Are your learners front and center in everything you design?

This is the question you should be asking yourself as an instructional designer. A very similar question is being asked by Alicia Boler-Davis, Chief Of Global Quality and Customer Experience and her team over at GE and is one of the keys to the automaker's astounding turnaround. Why is this question so powerful you may be asking yourself. Let me explain.

Putting the learner front and center, you have the opportunity to not only train them but to build advocates for your learning and development programs. You can only do this though if you learners are walking out of your classroom (or leaving the bright glare of their laptop monitors) able to perform in new ways they will brag to their colleagues about. 

Many organizations limit the evaluation of the training programs to smiley sheets and surveys that are beyond stale, not to mention many learning and development departments are so strapped for time these smiley sheets sit gathering dust inside of a dark desk drawer. When was the last time you modified the instructional strategy in one of your courses as a result of employee feedback or comments left on one of these level I evaluations? 

Worse yet, if you're not using the feedback that you are getting from your training courses to improve them not only have your courses grown stale, but your lack of listening to what your end client has been telling you has probably negatively impacted the desire of your students to leave you candid feedback in the future. 


If "culture eats strategy for breakfast" as Mr. Drucker pointed out, I encourage you to rethink how you are designing your training courses and look not just at your business goals but at your learners' goals. Millennials who are increasingly comprising the bulk of today's workforce want to see you not just caring about the business, but want to feel you authentically caring about their needs and aspirations as well. 

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.

5 questions you should ask to gauge your social network readiness

As you begin your research on introducing an enterprise social network into your organization, there are a few questions you should answer to ensure your culture is ready. 1.  Is your workforce already using publicly available web 2.0 technologies and tools to work smarter? Don't kid yourself on this one, you may be blocking Facebook and Twitter from your employees but many are already sharing their PowerPoint presentations via Slideshare, exchanging links to useful information they come across on the web via Instapaper, and collaborating on proposals, budgets, and other documents via

Google Docs. In many cases, your employees are even updating their LinkedIn profiles with the hopes of being found by their next employer. Why are they doing all of these things you ask? Because they can, and because you haven't provided them with an in-house alternative so that they can leverage today's best technologies to make them more efficient.

2.  What are your goals for introducing a private and secure enterprise social network? As with any other initiative, you should have some goals for rolling out an enterprise social network. Else, why pursue one? Consider carefully your goal before falling head over heels over a particular piece of technology to achieve your goal. This can’t be stated enough, as there is a huge and growing market for tools that will catapult your business into the “social” era. Are you looking for a medium for your CEO or Chairman to communicate with the front line more efficiently? Are you looking to provide a platform for your employees in similar positions to share best practices on-the-fly? Are you looking for a platform to connect employees who are geographically distant but who need to collaborate on projects more effectively?  Whatever your goals are make certain that they are clearly defined.  Different platforms deliver different capabilities and you may quickly find that a standard out of the box solution might not meet all your needs

3.  How will you introduce it and who will be responsible for "seeding" it and developing the network into an invaluable tool? Rolling out a tool of this nature isn’t simply something you can impose on your staff. An enterprise social network can be a great opportunity to re-emphasize how much your organization values communication and teamwork. You should give much consideration to the type of HR policy that will accompany the roll-out of the tool, how you will communicate how the tool can and will be used, and specifically- the benefits TO THEM of using this valuable tool. Additionally, someone in the organization should bear the responsibility of seeding the community’s forums and generally be available to answer questions about its use. Ideally, the platform is designed WITH staff so that you can gain internal buy-in for the platform even prior to its launch.

4.  How will your organization respond to both the praise and the criticisms that will be aired in the network? Empowering your staff with an enterprise social network can be a double-edged sword. If your organization isn’t accustomed to honest feedback, this may come as a shock. When and if the organization gets criticized, the response can either encourage the growth of your network or stymie it completely. While praise is generally received positively in an organization, it is important not to retaliate against individuals who offer constructive criticism of the organization’s products and services. Instead, these comments should be viewed as learning opportunities from which the company can improve. Overreacting to criticism will only discourage further use of the network as employees fear “big brother” and any consequences that may result from their candid use of the network.

5.  Is your CEO on board? Lastly, the answer to this last question is crucial to your network’s success. Not gaining the buy-in of your CEO or of your executive team for a project that will touch everyone in the organization is a recipe for disaster. Gaining their support for this initiative involves educating them on this technology and how it can vastly improve the way you work. This is where everything you learned in coaching “up” the corporate ladder will come in handy.


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 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.




If you learn drunk, work drunk!

When I was a student at University in a class on psychology I was taught State Dependent Learning.  This says that whatever state a person learns in is the state where they will have the best memory recall.  The example given: “If you study drunk then take the test drunk”. Yet in learning we often take the person out of their normal environment, place them in a classroom away from their work station, give them a bounty of information and expect them to execute on what we tell them back on the front lines.  There are two fundamental issues with this strategy:

1)      Most people that are required to attend training often walk into class with the perception that it has very little relation to their jobs.  It’s an environment where these trainers “have never done it”.  Many managers promulgate this negative perception through their comments and by not actively reinforcing the training.


2)      People do not learn effectively when provided with too large a volume of information.  Couple that with training departments that are rarely given ample time to train employees effectively.  What you often find are trainers forced to present a lot of information in a very short period of time.


What is the solution to this training dilemma?  The answer is that we need to change the way in which we deliver training, and the value that it has among the worker.  Trainers know that when training you first tell them what you are going to tell them, then you tell them, then you tell them what you told them.  We do this to place the emphasis on the key concepts and highlight the takeaways.


Bob Mosher in his blog post, The Tie That Binds states:

“The topics move from simple to complex throughout the experience.“

Meaning that in a formal training situation we build from small concepts to larger ones, the same way that they teach in elementary school.  Schools have years to teach this way, trainers normally only have a few hours.  But that is not how adults learn and if we want to maximize memory recall and achieve increased performance we need to provide training that mimics the environment in which they work.  This is not to say that we can, or should do away with formal training, quite the contrary.  What trainers can do is to follow up their formal learning with more informal learning.


Bob Mosher goes on to say:

“…we need to reconsider the positioning and design of our solutions outside of formal instruction.”

Informal learning has one distinct advantage over the formal.  It takes place each day, in the work environment.  It happens when a co-worker shows another how to do something or when a manager corrects an action of an employee.

The real question is how do we leverage these interactions?

The answer comes from technology and what seems like a natural forum for people to interact:  The enterprise social network.  Integrating training with an enterprise social network allows an organization to continue and to reinforce the training.  The training department can continue learning with additional information through the use of blogs, wikis, and through the use of external links to pertinent information.  They can pose questions to the participants and monitor the responses to check for learning and understanding.  They can monitor the communications and comments from users to make certain that they are implementing the material correctly.  An enterprise social network fosters communication throughout the organization increasing collaboration and learning.

Yesterday’s training strategies are being supplemented in most organizations by social learning, thanks to the availability and low cost of a social networking platform.  Placing the learning squarely where employees feel most comfortable learning and where they learn at their own pace and from each other. Here, they can ask questions and can immediately and easily apply the new knowledge to their job. If you’re not making use of this technology at your organization, what are you waiting for- your competitors to go first?


Thinking about buying a franchise? Ask if they're social.

Bart Puett, President and CEO of Maid Brigade, Inc wrote a great blog post entitled “Evaluating a Franchise Training Program: Five Essentials to Ensure Your Potential Franchisor Will Provide Adequate Support“ Reading his post inspired me to ask the question “If they're Social?” If you are evaluating a franchise ask how they incorporate social media into your training and ongoing success.

Intensive Pre-Opening Training Your pre-opening training will usually involve physically attending a training class. But ask what pre-training is offered. Most people learn best when material is presented in several smaller modules. But this is not practical when you travel to an intensive training. Training becomes more effective when it combines pre-training learning activities, classroom training and follow-up to address retention and transfer. This pre- and follow-up learning is easily delivered online via e-Learning and social interactions.

Mentoring Mentoring is a great form of social learning. When a new franchisee has questions, can they contact a “mentor” franchisee to get answers? My mentor benefits from this relationship by becoming better at their own job. It is the oldest form of training. It’s how parents train their kids. The challenge in this is that everyone does not make a good mentor and there not always engaged in teaching. Sometimes there just too busy running their own business. The solution is to have group mentoring (social mentoring) where you post questions to the group and those with the answers can share. Then as people add to the knowledgebase, it grows and becomes more valuable to the community of franchisees as a whole.

On-Site Team Trainers On-site team training is important. It gets the “pro” to your site and they have the ability to see the things that you as a new franchisee don’t. But the questions to ask are:

• How often will they visit? • How much time will they spend during each visit? • What are their goals for the visit? • How do these goals align with your needs? • What happens when they don’t? Can you add to the goals of the site-visit?

Your ability to consult with them at any time is important. What technology do they employ to engage with franchisees virtually? How simple and how quickly can you leverage this technology to solve your daily issues?

Franchise Consultants Consultants can help you run the franchise and are an important tool. How will you communicate with them? E-mail? Telephone? Which consultants stand out from the rest in your specific industry? Are there ones near you that have a proven track record of success? If so, are they rated somewhere? Where can you look them up? A strong franchisor either has all of this information already gathered, or is utilizing an enterprise social network to gather this data right from their franchisees who are in the front lines. An enterprise social network can be a huge benefit to a franchise system, but also to consultants as well. A consultant has the opportunity to share his or her expertise, and to become known and recognized as an expert in your industry through their engagement with a franchise system.

Ongoing Support and Training The best ongoing training and support happens When you need it, Where you need it and on What device you need it. Email, databases, newsgroups are all passé. The new way to support the franchisee is through a social network designed just for the franchise that offers the security to talk about operational issues privately and securely. An Enterprise Social Network gives your franchise the way to connect franchisees and deliver learning experiences far beyond what a ‘training event’ can. It also becomes a resource where you not only can research answers to your questions but also post new ones and join in on the conversation with other franchisees. Two heads are better than one, three are better than two and when everyone collaborates we all benefit.

One way to better engage your employees in today’s economic climate

In this depressed economy many training departments find themselves forced to deliver results with fewer and fewer resources.  There’s a risk of entering into a downward spiral that should be avoided by learning and organizational development leaders.  At the same time that training and development budgets are shrinking, employee disengagement is growing, dissatisfaction is brewing, and a growing number of employee surveys are reporting that employees are planning to leave their current jobs; this turnover will lead to even fewer resources to do the job necessary for the organization to succeed.  Many organizations are at risk of being left with unengaged employees who reluctantly stay for lack of a more vigorous job market.

“84% of staff are more committed to employers who invest in their training and development.”

-Hays Workplace Series survey

How can your organization avoid this downward spiral and engage its employees in today’s economic climate?

Training, Development and Engagement.

People want to learn and they want to succeed.  They also, as adult learners, want to control their learning experiences and they want them to be relevant to their career goals and aspirations.  They want their learning to lead them to new successes.

Empower your people so that they stay and remain engaged.  Provide them with informal development opportunities they need whenever they need them to perform, wherever they may be, and on whatever device they want to consume them.  That’s the new WWW!  Put the employee in the driver’s seat and get out of their way.

Today’s social technologies provide the means to accomplish this. Integrating an enterprise social network into your organization and combining it with an LMS gives you the power to deliver training, provide development and coaching resources, and engage with and enable your people to engage with each other.

Karen O’Leonard in her blog “Corporate Spending on Social Learning” did some analysis on the trends in spending on enterprise social networks.  She found that “Although spending is fairly low today, we expect these figures to grow considerably in the coming years as companies focus on building their internal learning capabilities.” It’s not a question of if your organization will integrate this new WWW technology; it’s a question of how you can do so before your competition.