Thursday, September 23, 2010

Until you set performance goals, you cannot become a performance organization

The the Sept issue of Chief Learning Officer Magazine, Bob Mosher tells us that instead of being a learning organization, we should build performance organizations. "We are in the performance business," he states. "Not in the knowledge-gain business." He is right, and most of us in the L&D field agree with this. However, I don't think we do anything about it.

In his column, Bob lays out three sound approaches to to becoming a performance organization. They are necessary conditions, but I do not think they are sufficient. There is a fourth approach that must be implemented or we cannot become performance organizations. We must set performance goals. In other words, the goal should be improved sales, productivity, or quality, rather than training attendance, programs delivered, or test scores.

Why don't we stick our necks out there and say, "We will implement this training program and our goal will be to improve sales of this new product by 30% or our goals will be to reduce customer complaints by 25%. As a matter of fact, I say skip Level 1 and 2. Don't even bother. If you conduct the training and customer complaints fall by 25% or more, you were successful. Move on to the next business problem to fix. Until we do that, we will remain in an insecure state of constantly trying to justify our existence. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Book Review: The New Social Learning

If your profession is learning and development, The New Social Learning is a must read.

Even if you are one of those people who are suspicious of social media or one who thinks social networking is a place for wasting time or if you think Twitter is a place where people tell you what they are eating for lunch, you will read the book and understand exactly how social learning is a new imperative for how we enable organizational learning. You will find this book to be a practical guide to implementing social learning in your organization.

At the end of each chapter, there is a list of common objections and how to overcome them. I found this to be the most useful part of the book. Just like a sales person needs to overcome objections from prospects, any organizational leader who intends to implement a new thing, must prepare for the inevitable objections that arise from the skeptics and curmudgeons. And there will be many. The list of objections and the ways to overcome them are, by themselves, worth the cost of your time to read this book.

The other idea that I infer this book is that people will learn what they want to learn when they want to learn it despite our best efforts to design and deliver training. Too many L&D professionals are hung up on the need to control the instructional design and training delivery process, believing that people simply do not learn properly, unless proper instruction is used in proper training delivery. Well this book is one step in the direction of proving that idea wrong. Our job is to not deliver instruction, but to enable people to learn what they need to learn to get their jobs done now.

Although the New Social Learning does not propose that instructional design and classroom training will be replaced (far from it), Tony and Marcia weave tales of companies that are using various elements of social and collaboration technologies to enable people to learn and most importantly grow and improve job performance….which is what this is all about in the first place.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Book Review: Social Media for Trainers

This is a book review that I posted on I publish it here for those who follow my blog and might be interested in this book.

I consider myself an active, knowledgeable, and savvy social media user in a professional sense, even though I am no expert, so there were times when I wanted to skip or skim certain section of Social Media for Trainers by Jane Bozarth. “What is Twitter? Duh, I know that.” “What is a Wiki? Please!” “Oh, I know this already,” I thought several times. However, if I had skipped these sections, it would have been a huge mistake, and fortunately (or luckily) for me, I slowed down and read. Hubris is a B#$%&!

Jane walks the reader through useful ways that a trainer can use social media to enhance and extend any training event or learning experience. The examples are not only useful, they are ideas one can implement almost immediately. There are so many great ideas that I tweeted that I was running out of margin space and ink as I took notes on all the good ideas I want to implement.

Trainers should devour this book. Instructional designers better implement the ideas from this book into their course designs or else. In fact, I would say that an instructional designer should not design another class without implementing the ideas in this book. It is that important to improving the effectiveness of training.

After reading this book, you will know exactly how to use Twitter, Blogs, Facebook, and Wikis to improve learner engagement in your training sessions and ultimately, performance on the job after training. Not only will you know exactly how to use these tools, but I suspect you will also know when to use each one.

This book is not for reading, it is for using. Bring a well-sharpened pencil or new pen.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Rapid Learning Development (Notice I Left off the E)

There is one sure-fire way to speed up the instructional design process. You might not like it. You might say it is not feasible. You might even say this will slow down not speed up the instructional design process. But I can assure you, the only upfront analysis you will ever really need is to have your instructional designers perform the job for two weeks. They will come back to their desk and will be able to design instruction in much less time.

Think about it. If you take two weeks to do the job, it replaces most if not all of the analyze phase of the design process. You don’t need to survey performers or conduct focus groups or interview stakeholders. I mean really…how much can you learn about a job by surveying 87 customer service agents.

You already spend several weeks in the design process developing training why not eliminate half of that time by having your instructional designers spend two weeks (even one week) actually performing the job for which they are designing instruction. I don’t mean job shadowing…I mean talking to customers or processing workflows or writing a proposal.

Imagine the response of the VP of Operations when you tell her you can have that training ready in four weeks, but you are going to need two weeks to have one of your designers to do the job so they can really learn it.


Saturday, August 7, 2010

A Lesson in Studying and Preparation

In a college International Economics class, we had three exams of equal weight throughout the quarter. Each exam consisted of five essay questions. There was no minimum length required, but you had to answer the question fully, which meant it took about two pages to properly answer each question…plus or minus.

About a week before the first exam, the professor gave out a list of 20 questions. He told us he would pick five of these questions for the exam. The list of questions was daunting. I studied some of the questions, but not all of them. Honestly, I probably studied four to six of the questions, tops.

On test day, by luck, I was prepared for three of the five questions. I say “luck” because I had chosen those three questions to study. I got nearly full credit on those three questions and nearly no credit on the other two. My test score was in the low 70s.

When the professor handed out the exams two distinct things caused an epiphany for me. First, since I earned nearly full credit on the questions for which I had prepared and almost no credit on the questions for which I did not prepare, it hit me (duh!) that if I just prepared for all 20 questions, I could have easily earned an A.

Second, I expected that my score on the exam (low 70s) would be in the lower half of all scores. It turns out I had one of the highest scores in the class. During class and after, my fellow students complained profusely about how difficult the exam was. Complain. Complain. Complain. My only thought was, “are you kidding me, he gave us the test questions! We should had all earned an A. He gave us the test questions!!”

For the remaining two exams, I prepared for every question the professional handed out. I earned an A on the last two exams and an A in the class. Epiphany!

I wonder what the professor thinks every time he grades an exam.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The necessity of proving training ROI

Do we need to prove the ROI of training? Do you need to prove the ROI of buying office supplies or toilet paper or air conditioning in the office? Certainly not. These are necessary business expenses. Do you need to prove the ROI of expanding the headcount in the sales organization or investing in new enterprise workflow automation software or buying new machinery?


So why is it any different for training? Do we need to prove the ROI of a new hire training program or compliance training or training on a new product that is launching in June? No. These are necessary business expenses. On the other hand, if you want to change your existing new hire program from a two week program to a six week program, and it will cost an additional $8,000 per new hire, you better demonstrate why with a return to the organization. If you discover from a needs analysis that the organization could use training on time management or customer service at a cost of $1,250 per employee, you better demonstration the return the organization will earn from that investment. 

So the measuring stick is based on the need. If the training is required, do not waste your limited time worrying about ROI. If the training is not necessary or required, make your case for why you want to do it.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Stop putting everything in email

I did something radical this week. I sent an email to everyone in my organization to tell them about a learning snippet I recorded about one of our internal work tools. Here’s the radical part…I did not put a link to the snippet in the email. I just told everyone that I posted the link to it on my wall. Then, I finished the email with this statement:
"Please add comments to my post of any feedback you have. If you have questions, post those as well. Maybe your teammates have the answers."
Obviously, I am trying to move the party to our internal Community…and by party I mean, the conversation. We have excellent enterprise 2.0 tool inside our organization, and they are largely unused. I couldn’t understand why. Then it hit me. If we put everything in an email, people will use email to communicate.
So I started posting internal communications in our Community. The only thing I use email for is to tell people about messages posted in the Community. Yes, I slip…like a on a diet…but I keep at it. My dream is that I will no longer have to send an email telling them that I posted something. Dare to dream, indeed.
Adoption takes persistence and discipline
Are you trying to get more people to adopt new collaboration tools in your organization? Do not under estimate the persistence and discipline it takes to create a new habit. It will take time for people to adopt something new.
Try this technique…the next time someone asks you, “Did you get my email?” you respond, “Email? I check email less and less. Did you post the message (or document or presentation) on (name your organization’s tool)? I spend most of my time communicating there these days!” Say it as if email was as old fashioned as a Sony Walkman.  Repeat. Again and again.
They won’t get it at first. But they will. Eventually.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Can your clients learn?

One of the main jobs in my work is to figure out ways to help clients use our software better…wait, no. That’s not right. One of my main jobs is to help clients improve sales results. OK, that’s better. That’s a more client-focused purpose. So, one of my main jobs is to help clients improve sales. It just so happens the way I help them is to teach how to use our software products to change the way they do business. I am constantly meeting with clients and developing training programs that are more effective. The idea is that if clients increase their sales as a result of using our products, they will be successful…and of course, we will be successful.

Do you educate your clients?

If not, you should. Better educated clients and are better clients. A recent case study by Bersin & Associates and showed that taking the time to educate clients has three main benefits; increased revenues, reduced support costs, and increased customer satisfaction.

How can you resist those benefits?

How can you not want to spend a ton of money educating clients to gain those benefits? You spend a ton of money on marketing to acquire new clients. You spend a ton of money developing new products. You spend a ton of money supporting your clients? And you spend no money educating your clients on how to properly use your products and services.

Why not?

The return is just as tangible. The results are just as meaningful. The satisfaction of helping others improve is addicting and inspiring. You need to figure out a way to educate your clients on the use of your products if you want to succeed. How can your clients improve their businesses, by using your products? How will your clients improve their lives, by using your products? Answer those questions. Teach them how. And they will keep coming back for more.