Archive for October 2012

I participated in a meeting yesterday in which the prospective client is wrestling with some knotty training issues.

They are a firm which provides health care, with employees who are on their feet during their work day, attending to patients.

Like most organizations today, they are concerned about the cost to the organization of taking people out of the production role for any length of time.  Traditional instructor-led training creates staffing issues on the floor, and appointment unavailability in the clinic.  Unlike many of our financial services clients, moving training to the desktop isn’t an obvious solution – to the extent that doctors and nurses HAVE desktops, they are not places at which these individuals spend a lot of time!

As electronic health records are implemented in health care organizations, more of these folks do have computers or tablets—and a need for training in their use!  So this organization is wondering – does it make sense to move some training to the tablet?

We think it does, but that there are some principles which need to guide this transition:

  1. Putting references online (just in time learning) is perhaps the most direct path to a quick win.  Healthcare professionals are already  accustomed to looking up drug interactions and dosage indications online – structuring organizational references so that they are easily accessible from the charting tablet will likely drive more effective usage.
  2. On-line training still takes learner time.  If it matters to the organization that training happens, it matters to schedule it at times learners can reasonably participate, and to compensate learners for that time.
  3. On-line training takes space. It’s unrealistic to expect learners to be able to concentrate on their training if they are sitting in  the break room.  Some learners may welcome the opportunity to do their training in the quiet and comfort of home. Others may have small children or other competing responsibilities at home and need to have access to a conference room or some other space at work. Counting on learners to use the space provided on trains or busses during their commute is a risky move—especially if most drive themselves to work!

Given these principles, we recommend implementing these strategies to hurdle training obstacles:

  1. Structure training as a process, over time, in small chunks.  A doc who has brought the tablet home after a full day in the office to catch up on her charting is not going to sit through a 1 hour e-learning module.  But she may be willing to knock off an activity which asks 5 minutes of her attention to an article or some other content, followed up by 10 minutes of answering questions about it.
  2. Keep the training as close to the task as possible. If you are training on use of an EHR, make sure there’s a “sandbox” version of the system for learners to experiment in (and that their login credentials work!)
  3. Recognize the training effort.   Use a system which makes tracking learner progress effortless, and make it clear to the learners that people who matter are noticing their efforts.

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In a recent issue of Chief Learning Officer Magazine, Mike Prokopeak reported on a recent poll by Lee Hecht Harrison.

An overwhelming 91 percent of workers said that job training and career development were among their top priorities…Six percent called it a “duty.” Just 3 percent said it is a hindrance.

The polling agency sees this as a shift – traditionally responses indicated that training was a hindrance to busy people getting their work done.

Kristen Leverone, SVP and Global Development Practice leader at Lee Hecht Harrison, suggests that a large number of employees are not getting the development they need, and that perhaps part of that issue is due to over-reliance on managers to manage the development of their direct reports.

I don’t know about you, but I see this phenomenon in the organizations I work with. Heck, in many places manager spots are vacant, with other managers sort of covering the responsibilities of a departed one. In this situation, the only thing that happens is the putting out of day-to-day fires. Identification of talent and setting up employees with optimal training opportunities is so far on the back burner that it might as well be off the stove.

Where there is a wider organizational commitment to development and training, and the systems to support it, this is less of a problem. Where the worker can see what training is required for the levels s/he aspires to, it’s possible for him/her to take the initiative in seeking out that training.

Who is accountable for talent management at your organization?  Are employees empowered to do some of it on their own initiative?

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Unavailable – In the office

We are unavailable today – Normally we all work from our respective globally distributed offices, but this week we’re having a company retreat in which we actually gather face-to-face. We’ll return to our virtual spaces next week.

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Last Wednesday I attended a KnowledgeAdvisors (KA)  users group meeting in San Jose.  I love KA events because the companies and people who purchase the KA Metrics that Matter analytic tools and services care enough about the effectiveness of their talent management or training efforts to pay good money to measure their effectiveness.  It is exhilarating to be in room full of people who have the courage to put their jobs on the line to demonstrate that the learning solutions they are delivering make a difference.  (It’s just like hanging out with our xPERT eCampus customers who are putting it out there designing and delivering their training to proficiency learning solutions.)

The presenters and in the ad hoc networking discussion at this meeting revealed that virtually every learning solution that produced Kirkpatrick Level 3 or better results is a structured blended learning process which

  • takes place over time (typically 3 months to a year.)
  • features required application and reinforcement activities
  • involves coaching by either SME’s or the learner’s manager that were also monitored and tracked
  • features accountability for reinforcing the learning on the part of the learner’s manager

When I asked a number of folks, “What are the biggest challenges to overcome in getting these kinds of great results?” they pointed to two major challenges:

  1. Securing the level of sponsor commitment and resources needed to do a training to proficiency process right without cutting corners. (primarily learner, SME & learner boss time).
  2. Effectively tracking and supporting all the players involved in the application and coaching activities of the blended process.

The people I talked to agree that, of the two challenges, the most difficult challenge is tracking and supporting all the moving parts and players in their blended solution.  While they agree that getting sponsors is tough, once they get  commitment, the real problem is maintaining quality execution as the programs scale.

To a person, they say that their company’s LMS wasn’t designed to support these types of robust blended learning processes.  The LMS is great for tracking the typical kinds of training stuff like classes, WBT’s and possibly virtual classroom activities, but doesn’t have the capability to support and track the more social, collaborative and coached kinds of learning activities that are central to the success of their programs.  In response, they have adopted very expensive and creative work-arounds involving a bunch of people running around behind the scene managing all the moving parts.  Unfortunately, several folks said that even with a lot of “elves” performing this tracking work manually, it is very hard to scale.

At Q2, our next-generation social learning system which enables our customers to successfully create, track and support these types of training-to-proficiency learning solutions.

If you would like to learn a little more, the links below will take you to several short videos that will give you a better idea of what I’m talking about.

Tour of formal learning features:
Tour of informal learning features:
Tour of performance support features:
Tour of On-boarding:

If you would like to contact me directly my email address is:

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Coaching for Success

The blogs are all atwitter (can we say that these days?) with discussion about coaching.  Who should receive coaching? Executives, or everybody?  Under what circumstances?

There are calls for a “coaching culture” in which everybody coaches everybody else, all  the time.

I admit, I’m attracted to that model.  Except that if one is not already part of a coaching culture, assigning the job to everyone to perform it all the time generally results in nobody doing it ever!

I teach karate.  In the dojo, there’s not a whole lot of formal instruction.  Yes, there’s a curriculum, but the lion’s share of what we do is guided practice.  When a more advanced student is struggling with a complex set of moves, I watch them carefully, trying to discern what the issue is.  Sometimes it’s a specific move, sometimes, it’s the transition between moves. Then I walk through the problem area with them, slowly, talking through the process at the same time.  For some, it’s the words that make the difference. For others, it’s the chance to watch someone do it slowly, for others, it’s slowing themselves down and really paying attention to how they will get from move A to move B, and for others, it’s the additional repetition which helps them finally get it. For most of us, it’s some mysterious combination of the above.

The process is not a whole lot different in the workplace, which is why apprenticeship remains the gold standard for on-the-job training.

How do we build this kind of individualized coaching into our training, in a world where the “coaches” are usually learner’s managers and have full plates of their own work to juggle along with the development of direct reports?

At Q2, we like to structure the initial training with practice activities on which learners receive coaching feedback.  And we REALLY like to have follow-up activities, timed for weeks or months after the initial training event, which formally require coaching feedback.  It’s a way to nudge people into thinking about coaching when otherwise life might intervene.


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