The easiest tweak you can make to your training and orientation programs…

stocking-up-on-classroom-candy
How many of you put out candy for training attendees? I know we do at the day job…in fact, the photo above is a shot of my cart on a recent stock-up trip at my local Sam’s Club. Even when the cost of doing business continues to soar, this is an expense that we have curbed, yet kept.

Why?

Because people like candy.

Before the workplace health and wellness fans start to worry, we also provide fresh fruit and some considerably less-exciting snacks like granola bars and trail mix.

Until I attended a recent conference, however, I didn’t give much thought to the bowl of candy that graces our training tables. Then, a tiny little tweak transformed a simple snack into a learning tool.

I promise you now, whether you are a long-time phase(two)learning follower or this is the first post you’ve read, this is worth the price of admission. Which, frankly, is free…so what a deal, amiright?

Check this out:

tech-tip-on-candy-wrapper

Whoa! Mind. Blown.

How simple is this? All that is needed is candy or snacks, a package of printable adhesive labels and some tips or ideas to share to your participants.

Granted, I’m sure I’m not the first person to “discover” this little nugget, but in over 20 years of teaching and facilitation, somehow it’s new to me. Regardless, it got me thinking….how else could we use this easy tip in training or Orientation programs? Here are 8 beyond-simple ideas:

  1. Provide the URL for your organization’s intranet, wiki, or other learning sites.
  2. Share the Twitter handles for influential, must-follow people in your organization or industry.
  3. Post can’t-miss dates – like when your benefit paperwork is due.
  4. Distribute your company’s IT Help Desk email or phone number.
  5. Share interesting trivia about your organization’s history. (Bonus: Have participants piece together the trivia into a timeline!)
  6. Introduce your company’s mission or purpose statement. 
  7. Solicit simple, one-sentence quotes from other employees – tips on how to be successful at your organization
  8. Share “Fact or Fiction” statements about your industry, organization, products/services, etc. Have participants stick (literally!) the wrappers under one of two columns on a flip chart (“fact” or “fiction”). As the candy is consumed throughout training, the columns will grow. On the last day of training, see how accurate everyone’s guesses are!

Honestly, I could probably come up with a dozen other ideas…there are so many creative possibilities for this one!

Your turn: Have you used this type of interactive element in your training sessions? What tips have you communicated? And most importantly, what is the must-have candy in YOUR candy bowl?

When is “really good” really, “good enough” for training?

forrest-gump-production

Unless you’ve recently emerged from hibernating in a cave for the past two decades, you’ve probably seen the movie Forrest Gump. Come on, even if you’re not a big fan of movies, you’ve still probably seen that movie. It has gone down in movie history as a classic; Forrest’s extraordinary life story told by Forrest himself, in one of Tom Hanks’ Oscar-winning performances.

This movie brought in an estimated $55,000,000 at the box office, garnered numerous awards, including 6 Academy Awards. Not too shabby.

If you go to the IMDb page for this movie, you will see that there are literally hundreds of names listed for cast and crew…hundreds. So many people had their eyes, ears, hands, heart and soul poured into the creation of this film, and guess what?

It’s not perfect.

The other day, Forrest Gump was on T.V. Right in the middle of the scene where Forrest visits Jenny’s apartment (after he finishes telling his story to people at the bus stop), a little goof caught my eye:

iron-mistake
In one shot, the iron is up – in the next shot, the iron is down. Hmmm. So, I was curious – was this the only mistake in the movie? Turns out, there are websites dedicated to pointing out movie flaws and bloopers (these folks must have a lot of time on their hands). And guess what? There were actually a lot of factual errors and continuity issues like the iron. Again, it’s not perfect. But we still love that movie. No one took away the Oscars because of these flaws.

So, if a film that had a team of hundreds, one that inevitably went down as one of the greatest films of all time, has a few errors…why are we so hard on ourselves?

We live in a world of flaws. We work in organizations full of flaws. Yes, it’s our job to disseminate workflows, processes and procedures to enable employees to learn, develop and succeed. But it will never be perfect. Never. Furthermore, it’s likely that you don’t have hundreds of people on your team to scrutinize every detail. Many of us are part of a small team, or possibly even a “team of one.” We do the best we can with the resources we are provided.

Keep on keepin’ on, friends. 

Forrest Gump is complete. A done deal. There’s no assembling the production crew 20+ years later to “fix” that pesky iron scene. But our training-leadership development-onboarding-eLearning (etc) projects? The good news is, so much of what we do allows for continuous quality improvement. As processes update, employee job requirements change, or even when we find a more effective way to facilitate learning, we can do it.

A few tips:

  1. Audit your courses regularly (a minimum of once per year) for accuracy and relevance. Do they still address the learning need? If not, determine what updates are necessary, or consider eliminating the program/course altogether.
  2. Monitor your metrics – what data are you getting from participants and stakeholders that validates the content or approach?
  3. Don’t make changes to your program just for the sake of change – ensure that the change addresses learning needs, business drivers or other organizational goals.
  4. Keep your eye on the content – efficiency, relevance and accuracy should trump “pretty.” Sure, a beautifully designed course is ideal, but don’t lose sight of your higher-priority tasks and responsibilities in pursuit of perfection.

Now, to quote Forrest himself, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

 

Your turn: How do you audit and review your programs to ensure they are accurate and relevant? Leave a comment below to share your own tips!

Attending the ATD International Conference & Expo (ICE) in Denver next month? I’d love to see you there!

What I did over my blogging “vacation”…

off the air image

Well, hello there!

 

I know, I know – it’s been awhile, but I’m back.

 

So much has happened over the past year. Since I haven’t quite figured out how to clone myself or add more hours to the day, I thought it was best that I take a hiatus from this blog to recalibrate, both in business and in life.

What sort of things? Well, in the spirit of the Spring Break that many of you are hopefully enjoying right about now, I thought I’d treat this post like the back-to-school assignment we all likely remember from our elementary school days.  Here are a few of the happenings that have kept me hopping since my last post:

  • Onboarding, both as a new employee AND as a hiring manager at the day job
  • Built new processes at the day job to deepen the learning footprint within the organization
  • Did some consultation work with some terrific organizations and presented at a few industry conferences
  • Launched an eBook (grab a copy for your Kindle today!)
  • Co-authored an article for TD magazine with my friend Brian from Train Like a Champion
  • Cheered on my kids as they ran (distance – boy) and threw (shot put/discus – girl) on their cross country and track teams

Kids-XC-and-track

  • Helped my daughter finalize college plans, watched her graduate from high school and ultimately moved her to college (I’m still recovering from this one)

mom-and-meghan-graduation

  • Vacationed with the family in New York City
  • Spent some time at the beach on Lake Michigan
  • Bought a new house…sold our old one (yes, in that order)
  • Prepared for upcoming, conferences, events, speaking engagements and writing projects
  • Accomplished quite a bit of work done with my local ATD chapter board
  • Joined the Board of Directors with Girls Incorporated of Shelby County (Indiana)
  • Celebrated with my team as we were included in the 2016 Training Magazine Top 125 (on our first try, nonetheless!)
  • Checked off 2 of my last 5 U.S. states to visit (Kansas & Oklahoma) — only 3 states left! (You hear that, North Dakota, Oregon and Alaska?? I’m comin’ for ya!!)
  • Welcomed a sweet little French Bulldog puppy (Brooks) into our family, who immediately made himself at home…….

Brooks

For you puppy fanatics out there, Brooks is on Instagram (yes, I’m that person). You can follow his adorable puppy shenanigans and watch him grow at brooksmeetsworld.

Finally, somewhere in the middle of all that, I turned 40. Holy Moses, that’s still hard to believe.

Long story short, if there was ever a year to hit the reset button, 2015 (and the start of 2016) was the year to do it.

So, reset, I did. Whew..

In spite of stepping away from my regular musings here at phase(two)learning, certain fundamental things remain:

  1. I’m excited about the current landscape of organizational learning and talent development, and feel luckier than ever to have a front-row seat.
  2. I’m challenged by effectively sharing a compelling story with leaders on how investing in onboarding and employee development makes a difference.
  3. I’m inspired to dust off my laptop and jump back into the conversation. Stay tuned for fresh phase(two)learning content – I appreciate your patience, continued interest and support!

So, about that conversation, friends……

What’s on your mind right now? Leave a comment or drop me a note. Let’s catch up!

 

10 Things You Learned in Kindergarten That Will Make You a Better Facilitator

10-things-you-learned-in-kindergarten-that-will-make-you-a-better-facilitator

Do you remember the book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten? Recently, I came across a copy of Robert Fulghum’s inspirational collection of essays and remembered a high school teacher had a poster with excerpts from this book in her classroom. While I recall looking at the poster, and even reading the simplistic statements…I was a teenager, desperately trying to be seen as a young adult, so any suggestion that I should revert to things I learned as a 5-year old didn’t interest me at the time.

But now, looking back at this idyllic book with a grown-up pair of eyes and perspective, I see how much truth lies in its simplicity. It reminds me of how unnecessarily complicated we tend to make things. Yes, in life. But also in career.

I flipped through the book, first in a general sense, but again as a learning professional. How could we revolutionize our interactions with training participants, with organizational stakeholders, with clients or our own teams if we followed Fulghum’s advice?

Thinking as a facilitator for the purposes of this post, here are 10 lessons we learned in Kindergarten, based on Fulghum’s book, that could make us more effective:

1. Share everything.

Transparency is key. Use your platform as a facilitator to encourage a collaborative environment. Share best practices. Discuss real-world scenarios and struggles. Celebrate wins. Be all in with your participants.

 

2. Play fair.

Maintain a level playing field throughout your sessions. Ensure that your content is relevant. Set learners up for success, not defeat or frustration.

 

3. Clean up your own mess.

Both literally and figuratively. Set house rules that allow for exploration, but also for accountability.

 

4. Take a nap every afternoon.

(I wish.)

Never underestimate the importance of taking a break. Your participants – and YOU – need time to recharge your batteries, get some fresh air, or take care of work issues that may arise. Building breaks into your agenda will also help ensure that your participants stick with you during the content.

 

5. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Okay, this book was first written in 1988, long before things like “lactose intolerance” and “gluten-free” entered our mainstream vocabulary. But the lesson I take from this statement is that little details make a big difference. Go above and beyond to create a positive environment and make your participants feel special. Warm cookies and cold milk are certainly a nice touch…even if you have to provide a healthy alternative.

 

6. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.

Provide support opportunities after the session – whether through online resources, discussion forums, social media or other channels that work for your organization. Encourage participants to network and share with one another to continue the learning long after the lights go out in the training room.

 

7. Live a balanced life – learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work every day some.

As a facilitator, I interpret this as accommodating a variety of methods and learning styles into your session. Balance heavier content with lighter, interactive methods. Don’t rely on stale, wordy PowerPoint. Avoid lecturing for hours on end. Leverage group discussions and other engaging exercises to keep your participants moving throughout the day.

 

8. It doesn’t matter what you say you believe – it only matters what you do.

I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said, “Less talk, more walk.” That’s really what it’s all about. Live and facilitate with conviction, friends. Be an advocate for learning in your organization not only by what you say in meetings, but how you interact with peers, subordinates, stakeholders and bosses.

 

9. It wasn’t in books. It wasn’t in church. What I needed to know was out there in the world.

Amen to that. The most effective learning takes place through practical means – on the job, in the real world. Recognize that, and design your formal instructional time in a way that sets learners up for real-world application.

 

10. You may never have proof of your importance, but you are more important than you think. There are always those who couldn’t do without you. The rub is that you don’t always know who.

A self-aware facilitator understands that it truly is all about the participant, not about the facilitator. Yes, even those of us who have a flair for the dramatic and like to dazzle the crowd. But friends, please remember what a privilege it is to bring learning experiences to the workplace. You are in a unique position to add value to your organization – even though sometimes, on days when “everything is a training issue,” it can feel like a thankless, after-thought of a job. And my goodness, how rewarding does it feel to see the proverbial light bulbs switch on during a session, or to see tangible business results after a big learning project was implemented?

So, in a way, it can be **a little bit** about us once in awhile…

 

Your turn: What childhood lessons do you follow, when designing, delivering or managing the learning function in your organization? How have those lessons helped you throughout your career? I’d love to see your insights in the comments!

 

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Six Ideas for Getting Started with Blended Learning

getting-started-with-blended-learning

The idea of lecture-heavy, “sage on the stage” classroom training has been an antiquated notion in workplace learning for quite some time, particularly in a global organization. Images of snoozing, daydreaming, multi-tasking attendees (because they really aren’t “participants” at that point, are they?) come to mind, and any shred of intended value or applicable learning flies right out the window (likely the same window the attendees are staring out of, wishing they were anywhere but in training).

Does that mean classroom training is dead? Not at all.

Depending on the organization, classroom-based training is very much alive and still has its place in workplace learning. It can be an incredibly effective method, when implemented appropriately. That said…

“Appropriately” doesn’t mean a trainer, standing idly at the front of the room, reading wordy PowerPoint slides.

“Appropriately” doesn’t mean unleashing the “training by firehose” approach.

“Appropriately” doesn’t mean cramming three days of content into one day for the sake of saving a buck.

“Appropriately” doesn’t mean letting a rogue employee “dial in” to a full-day classroom session to simply listen over the phone…and assuming they “learned” something.

“Appropriately” doesn’t mean a one-size-fits-all audience.

“Appropriately” doesn’t mean butts-in-seats.

Appropriate classroom training means leveraging the face-to-face time to set participants up for success where it really counts – on the job.

Employing a blended learning approach can help learning teams implement effective strategies, both in and out of the classroom. If you utilize classroom-based training in your organization, consider these 6 ideas for getting started with blended learning:

  1. Incorporate a variety of self-guided resources to supplement the classroom experience – Online courses, articles, videos or even internal wikis, blogs or FAQs can be a great way for participants to continue learning at their own pace following the classroom session.
  2. Flip the classroom – What can participants do prior to the training session to prepare them to fully immerse themselves in the classroom? Provide an on-topic pre-reading selection, assign an online course or share a relevant video. Doing a little homework ahead of time should provide a successful start on the learning journey.
  3. Get people talking – Leverage social and collaboration tools, either through your LMS or an enterprise platform like Yammer, SharePoint, Socialcast or Chatter, to start the discussion prior to training, and continue after the session ends. Ask for feedback, let the participants share questions and answers with each other, commit to action plans, encourage them to share how they are using the content on the job.
  4. Show-and-tell – Can participants apply what they’ve learned in the classroom by mentoring new employees as they join the team? It can be as simple as doing a “teach-back” for others on the team when they return from training…give them opportunities to use what they’ve learned in a real, practical way.
  5. “Chunk” it up – Break a full classroom course into bite-sized, on-demand content that is easily accessed. Participants can easily access or review the content they need, exactly when they need it.
  6. Involve the managers – According to a study by Broad and Newstrom, the most critical key to making sure training sticks is to get the participants’ immediate supervisors involved. How can they help their employees prepare for training, or apply what they’ve learned after training? Remember, coaching is part of the “20%” of the 70-20-10 model…don’t underestimate its value!

 

Integrating a blended approach to learning programs doesn’t have to be complicated. All it takes is some mindful planning to provide the most effective solution for creating an environment that is conducive for relevant, meaningful learning.

Your turn: Are you using a blended learning approach? How did you get started? What benefits have you seen as a result? Use the comments section below to share your thoughts!

The Secret to Connecting With Training Participants

the secret to connecting with training participants

Waaaaaaay back in 1992, right about the time I was sporting my Hypercolor sweatshirt and teasing some very tall bangs, there was a study by Broad and Newstrom about training transfer. While some many elements of the workplace learning industry have changed – technology has certainly commanded much of that – there are still a number of things that hold true now, more than twenty years later. This study is a good example.

The Broad and Newstrom study looked at the 3 primary stakeholders in a training session – the facilitator, the participant and the participant’s manager. The involvement of these stakeholders is evaluated at 3 distinct points during the learning process: before training, during training and after training. In a simple grid, these roles are plotted and ranked, according to the impact on learning transfer (the lowest number indicates the highest level of impact):

2015-02-25 13_11_07-The Transfer of Training « elegantlearning

Unless you are completely new to the concept of training transfer (and if you are, I realize this is a very crude explanation), it’s probably no secret that the manager plays a key role in whether or not a participant is able to apply the skills and knowledge s/he acquires in a training session. As you can see from the grid above, the #1 and #3 most important components are tied to manager support.

So, the secret to connecting with training participants during a session?

Involve their managers.

Here are 10 – count ’em, 10 – creative ways to involve even the busiest manager:

1. Share the agenda with the manager ahead of time – be clear with the objectives so s/he knows exactly how the session will impact the participant’s job performance.

2. Provide talking points to the manager to use as a conversation starter when the participant returns from training.

3. Create an infographic with success stories/testimonials, stats and other interesting nuggets about the subject matter and its impact on the organization.

4. Survey managers about how the training will address specific performance gaps…then follow up.

5. Invite the manager to attend a portion of the training to observe and/or participate alongside their employee.

6. Offer a brief overview to all participants’ managers prior to the session – tell them what the participants can expect, how they can support their employee, and answer the managers’ questions.

7. Send a digest of links to supporting documents, articles, blogs and other resources for managers to read more about the topic or to share with their employee post-training to continue the learning.

8. Host a discussion forum for managers about their role in the learning transfer process, using the social features of your LMS, internal social platform (like Yammer, Socialcast, etc), or even a Twitter chat, if it works for your organization/culture.

9. Encourage participants to lead a “teach-back” when they get back to the job, to summarize their learning directly with their manager.

10. Utilize action planning for participants to create a plan – how they will apply what they learned and how they will involve their managers. Send a copy to the manager!

There you have it: 10 ways to engage managers – before, during or after a training session. The next time you’re implementing a training session, give one (or more!) of these strategies a try…and see if your connection to participants goes up a bit!

 

Your turn: How do you engage training participants’ managers to encourage or increase learning transfer? Use the comments section below to share your tried-and-true methods!

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Pinterest for Learning Professionals: A Starter Kit

Pinterest-for-Learning-Professionals

Are you on Pinterest? While this addictive, visual social platform has certainly made its mark when it comes to everything from home decorating ideas to recipes to hairstyling tips (and SO much more), it is also a terrific resource for training, instructional/eLearning design and talent development professionals.

I’ve been pinning for a couple of years now. Alongside creatively-titled boards, like “Food My Picky Family Might Actually Like,” “Champagne Wishes and Louboutin Dreams,” and “Clothes Before Bros,” you’ll find my “Learning and Development Playground” board…a repository for awesome infographics, links to helpful articles and dozens of other great nuggets.

Pinterest might not seem like a logical source for professional resources, but I can assure you that I have gained a number of ideas through this social media channel. So, if you are new to Pinterest, consider this post your starter kit. Check out these 10 boards, chock full of L&D nerd-approved resources:

1. Creative Learning

(Shannon Tipton)

Pinterest_-_Creative_Learning

 

2. Blogs I like

(Shannon Tipton)

Pinterest_-_Blogs_I_Like

 

 

3. Work Life: Using Pinterest

(Dawn Mahoney)

Pinterest_-_Work_Life_-_Using_Pinterest

 

 

4. ID/eLearning Books

(Tracy Parish)

Pinterest_-_ID.eLearning_Books

 

 

5. Learning Design

(Enzo Silva)

Pinterest_-_Learning_Design

 

 

6. 70/20/10

(Corey Maddux)

Pinterest_-_70-20-10

 

 

7. Blended

(Corey Maddux)

Pinterest_-_Blended

 

 

8. Checklists & Job Aids for Trainers

(Langevin Learning Services)

Pinterest_-_Checklists_and_Job_Aids_for_Trainers

 

 

9. Training & Talent Development

(Association for Talent Development – ATD)

Pinterest_-_Training_and_Talent_Development

 

 

10. E-Learning Examples

(Articulate)

Pinterest_-_eLearning_examples

 

There you have it. Whether you’re just getting started on Pinterest, or if you’re just looking for some creative, inspiring boards to follow, these 10 examples have a little something for everyone…regardless of your focus along the workplace learning spectrum!

 

Your turn: Do you follow any boards that other learning professionals would find interesting? Share the board name and/or link in the comments below. And don’t forget to follow Learning & Development Playground!

 

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