Inside Apple’s Internal Training Program

Read this piece on Apple's corporate university, and picked out five principles you could emulate in your organization. I'm not promising your training program will lead your company into the stratosphere of success Apple has achieved, but if you're going to emulate practices- may as well do it from one of the best.

Yes, it takes time, effort, and money to get training & development right but when done right- its one of those competitive advantages that is difficult to copy by your competitors.

I'll let the piece do most of the talking (you can read it by clicking here), but here is the gist of it: 

1. Provide learning and development opportunities so rich, that getting employees to enroll is rarely a problem.


2. Meticulously plan learning experiences for your people.


3. Not all trainers are created equal; don't skimp on your trainers.


4. Tailor the learning to your staff's positions and backgrounds.
 

5. Leverage the case study method of teaching; Use business cases from your company's past to develop critical thinking aligned to your organization's values.

 

Alex_Sailing.png

Alex is a co-founder and Managing Member of Collabor8 Learning, LLC, an instructional design and performance management consultancy. His firm collaborates with organizations to enhance the way they develop and train their employees and/ or customers. To learn more about Collabor8 Learning, click here.

Alex can be reached at 786-512-1069, alex@collabor8learning.com or via Twitter@collabor8alex.


7 Questions from an inquisitive trainer

For this week's blog post, I asked a friend of Collabor8's who is a trainer but lacks an instructional design background what some of her pressing questions about the field are. I come across a lot of traders almost by accident fell into the respective roles, and I hope my answers to the following questions below can be a resource for them. 

1. How do you come up with a system for planning, monitoring, and analyzing instruction? How do you come to the conclusion if it will work? What's the average timing in advance does this entail to prep?

Answer: The simple answer to this question is you don't reinvent the wheel. A system for planning, monitoring, and analyzing the impact of instruction IS what we refer to as the science of instructional systems. A few years back I made an interesting observation. Trainers, HR professionals, recruiters and business people in general shorten the name of our field to instructional design or ID. Here's my observation- when you look at my master's degree on the wall it doesn't say instructional design. I am actually a master in the science of instructional systems. You see, a system contains inputs which get processed to create a set of outputs. 

If you look at any of the instructional design models, like ADDIE, there are many inputs into an instructional system: information about the target audience, information about skills gap that is preventing that target audience from performing in a certain way, information about learning environment available to you as a trainer, information about your budget, information about the delivery options you have at your disposal, etc.; All of this information is fed into an instructional system or model and gets processed during the design and development phase of the system, to hopefully affect and impact the performance by your target audience. This is the output of instructional systems- namely, improved performance. 

2. How does one create a chunk for facilitators? Do they all follow same format?

Answer: This is a bit of a loaded question, one that researchers in the field of cognitive load theory continue to ponder. Basically, when creating a unit of instruction for your learners it must be small enough to be digestible yet not so large that it increases the complexity and reduces the learning by your students. Although subjective in nature, one of the things instructional designers are taught is to chunk similar content or skills into units of instruction and during a formative evaluation of your course (similar to a focus group in marketing) you ask for feedback on whether the units of instruction were too short, too long, easy to acquire, etc. There is no one absolute and correct way to chunk information into a unit of instruction. One must take all of the variables known, prototype instructional unit, and tested using a group of subjects as similar to the target audience for your training as possible.

3. In the ADDIE model, how do best approach the design portion? Only looking at what was analyzed? What does that entail specifically and does it overlap with other aspects in the process? Is ADDIE the best approach or are there others that are as successful and used regularly?

Answer: Have you heard the phrase "part art, part science"? At Collabor8 Learning, we approach the design portion of the process with our creative hats on. The designing of a learning intervention, regardless of whether it will be off-line or online, is where instructional design is like an art form. This is where you look at all your variables from your needs analysis, get your creative juices flowing, and fearlessly toss around potential ways to close skills and knowledge gaps. Don't worry about whether one way to teach a skill is better than another, simply gather as many ideas as you or your team have on how the material or skill could be taught. As the team leader, you should not concern yourself at this point whether one method is more feasible than another- simply get as many ideas down as to how something can be taught.

4. How does a facilitator know which model was used when reading material? Is it obvious? Is it important/relative?

Answer: Honestly I don't know, and I can't think of a situation where it would matter. Think of it, when you read a book do you ask what the author's writing process was? 

5. When asked to write a workshop, what are the basic elements to reference to besides the objective and audience? 

Answer: So another loaded question, the single most important question you can fire back at anyone asking you to write a workshop is to list the behaviors the learners will be able to perform successfully after completing said workshop. Remember also that any corporate honcho asking you to build a workshop has bypassed the needs analysis phase of an instructional system and has arrived at the conclusion that there is a skills gap that must be closed AND that the learners lack the knowledge necessary to perform in a certain way-hence training is the solution. Always push back on anyone asking you to write a workshop, and request their analysis of why they feel training will solve this performance problem.

If you want to learn more about performing needs or performance analyses, click here

6. Besides PowerPoint, what other tools/platforms are there to present to your audience?

Answer: I try and remain "technology agnostic" when it comes to the tools we use, but there are many fabulous alternatives to PowerPoint you can use. For a good list that was published quite recently, click here

7. How does one transition from a facilitator to an Instructional Designer? And is that the most natural transition or are there others to consider and if so what needs to take place?

Answer: That's easy, much of the knowledge regarding the science of instructional systems can be learned online nowadays. There are many good reads on the field that you can pick up on Amazon as well. One I am currently reading is "Leaving ADDIE for SAM", by Michael Allen with Richard Sites. You can find it here as well as some reviews others have done on it as well. 

I am a huge proponent of "learning by doing". If you are looking to transition your career from a trainer/ facilitator to more of an instructional designer- you should seek out a mentor whom you can shadow as they work through several performance challenges utilizing their instructional systems design skills and expertise. This would probably be the best way to transition, sans going back to college and becoming an instructional designer the academic route (which I don't think you need to do).

Alex Santos

IMG_0316=Website copy.jpg

Alex is a co-founder and Managing Member of Collabor8 Learning, LLC, an instructional design and performance management consultancy. His firm collaborates with organizations to enhance the way they develop and train their employees and/ or customers. To learn more about Collabor8 Learning, click here.

Alex can be reached at 786-512-1069, alex@collabor8learning.com or via Twitter@collabor8alex.

What do instructional designers have in common with professional translators?

I read this piece on Thomas Piketty's translator by David Gura, and was intrigued. And not just because c'mon, how many translators and their work break through the "mediasphere" and into our collective public discourse? Always reading with an eye towards what lessons I can learn from the piece, something caught my eye about how their work shares of quality with that of us instructional designers. While discussing how most translators are not very well-paid and describing their work, there is this gem:

...“capturing the flavor and the feeling and the context.”

You see we all-knowing preach how performance doesn't our current a vacuum, and neither should training- regardless of whether we're talking about instructor-led training or e-learning. In order for your learners to best practice the skills you are trying to teach, it helps to visualize and put those skills in the context in which they will need to perform them back on the job. This not only helps with retention, but with skills transfer.

Skill transfer refers to any tactics or strategies that you employee in your training to enable learners better recall of information learned well training- after said training has occurred. As it turns out, translators face similar challenges in capturing the flavor, feeling, and the context behind the words they are translating to a second language- at least the best ones do. 

How can you apply this principle of capturing the context to your e-learningHere's one way you can apply this. Many designers are concerned with a lot of elements of the user interface for the courses. Not just the navigation or what functionality to include in the course player, but what reusable screen design templates can they build to then speed up their course development. Rather than relying on abstract graphic designs or PowerPoint slide templates, ask your client or subject matter experts if they can supply you pictures of the environment where your target population typically performs. These images can be of workspaces your target audience would recognize. Then simply cover the image with a semi transparent color layer of your choice to match your course player template.

If you've got more than one of these images, you can actually create different slide templates based on these workspaces which hopefully your learners will recognize. Now your instruction will literally take place in the context of where it occurs in the physical world- in your online course. 

You can do this for practically any workspace, and its a cheap way to create a slide template. Here are a few examples for you to check out:

Alex Santos

Alex is a co-founder and Managing Member of Collabor8 Learning, LLC, an instructional design and performance management consultancy. His firm collaborates with organizations to enhance the way they develop and train their people. To learn more about Collabor8 Learning, click here.

Alex can be reached at 786-512-1069, alex@collabor8learning.com or via Twitter@collabor8alex.

Another reason your best people are about to quit

After reading this article, I couldn't help but to think hey- they left one out!

Training.jpg

You don't develop your people. Harvey S. Firestone said "the growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership." There are many competencies leaders should master, and developing those they lead is one rarely taught in business schools yet critical to your ability to retain top talent. More than giving your people a sense of where they can go in their careers which is mentioned in the article (see point #5), great leaders plan and assign learning opportunities that stretch the capabilities of their people. Leaders will ask their people where they would like to take their careers, and then actively seek training, e-learning programs, webinars, industry conferences, and other developmental opportunities for their people to grow. Show me a manager who doesn't allow time for their people to train and hone their skills, and I'll show you a demoralized team whose people will exit stage left at the first opportunity that comes along.

Alex Santos

Alex is a co-founder and Managing Member of Collabor8 Learning, LLC, an instructional design and performance management consultancy. His firm collaborates with organizations to enhance the way they develop and train their people. To learn more about Collabor8 Learning, click here.

Alex can be reached at 786-512-1069, alex@collabor8learning.com or via Twitter@collabor8alex.

3 tips for getting better content from your SMEs (subject-matter experts)

One of the constant challenges instructional designers face in building quality training programs is getting the right information out of their subject matter experts (SMEs). Interviewing SMEs is a skill best honed over time, for nothing can prepare you for the roadblocks you'll face when gathering the content you need to begin pulling your course together. These three tips should help you cut to the chase, and simplify your content gathering efforts.

First, prepare intensely for SME interviews. What would you do if you were job consisted of interviewing Hollywood's biggest A-list actors, and you were only going to get them seated with you for a few hours during which time your conversation would be videotaped? This is the challenge James Lipton from the show "Inside the Actor's Studio" faces on a regular basis during production of the series. Being a fan of the show I can tell you that his line of questioning is always direct, relevant to the actor's career, and even able to catch some of his biggest guests by surprise at their level of detail. Think of your SME interviews in the same light. Mr. Lipton was himself asked at one point how he prepares for these high-stakes interviews, and his answer was very telling:

“Nothing is handed to me. I get raw material from my researcher… and then I watch all the movies, read everything that the person has written about himself or herself, and I go through all the articles that have been written about them, and from that I distill the blue index cards, which are approximately 300-500 [cards] for each person”. 

Prior to you scheduling SME interviews, you two should gather as much information about desired performance, target audience, experience and background of the SME, etc. never walk into or treat a SME interview casually or show up unprepared. 

Secondly, and along the lines of our first step is to talk to the target audience for your training. In many instructional design projects, the SME will serve as an intermediary between yourself and the target audience. Your client will in many cases assume that the SME can provide you with all of the content you will need. As a check and balance to the content your SME provides you, we collaborate Gleaned invaluable insights from members of the target audience for the courses we are developing. Typically, target audience members are closer to the front lines of the desired performance than the SME and can provide invaluable feedback to your training design efforts.

Lastly we've got a tip for you that at first might appear controversial or make your SME cringe. Don't accept content from SMEs in PowerPoint format. PowerPoint's linear workflow was originally designed for speakers to outline their talks, but in doing so has a tendency to degrade content in favor of formatting. There is nothing worse for you as an instructional designer than to sit there staring at a PowerPoint deck loaded with bulleted lists. PowerPoint and other "slideware" is used by SMEs to condense content that you need to build a good training course into the lowest common denominator that can fit in a bulleted list. Our challenge to you, should you choose to accept it- don't settle for slideware when you know the bulk of the content you need is in the SMEs had or in other document forms. 

The minute we request content from a SME and are emailed a PowerPoint deck we quickly and without opening the slideware request additional content in either .pdf or Microsoft Word format. 

These three strategies are just ones that we use and have found useful when gathering content from SMEs. I'm sure there are more tips and tricks out there, and would love to hear about techniques you use to pry the necessary content from your SMEs. What are some of your favorite techniques for getting at the content you need?

Alex Santos

Alex is a co-founder and Managing Member of Collabor8 Learning, LLC, an instructional design and performance management consultancy. His firm collaborates with organizations to enhance the way they develop  and train their people. To learn more about Collabor8 Learning, click here.

Alex can be reached at 786-512-1069, alex@collabor8learning.com or via Twitter@collabor8alex.