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.

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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.

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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.

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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.......

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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.

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