knowledge is emphasized heavily in the prelaunch online solutions, we also design in-person activities that reinforce key takeaways during the launch. A product launch event should go far beyond a lecture format and include a variety of hands-on activities, breakout sessions, and games to achieve lasting impact. Only key product and competitor information should be discussed in the launch meeting; information that is “nice to know” should be reserved for resources they can find and locate on the job.

Continuous Reinforcement Via Reference Tools

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Most of the product launches we support are for highly complex products. No matter how effective the courses, games, and in-person activities are, reps are bound to forget certain details without proper reinforcement. Some product information might change over time as well, so organizations need a way to push new content to the reps.

To keep product knowledge top of mind, a content management system can be used to make key guides, videos, and job aids easy to find. In most cases, making these resources mobile-friendly is an absolute necessity for on-the-go sales reps.

View our Product Launch Webinar Recording

Leanne Batchelder and myself partnered with Training Magazine to present a webinar on product launch learning solutions. Learn more and view the recording below.

Time for Training? 11 Rules for a Better Product Launch

Launching a product? The following is an excerpt from Nancy’s Harkness’ new white paper: Learning Solutions and Your Product Launch: The Secret to Success


11 Rules for a Better Product Launch Banner

There are as many ways to learn about a new product as there are new products! Consider the following decision points:

Prelaunch Training:

  1. If you are limited on time, specifically analyze what learners have to know, versus what they can look up. Focus your training on the few key items that your learners need to know and recall—incorporate practice and repetition as much as you can in your tight timeframe. On a parallel path, create a robust support system so that they can quickly and easily look up what you did not have time to teach them before launch.
  2. If your new launch is similar to one learners have experienced in the past, do not start from the beginning. Use the knowledge they already have—tell them what is the same, and what is different, from what they already know. Reinforce their current knowledge, and focus your repetition and practice on the new or changed information or skills.
  3. When you have a large volume of information to teach, give them time to learn it. Weave the information together to increase retention: teach a new concept, then harken back to a previous concept, then reinforce the new one and move on to a different idea. Make sure you have time to repeat and use the information. It is tempting to touch on each concept once and move on because you have “so much to cover.” Do not give in to temptation! In most cases, mentioning something once makes the teacher feel better, but it does nothing for the learner. They forget unless they repeat, use, and get feedback.
  4. Use stories, not bullets, to help learners learn. Can you create a metaphor for your key product concept? Do you have customer success stories to share? Can you create a learning agent to guide the learner through the launch? Give learners a story to connect the product to real usage!
  5. Prelaunch training used to be dry—a set of fact sheets or a series of research results. Facts and research results are often critical to product launch success, yes. But putting them in the context of product success, customer problems and needs, and real-world results takes dry fact and ignites it into memorable learning.

Launch Training:

  1. Whether gathering sales reps for a company-wide meeting or conducting smaller training events, remember that one experience rarely creates lasting change. A launch meeting alone is less successful than a series of events that help learners incorporate the learning into their daily sales or support routines.
  2. Make sure the launch event is a learning event as well as an excitement and entertainment event. Hype only lasts until the next hype; learning creates lasting change.

Post-Launch Training:

  1. Post-launch training is better called “using launch information.” If the first use is long after the launch event is over, how do learners practice between the event and real life? What normal events—meetings, training, conversations, newsletters—incorporate the new information and skills? How can reinforcement become part of the way you do business?
  2. If your product launch is delayed after training, what are you doing to keep the information in memory? Do your learners need to retrieve it and use it on a regular basis? Are you expanding their knowledge base and skill level as you learn more in anticipation of your launch? Or, if they do forget, how will you reestablish their learning later?
  3. What are you doing to support the efforts of local leaders? What are their learning priorities, and how are you making them happen?
  4. As you begin launch planning, think about follow-up systems. Is a key skill finding information after launch quickly? If so, build the support system first and incorporate using it into every aspect of the launch… don’t just save it as an afterthought.

Designing a Product Launch Curriculum

This is an excerpt from our white paper, Learning Solutions and Your Product Launch: The Secret to Success. Here is a section on designing product launch curriculums:


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Designing the curriculum

Every launch curriculum is different, and has different needs based on what learners currently know, what the product is, etc. For some companies, the launch training begins years before the launch meeting, as the audience needs to learn a variety of foundational information before they even get to the new product information. In other cases, the launch training happens in a compact window right before the product launches in the market.

Many companies define a launch with the internal launch meeting: an event several weeks or months before the external launch that gets sales representatives and others ready for the external launch. Given the “launch meeting” model, we find that there are three phases to the launch training that help ensure success.

designing-curriculum-chart

Prelaunch training

Prelaunch training establishes fundamental facts, processes and knowledge. Take learning facts out of the launch meeting itself – it is not the best use of the face-to-face environment. This phase should also focus on facts that learners need to know, not look up – if they can look it up, teach them the skill of looking it up, and give them the right tools to do so quickly. Don’t waste your time having them memorize things that don’t have to be memorized.

Launch meeting

Spend this time on face to face interaction: practice, feedback, talking, doing. If your learners need to assemble equipment, for instance, have them learn about it in prelaunch – and practice as much as possible – but the real assembly often is best performed in person, where real-time coaches can provide feedback. The same is true for many steps in the sales process – learn about features and benefits in the pre-launch training, but practice putting them together and talking with customers about them during the launch meeting itself. Meetings are also a great place to break into groups, plan customer interactions (including managing objections), practice, debrief and practice again.

Post-launch meeting reinforcement

Arguably, this is the most-forgotten and most-critical part of the entire launch process. The learning doesn’t end until the learner is using the knowledge/skills on the job. If you are able to leave the launch meeting and start selling the next day, great! More often, there will be a space of time before the knowledge and skills will be used, and the post-launch reinforcement is critical to making sure they don’t forget. This is a great time to provide further application and practice opportunities—new scenarios or actual customers.

Even after the product is being sold and used, there is often a more advanced level of knowledge or skill needed that couldn’t be taught in the launch meeting because of time, availability, and brain capacity — now is the time for that training, too. And think about just-in-time reference, and training for people who start after the launch meeting.

Tools

Develop reference tools for learners to use to look up the non-critical information quickly and effectively. Ideally, use them in all three phases of training:

  • Prelaunch: have them look up information as part of the prelaunch training; explain them in a staff meeting; ask for feedback on them in preparation for actual field use.
  • Launch meeting: Use them as information sources or proof sources during activities in the meeting; give out “official” versions, whether electronically or in person; practice answering questions quickly using the tools.
  • Postlaunch: send out scenarios for which they have to use the reference materials; gather stories about on-the-job use and share; update and share changes as product and customer information evolve.

Learning Solutions and Your Product Launch: The Secret to Success (White Paper)

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Your product might be ready to launch, but what about your sales and support reps? A slick launch meeting is not enough for them to really know your product, and a quick skim of your marketing collateral is not the ideal preparation for talking to customers.

The time, effort, and energy that goes in to a product launch are too valuable to waste. No matter how good your product and its message are, its success or failure will still rest in the hands of your sales and support teams. They must have the skills and knowledge to make the launch successful.

Nancy Harkness, Vice President of Learning Services at Bottom-Line Performance, has authored a new white paper on the use of a curriculum to support a product launch. In Learning Solutions and Your Product Launch, Nancy draws on her work with some of our largest clients to explain what a curriculum is, what it can do, and how an effective curriculum is often the secret to a successful product launch.

What you’ll learn

  • What is a curriculum, and how a blend of learning solutions can work together to reinforce product knowledge, selling skills and proficient usage of a product.
  • What a curriculum can do to help learners build skills and knowledge around what they sell and support. You’ll also see what a curriculum is not meant to do… like change the market environment or fix a bad product.
  • What you need to know to develop a curriculum starting with a broad vision, measurable goals and a realistic picture of the circumstances surrounding your launch.
  • How to design a curriculum using a repeatable three-part framework that drives knowledge and skills retention.
  • How to avoid common mistakes that can derail a curriculum design project, and the steps we have taken with our clients to turn challenge areas into successes.
  • Rules for a better launch that offer specific guidance for your product launch curriculum.

Are you ready to launch yet?

Global eLearning: When One Size Does Not Fit All

Global eLearning
Want life to keep you on your toes? Try deploying eLearning to a global audience. Good ideas have to be great ones, and even the best-laid project work plan can be torn asunder as project teams grow and decision makers multiply. We’ve been deploying global eLearning curriculums with our clients for years, and that experience has taught us that, well, every project is truly unique. One size really does not fit all.

…But would that last sentence have worked in a global course? “One size does not fit all” is a phrase we use a great deal in the US, and its meaning seems universal. But how does that translate into Chinese? I’m not entirely sure, but if I was a learning designer developing eLearning for a global audience, I would need to check on that one.

Before you start a large curriculum design project (or even a single eLearning course) for a global audience, make sure you can answer these questions:

How will we get consensus from decision makers around the globe?

If you are lucky, all of the key stakeholders will be located in the same country. More than likely this is not the case. Your company’s stakeholders all want an opportunity to have buy-in and support each decision… but this can add months in development time. It is important to identify who owns the decision and who makes the final decision. If multiple global groups will meet with the vendor at different times, agree to break decisions into parts where everyone decides on their own piece. Otherwise, your group must try to make key decisions outside of meetings with your vendor.

How Will Content From Disparate Sources Be Collected?

Your organization is huge, and the vendor will likely be hunting around the globe to speak with SMEs, conduct focus groups and gather the necessary information. With so much information to gather, you’ll need to identify the key pieces you can provide to get the projected started, then agree on individual pieces the vendor can deliver while content is still being finalized on your end.

How will we make the solution feel universal?

In an article published in April 2013, we said that eLearning illustrations can make learners feel like a course is “everywhere and nowhere at the same time.” We’ve found that even the most “serious minded” learners respond positively to graphical illustrations instead of photography. It also avoids the problem of images that are too realistic. The laboratory in Iowa may not look the same as the one in Budapest, and illustrations can reduce this problem significantly.

Here is an illustrated example from a course we created for Cummins, Inc:

Illustrations for global eLearning

How will we keep expensive translations to a minimum?

If budget is an issue, try to think carefully about video and audio. How can you use video and audio creatively and add interactivity to the course without creating re-work? Obviously, avoiding audio of people speaking is essential, assuming you do not want to rely on subtitles.

How will the meaning of our courses translate into other languages?

The colloquialisms and vernacular may mean something entirely different in another country. They might even be offensive in another country. Vendors must work carefully with their clients, and do their own research, to determine how various language choices will work.

More tips for global elearning

For more thoughts on how to make your global eLearning project a success, have a look at the graphic below:

Global eLearning Chart

When Remembering Really Matters – New White Paper from Sharon Boller

Sharon Boller, President of Bottom-Line Performance, has authored a new white paper: When Remembering Really Matters: Learning Strategies for Long-Term Retention. It’s full of research, case studies, and advice for learning professionals ready to reduce the amount of information learners forget from all types of training.

Here’s what is covered in the white paper:

What will learners remember?

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The question is not asked often enough in most organizations. Research shows us that most of what we learn is forgotten after a learning event, so what can we as learning professionals do to combat this in our designs?

The Cost of Not Remembering

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Managers, Directors, and VP’s are painfully aware of what happens when critical training concepts are forgotten. ASTD estimates that in 2012, organizations invested $164.2 billion in employee training. How much of your training investment goes to waste?

Remembering is hard; forgetting is easy

You’ve probably heard of Herman Ebbinghaus’ famous “Forgetting Curve,” based on research done in the late 19th century. While the curve can approach 90% in terms of total information forgotten, more recent research shows that the Forgetting Curve is highly variable. Regardless of the exact percentage, What percentage of what we learn do YOU think is okay to forget?

Four Strategies to Foster Long-Term Retention

Sharon introduces four proven strategies that inhibit forgetting and enhance remembering. You’ll learn more about how to apply these strategies, and the research behind them, in the white paper:

  1. Provide frequent, spaced intervals of learning instead of “glops” or “unrepeated waves.”
  2. Provide multiple repetitions.
  3. Provide immediate feedback for mistakes, and make sure learners get it right before moving forward.
  4. Use stories to drive the learning experience.

All of these strategies are explained in detail within the white paper.

Learning comes before remembering

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While the first part of the white paper focuses on remembering, part two is all about the learning. If employees never truly learn new knowledge or skill, they certainly will not remember it. Sharon introduces four strategies for learning that, coupled with the strategies for remembering, will lead to long-term retention.

  1. Balance the use of multimedia.
  2. Limit learner control in the course design.
  3. Personalize the experience as much as possible.
  4. Be ruthless in eliminating content.

Putting it all together

Perhaps most importantly of all, the white paper closes with a summary of five business challenges we solved for our clients using a combination of these strategies for learning and remembering.

Ready to change the way you design and deliver learning? Download the white paper now!

High Impact Blended Learning on a Tight Budget: How We Did It

Getting new employees ramped up quickly is the challenge and goal of every company, but the hiring and onboarding process is a particular strain on smaller companies. Fewer resources exist to support the orientation and training needs of the new team members inside a company.  Large companies may be able to devote resources to a dedicated onboarding program that spans weeks… but small companies don’t have this luxury.

We recently worked with a regional CPA firm, Umbaugh and Associates, that fit the above description. Umbaugh has more than doubled in size in the past five years. and they expect growth to continue at a healthy pace. However, even with this doubling, the firm remains smaller than 100 people.  There is an HR manager, but training and development is only a part of her significant responsibilities. Like most companies with less than 250 or 300 employees, there is no dedicated L&D function or personnel. The annual ASTD State of the Industry Report consistently notes the challenges of companies with fewer than 500 employees. The annual amount they pay per employee for training is $1,800 – well above the $1195 per employee larger companies (more than 10,000 employees) pay. There are simply fewer efficiencies of scale.

Umbaugh has other constraints common to small firms (10 to 250 employees). They have to be extremely judicious in  selecting technology, deciding how to allocate subject matter experts’ time, and how to develop and deliver training. Since we’re a small firm ourselves – and know the pain and challenge of successfully ramping up new team members, we were eager to support Umbaugh.

Our goal was to design a solution that Umbaugh could reasonably implement given its company size – and to do the analysis and design for a reasonable price that allowed Umbaugh to spend the majority of its budget on development and technology acquisition.  We spent two and a half months doing analysis and design work with the goal of delivering a curriculum that Umbaugh could develop with a minimum level of support from us. The curriculum we designed would cost six figures to develop were we doing 100% of the work ourselves on Umbaugh’s behalf. Umbaugh is going to blend use of its own personnel with strategic coaching from us to produce a solution that is less costly and enables their experts to strongly shape its content.

Aligning the Internal Team

Good design starts with good analysis. Before we could design a curriculum, we needed to get the team to be clear on what outcomes it hoped to produce. Here’s a summary of our analysis process. This process was ONLY possible because we had a strong, committed group of three people within Umbaugh – two Partners and the HR Director – to help with this:

  • Assigned the two Partners the task of generating a list that described what a new associate should be able to DO (not know, believe, or understand) within a year.
  • Interviewed several new and tenured associates. Showed them the list of skills/expectations and had them rate how difficult each one was to learn, the frequency with which they performed the skill, and the importance they felt it had to their jobs.  We also let them add skills as well as identify any existing resources they’ve used to acquire the skills or abilities on the list.
  • Shared the revised list with the senior leaders and winnowed it DOWN. If tasks were done very infrequently (less than 1x/month) or were low-value tasks, we eliminated them. We re-focused on a few key job skills and then did a more detailed task analysis of these project-based skills to find out how many sub-tasks were required to execute them.  Based on this data, we created an overarching goal for what a new employee should be able to do within 1 week, a month, 3 months, 6 months, and a year. The emphasis on “do” is important as it clearly diverges from a focus on “what we want people to know,” a common behavior in any firm.
  • Mapped the agreed-upon knowledge and skill needs across a 12-month continuum. This visual enabled stakeholders to see where their goals were unrealistic and where they needed to make adjustments to avoid overloading the new-hire with too many new things at once.
  • Agreed on what constituted “proficiency” and how many times a new-hire needed to perform a task/job to become proficient at it. (Consensus was that an associate needed to perform a particular project 5-6 times to become proficient.)

Building the Blended Curriculum

Once we had our map and targeted outcomes, we could design the curriculum. We chose to create a blended curriculum that focused heavily on the informal and strategically leveraged formal elements. This focus on the informal minimizes the ongoing resources Umbaugh will need to implement the curriculum once it’s developed. It also empowers the new-hire. Here are the components we identified:

formal-informal

  • Self-study: Computer-based instruction that enables associates to quickly acquire knowledge and skill at the point of need.
  • Hands-on labs: Face-to-face instruction that complements self-study elements. Hands-on labs use an “explain, demonstrate, practice, and apply” format that has learners DOING rather than simply listening to a lecture.
  • Structured, on-the-job experiences: Includes observation (watching a skilled performer complete a task) initially and later opportunities to perform new tasks with supervision.
  • Coaching: Coaches review associates’ work product, observe performance, and conduct structured, one-on-one discussions to foster continuous improvement (with the assistance of coaching tools). Coaching should occur on a proactive, regular basis.
  • Mentoring: During the first year, mentors act as a guide for new associates, helping them keep track of what they have learned and what they still need to learn to succeed.
  • Resource library: All materials related to the curriculum are housed in the resource library on Sharepoint for associates, coaches, and mentors to access easily when needed.

Next, we created prototypes of EACH component and only allowed ourselves to build in functionality that we felt someone within Umbaugh could finish out. We chose Articulate Storyline as one tool for the self-study, eLearning modules because we felt it was relatively easy to learn and Articulate would provide strong user support for Umbaugh through its learning curve. We chose the Knowledge Guru game engine for the other components because the Game Creation Wizard would make it very easy for Umbaugh to create its own learning games.

Finally we created a training schedule that covered the first 12 months. This training schedule identified benchmarks an associate needed to be able to achieve by specific time points in the year. Training and skill development activities that supported achievement of the benchmarks were listed as well. The employee’s assigned mentor would be responsible for using scheduled mentor/mentee discussions to stay on top of the training schedule and verify that benchmarks were being achieved.

Ready for Development

The task now is to develop out what’s been designed. However, the entire curriculum design was predicated on these things:

      • No 100% dedicated training and development resource.
      • Technology choices needed to be pinpoint accurate. Umbaugh was willing to invest in technology  (and, in fact, made a eLearning software choice based on functionality and not price) but they wanted to buy what maximized their investment.  Web-based tools needed to be simple but also expand to allow for eventual use of tablets in the workplace.
      • Use of structured on-the-job experiences as much as possible with formal training experiences carefully timed to support these on-the-job experiences. Key to this structure was creation of an official “coaching model” that Umbaugh associates can learn and use:
        circle-chart
      • A structure for any face-to-face training that enabled Umbaugh’s associates to deliver these sessions with minimal skill in facilitation/training delivery. Their primary role is client-facing work. Our goal was not to turn every Umbaugh person into a professional trainer but to empower them via the right process and tools.

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Training Needs Analysis Worksheet (Free Download)

A soundly conducted Needs Analysis should always be the first step when you need to improve performance or change behaviors. Regardless of the type of learning solution you plan to create, taking the time to properly assess the situation and gather appropriate information will go a long way towards assuring the success of a new project.

Below, you will find a five-step process for conducting a Training Needs Analysis. When we help organizations with their analysis, we recommend they follow these steps, or a similar variation. In order to help you through these five steps, we have created a 10-question Needs Analysis Worksheet you can fill out and use as a starting point for new project. You may fill out the form below and download it for free.


Interested in learning more about analysis? Watch our recorded webinar: Measure Twice, Cut Once: How Analysis Impacts Business Results.


And now, the five steps of a standard Training Needs Analysis.

1. Receive Training Request

Whether you receive a formal request for training or a more vague indication that there is a problem you are expected to solve, now is the time to start gathering some basic information. In this step, you will formulate an initial instructional goal (which can be revised later) and clarify your target audience… including their characteristics, background, and current skills. You will also decide if the training can be developed internally, or if you will need an external vendor.

2. Formulate a plan

Chances are you will have quite a bit of content to gather and organize. You’ll also need a plan for refining your instructional goal to make sure it aligns with business objectives. Step two is all about figuring out what information to gather, who to get it from, and how to get it. Zero in on your instructional goal, profile your learners, and carefully identify the skills or behaviors you want to impact.

3. Gather the data

In Step three, it’s time to collect data and refine your plan based on data that emerges. You’ll be collecting data using methods such as stakeholder interviews, locating source content, focus groups, and task analysis.

Interviews, focus groups, and locating source content are all fairly straightforward tasks, but you may or not already be familiar with the task analysis technique. This involves isolating an individual task and identifying the current results, the desired standard, level of importance, frequency of the task, and more. Quite honestly, we could give a full workshop on just the task analysis step alone. Here’s a worksheet you can use.

4. Analyze data and conclude the process

Once you’ve gathered all the necessary data, it’s time to analyze the information gathered and formulate findings and recommendations. You should then revise your instructional goal based on the data you’ve gathered. You should now have new insights on your learners that will affect the content of the solution, the delivery format, and other constraints.

By the end of this step, you should clearly know what the optimal training solution is and why. You’ll also know whether you can complete the training internally, or if you need to bring in an outside vendor.

5. Plan next steps

Your final step in the Needs Analysis will be a comprehensive report, which will serve as the road map for your solution design. This report will include the final instructional goal, profile of the target audience, learning objectives, and a summary of the tasks or ideas being taught. You’ll also lay out the constraints to consider in your design, and the potential delivery method. When you have all five steps of the Needs Analysis process completed, you should be well on your way to developing an effective learning solution.

DOWNLOAD OUR NEEDS ANALYSIS WORKSHEET

We have a created a simple, 10-question worksheet to help you kickstart your Training Needs Analysis. Use it to ask the right questions, zero in on the “need to have” information, and make a sound plan for identifying the right learning solution.

When You May Not Need a Training Program

Training - too expensive to use as a band-aid.

I want to tell you a story.

Your sales reps are supposed to upload sent proposals to a shared server for future reference or reuse by other team members. One problem: the company firewall restricts access to the portal when reps are not on the company Internet network. When they are able to get connected, the portal is painfully slow. IT knows about the issue but has not fixed it. Since the sales reps are busy, they have learned NOT to upload completed proposals to the portal.  Instead, they email each-other asking for past proposals when they need them. As a result, work gets duplicated, and the reps spend lots of unneeded hours working around an inefficient process.

When the VP of Sales notices that a large number of proposals are not ending up in the portal, he pushes for a series of six 20 minute eLearning courses on “Sales Process Awareness.” The company pays an eLearning provider $30,000 to create the courses and organizes an all-day instructor-led training session for sales reps on best practices.

The sales reps take the courses and attend the training… then go back to their regular jobs. Their day-to-day work does not change. In fact, they are even MORE busy playing catch-up from all that time they were taken away from their jobs to complete training. The portal still does not work correctly and proposals are still not getting saved. The problem continues.

That’s right, folks… sometimes training is not the answer. Improving performance is as much about process as it is awareness.

Analyze Until You Find a Root Cause… then take action

While the story above is fictional, I think it is a great example of a situation where training and eLearning are used as the solution to a problem that is a process problem, not a skill or knowledge problem. When we skip past the “A” in ADDIE, forgetting to conduct a thorough and thoughtful analysis, we risk embarking on a fool’s errand with little hope of success.

Training can help accomplish many things…

  • Help new hires learn the basics.
  • Introduce a new process or procedure.
  • Provide opportunities for practice and reinforcement.
  • Teach people background information and foundational knowledge.
  • Give people a “so what?” or “what’s in it for me?” that motivates them to perform better.
…But if a process is dysfunctional, re-teaching someone how to do it is not going to solve the problem. Sometimes, your team members are already motivated to do their jobs well, but they feel frustrated or limited by the structures in which they work. Over time they become numb to this frustration and just deal with it because “that’s the way things are around here.”

The Role of eLearning Providers

As consultants, we often end up producing some form of eLearning, mobile learning or gamified learning solution to help clients meet their objectives. But we also take the time to analyze the state of their business and make recommendations for process improvements when appropriate. It’s our job to offer the perspective of a neutral third party that knows a thing or two about helping people do their jobs better.
Use flow charts and process mapping

In a recent post discussing compliance training needs for the healthcare sector, I referenced a past project for a major pharmaceutical company that needed to implement good research principles across its organization. A pure “training” solution might have involved a serious of eLearning courses or instructor-led courses showing what the new principles are and telling people how to follow them. Since our client actually needed people to follow the principles and not just abstractly know about them, we had to take a more holistic approach. We learned that people didn’t need training on the principles – they needed training on how to audit their current functional areas and determine where principles need to be applied. They also needed a process defined for formulating implementation strategies.

Another recent project, conducted for Harlan Laboratories, had us creating an all-new curriculum for lab technicians. We spent lots of time on-site interviewing people and seeing what the work was like first hand before making any recommendations. If we had skipped this step, we would not have seen the necessity of forgoing eLearning and creating physical materials the techs could carry with them in their lab gear. More on how we make sure solutions hit the mark with target learners here.

Put People in Position for Success

Organizational change has to happen at both the macro and micro level. Too often, C-level folks assume that delivering training to drive “better awareness” for front-line team members will help them perform better. In so doing, they neglect to examine the organizational structure those team members are working inside of… and what role that structure plays in both their positive and negative performance. They also forget to address company culture issues that prevent people from speaking up when a problem is happening again and again.
Whether you develop learning solutions internally or rely on an outside vendor, make sure the responsible parties take their time to complete a thorough analysis… and have the experience and confidence to recommend process improvements when necessary. Because after all, an eLearning course is a pretty expensive band-aid.

 

Help For the One Person Instructional Design Team

If you are a one person instructional design team, this post is for you. 2012 is almost over and now is the perfect time to gear up for next year’s eLearning projects. You probably already have some great ideas for next year’s learning initiatives, but it can be pretty hard to execute on all those ideas alone. And if you are just getting started with eLearning, you’re in for even more of a challenge.

Help for one person instructional design teams

We feel your pain. Our company actually started as a one woman shop in 1995… and we have always kept things small. This comes with many advantages, but what do you do when a project is just a little beyond your limitations? There’s no doubt the quality and variety of learning solutions we offer has improved as our company has grown (there’s 19 of us now.) It would be difficult for us to meet the diverse needs of our clients without the awesome team of writers, designers, and programmers we have now.

The biggest limiters you probably face are time and budget. If a task is outside of your skill set, you do not have time to put the hours in and learn because you are already too busy finishing other work that needs to be done. If you see a cool tool or product that might work well at your organization, chances are it’s well beyond your budget. This means that despite your best intentions, you may be stuck delivering instructor-led training and Powerpoint presentations that are well past their expiration date. If you are lucky enough to have access to a rapid authoring tool like Articulate or Lectora, you may be forced to produce courses as a one size fits all solution, even if you don’t want to.

While we mostly focus on custom eLearning, mobile learning, game based learning, and curriculum design, we are excited to introduce a new solution specifically for instructional designers with limited time and resources. We call them Project Kickstarts.

We’ll provide the design and development support you need to get started on a new project… or take an existing project up a notch. Whether it’s a curriculum design you can implement, graphic design work, custom widgets to plug in to your courses, a third party analysis, or some extra instructional design expertise, we’ve got you covered.

Have a look at the Kickstarts we offer:

Design It

Design It - Project Kickstart

We’ll steer you in the right direction without getting in the way. We provide you with an analysis worksheet, lead a design meeting, and give you a course design template to build the final product.

Learn more about Design It

Picture It

Project Kickstarts - Picture It

It can be hard to keep courses from looking generic without the help of a skilled designer to pump up the visuals. We have a top notch team of graphic designers that are ready and willing to take your courses to the next level.

Learn more about Picture It

Build It

Project Kickstarts - Build It

Speaking of generic, are you getting tired of the stock interactions in Articulate and Lectora? Almost all of the courses we produce for clients have custom skins, widgets, and features that make them different. We’ll help you build out your courses without breaking the bank… one widget at a time.

Learn more about Build It

Analyze It

Project Kickstarts - Analyze It

The ultimate goal is for YOU to have the skills you need to solve performance problems. We’ll provide the support and coaching you need to make a plan, develop analysis tools, and make sense of the data.

Learn more about Analyze It

Enhance It

Project Kickstarts - Enhance It

Learning design is both an art and a science. It can be hard to include all the necessary content in a course and still have it help people learn. If something about a particularly difficult project just doesn’t feel right, we’re happy to help.

Learn more about Enhance It


Of course, one of the biggest ways we try to give back to the learning design community is through this blog. If you really, really don’t have the budget for any outside help, Twitter and the blogosphere are the two best places you can go for support.

Good luck!