The workplace learning space tends to split into two camps. The first camp believes that learning hasn’t changed fundamentally, only the tools and technologies used to enable learning. The second camp believes that learning has completely changed and that we must embrace a new fast-paced, social, mobile, and learning 2.0 world. In fact, the second camp would say we are being held captive as a profession by outdated tools that are just plain ineffective — tools such as ADDIE, learning objectives, instruction, and a top-down, centralized model for developing and delivering training. Although I’m squarely in the second camp, I'll admit that my first impulse when our team receives a training request is to start on a full-scale needs analysis and proceed through the process of analyzing, planning, and designing the “right and instructionally sound” program. But things are moving so fast in our business that we don’t always have the time or resources to work that way. For example, in the past few months I’ve had tight deadlines to develop an enormous amount of training, like many learning teams do. Instead of asking for more resources or prioritizing what needs to get done first, we’ve decided to embrace the changing world and attempt to suspend a lot of what we have been trained to do in our profession. A few critical lessons I’ve learned along the way:
1. Speed beats accuracy
Theresa Welbourne's work on Fast HRM shows that fast is better than accurate, if you must choose. She recommends that HR professionals start acting like software developers and “get it out there” – then fix and improve and evolve later. To apply this research, we now deliver a “version one” of a learning program. Then we collect feedback and learn what works and what doesn't. Based on that feedback we iterate quickly and improve the program for the next time it is delivered. In doing so, we learn from our customers (learners) and can more quickly get more of the right learning experiences out to the front-line were it is needed.
2. Include user-gen content
In some of the training classes we’re designing, there are job tasks that are infrequently performed, but complicated enough that a job aid is perfectly suitable. But instead of taking a centralized, top-down approach and develop just the right job aid, we have decided to let learners create their own job aids. This is a 2.0 world, right? User-generated content works on the Web, so why not in workplace learning? Time spent on development drops dramatically for our design team, and learners can create a tool that works for them because they created it. We will experiment with learners selecting the best of the job aids created by other learners and let learners decided which one they want to use.
3. Trigger prior knowledge in the cloud
A key concept in instructional design is to trigger prior knowledge of a subject. I normally design this step into the first part of a training class in a variety of ways. However, instead of doing this at the beginning of class, we are using social media to trigger prior knowledge in discussions and activities. In other words, we are experimenting with social media to conduct activities that would normally be handled in class. We hope that by doing this, people will come to class with a specific idea of what to expect, and the class can begin immediately without the usual steps of introductions, ground rules, introducing the topic and other opening activities. These “experiments” are a way to address the question “how can we possibly meet the demand for learning that the business needs in order to executive it's strategy?” You may think we are just cutting corners — I say we're experimenting with new ways of doing things that will enable us to deliver more, and in a way that more closley matches how people learn what they need to learn to do their jobs more effectively. What obstacles might you encounter in implementing the concepts of fast HRM, user-generated content, and social media in your organization and how might you overcome them?
Bill Cushard, Chief Learning Officer at The Knowland Group, is a learning leader with more than 12 years experience in training and performance improvement at well-known companies like E*TRADE Financial, Accenture, and Time Warner Cable.