Monday, July 5, 2010

Consultation/Training Needs Analysis checklist

These are some thought-starter questions and by no means an exhaustive list...part of an exercise in my attempt to collate my scattered bits of writing...

I have found the questions below useful to ask when analyzing an organization's readiness/need for e-learning. I have jotted them down as they occurred to me and are in no ways very refined. These will need several iterations to reach some measure of perfection...

The Pre-Training/Consultation/Training Needs Analysis checklist could be something like this:

1. What is the nature of the business the organization is in?
2. What is the strength of the organization?
3. Is the organization globally spread?
4. Is there a stated training need, i.e., has clear areas of performance gaps been identified by the LoB manager/training department?
5. How is this “improvement in performance” perceived to impact the organization’s bottom line?
6. Can this training requirement be fulfilled by e-learning alone? If not, what could be the other possible solutions?
7. What is the organization’s current mode of training and how “successful” has it been? What is the gap that is being sought to be fulfilled.

If e-learning is a viable option, then it is important to find out:

1. Has the organization experienced e-learning before?
2. Will employees get sufficient support from the organization to take the courses?
3. Does the top management believe in or is willing to open up to the e-learning approach?

If there are no defined training needs but a general feeling from the top management that some improvements are required, the situation becomes tougher. This is when IDs have to become consultants and solution architects. This would require a deep dive into the processes, current training scenarios, the pain points that need to be bridged.

What makes analyzing difficult is the complicated issue of measuring ROI. It is not really possible to do a one-on-one mapping of a training program—be it e-learning, ILT, blended, etc.—with the performance. I’ll keep that as a new topic of discussion…

The learning solution must be effective enough within a constrained budget and time-line. We all know what we could do if we had more time, if the client opened his wallet a bit more, and all other ideal situations. However, our consultancy and design thinking skills comes to the forefront when we can deliver effective programs within the defined constraints.

This is where, as consultants, we have to blend project planning with solution thinking. I believe such challenges force us to think creatively and out of the box to come up with better time and cost effective solutions.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. What are some of the specific challenges you have faced? How did you overcome them? What were some of the creative measures adopted? What key questions are missing from the list?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Possible hindrances to user adoption of e-learning courses

Why do many organizations fail to enthuse their learners about their e-learning drive? What are some of the possible reasons for a low adoption rate? Is it only the e-learning design or lack thereof?

What organizations treading the path of e-learning or introducing anything new need to understand is that:

~The implementation is only the beginning
~The culture of the organization should actively support and drive post-implementation adoption
~Users/learners should perceive themselves as being appreciated and recognized for adapting to a new method

Applying these to the adoption of e-learning in an organization:

Mistakes that many organizations tend to make that get in the way of user adoption are:

1. Managers responsible for team productivity and performance define the learning objectives and ask a vendor to create an e-learning course failing to take the opinion of end users (what the managers perceive as difficulties may not be the real/root cause for productivity or quality failures)
2. Insist on "jazz" which if not aligned/required for the end learning can distract and confuse users (Refer to: Could animations hurt learning? from
3. Feel that transferring a ppt into flash is all about e-learning (putting "lipstick on a pig" effect takes place...Refer to: How to avoid putting lipstick on a pig from
4. Think of the implementation of an e-learning program as the end of their responsibility, a task to be ticked off on their list for that quarter (the course is out there, learners will go through and performance will improve)
5. Unwillingness to go the whole way and invest in a course that can be made truly effective; the incentive for an e-learning course, from an org's perspective, is often to cut down on training cost and the hassles of coordination rather than learning efficiency

All of these points lead to the creation of a training program and an atmosphere that is not conducive to adoption.

Mistakes that most vendors make that get in the way of user adoption are:

1. Accepting the brief from an organization's representatives and creating a course that they want but not necessarily what they need
2. Failing to do a thorough "Learning Needs Assessment" and thus barking up the wrong tree
3. Failing to carry out UAT because "implementation is not our problem; it's up to the organization to do what they want with the course"
4. Thinking that "jazz" can make up for sound instructional strategies and design
5. Not bothering to help the organization with suggestions on adoption (often, for an organization walking the path of e-learning may be a new measure with no set path to tread; a vendor/consultant/learning solutions designer, in such cases, need to suggest means of inspiring and driving user adoption...

Look out for some thoughts on helping organizations drive adoption in the next post...

Training, Instruction and Education...we need 'em all...

This was written almost a year ago...but re-posting it here...

I just finished reading Telling Ain't Training by Harold J. Stolovitch and Erica J. Keeps. I am going to quote them liberally in my response here. This book, incidentally, is a must read for all trainers, HR professionals and anyone remotely interested in understanding the nature of learning and in making a difference through training and instruction.

Purpose of Training:
1. To create a change
2. To make certain behaviors automatic
3. To enable the trainee/learner to apply as is to real-world situations
4. To enable learners to produce learned behavior with fewer errors, greater speed and under more demanding conditions
5. To focus ONLY on what is the performance outcome desired

Just being able to follow training guidelines and perform perfectly is not a necessary condition for survival; hence, the need for instruction.

Purpose of Instruction:
1. To help learners generalize beyond the specifics of what is taught
2. To apply learned behavior to similar but maybe not the exact same situation
3. To enable learners to act thoughtfully
4. To facilitate adaption of learning to each new situation

Purpose of Education:
This cannot be taught. This is an act the learner performs when s/he becomes capable--through experience, reflection, assessment--of pulling together all the strands and forming highly generalized patterns. This is directly linked to a learner's value system and outlook on life.

Happiness is what it takes to make learning happen...

I am in the process of transferring my currently scattered bits and pieces of writing from all over the web to my blog. Have been meaning to do so for a long time but somehow never got around to it...

Here's the first one...

I was going through the net when I came across this presentation on Happiness as a Business Model.

While not directly linked to training, it talks about Happiness being the prime factor that leads an individual's engagement with anything--be it business or learning. Creating this happiness as an experience should then be the primary goal if we are to hook learners or customers.

Slide 81 talks about the pillars of Happiness. These can be attributes of training programs as well and such training programs would be the ones most likely to lead to a change in behavior.

Can we create the experience of Flow? ...Refer to slide 129.

Classic question we typically ask as a part of the learner analysis exercise:
1. Who are the learners?
2. What are their demographics and psychographics?

What should we ask instead:

1. What do the learners have to do to be successful?
2. What will improve their status in their organization?
3. What will this training make people better at?
4. What are the learners passionate about?

One way to motivate learners and impact the bottom line of an organization through training is to show how each individual can succeed.

Looking forward to your thoughts on this...

Organizations as Communities — Part 2

Yesterday, in a Twitter conversation with Rachel Happe regarding the need for organizations to function as communities, I wrote the follow...