Thursday, December 27, 2012

Gear Up for Mobile Learning

Mobile is everywhere. We all know this intuitively as we walk down the street or at the mall or at the airport, and observe people looking down at their mobile devices. Mobile stats are staggering. For example, there are six billion (87% of the world’s population) mobile subscribers, 300,000 apps developed over the past three years, and 1.2 billion people access the web using their mobiles. In fact, IDC research shows that by the year 2015 mobile access to the web will be more popular than accessing the web with laptop computers. There are mobile conferences (including one dedicated to mobile learning), heads of mobile job titles at various companies, and a growing number of scholarly research articles on mobile learning.

[Read More]

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

E-Learning and Distance Education Trends

I believe there are five learning trends that are underway and will only continue to become more a part of how we deliver learning experiences to our ever changing mobile and remote workforces. I have summarized them below. These five trends are: Learning spaces, Doing Real Work, Video, Virtual Worlds, Peer-to-Peer Learning.

Learning Spaces

  • Allow learners to participate in a number of activities including class discussions, online group workspaces, and simulations or learning games (Moller, Fosher & Huett, 2008).
  • Can be use used with correspondence course, open universities, and through the internet/web (Moore & Kearsley, 2012).
  • In such a collaborative environment, robust learning objectives are necessary.
  • Teacher/trainer needs to be a facilitator and learners need to be curious and challenge resources provided and find own resources.

Doing Real Work

  • Learning needs to be brought closer to the work.
  • Can be use used with correspondence course, radio/TV, teleconference, and through the internet/web (Moore & Kearsley, 2012).
  • Instructional designers need to design so that real work gets done that helps adult learners solve their current real world work problems and projects.
  • Teacher/trainer becomes a coach. Learner must be willing to bring real projects and work problems into the learning environment.


  • Although research shows that learning outcomes are not different as a result of technology used, Donker (2010) gives us a glimpse of this in a study in which the use of video can have a positive impact on the acquisition of practical skills.
  • Video can be used in all five of the Moore & Kearsley (2012) generations.
  • Sound instructional design applies to developing video more than ever, since video is so time consuming and expensive to create.
  • Teacher/trainer could create videos and learners could take them asynchronously.

Virtual Worlds

  • Like learning spaces, virtual worlds allow learners to participate in a number of activities including class discussions, online group workspaces, and simulations or learning games (Moller, Fosher & Huett, 2008).
  • Can be use used with correspondence course, open universities, employee on-boarding, and through the internet/web (Moore & Kearsley, 2012).
  • In such a collaborative environment, robust learning objectives are necessary, so does an in depth understand of the technology.
  • Teacher/trainer needs to be a facilitator and can host live sessions, including office hours.

Peer-to-Peer Learning

  • Peer-to-peer learning occurs in learning spaces and allows learners to participate in a number of activities including class discussions, online group workspaces, and simulations or learning games (Moller, Fosher & Huett, 2008).
  • Peer-to-peer learning works best in open universities, teleconferencing, employee on-boarding, and on the web (Moore & Kearsley, 2012).
  • Instructional designers need to be aware of the adult learning principle that adults have experience and are willing to share their experience. Adults can learn from each other.
  • The teacher/trainer is a facilitator. The learner has a responsibility to share their experience and knowledge.


Donker, F. (2010) The comparative instructional effectiveness of print-based and video-based instructional materials for teaching practical skills at a distance. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 11(1), 96-116.

Moller, L., Foshay, W. R., & Huett, J. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web. TechTrends, 52(3), 70–75.

Moore, M. G., & Kearsley, G. (2012). Distance education: A systems view of online learning (3rd ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. ISBN: 9781111520991.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

On Performance Appraisals and Social Learning

Organizations spend billions of dollars each year on formal training programs, yet research shows that people learn how to do their jobs through social learning methods, including learning from others in peer-to-peer networks (Hunter, 2010), self-taught learning by observing others, and learning on the job (Hashim, 2008).  The costs to develop and deliver formal training programs are staggering, costing up to $70,000 per sales person, causing some companies to move to other learning methods (Blair & Sisakhti, 2007).  In spite of the growing body of evidence that suggests people learn most of what they need to know about their jobs through social learning methods, corporations, non-profits, and governments invest most of their budgets in formal learning, when it is apparent that most learning is informal (Cross, 2006).  As a consequence, organizations may be investing resources where they will do the least amount of good.  One way in which people can learn about their performance and how to improve it, is through the performance appraisal process.

Performance appraisals can be a useful learning tool for improving performance.   However, annual performance appraisals are often the type of learning experience that are too little too late;  and when they are tied to merit pay and annual raise processes, can overshadow their intent for people to learn about and improve their performance.  According to a research report by the Journal of Managerial Psychology (2010) evidence shows that the implementation of merit pay programs can suffer from a number of barriers related to the performance assessment and pay allocation that may impede its intended usefulness.  A key management expectation is measuring and managing performance, and perhaps the most used term in everyday life to reflect the progress of this journey and its results, according to Brudan (2010), is performance.  The problem is that performance is often subjective and viewed differently by different managers.

Both the subjective nature of performance appraisals and the use of those appraisals for administrative purposes (such as pay and promotion) can facilitate different forms of bias in performance appraisals which results in inaccurate ratings (Brudan, 2010).  Therein lies the problem that plagues performance evaluations; the bias and inaccurate ratings could be counterproductive to the learning process which should be a main objective of a performance appraisal.  By implementing social performance appraisal technology, employees can turn the performance appraisal into a tool for proactive learning from others that can be turned into actions for improving performance.

The vision for the social performance appraisal initiative is to create an environment in which people can seek feedback in the moment of need from anyone in the organization and use that feedback to adjust behavior as necessary in order to improve performance.  The mission is to empower individuals to seek the feedback they need, when they need it.  Major stakeholders should be directly involved including the chief executive officer (CEO) and the chief people officer (CPO), both of whom must take a personal stake in implementing a new way to help people in the organization learn, grow, and achieve organizational and individual goals.


Blair, D., & Sisakhti, R. (2007). Sales training: What makes it work? T + D, 61(8), 28-33,4. 

Brudan, A. (2010; 2010). Rediscovering performance management: Systems, learning and integration. Measuring Business Excellence, 14(1), 109-109-123. 

Cross, J.  2006.  Informal learning: Rediscovering the natural pathways that inspire innovation and performance.  Pfieffer.  San Francisco, CA.  p.  xiii.

Hashim, J. (2008). Competencies acquisition through self-directed learning among malaysian managers. Journal of Workplace Learning, 20(4), 259-271. doi:10.1108/13665620810871114

Hunter, C. P. (2010). Ways of learning in the pharmaceutical sales industry. Journal of Workplace Learning, 22(7), 451-462. doi:10.1108/13665621011071118

Perceptions of politics and fairness in merit pay. (2010). Journal of Managerial Psychology, 25(3), 229-251. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Improve E-Learning Effectiveness: Track Duration

I cannot tell you how many times I have run reports in a learning management system that have shown learners who took five minutes and twenty seconds to complete an e-learning course that should have taken twenty minutes to complete. Obviously they just clicked “next” over and over until they got to the end. I’ve done it. You’ve done it. We’ve all done it. We’ve done it because we were busy, because the content was not relevant, and because it was not interesting or engaging.

[Read More]

Performance Improvement Through Continuous Feedback Loops

Here is an abstract of a paper I wrote, Performance Improvement Through Continuous Feedback Loops: Implementing Social Performance Management, about how people can learn from continuous feedback loops. The full paper is located here.


Over the past few decades the speed of society and work life has rapidly increased and so has the importance of continuous learning for individuals and organizations (Tynjälä, 2008).  As the speed and demand for people to learn new skills increases formal learning on its own is not sufficient to keep pace (Baert, Witte, & Sterck, 2000).  Employees are choosing to learn, when they need it (Kyndt, Dochy, & Nijs, 2009) and organizations are beginning to discover that informal learning is more agile and less expensive than formal training programs (Boud & Garrick, 1999).  Learning from others at work constitutes a large part of the learning undertaken in organizations and formal systematic learning is becoming less important that informal and social learning methods (Boud & Middleton, 2003).  Enterprise 2.0 technologies provide an effective way to connect people in organizations so that collaboration and learning can occur on an ongoing basis and as part of people work (McNamee, Schoch, Oelschlaeger, Huskey, 2010).  One opportunity in which organizations can capitalize on the need to increase learning and performance is to implement social performance appraisals. A social performance appraisal process, using enterprise 2.0 technologies, can decentralize the appraisal process, enable employees to seek performance feedback when needed, and help employees learn from that feedback and change behaviors in a more real time manner.  This paper describes how a fast growing financial services company will implement an enterprise 2.0 social performance appraisal system to shift from a traditional annual performance appraisal process to one that empowers employees and helps people learn from feedback and improve performance.


Baert, H., De Witte, K. and Sterck, G. (2000), Vorming, training en opleiding. Handboek voor een kwaliteitsvol VTO-beleid in welzijnsvoorzieningen, (Instruction, Training and Education (ITE)). Handbook for a High Quality ITE-policy in Welfare Services), Garant, Leuven.

Boud, D. and Garrick, J. (1999), Understanding Learning at Work, Routledge, London.

Boud, D., & Middleton, H. (2003). Learning from others at work: Communities of practice and informal learning. Journal of Workplace Learning, 15(5), 194-202. Retrieved from

Kyndt, E., Dochy, F., & Nijs, H. (2009). Learning conditions for non-formal and informal workplace learning. Journal of Workplace Learning, 21(5), 369-383. doi:10.1108/13665620910966785

McNamee, R. C., Schoch, N., Oelschlaeger, P., & Huskey, L. (2010; 2010). Collaboration continuum: Cultural and technological enablers of knowledge exchange. Research Technology Management, 53(6), 54-54-57. Retrieved from

Tynjälä, P. (2008), Perspectives into learning at the workplace, Educational Research Review, 3(2), 130-54.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Learning Design Models Are Fine: But Are They Practical?

One of the most important things a learning experience (LX) designer can do is apply a sound, repeatable process to one’s designs. The problem I have with design processes is that they are often too vague and do not actually tell you what to do in the moment. For example, take a look at the A in ADDIE. Analyze. The books on ADDIE will generally tell you that before you begin creating a learning experience, you will want to figure out what is needed. Of course this makes sense, but what I really want to know is how to actually determine those needs.

[Read More]

Monday, December 10, 2012

Title of My Dissertation

I am working on my dissertation in pursuit of my PhD in Education. My specialty is training and performance improvement, which is rooted in human performance technology (HPT) and human performance improvement (HPI).

The topic of my dissertation is social learning in the workplace, specifically, I am studying how newly hires sales professionals learn their jobs through a social learning intervention and the relationship between participation in the social learning intervention and sales results. 

In idle moments, I sometimes tinker with the title of my dissertation. Here are a few iterations. I wonder what you think.
  • The Death of a Sales Trainer: An Action Research Study of Social Learning and Sales Performance
  • The Death of a Sales Trainer: An Action Research Study of Social Learning and Sales Performance in the Workplace
  • The Death of a Sales Trainer: A Study of Social Learning in the Workplace
  • The Death of a Sales Trainer: Enterprise Social Networks and On-Boarding New Sales Professionals
Well, there are a few more variations. By reading this short list, you can likely tell which part of the title, I am married to. In any case, if you should happen upon this blog post and have read this far, I would love to know what you think of the title. Any other ideas? Comment below, if you do.

How to Address Learning Wants

Like many learning and development professionals, I have received numerous and continuous requests throughout my career for training on topics that, with just a little motivation and creativity, people could learn on their own. Without being too scientific about it, the most popular among these requests seem to be Microsoft Excel, conflict resolution, time management, business writing, and general tips for how to be more efficient on a computer.

[Read More]

Book Review: Leaving ADDIE for SAM

Many of my recent blog posts have been about learning experience (LX) design and how our designs can be improved through the proper application of action steps that keep the process as simple as possible. Some of my posts have even criticized existing, popular design models, like ADDIE. So, when I saw Leaving ADDIE for SAM: An Agile Model for Developing the Best Learning Experiences, by Michael Allen and Richard Sites, I knew I had to read it. I am always looking for ways to improve how I deliver learning experiences to my organization and reading books like this keeps my skills fresh. Here are a few things I took away from the book that I think you will find valuable.

[Read More]

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

E-Learning Designs: Don’t Underestimate Learner Overload

I am at the beginning of a long-term project to create an internal certification program for a specific job type in my organization. The method for the learning content will be primarily asynchronous, so that people can go through the program at their own pace. Moreover, a self-paced e-learning program has the added benefit of being a resource that can be referred to over and over again.

The Great Debate

One of the challenges that plagues projects like this is deciding how much of a topic to cover at any given point during the program, especially when it comes to complex topics that you know should be covered in small pieces over time. Our debates are typical, “We need to cover this topic now or learners will not understand what comes next.” “I know,” goes the reply. “But if we cover it now, it will just overload people.” And so the debate goes.
[Read More]

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Learning Design: When You Just Don’t Know Where to Start

ADDIE is good, SAM is good. DMADDI is good. AGILE is good. Rapid instructional design is good. But sometimes a course design project can be overwhelming, and these design models are not specific enough to answer the question, “OK, so what do I write on the page right now?”

In this blog post, I’d like to share some steps to take to simplify the instructional design process so you can get started right away and continue making progress until you are done.

[Read More]

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Employee Development Comes in Many Shapes and Sizes

There has been much written about employee development lately. All of these articles say two things that I find important. First, employees value it when an organization provides opportunities to develop skills beyond just for the job they are doing today. Employees express this value by being more engaged in their work, are more likely to perform better in their jobs, and stay longer with the organization. Second, the employee development opportunities must by well-aligned between what employees value and what the organization needs.

[Read More]

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Book Review: The Collaborative Organization

The Collaborative Organization: A Strategic Guide to Solving Your Internal Business Challenges Using Emerging Social & Collaborative Tools is a practical guide to justifying, planning, and implementing collaboration tools in your organizations. There are four parts in the book that I found the most valuable. First, early on in the book, Jacob Morgan presents a list of solutions to organization problems that an enterprise collaboration system could help solve. Some of these include:

  • Knowledge Sharing and Transfer
  • Alignment
  • Subject-matter Expertise
  • Thinking Outline

...just to name a few.

This discussion in the book gets you thinking about the problems in your own organization that you want to solve.

Second, it was a good reminder in the book to read about how to assemble a project team and what roles should be included in that team.

The next sections I found most valuable were the two sections on anticipating risks and resistance. These are easy to overlook (or just plain ignore), but thinking about who will resist, why they will resist, and how they will resist, helps one think through and anticipate the resistance so one can be prepared to overcome it.

Disliked About The Book

Though I found this to be an easy read and a practical guide that would definitely be valuable to anyone looking to justify, select, implement, and sustain an enterprise collaboration system, I found the book to be a little light-weight. Specifically I mean that the book was not rooted in research or evidence. There is no bibliography or reference list in the book. So I am left to assume everything is based on the author's experience and personal opinion. Of course, this is the nerd in me talking.

The practitioner in me (I am a director of training and have implemented many enterprise systems in the real world) thinks the book is something I could pick up and use. The case studies were useful and nicely balance the lack of references to research and evidence.

Overall: Practical, Useful

The Collaborative Organization is a very good book. One can tell the author has helped clients succeed with their implementations, which is what really matters isn't it? I recommend this book to anyone who is looking to do anything from come up with a justification for an enterprise collaboration solution to someone who wants to do a successful implementation.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Problem with Employee On-boarding: It's Too Formal

Organizations spend billions of dollars each year on formal training programs, yet research shows that people learn how to do their jobs through informal learning methods, including learning from others in peer-to-peer networks (Hunter, 2010), self-taught learning by observing others, and learning on the job (Hashim, 2008). The costs to develop and deliver formal training programs are staggering, costing up to $70,000 per sales person, causing some companies to move to other learning methods (Blair & Sisakhti, 2007).  In spite of the growing body of evidence that suggests people learn most of what they need to know about their jobs through informal learning methods, corporations, non-profits, and governments invest most of their budgets in formal learning, when it is apparent that most learning is informal (Cross, 2006). As a consequence, organizations may be investing resources where they will do the least amount of good.

If it is true, as evidence in the literature suggests, that people learn through informal learning, the study seeks to address the problem that organizations may be mis-allocating training and performance improvement resources. My study will further seek to address the question, “How can organizations leverage a social theory of learning to design, implement, and evaluate a community of practice using an enterprise social network to on-board new employees?” Moreover, the results of my study could inform performance improvement professionals how to allocate more resources to an informal intervention as an effective means of improving sales results.


Blair, D., & Sisakhti, R. (2007). Sales tranining: What makes it work? Here's a hint: Money and metrics play their part. T+D, 61(8), 28-33. 

Hashim, J. (2008). Competencies acquisition through self-directed learning among malaysian managers. Journal of Workplace Learning, 20(4), 259-259-271. doi:10.1108/13665620810871114

Hunter, C. P. (2010). Ways of learning in the pharmaceutical sales industry. Journal of Workplace Learning, 22(7), 451-451-462. doi:10.1108/13665621011071118

Friday, October 19, 2012

On-boarding and Socializing New Employees on an Enterprise Social Network

A little bit every day, I work on my dissertation. Essentially, I am conducting original research on how to on-board and socialize new employees into an organization using informal learning methods on an enterprise social network, like Yammer. I am specifically studying the relationship between participation on an enterprise social network and job performance.

Occasionally, I will post thoughts, ideas, findings and struggles as a proceed through the the research and writing. For now, here is my proposed dissertation title and a brief summary of my topic.

The Death of a Sales Trainer: A Study of Enterprise Social Networks and Social Learning in the Workplace

The Topic:
The research topic is a mixed methods study of informal learning in the workplace, specifically how newcomer sales person participation in a community of practice, supported by enterprise social network technology, helps newcomers learn job skills and the impact that the participation in the community of practice has on sales results. In the context of human performance technology (HPT), understanding newcomer participation in a community of practice, supported by an enterprise social network, could help organizations select and design an emerging informal intervention (Community of Practice on an Enterprise Social Network), implement the intervention, and evaluate the results in terms of job performance.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Three Ideas for New Learning Experience (LX) Designers

Starting out in any new job is a challenge, but new instructional designers and learning experience (LX) designers have a particular challenge in that they must learn their own role and the tools associated with their job, and they must learn about the business they serve and the learners for which they will design training and learning experiences.  It is quite a challenge. In thinking about what advice could be valuable for new LX designers, I decided to turn to my personal learning network. I posed a few questions on Twitter and in Linkedin groups. I wanted to find perspectives from a variety of professionals who do this job every day. Surely they would have great advice for new designers.

[Read More]

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Three Ways to Build an Employee Development Culture

There is no doubt that in order to attract and retain a highly talented employee pool, organizations need to think seriously about branding themselves as development cultures. At the very least, organizations need to structure themselves as a place in which employees can learn new skills and have opportunities to continuously grow careers. The problem with this perspective is that it assumes that the organization needs to provide all of these opportunities.

When we think of organizations that have strong development cultures, we primarily think about two things. First is that there must be good and extensive training programs. Second, we think of challenging work assignments and the ability for people to move frequently between assignments, projects, and teams. But development is not all about what the organization provides an employee.
I believe the employee should take some responsibility for personal and professional development. Here’s how.......

[Read More]

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

New to Managing the Learning Function? Start Here

So, you are new to your role as a training manager or VP/director of learning and development, and you want to know how you can make a valuable impact early in your tenure. As with any new role, we want to do our best. However, the question is, “If I want to make a measurable impact on the business, where do I start?”

There are five actions you should take very early in your knew role as a learning leader that will help you make an immediate impact, and also help you grow in your role over the long-term.

[Read More]

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Role of the Learning Function in an Acquisition

This Fast Company article, How to Survive an Acquisition and Live Profitably Ever After, reminded me of an experience I had when a company I worked for bought two fairly large competitors. It was an enormous opportunity for the business, and as the director of learning and development, I wanted to make sure the learning function contributed to the success of the newly acquired people. We thought we could accomplish this by taking the time to socialize these new people into the culture of our organization.

[Read More]

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Practical Ways Social Learning Can Enhance Formal Learning

In a recent Chief Learning Officer Magazine article, How to Create a Dynamic Social Learning Space, Julian Stodd makes the point that social learning is not a replacement for formal learning, but a “supplement” to it. In a practical sense, this is true, and the good news is that learning experience (LX) designers do not have to think about how to replace formal learning with informal or social methods. However, LX designers do need to think about how existing formal learning can be augmented by social learning.

Social learning is happening in our organizations already. People talk, ask questions, look up ideas on Google or Twitter. But that type of social learning is entirely led by the individual. LX designers should not venture into the realm of individual-led social learning. People will decide for themselves what they want to learn, and you have nothing to say about it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

On-boarding New Employees with Jam Sessions

It is timely that I found this article in Fast Company about jam sessions because I am planning a new hire on-boarding program for senior managers in which I am designing a jam session called “Product/Client Jam” to educate new managers on our products and client segments. According to the article, a jam session is defined as an experience that is “designed to foster novel insights and accelerated learning,” not to mention they help people make “accidental discoveries.”

[Read More]

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Subject-Matter Experts and Keeping Up with the Demand for Learning

In the quest to run efficient training departments, learning and development professionals wrestle with the conflict between staffing resources and keeping up with the demand for learning services. There are rarely enough resources to support all of the learning projects that most businesses require from the training department. To help solve this problem, learning organizations are moving towards a model in which there is a small core team that is surrounded by the use of outsourcing, learning technologies, and subject-matter experts (SMEs) to design and deliver training.

[Read More]

Friday, August 31, 2012

You Can Manage Up

Throughout the past few months, many of our leaders have read the Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter. We even did a 30-Day Challenge using the resources from the book web site to motivate and encourage leaders to not just read the book, but to take action on some of the things they learned. At the end of the 30-Day Challenge, several managers got together to discuss what they tried and how it turned out

Label Your Opinions

There is a concept in the book that leaders should label their opinions as hard or soft. For example, when a leader contributes to a meeting with an opinion, she should say, "That is a soft opinion," to indicate to the group, that it is OK to ignore the bosses opinion and come up with other ideas. On the other hand, if a leader feels strongly, she should say so. "That is a hard opinion." By labeling opinions, people will know where they stand with a leader.

One of the managers in our 30-Day Challenge started using this technique with his boss. In discussions with his boss this manager would say, "Is that a hard opinion or a soft opinion?"


Now guess what his boss does? That's right. She now labels her opinions. The manager knows much better where he stands with his boss. That is multiplying genius.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Admit it: You Care (Only) About What You Measure

This HBR Blog Network post about measuring performance reminded me of countless conversations I have had with managers about the stated importance of quality and the actual importance of productivity. It is a classic organizational screw up to say, “Quality is our number 1 priority,” but then scream bloody murder the very second productivity falls below expectations. In an instant, there goes the focus on quality, right out the window. Once you do this, none of your people will ever again (almost ever) believe in your focus on quality. You have just destroyed any future attempt to focus on quality. People will no longer listen to you because now they know that productivity is all that matters.

[Read More]

Monday, August 27, 2012

Note-taking and E-learning: Lessons for Learners and LX Designers

With all the talk of creating short, consumable, e-learning, most are long, boring, and difficult to retain. Think about it: When was the last time you took a self-paced e-learning course that was so long, you wanted to give up out of shear frustration? As you took the course, the impending final assessment loomed, and all you could think about was that there was no way you were going to pass the final quiz because you just knew that you could not possibly retain everything in one sitting. The last thing you wanted to do was go back through the module and retake the assessment, which would almost certainly have a new set of questions.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What Learning Designers Can Learn from Agile Software Designers

I have always been fascinated with software design, even as a young kid learning BASIC on a Radio Shack TRS-80, I wanted to make that computer do stuff. The problem was that when the sun came up, I wanted to go fishing or skateboarding or play baseball with my friends. Although part of me always enjoyed it, I began to see software design like golf or windsurfing, which is to say, one has to spend a lot of time to get good enough for it to be enjoyable.

[Read More]

Monday, August 13, 2012

How to Use Enterprise Social Networks to On-Board New Employees

On-boarding new employees is not just about new hire training. In fact, the job training may be the least important part of on-boarding new people. As more evidence piles up linking employee engagement to performance, organizations need to take the entire on-boarding process much more seriously.
One important way organizations can do this is to help new people “adjust” or “socialize” into the new organization. Organizational socialization goes back a long way, and includes fundamentals like helping new employees with role clarity, confidence in their ability to perform the work, social acceptance, and knowledge of how to navigate the organization. Traditional new hire training programs do not address these issues of organizational socialization.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Does Your Training ROI Actually Destroy Shareholder Value?

There is no doubt that the return on investment (ROI) of training is a controversial issue. There is no shortage of books, articles, blog posts, and Twitter chats filled with reasons why determining training ROI is essential and why it is a complete waste of time. For those who do not believe in training ROI, the argument goes something like this: “No one tried to determine the ROI of buying pencils or of email. We bought them because we know they are necessary. There is not ROI on that.” For those who believe in training ROI, the argument goes something like this: “While it is true we do not calculate the ROI of pencils, if an organization is going to spend $500,000 on leadership develop this year, we better have a positive expectation on that investment.”
[Read More...]

Monday, July 23, 2012

They Might Not Need Training, Just a Little Support

One of the biggest challenges that learning professionals face is overcoming the reality that people forget much of what they learn from a training class very quickly after it is over. This is horrifying considering we spend so much effort creating quality training programs. The good news is that this “forgetting” can be overcome if we implement evidence-based interventions, and performance support is an effective intervention that can help people remember what they learned, when they need it, in order to perform.

In our book, Mitchell Levy and I dedicate an entire section to performance support because it extends formal, event-based learning interventions into the job itself and is a method for bringing learning to the work, where it is most needed.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Want People to Learn? Get Them to Collaborate

Of all the sections in my book on critical skills learning professionals need to know now, “enterprise 2.0 collaboration” seems like the most unlikely “critical” skill. However, as the speed of business keeps increasing, learning pros are having to adjust their goals, and the skills they need to fulfill them.
Where once L&D people deliveredlearning to employees on a schedule, today, they have to focus on enabling people to work together so they can learn from one another, when they need to. That’s where enterprise 2.0 tools come in. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Poll: What Is Your Most Important Source of Learning?

As I conduct research on social learning, I repeatedly find statements that claim most of what we learn, we learn informally and/or socially. These terms can mean a lot of things. Informal learning could mean reading a book. Social learning could mean observing someone else walking into the street without looking and getting hit by a bus...causing you to learn, "Don't walk in front of a bus."

I also come across statements that say that even though people learn socially, organizations spend most of their budgets on formal training. From professional experience, I know this to be true.

However, I want to just take a temperature check with a non-scientific poll on Linkedin. The question: What is your most important source of learning? Please take the poll, and if one of the choices does not suit you, please comment below in the poll and list your most important source of learning.

Thank you for participating.

Three Simple Ways to Get Started in Social Learning

Social learning a lot of us hear a lot these days — we know, vaguely, what it is, and we know that it’s happening, whether we like it or not, every day. And yet the vast majority of our money and energy goes toward formal training programs, not these social, off-the-cuff initiatives. Why is that?
For one, formal training is what we know best, so it makes sense that learning and development professionals gravitate toward it. 
[Read More]

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Call for a new Job Title - Learning Experience Designer (LxD)

Traditional learning theory is based on the premise that learning is an individual pursuit reliant on a top-down, teacher-centered approach that requires proper instructional design. This is becoming a less important model for how people learn, as we better understand social learning. Furthermore, as enterprise 2.0 technologies make it easier for people in organizations to connect with each other, it is also easier to take advantage of a social theory of learning whereby people learn through participation with each other in the pursuit of a specific practice. This is the foundation of Wenger's work on Communities of Practice.

If it is true that learning is less reliant on a top-down, teacher-centered approach that requires proper instructional design, why do we need instructional designers? 

We don't.

What we need are learning experience designers. Just as we have user experience designers (UX or UXD), I am making a call to action and an attempt to coin a new job title and abbreviation: Learning Experience Design (LX or LXD). 

After all, shouldn't we be designing activities and experiences in which people can learn something valuable and worthwhile? Shouldn't we treat people like adults and allow them to have more say in what they learn and how they learn it? Our job is not to instruct. Instruction is something against which people can rebel. Our job is to enable learning, something adults choose to do on their own. 

User experience design is not about forcing a design on people any more than learning experience design is about forcing instruction on people. User experience design is about designing things for how people naturally work. Learning experience design is about designing learning for how people naturally learn...through participation in the pursuit of a specific practice. you want to be an instructional designer or a learning experience designer (LX)? Do you think the abbreviation for the craft should be LX or LXD? Comment below.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Instructional Designers: Think Like a Software Developer

Lately, I have been a little obsessed with speeding up the instructional design process. As I am sure many of you have also experienced, I have grown frustrated with the gap between how much learning is needed and how much learning can be designed using existing methods and resources.

Though I do not expect (nor will I seek) additional resources, I have been doing a lot of reading on software development methods. No, let's not go crazy here. I have not been reading about how to write code, but about development methods. My goal is to learn from what good software developers do...and that is to ship code fast. I owe a lot of this thinking to Theresa Welbourne's work on FAST HRM in which she has argued that HR professionals need to learn from AGILE programming to speed up development cycles of anything from launching a new compensation program to a new HRIS system. She has even conducted research that shows evidence that business partners in organizations prefer speed to accuracy. 

Of course, speed *and* accuracy is preferred, but that is not always possible. So if a choice must be made, speed should be chosen. And if you think about how software is released, bugs are a part of the game. No software is perfect. It comes with bugs. But that's OK, because talented software developers, using sound processes, listen to user feedback and update the software to fix bugs and enhance features. 

So I ask myself, why can't instructional designers think like software developers when they design and release new training courses? After thinking about this question, I start thinking, "how" can an instructional designer think like a software developer?  What methods that software developers use can instructional designers use to design, develop, and implement learning designs? 

In my research, I am finding methods that could be useful, and I am drafting a more complete blog post on the subject. I think this could be a great topic for a conference session at Learning 3.0 and ASTD Techknowledge. I expect to write this post in early June, so stay tuned. 

Comment below if you think there is a need to speed up the instructional design process.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Five Must-Have Skills for Learning Professionals: An Update

The first post I wrote here was called Critical Skills Learning Professionals Need Now, back in October 2010. Since then, I’ve been on a quest to help people in the learning and development industry continuously learn new skills and stay current. Fueled by a personal quest to avoid professional stagnation and … 
[Read more]

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Three Great Takeaways from ASTD 2012

When I registered for the ASTD International Conference & Expo 2012 over a month ago, I planned to write a recap post for two reasons: First, it’s a chance to share what I learned so people who couldn’t attend might learn something from my experience. And second, writing about what I learned...
[Read more ]

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Four Ways to Rethink Employee On-Boarding

Now more than ever, it’s critical for learning professionals to address the incredible costs of high employee turnover. The trends are well known: People are staying at jobs for less time than they use to. And that’s leading to extra costs, lost revenue, and generally, a tough environment for organizations to just stay afloat, much less thrive amidst this steady turnover and employee disengagement.

[Read More]

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Save Training for Employees Who Truly Need It

Too often, organizations settle for one-size-fits-all training. They simply don’t have the time or money to create unique, customized programs for each learner. But the consequence is that they always seem to have a few people in each training session who really don’t need to be there.

[Read More]

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Conference Notes from #ASTD2012

In one week, I will be attending the ASTD International Conference & Expo in Denver, CO. I am looking forward to seeing old friends, meeting new ones, and learning a ton.

As I often do, I will take notes using Evernote to capture pictures with friends, cool ideas, images, and just plain-old fun stuff. And, as I have done in the past, I will share this note here so you can all enjoy.

If you have questions for me, or if you would like me to find out anything at the conference, send me a tweet and use the hashtag #astd2012.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

How to Empower Employees by Delegating Responsibility and Freedom

Managers often talk about “empowering” employees. Books are written about it. Studies show it improves productivity, quality, employee satisfaction, and customer service. We all know it’s important, but the fact of the matter is that most of the time, when managers try to empower their employees, they miss out on a crucial component....

[Read More]

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Three Ways to Promote Continuous Learning

Last week I participated in an all-employee meeting during which I shared our philosophy about creating a culture of continuous learning. I was frank when I told everyone that the “training department” will not be able to provide everything people need to be great at their jobs and that each one of us need to make a commitment to our own development......

[Read More]

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Five Reasons I’m Sending My Entire Team to Our Industry’s Biggest Conference

It isn’t often that an industry conference comes along at just a time when an organization can send its entire team. But this year, the stars aligned, and we were fortunate enough to be able to send our entire learning and development team to Denver for the ASTD International Conference and Expo.
Now, it’s certainly an expensive proposition to send people off for these kinds of conferences. And, yes, there’s a chance our team will focus more on having fun than on working. But that’s OK, because I know the benefits of the trip outweigh the costs. This year’s conference includes a keynote speech from Jim Collins and several other talks on innovative ideas. Add to that the additional insight recorded through the back-channel on Twitter and the opportunities to network with industry pros, and it’s suddenly an easy decision. In fact, I’ve got five main reasons I’ve decided to send my entire tea mto our industry’s biggest conference:

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

How Can the Mortgage Industry Regain Credibility? For Starters, a Rethink of Training and Learning

While the economy and the stock markets have crawled back to life, the sectors that drove the economy into the worst recession in decades —  mortgage and banking — are still grappling with a tough issue in the aftermath: How to restore the public credibility and trust that the revelations of financial crisis utterly destroyed.

That’s a big problem to chew on in a single blog post, but as someone who works at Allonhill, a mortgage risk management and loan due diligence firm, I’ve got a close-up view of the problem. And since my job is to help people in the mortgage business to learn to succeed at their jobs, I think a big part of the answer revolves around rethinking how banks and lending institutions train — and re-train — their employees and how they enforce that learning.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Why ‘Gamify’-ing Employee On-Boarding Makes Tons of Sense

Most new-hire training looks pretty much the same. A new worker joins the organization, and for the first week we put them in a training class, have them fill out piles of paperwork, and walk them through who’s who at the company and teach them to do their jobs. Different jobs require different levels of new-hire training, but the formula is essentially the same.
[Read More]

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Training Managers? Teach Leaders It’s Not About Them Anymore

Over the past three weeks, we’ve been interviewing people in my office for leadership positions on our internal teams. The process has triggered memories of the first time I applied for a supervisory position. I’d been on the job for six months, and I thought I was on the fast track. But during my interview, the questions turned to how people around me were performing. I had no idea what to say.
[Read More]

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

How to Turn Your Resident Experts Into Star Trainers

One of the great debates within the learning professional circle right now is whether subject-matters experts (SMEs) can be used as effective trainers. SMEs, which can come from anywhere — including within your very-own organization — are just people who happen to have an area of special expertise, whether that’s sales, using the computer system, or making coffee. In my experience, I’ve found that most trainers tend to believe that since these so-called “SME”s lack formal teaching skills of a trainer, they can’t do the job as effectively.
[Read More]

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Acknowledging Inspirational Tweeps in My New Book

I have a book coming out soon called Critical Skills All Learning Professionals Can Put to Use Today. It is my first book, so of course, I am excited about it. I want to share a few acknowledgments that I include in the book in a series of blog posts. It is just a way of showing gratitude to those who helped or otherwise inspired me to write the book. Here is one acknowledgement to the group on #lrnchat.

Excerpt from the Acknowledgement Page:

Finally, to my friends on #lrnchat. There are quite simply too many people to thank from this group, but I must say that my personal learning network (PLN), and friends on #lrnchat, have been an enormous inspiration to me and my attitudes toward how we need to steer the direction of our industry. Through our weekly #lrnchat Tweet chats, I am able to keep up with current
and future thinking in our fi eld and make some good friends to boot. If you are a learning professional and have not participated in #lrnchat, you are missing a golden opportunity to tap into the minds of a talented bunch of learning professionals, and also meet some very impressive people.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Seven Training Sins to Avoid at all Costs

Almost all of us have been stuck in a training class at some point with a bad trainer. So, to help spare the world from these mind-meltingly lame training sessions, I’ve compiled a list of the seven worst habits bad trainers exhibit — many of which were suggested over Twitter — and offered simple and practical remedies.

[Read More]

Cool Project! The Kindle Fire and Leadership Development

I am working on a project targeted at managers to improve their people management skills. One idea we are kicking around is to do a book club, but instead of physical books, we would use e-books or digital books of some kind. There are several options: Soundview Executive Book Summaries, Books 24x7 from Skillsoft, and handout to each manager a Kindle Fire or iPad and load books on those from time to time.

Each of these options has its pros and cons, but over time, the least expense option is the Kindle Fire option. If you consider the cost of a Kindle Fire is $199, and Kindle books costs (eyeball average) between $10 and $15, if we bought each of our managers a Kindle and then bought them 4 books per year that would be a first year cost of $260 and an annual cost after that of $40-$60 per manager. I can handle that.

And if you were a manager, what would be cooler: 1) receive a Kindle Fire or 2) receive a link to a web site and the name of a book to read. You tell me. Comment below.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Want to Reap the Benefits of Training? Get Everyone in Your Organization Involved in Teaching

Here’s a great bit of insight I came across recently on Steve Wheeler’s blog:  ”We Learn by Teaching.” Wheeler, a professor of learning technology at Plymouth University, reminded me of similar advice my father gave me about reading when I went off to college. His technique is a three-step process:

[Read More]

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

When (and Why) Training is Not the Best Solution

Training professionals often make two mistakes without ever realizing it. By simply acknowledging them, we can begin to improve performance quickly and easily — and without any new training programs.

The first mistake is that most trainers typically operate in reactive mode. If the VP of operations says his managers need to learn how to run meetings, we go out and find, or design, a training solution that can get the managers up to speed. We’re given a request and we try to fulfill it.
[Read More]

Friday, February 3, 2012

How to Run a Lean & Mean Learning Organization: 4 Strategies for Long-Term Success (and Profit)

.....So I went to my CEO and explained that in order to cover everything on our list of training issues, I’d really need two designers, five trainers and a manager — and that’s assuming the list doesn’t keep growing. But even if we were able to do a bang-up job with that team, it’s entirely likely that a year or two from now some manager would look at how much he or she was spending on training professionals and say, “Are you kidding me? I’m not spending that much on training!”
[Read More]

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How Training Can Help Adoption of New Social Apps At Work

Last month, our company launched a new performance-management system calledRypple, a socially driven performance-appraisal system that helps employees get continuous feedback from their bosses, and keeps track of where they stand. My company has been very excited about its potential to improve employees’ engagement levels and performance. Plus, it’s a fun program.
When we launched the program, we established training plans to help explain what the program was, how it worked, and why we’d chosen it. So far, the response has been positive. And yet we’re still having some trouble getting all our employees to actually use it.
[Read More]

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Art of the 30 Minute Meeting

I thought we all agreed that most of the meetings we attend are a waste of time. We discussed it in the halls, we sent IMs and emails to each other, and we snickered while the boss rambled on for 20 minutes about how hard he’d been working on that critical, can’t fail, top-priority, all-hands-on-deck, it-is-what-it-is, drop-everything-else-you’re-doing-to-help-him-impress-the-VP project that no one seems to understand.

I thought for sure we’d all agreed. But yet we keep doing it: scheduling one-hour meetings that could easily be completed in 20 minutes or less.
[Read More]

Monday, January 9, 2012

Give Your Employees More, and Get More Back

According to author Peter Drucker, a responsible worker is a person who “not only is accountable to specific results, but also has the authority to do whatever is necessary to produce these results, and finally, is committed to these results as a personal achievement.” Many managers get the first part of this equation right. They assign tasks to workers and expect them to achieve predetermined results. But, frequently, that’s all. Often, managers don’t really provide their employees with enough accountability to do great work. 
[Read more]

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Review of 2011 and the Future of Workplace Learning

Yogi Berra once said, “Predictions are hard, especially when they are about the future.” So instead of writing a 2012 prediction post, I decided to review the topics I wrote about in 2011 and rediscover what topics really resonated with people.
[Read More]