Optimizing technical training for the business is a challenge that learning and development departments must meet in order to advance the goals of the organization. Usually a lot of technical information is available and it is not easy to discern and identify what needs to be taught to each of the different employee groups or stakeholders such as front-line leaders, marketing and sales departments or distributors.
Usually technical teams will have the best intentions and these are manifested in their desire to be thorough and cover everything possible about the given technical process, product or service. These good intentions lead to the creation of training programs that contain a lot of data and information. Essentially, I have seen these training programs become what I refer to as an information dump – and sometimes they can be pretty stinky!
Life can be easier for the technical team and for the training team if they consider the first question of our guiding principles when designing training programs. This question is: How will the learners use the knowledge when they are back in their job? Answering this question from the perspective of each different group of employees and stakeholders allows instructional designers to start identifying what will be most useful. In addition, by considering these different perspectives we can create guidelines for the subject matter experts (SMEs) to discern what of their expertise will be most useful. For example, if the stakeholders are managers, SMEs would put more emphasis on the technical knowledge needed to manage the technology and less towards understanding all the details of the technology.
As obvious as this sounds, it is important to focus on what is important for the “other”. It is not about the “I” (what I think is important as a technical expert), rather it is about what information is a “need-to-know” for the learner to achieve peak performance at their specific position within the organization.
It is not a secret that chefs have experienced a steep rise to celebrity status with their ability to reach millions of people through multimedia channels. By creating new dishes and combining new flavors, these chefs offer their craft as art, each infused with their own personality, to deliver unique eating experiences that adapt and evolve with ever-changing trends and tastes.
Instructional designers have experienced the rise of the Internet, mobile devices and an ever increasing array of software tools and platforms giving them the ability to reach more learners in different ways than ever before. There appears to be a parallel between the creative work of the chef and the creative work of the instructional designer when developing either elearning, virtual classroom, instructor-led training or any blended training and development program.
Let’s start with success. The success of the chef is delivering a great (delicious) eating experience. The success of the instructional designer is delivering an effective learning experience. Defining an effective learning experience can merit an article on its own but let’s extrapolate a definition from the model of personal development of the Center for Creative Leadership which states that you must strike the right balance between: challenging, supporting, and evaluating individuals. This would mean that instructional designers must deliver recipes that strike the right balance between these three factors.
The chef uses the best ingredients and brings them together to create palate bliss. For the instructional designer, the ingredients are the principles of adult learning and the subject matter. The instructional designer has to use the principles of adult learning and the subject matter expertise to deliver a learning experience that will strike the right balance between challenging, supporting and evaluating the learner. When this balance is achieved, the instructional designer can generate the state of flow in the learners. Otherwise, individuals will be either bored if not challenged, worried if not supported, or lost if not evaluated. As an illustration, here is a graph from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi that depicts the emotional state of the learner depending on the level of challenge versus skill level.
Every time an instructional designer delivers a learning experience that generates flow within the learners, they have created learning bliss, much like the celebrity chef creates palate bliss when the delicacies are consumed. So to all the instructional designers who every day strive to become celebrities: bon appétit!
Arguably, anyone can benefit by taking ownership of how and what to apply from a custom online training program. Arguably, anyone can benefit from being encouraged to do so and very importantly, anyone can benefit from receiving feedback on the actions they take so they can improve the application or use of the knowledge acquired from a custom online training program.
As obvious as this sounds, the lack of follow-through on applying what is learned and specially in online training programs plagues millions of employees here in the U.S. and worldwide. As such, it is estimated that 90 percent of job-related skills and knowledge imparted in online training programs are not being implemented.
The numbers could be even worse if we consider only e-learning and not instructor-led training. Many consultants, like training consultants, business consultants and even e-learning consultants would agree. From the individual’s perspective, there is also a huge cost since they might not take advantage of the elearning or online training opportunity to enhance their performance or contribution to the company’s goals and could lose potential career advancements as a result.
The solution to this problem is to ensure that your online training is customized to your needs. Sounds simple, yet many organizations fail to recognize that e-learning which is not customized will not be meaningful and relevant to their employees. Online training that is not custom e-learning may provide good and valid concepts that may have been designed with the best intentions but it leaves a huge gap for the employees to fill. The gap is created by leaving it up to the employee to take those concepts and translate them into specific situations or challenges they encounter on the job. Unfortunately, not all of us have the will or skills to fill in this gap successfully, especially since generic e-learning can be quite vague trying a one-size fits all strategy.
In summary, custom online training or custom e-learning considers all the potential factors that can impact success and allows you to create a program that delivers true business value. Not all e-learning is the same and certainly not when it’s customized to your needs. Custom e-learning programs can have a direct impact on your company’s bottom line and this can be demonstrated.