Comply, Engage, Amaze: How to Make Regulatory Training Matter (Webinar)


How much of your company’s training only exists to check the box? How often is your job ready to comply with regulations or teach basic, routine procedures that employees must follow? It’s easy to see how training like this often becomes rather dull. And when employees take this training, it’s no surprise that they are often disengaged and unable to see how what they are learning impacts their job or their organization.

Sometimes, the regulations you must comply with limit your training design options, too. For example, a certain number of training hours or a certain delivery format might be mandated by a regulatory body. Constraints like these can make it seem impossible to create training that really makes an impact.

It doesn’t have to be this way, and we have proof! Regulatory requirements can become constraints that encourage creativity. And while processes and procedures might seem mundane on the surface, they are really the building blocks of a successful organization. What your employees do every day is at the heart of your business: you just have to show them how and why.

A Winning Solution

Need a little inspiration to spark your own creativity? Just take a look at one of our awesome clients and their recent success story:

Bottom-Line Performance and The Mosaic Company partnered to win Gold in Best Advance in Compliance Training in the 2016 Brandon Hall Excellence in Learning Awards. The winning project, “Phosphate Foundations,” is a new hire training and annual refresher training program that is helping Mosaic improve safety outcomes and employee engagement. Mosaic creatively worked within constraints to connect compliance training with business needs while creating an engaging learning environment. The project was the only Gold winner in the Compliance Training category, and we will be showcasing it in an upcoming webinar!

Make Regulatory Training Matter

We gave a webinar called Comply, Engage, Amaze: How to Make Regulatory Training Matter. In it, Jennifer Bertram—our director of instructional design—presented with Linda Anhalt, the EHS Training Manager at Mosaic. In this session, we covered:

  • The best ways to use regulatory constraints creatively and incorporate engaging learning techniques into your training.
  • Issues The Mosaic Company faced before they redesigned their training program.
  • How The Mosaic Company redesigned their training program to focus on key objectives while complying with regulatory requirements.
  • Example training materials we created for The Mosaic Company.
  • How to gamify content, no matter how dry or technical.
  • Strategies for managing external stakeholders effectively and keeping your training design on track.

You can view the recording of this webinar by clicking “Access” below.

View a recording of the webinar Comply, Engage, Amaze: How to Make Regulatory Training Matter and learn how to creatively work within constraints while creating an engaging learning experience.

How to Turn Overworked Managers into Empowered Coaches


Companies spend a lot of money on training… and on tracking the training people complete. The global spend on training in 2015 was $355B with the U.S. accounting for $160B of that spend. Whether your company is part of a Fortune 100 company or a small business employing 30 people, it spends a lot to train and develop its people.

Ironically, after spending all this money on training, too many companies fail to protect and enhance the investment they made. Instead of seeing major improvements, they get little or no return at all. Where training is concerned, companies are still locked into a model of creating and delivering and then being done. An event-based training mindset still prevails.

Lessons Learned from… Landscaping?

To think about the waste that this approach represents, let’s take a look at a non-training example. Imagine that you decide you want to improve your home landscape. You contract with a landscaping company and work with them to plan out the optimal design. You carefully select plants and you pay to have the landscape company install all of it. When the landscaper leaves, the plants, though still small, look great. Whether those plants thrive and yield the lush landscape you envisioned depends on you.

  • Scenario 1: You expend effort to make sure those plants get off to a great start. You set up a regular watering schedule and periodically fertilize the plants until they are well-established, which takes several weeks. You watch for weeds and pests, and you quickly deal with them as you see them emerge. With careful nurturing, you are rewarded with a lush landscape that appears over time.
  • Scenario 2: You wave goodbye as the landscaping truck leaves your driveway and you consider the job “done.” The health and well-being of the plants depends 100% on the weather and the presence or absence of pests. The hardiest plants thrive despite the lack of attention. Other plants hang on, but are stunted in their growth and fail to truly do well. Still others, die. The beds gradually become overtaken by weeds and that $10K investment yields nothing except a bit of an eyesore in the yard.

Employee development operates the same way. Training courses and events enable companies to establish a great foundation, but they do not do a great job of improving performance over the long-term. That comes from consistent coaching in the form of relevant, timely feedback that is highly focused.

Coaching and Feedback are Essential


Too often, there is no specific, timely feedback outside of the formal training experience itself. We do quick “training dunks” in the form of 15-, 30- or 60-minute eLearning courses or half-day workshops or webinars and assume it will stick. When it doesn’t, we tend to blame the employee rather than ourselves for doing a poor job of coaching, or a poor job of providing performance support tools.

The truth is, we don’t plan for coaching. We don’t give managers tools to do it well, and we don’t emphasize its importance. We grossly underestimate its value in protecting the training investment we make in employees. Today’s employees may have a boss who isn’t even co-located with them. That boss never sees what the employees do or don’t do on a daily basis. If employees go to training, the boss may or may not attend the training with them and post-training follow-up seldom occurs.

This lack of awareness or follow-up is pretty much like giving someone a course in drivers education and then just handing the new driver the keys to the car and saying good luck. An accident is sure to be the result. Companies need to embrace the proven reality that feedback and reinforcement are integral to long-term performance success.

Solving the Problem

So how do we make this situation better and how do we accommodate for the limited interactions most employees will have with a boss? One way, of course, is to design training better. If people are expected to behave differently in their jobs as a result of training, then training must include opportunities to practice and get meaningful feedback. Meaningful feedback comes when there is a clear rubric included within the practice activity to help trainees understand what appropriate performance includes.

But once training is complete, the responsibility lies with the managers. Here are four ways to help overworked managers with the coaching process:

1. Create performance rubrics and coaching guides that reflect the realities of the work environment.

Design the coaching experience to fit within the work flow of the manager and the employee. Don’t over-engineer it and clarify how and where coaching fits into the workflow.

2. Provide annotated examples of good and bad.

Let employees see both extremes, and then create self-evaluation tools that enable employees to rate themselves against these standards of good and bad. Make it easy for employees to self-reflect.

3. Assist managers in figuring out what employees need coaching on.

Use automated reinforcement tools that help reinforce key skills and provide managers with detailed feedback on what employees do and do not know and know how to do. Knowledge Guru is one such tool; others exist as well.

4. Reward managers for coaching.

People will do what they are rewarded for doing. If coaching isn’t valued and acknowledged as important to the organization, it will not happen.

If you want to get a return on your investment in formal training, incorporate follow-up. Don’t skimp with the coaching. It’s actually the cheapest thing you can do and its value is high.

Trainers: Don’t Forget to Coach!


It’s been many years now since my son learned to drive, but I still recall the first time he got behind the wheel with his learner’s permit to take the family on an outing. The destination was one he was familiar with. I calculate that he’d been a passenger in a car going to that destination at least 1,800 times before he attempted to make the journey as a driver instead of as a passenger.

Guess what? He backed out of the driveway and then turned to ask, “How do I get there?”

The previous 1,800 times he made the trip, he had been a passenger—and his job was not to navigate. He was completely unprepared, even though in my head he should know how to get there. My son had driver’s education training as well. I can tell you emphatically that those six classroom sessions did not prepare him to be a skillful driver. Only hundreds of hours of practice did that.

What does this story have to do with training and development, you ask?

We grossly overestimate employees’ abilities to execute tasks on the job that they haven’t done before… but they’ve seen done by others dozens or even hundreds of times. We overestimate the value that the formal training they receive will prepare them to execute in the workplace.

Consider Coaching

Companies, including our own, put a lot of energy into designing the formal instruction they give to employees. They may even do an excellent job of making that training highly interactive and hands-on, giving the trainee lots of practice opportunities during the training experience. I can tell you with 100% certainty, though, that even the best training will not fully prepare your worker to perform in the workplace.

You have to consider coaching. You have to plan for it. You have to design it into the learning experience and know that it is something you need to remain committed to for months, not hours.

Case in Point:

We’ve put our entire sales team through extensive sales training that started in 2015. The first layer was for our VP of Sales. She went through formal classes and then shifted into a blended approach of 1:1 coaching sessions followed by monthly 2-hour group training sessions. After she finished foundational training, the other members of her sales team began their training—with her providing ongoing coaching to them.

The results for us have been remarkable. We hit the Inc 5000 fastest growing companies in 2015 at 4049. If we applied again today, we would be at 3300 on that same list. Coaching was critical to helping us get there.

Coaching is required beyond the sales team. When you promote someone into project management or bring on a new employee, for example, you need to provide a lot of coaching for them to maximize their success with you. Here are three tips to consider:

1. Coaching needs to be a regular occurrence

It needs to be a regular part of how you build their skill set. A single sit-down session with a mentor is not enough to instill lasting behavior change. Regular meetings are critical, and virtual coaching can work just fine depending on the distribution of your workforce.

2. Coaching needs to be proactive… rather than reactive

I call reactive coaching “swoop and poop” coaching where the coach waits until you make a mistake and then swoops in to tell you what you did wrong and how to do better next time. Proactive coaching means you sit down together before a project begins and you routinely check in as the project unfolds. You discuss next steps together and you design checkpoints to assess how things are going and make course corrections. It takes time and it takes planning.

3. Coaching needs to be connected to the formal training you offer

Our clients have the most success when they incorporate the coaching into their formal training curriculums, typically as part of the post-training reinforcement phase. Make sure your formal training programs connect to the way coaches actually support your learners and vice versa.

When designed and implemented effectively, training can change behaviors and improve performance. But it’s a poor investment if it doesn’t get coupled with coaching.

Why Don’t Trainers Worry About ROI?

ROI of Training

ROI has been a buzzword since the 90s. People talk about it all the time… and measuring ROI is cited as a goal for many initiatives across an organization. We’ve been designing learning solutions since 1995, and while we think ROI is really important, we can count the projects on one hand where people actually calculate ROI. Why isn’t it happening?

The answer depends on the organization. Here are a few possibilities to consider. Do any of these sound familiar in your organization?

The C-Level cares about ROI… but frontline employees are not as concerned

Company leadership often takes complete ownership of the strategic plan. They set the revenue goals and allocate budgets for each department. The bottom line is, for them, the most important thing. When frontline employees get too disconnected from the company’s strategic goals, ROI will be the last thing on their minds. For example, an L&D department that is allocated a certain budget may only be concerned with spending the entire budget (so they will get the same amount the following year) and showing that everyone completed training. If they have not bought in to the strategic goals of the organization, they will only be focused on convincing leadership that their job is valuable.

ROI is long-term, but we must respond to short term needs in the moment

Some of us are too busy putting out fires to look up at the horizon. We are meeting the needs of today without anticipating the needs of tomorrow and evaluating our past actions. At least, that’s what happens when we don’t think about our organizational investments. It’s not just training, either. In fact, overly worrying about ROI can also be detrimental if it keeps us from taking even the smallest actions. Analysis paralysis is a risk, just as failing to consider ROI is a risk. Since we often need to take an action and move forward quickly in the midst of daily tasks, ROI can get pushed aside entirely.

We lack the necessary tools to accurately calculate ROI

Learning and Development does not get too deep in the analytics department. Most LMS’s are just used as glorified “completion tracking engines.” We want to know whether or not someone took a course or not so we can tell our boss that everyone completed the training. What we don’t also see is how each learner performed on the learning objectives, or how job-related performance indicators changed after completion of the training. Some LMS’s are more full-featured than others, of course. In many cases, it’s just a matter of the L&D department making full use of the tracking capabilities available to them.

Formal training fills a fraction of our time at work.

Formal training makes up a small part of the learning picture, so it’s hard to track its impact

Sharon Boller’s 2013 Learning Trends, Technologies and Opportunities white paper points out that the average learner spends only 31 hours in formal training during a typical year. Meanwhile, their working life has at least 2049 more hours of activity… and most of the real learning happens on the job. Since formal training is a relatively minor part of our working lives, it sometimes plays a small part in our overall success on the job. It might help us get started, but its impact decreases over time. We need a way to track more of the learning experiences that happen in the flow of work and think of this informal learning as an important part of professional development. Tin Can API (also called Experience API) makes this infinitely easier to do.

We haven’t had to calculate it before… so we don’t now

Many companies have delivered the same type of training for years. It’s already a line item on the annual budget and no one questions it because they don’t remember not doing the training. Instead of re-evaluating the results of the training on a regular basis, it becomes embedded in the company culture and allowed to continue indefinitely. This is why bringing in a third party can be helpful.


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.


Shifting from Trainer to Community Manager

Profit margins are razor thin and the business landscape is more competitive than ever. Past inefficiencies that were once tolerable at work are now unsustainable. As businesses, we must adapt or contract. But where does this leave the learning and development department?

The training paradigm has not changed too much in the last 100 years, has it?

Much maligned after years of instructor led training, powerpoint presentations, and “click next” eLearning courses, it’s time for Learning and Development to step up. We have a role to play in the changing economy, and it’s a big one. After all, knowledge is one of the only renewable resources we have, and knowledge workers need to constantly replenish their supply of it.

Many L&D professionals still think of themselves as a trainer. They are the teacher standing in front of the classroom. They are the omnipotent architect of the eLearning curriculum that is delivered via the LMS. They are the Encyclopedia Britannica, the keeper of knowledge. It’s up to them to deliver the skills and training their company will need at their daily jobs. But we stopped buying Encyclopedia Britannica years ago in favor of using Wikipedia.

The same paradigm shift is happening in learning. Knowledge workers are constantly pursuing the information they need to perform their jobs. Whether it’s a quick chat with a coworker in the office, a YouTube search for a how-to guide, or a visit to the user community for the software they are using, the ubiquity of quality information has raised our expectation for speed and ease of acquiring new information.

This mindset does not mesh well with the traditional ADDIE model of eLearning development. The development cycle for producing a suite of eLearning courses can take an incredibly long time. Sometimes, the subject matter being taught is no longer relevant by the time it is delivered to the learner. Even worse, “awareness level” courses attempt to cram loads of content into a single twenty minute course… and the content is never supported or reinforced once the course is completed. Learning and Development need only prove learners have passed the post-test and been exposed to the material to check the box and move on.

This process works quite tidily for L&D, but it leaves learners in a different predicament. While L&D is able to design, develop and deploy these courses in a highly prescribed, organized way, learners are constantly in need of new information throughout the course of their work days. They do not have time to wait for your course to be posted to the LMS, and by the time it is ready they have likely already figured out what it is they need to know.

We need to be able to respond more rapidly to the changing needs of knowledge workers… and we need to have a more accurate picture of what those needs actually are. We need to stop trying to solve business process failures with eLearning modules and we need to start preparing learners to take charge of their own learning. We need to shift our mindset from trainer to community manager. Here’s how:

Trainers Talk, Community Managers listen: This is where the use of a public or private social network becomes incredibly useful. Many companies are using tools like Yammer to bring the social networking experience inside the company firewall. Create a workplace culture where employees actively ask questions, share success stories, and express their joys and frustrations on social media. You’ll be able to see what learning needs people have in real time and rapidly respond with learning aids, tutorial videos, and yes, courses.

Trainers know all the answers, Community Managers connect you with someone who does: Let’s face it, it’s impossible to be a Subject Matter Expert in every field. The traditional instructional design model has L&D working with SMEs to create training, but what about when the need is for a more rapid, informal support tool? Developing an internal social network or support forum where learners can post their problems is ideal. It’s up to the Community Manager to constantly monitor the tool and connect learners with the help they need.

Trainers fire and forget, Community Managers provide long-term support: Formal training has its place, and chances are you will be producing eLearning for years to come. But if the scope of the project ends with the delivery of a course, you’re doing it wrong. Build in a phase in your work plan to support learners with the knowledge gained from an eLearning course. Host in-person or social media chats, post learning aids, or have them play a learning game as a reinforcement tool. Cement the knowledge and make sure they know it for the long haul.

What do you think? Is any of this relevant to your company? I’d love your thoughts. I also give a webinar on the topic.

Why Learning Games Succeed Where Traditional Training Fails

Why is everyone always picking on traditional training? And what makes learning games so special anyway? It’s not that we dislike traditional training, we just think there are a lot more benefits to learning games. For example, learning games are fun, competitive, rewarding, interactive, and attention-grabbing. Traditional training is…not any of those. Just to clarify – we’re talking about learning games here, not gamification.

Make no mistake… our assertion that learning games are more effective than traditional training is not a matter of preference. So what do learning games offer over traditional training?

1. Learning games are realistic

Unlike its traditional training counterpart, learning games allow us to interact with a hypothetical environment and explore scenarios we might actually encounter in the workplace. They provide us with a safe haven to test our newly acquired knowledge before going out and bettering the world with it. With traditional training, there is no opportunity to apply what we’ve been preached – we are simply taking it in and spitting it back out at our customers. By simulating reality, learning games prepare us for the “What ifs” and the “Worst case scenarios” before they actually happen and with minimal risk. A great example of this is our “Formulation Type Matters” sales scenario game:

Formulation Type Matters is a learning game by Bottom-Line Performance.

2. Learning games are repetitive

“Could you please repeat that?” is something you won’t ever have to worry about with learning games. Learning games give us the chance to try, try again if at first we don’t succeed and understand the consequences of our actions. Levels or turns provide us with the opportunity to evaluate our choices and make better decisions as the game progresses… and the anticipated rewards create feedback loops to keep us motivated. Repetition repetition (is there an echo?) is how we actually remember new information; the more times we see or hear something, the more likely we are to remember it. Many games have learners begin a behavior on level one, and slowly add new ones on later levels. This creates powerful “scaffolding” of knowledge.

3. Learning games are engaging

Raise your hand if you’ve NEVER fallen asleep during a training course, presentation, or lecture (those of you raising your hand right now – you’re liars). Let’s face it – traditional training is BOR-ING. But learning games? They’re fun, they’re interactive, and they maintain our attention. Most importantly, they induce a state of flow. We’re not watching the clock or making bets on how many times the speaker will say “technology” because we’re engaged. We become emotionally invested in games, so when we play we start to relate to the material by putting ourselves in the scenarios or by connecting with the characters in the game, and before you know it – you’re learning. It makes sense that we strive to become better at something we enjoy doing.

4. Learning games are effective

Not only are they fun, but learning games produce results too. After speaking with Sharon Boller, our company president and in-house expert on learning games, we felt we better understood why they are so effective:

“Games provide clear, measurable goals that add purpose to the experience… and there is a clear psychology that we are innately drawn to that. [Games] tap into a lot of the intrinsic motivation we already have, and when both our emotional and cognitive sides of the brain are engaged in what we are doing, we learn more.”

In short, games are effective because we’re motivated by them… and that is a big deal when it comes to corporate learning.

5. Learning games are social

Games can be social experiences even if they aren’t face-to-face. Through scoreboards, messaging features, and multi-player options, we interact with other players and feel like we are taking part in a common experience. The Knowledge Guru™ is a perfect example – it’s a single-player game… but the scoreboards create competition and remind us that we’re not the only ones playing. As humans,we’re hard-wired for competition and it drives us to perform to the best of our ability. Jane McGonigal coined the term “blissful productivity” when talking about how happy playing games makes us. Games bring people together, make them feel like they are doing something important and motivate them to work hard. The social aspect learning games provide is unmatched through traditional training.

We’ve been lucky enough to see the power of learning games in action through our recent work, whether it be an immersive simulation like “A Paycheck Away” or gamified social app like Knowledge Guru. What ways have you seen learning games succeed over traditional training… and how do they overlap?


How to Use QR Codes in Corporate Training

Most of us think of QR codes as that goofy looking bar code in the bottom corner of advertisements. Or maybe you have noticed them slapped on billboards that you could not possibly have time to stop and scan. Either way, chances are you have seen a QR Code recently!

For those who haven’t been exposed, a QR code is a two dimensional code  that can hold thousands of characters of information. They can be easily generated using numerous free online services and easily scanned with one of many free QR readers out there. QR Codes will easily link to text, an image, or a website.

It may seem like QR codes are just another marketing gimick, but not so fast: in his recent New York Times blog, Gene Marks offers an interesting insight:

“The QR code was actually invented by Denso — a Toyota company — to track automotive parts during the manufacturing process, but has since gained popularity as a marketing tool. QR codes can be used for just about anything you can think of.”

So while marketers are using QR codes almost everywhere you look, there are many ways QR codes can be put to work in your business…like in your training program.

On February 28th, BLP is hosting a Lunch and Learn at the Downtown Central Library sponsored by CIASTD. It’s an interactive scavenger hunt through the library where you will have the opportunity to scan QR Codes and reveal the next clue. By the end of our hour, you might know your way around better than the reference librarian!

QR Codes (particularly scavenger hunts) can be a fun tool to integrate into a corporate learning environment. Imagine using QR codes to:

  • Create an interactive employee orientation scavenger hunt.
  • Provide easily accessible reference materials for sales reps.
  • Keep company policies within easy access.
If you are going to be in Indianapolis on February 28th, we hope you’ll come and learn with us. You can register on the CIASTD Website.