The corporate Learning and Development (L&D) market has undergone significant changes in the past 15 years. These changes—from page-turner courses to video, microlearning, mobile apps, and adaptive learning to digital platforms—happen rapidly and continually. Each brings great opportunity and headaches.
It’s a lot for employers to maneuver and get right. It may seem easier to remain in place and trust that current efforts are hitting the mark. Employees, however, are suggesting otherwise.
Employees across industries are sounding the rally cry for change. They want easy access to on-demand information (think Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, etc.) to solve their day-to-day issues. With the ever-increasing demands on employees’ time, there’s very little time left for professional development let alone role-specific training.
IBM Chief Learning Officer, Guillermo Miranda reinforces this shift in the article, “A New Era Dawns for TD” (Talent Development Magazine). During his interview, Miranda shared some observations that led to IBM reinventing its corporate learning function to reflect a more user-centric focus, “The digital world is becoming embedded in our personal and business lives, and every executive responsible for TD needs to embrace it.” IBM’s challenge was to create a learning environment that reflects our digital world. “On these platforms, we purchase our groceries, select our music, and order our taxis. To thrive in this environment, L&D must embrace these same technologies,” Miranda continues. It’s an online world that replaces linear, event-only learning with continual learning, where disparate things happen simultaneously, the definition of learning expands beyond the boundaries of formal events, and multiple delivery modalities are available on demand.
Embedded in employees’ desire for accessible, on-demand training is another message: training is a valued must-have. Human Resources (HR) and L&D professionals are listening and getting the message loud and clear. If an organization doesn’t value and respond to employees’ requests for timely, targeted training that meets their needs, employees will either search outside the organization for what they need and hope it works, or leave.
The costs associated with either outcome is too high for a business to remain successful. An employee searching for answers may adopt new skills that do not fit with the organization’s critical mission directives. Just as bad is an employee who chooses to leave. When leaders are confronted with turnover costs such as hiring, onboarding, training, lost productivity and engagement, and cultural impact, creating an L&D budget that supports emerging learning technology costs less by meeting employees’ development needs and decreasing turnover.
Still not convinced? Let’s take a closer look at the data.
Josh Bersin, in his article, Watch Out, Corporate Learning: Here Comes Disruption, notes the increased priority for corporate learning. He highlights some interesting data gleaned from Deloitte Human Capital Trends’ research to support his statement:
What Does This Mean for Businesses?
“If we can’t look things up, learn quickly, and find a way to develop new skills at work, most of us would prefer to change jobs, rather than stay in a company that doesn’t let us reinvent ourselves over time,” Josh Bersin.
Businesses will need to not only respond to employee training needs but also transform their recruitment philosophy and processes as existing talent wars worsen. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that by 2020, the world could be facing an astounding global shortfall of 85 million qualified workers. How can companies position themselves to compete better now?
A multi-pronged approach is the answer: determine what your employees want, create a learning ecosystem that supports multi-channel development, and develop a recruitment philosophy, processes, and messages that align with and support the culture.
For example, some recruiters are shifting their sourcing efforts from traditional methods to one referred to as “skills over schools,” which favors specific skills sets—or the desire to learn—over previous employment and higher education pedigree.
Roy Maurer details hiring challenges and what leaders across industries are saying in his article, 2017 Recruiting Trends Point To Technology Driving Change. “In the past, recruiters and hiring managers looked at resumes and put too much stock into where a candidate previously worked or went to school, rather than the specific skillsets they possess,” said Susan Vitale, Chief Marketing Officer for iCIMS. “Recently, they have been shifting the focus to hiring driven candidates who have the determination to learn the skills they need for the job and who share the same competencies of the organization.”
Such a shift requires a defined strategy rooted in actuals (i.e., messaging rather than nice-to-haves and real-world examples). It also requires talent acquisition training, communication, and execution:
Don’t leave recruiters stumbling when a candidate asks for specifics. Equip recruiters with tools, messaging, and knowledge they need to effectively communicate the learning culture candidates.
Here are some steps an organization can take to meet employees’ learning needs.
Step 1: Define and analyze
Step 2: Create a roadmap
Step 3: Implement and evaluate
It all begins with engaging employees in the process. By simply answering the question, “What do learners want?”, an organization steps into engaging, retaining, and shifting to a learner-centric work environment. If nothing else, start there and trust the process.
 Harris, P. (2017, October). A New Era Dawns for TD. Talent Development, 71(10), 38-40.
Gutierrez, K. (2016, January 28). SHIFT's eLearning Blog. Retrieved November 10, 2017, from https://www.shiftelearning.com/blog/statistics-on-corporate-training-and-what-they-mean-for-your-companys-future
 Schwartz, J., Collins, L., Stockton, H., Wagner, D., & Walsh, B. (2017). 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends: Rewriting the rules for the digital age (Rep.). Deloitte University Press.
 Bersin, J. (2017, March 29). Watch Out, Corporate Learning: Here Comes Disruption. Retrieved November 08, 2017, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/joshbersin/2017/03/28/watch-out-corporate-learning-here-comes-disruption/#6418eb38dc5
 Dobbs, R., Lund, S., & Madgavkar, A. (November). Talent tensions ahead: A CEO briefing. Retrieved November 10, 2017, from https://www.mckinsey.com/global-themes/employment-and-growth/talent-tensions-ahead-a-ceo-briefing
 Maurer, R. (2017, February 23). 2017 Recruiting Trends Point To Technology Driving Change. Retrieved November 10, 2017, from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/recruiting-trends-2017-technology-change.aspx
Our clients rely on us as their secret weapon. When they engage us to analyze and resolve their performance improvement challenges, we tap our collective of highly specialized industry professionals. Every need is unique, and so should be each solution.
This ongoing series highlights the unique roles and skills that set Solutions Arts’ teams apart from our competition. No matter the project size, one thing remains constant: our clients' mission critical business initiatives are safe in our professionals’ capable hands.
Interview with Solutions Arts’ team member, Brian Prosser, Business Presentation Producer
Question: What do you call what you do?
BP: I’m a business presentation producer. I draw from my skills in photography, computer graphics, and multi-image presentation and production to create messaging that learners can synthesize and recall easily.
PowerPoint (PPT) gets a bad rap. It can be a great tool when used to target a client’s message effectively. We’re all familiar with creating PPT presentations on the fly or using in-house resources. Does it get the message across? Probably. Could it do it better? Most certainly. And, that’s where I come in. I work with Solutions Arts (SA) instructional designers (IDs) to drive learning content through images and presentation. This increases learner engagement and retention.
Question: What drew you to this kind of work? How long have you been in the industry?
BP: I’ve been working in the industry in some form or another for over 30 years.
I studied photography and, when I first learned about multi-image production (multiple projector slide shows), I decided to include it with my existing degree program. Combining the two represented a great marriage of photography and presentation. As a result, I earned my BS in photography with a minor in multi-image.
Through the years, I’ve added to my skill set. For example, I learned when and how to use special effects and computer graphics appropriately. I also specialize in digital editing, creating Ken Burns style video presentations and have used this skill for clients like small theatres that want to create trivia questions and produce ads for the cinema advertising industry.
I’ve been in the field and witnessed many technology standards transform from the Autographix machines back in the ‘80’s and using Aldus Persuasion to PPT as the industry standard today. Creating effective and visually appealing presentations no longer involves very expensive computers and computer programs. Any business, no matter its size or budget, can access affordable technology to develop presentations.
Question: What are your job-related strengths? What sets you apart from the competition?
Brian Prosser (BP): Many people use PPT as a shell to house Photoshopped art. I use all aspects of PPT from animation to linking and branching and all the rich features and functionality the program offers.
Question: Do people often refer to you as a ‘designer’?
BP: Yes, but I don’t refer to myself as one. PPT is a different kind of design. As a business presentation producer, I take an existing deck that our IDs lay out with content, make it pop, and drive the message.
Instead of a designer, I’m a good mix of technician and designer; usually a project has one or the other.
Question: How do you define a good project? What are the hallmarks of a good project?
BP: I really enjoy working on projects that combine several robust features not commonly used. PPT animation features have been misused for so long that people seldom feel comfortable using the feature. When an opportunity arises for me to use it, I like doing so as it harkens back to some of the positives of traditional presentations. It’s also kind of neat to pull from my multi-image days and overlay that on my animation skills.
Question: What makes your job easier/more difficult?
BP: Support is always good; vague or no support is always difficult.
There’s nothing worse than having to do something over and over again because someone isn’t able to explain what they want, or they provide vague feedback. I want them to be direct and explain why it isn’t working for them. I encourage them to help me better understand the point they’re trying to get across.
Question: What best practices do you implement consistently?
Question: What would you like clients to know? Why should clients care about their PPTs?
BP: Care about their PPT – it’s their face to the world.
It should be engaging and interesting. Be open to using more of PPTs rich features and functionality like animation. It can help illustrate a point they’re trying to get across.
About Solutions Arts
Solutions Arts is a performance improvement, custom learning and development organization rooted in proven organizational development and learning standards and practices. Our collective of freelance industry professionals possesses over 50 years of combined experience and a wealth of learning and development theory, practice, and technology at our clients’ disposal. SA delivers results on time, on budget, and with flair offering clients creative and proven solutions to address business challenges.
Research tells us that “customer service can make or break your business”. Most of us agree, good customer service is really important to a successful business. But how do we really know if we have good customer service, and how can we fix it if it’s bad?
Let’s review how customer service typically is quantified.
You’ve gathered and reviewed the data, and there’s bad news: you’ve got bad customer service. What are some key causes for poorly rated customer service?
How does it get fixed? The first two require a mindset change and fixing broken processes. These two problem areas are often well addressed through process improvement initiatives that can identify and resolve the problem at its root. The last problem, training, is often identified as a problem but rarely fixed with the right approach. Let’s look at what’s required to fix this problem for those that are serious about improving customer service.
A demonstrated strategy and commitment to improve customer service can offer many additional benefits above and beyond customers’ experiences and perspectives. It can boost employee morale, help create more engaged employees, and increase your company’s desirability as a workplace. All of these strengthen the bottom line.
 Causes of Poor Customer Service
It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
Regina’s grandmother had suffered from painful arthritis ever since Regina was a little girl. Looking back on it, she can pinpoint the moment she fell in love with chemistry and helping people. She was determined to make her grandmother’s life better. From that early childhood chemistry set to her now full-fledged holistic herbs medicinal line, she was not only helping people like her grandmother but also people who walk into her shop and present with various ailments daily.
She found her passion and ran with it. Regina opened her shop just over a year ago after connecting with locally sourced growers and distributors allowing her to scale production, obtain a business license and shop location, and get the word out through her dedicated customers. And, then the dragon showed up on her doorstep. She received notice that one of her locally sourced product ingredients had been tainted with E. coli.
Regina watched the news and understood how devastating this could be, but she didn’t have the first clue about what she should do to protect her customers and her business. She immediately removed any product containing the tainted ingredient and posted a sign in her shop. Unfortunately, she didn’t keep customer records, so she had no idea who had purchased the products or how to contact them.
Fast forward to a year later and Regina is having lunch with her new boss, Sylvia. Sylvia, interested in getting to know Regina more, asked Regina why she closed her business. When Regina finished, Sylvia asked, “What about your standard operating procedures???”
Operating a business without a set of written policies, procedures, and processes that define and list tested and approved step-by-step instructions on how to handle and execute specific tasks is risky, at best. Businesses across industries leave themselves open to expensive and embarrassing incidents—and possibly worse—when they fail to implement standard operating procedures (SOPs) that cover hiring, compliance, quality control, and replication and growth. Implementing SOPs isn’t enough. Perusing the Food & Drug Administration’s warning letters online repository yields example after example of businesses cited for “Failure to follow procedures...". Businesses must provide employees with relevant SOPs and follow up with training and evaluation to ensure knowledge and consistent application.
Small and new business owners and large corporations alike may fall prey to the same misstep. Launching and managing a business can consume all available time and resources. Factor in recruiting and hiring new staff while securing vendors, equipment, brick and mortar space, operating software, website design, and marketing and there’s very little time to focus on what might seem like the nice-to-haves. Katie Weaver-Johnson’s article, 10 Reasons for Ongoing Policy and Procedure Management, outlines a comprehensive list detailing the reasons SOPs matter to business leaders. Lists, like this, can be distilled to four core elements:
Whether a business owns the task of creating, vetting, and implementing SOPs on its own, or engages external support, guidelines exist to create a roadmap to completion.
But it doesn’t stop there. There are two components to consider and complete: One, is to identify and tie metrics to procedures. In so doing, the procedure--and those responsible for executing it—can be measured and evaluated. Establishing this mechanism to gather data informs performance and allows for optimization before it’s too late to respond.
For example, a business might want to track their Customer Churn Rate. This metric indicates the percentage of customers that either fail to make a repeat purchase or discontinue their patronage altogether. It’s always less expensive to retain a customer than to acquire a new one. Monitoring churn yields information to help identify actions necessary to increase customer retention rates. Perhaps customer service is to blame. Creating a customer service program complete with training and articulated customer service standards is less expensive than constantly acquiring new customers.
Second, businesses often follow the ‘one and done’ philosophy after implementing their SOPs. SOPs represent living documents that grow and change as the business grows and changes. A best practice is to schedule updates based on the business life cycle. This mitigates forgetting or overlooking a document that is key to a business’s success and longevity.
Protecting customers, business assets, brand, and future growth relies on a solid strategy rooted in SOPs. Regina could have avoided the dragon next door by creating and implementing a set of SOPs that held her vendors accountable to detailed safety measures, tracked her customers’ purchases, captured her customer’s contact information in a CRM, and outlined emergency procedures for just such an occasion.
 How Do I Write a Standard Operations Procedures Manual? By Kristie Lorette
 Various key performance indicators (KPIs) serve as useful metrics to evaluate procedures and employees. For a list of possible KPIs, review Ted Jackson’s 18 Key Performance Indicator (KPI) Examples Defined.
 For more information on Customer Churn rate, visit Churn Rate 101.
It started like a perfect project. The company had realized the huge cost of non-productive time for sales new hires and the crippling cost of their high turnover. Sales leaders had finally decided to dedicate funds and resources to developing a formal new hire onboarding program. A team was assembled, goals set, KPIs created and the needs analysis kicked off. Since new hires were managed by the sales managers, it made sense to gather some top sales managers and use their experience to develop the exit skills required of a new hire. A few fact-finding sessions were held and in short order, the program had a needs list signed off by senior management and curriculum development duly churned out the Quick-Start Program.
Quick-Start began with an in-depth review of compensation spreadsheets, benefits information, and a quick peek at the performance review system (the sales managers had all agreed that new hires had endless questions for them in these areas). Next came working sessions with the CRM tool to build confidence in entering their opportunity information. Then a special instructor came into the class to teach the complex order entry system (sales managers specifically said this should be covered in class because many salespeople needed help navigating the system whenever a sale was made). The last instructor-led session was “cold-calling” so the sales reps could immediately start calling and become productive.
Of course, their training wasn’t complete with just the instructor-led session. They completed hours of online product training courses, and webinars with trainers at different times through the week, and each section was signed off by the sales manager as completed as new salespeople demonstrated the skills.
After a year of this perfectly conceived and designed program, the results were gathered. 100% of sales new-hires completed all steps of the program, as indicated by sales manager sign-offs of mandatory checkpoints along the way. That was the only good news. Sales Productivity dropped 45% for the first six months of the new hire’s career and new hire turnover increased by 200%. The Quick-Start Program was a dismal failure.
Why did it fail? It shares common failures with many unsuccessful onboarding programs.
The SHRM Foundation’s research into the field tells us that up to 20% of staff turnover within the first 45 days of employment is primarily due to bad onboarding. Careerbuilder research reveals that more than 36% of companies lack a structured onboarding program. And ATD reports that 49% of employers with structured programs said their employees were more engaged and had lower turnover.  It’s clear the data demonstrates a good onboarding program can be of tremendous impact, so what are the key areas that make or break a program?
Employers are wise to consider how onboarding could bring engaged, productive employees into the workforce (and keep them there!).
It’s almost a tenet of law in the world of learning professionals—participants learn better if taught in their preferred learning style. We read it, we repeat it, we subject learning participants to endless learning style inventories or assessments before we inflict training, but do we ever stop to question if it’s true? Actually, there have been some scientific studies done and without fail, they completely refute our long-held beliefs.
As Megan Scudellari discussed in the December 2015 issue of Nature Magazine, there are two truths that collided to create the myth. First is the fact that people do have a preference for how they receive information. Second, evaluations of learning effectiveness have proved that outcomes are best when the instructor presents information in multiple sensory modes. However, there is no solid research demonstrating that teaching a person in their preferred style has any benefit.
It is a myth that will be a long time in dying, partly because of the money-spinning market built around this practice. “There are groups of researchers who still adhere to the idea, especially folks who developed questionnaires and surveys for categorizing people. They have a strong vested interest,” says Richard Mayer, an educational psychologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
A 2008 study on learning styles by four cognitive neuroscientists published at the National Institute of Health found, “Although the literature on learning styles is enormous, very few studies have even used an experimental methodology capable of testing the validity of learning styles applied to education. Moreover, of those that did use an appropriate method, several found results that flatly contradict the popular meshing hypothesis. We conclude therefore, that at present, there is no adequate evidence base to justify incorporating learning-styles assessments into general educational practice”.
So what methods has science proved do affect learning outcomes? What can we do with individual learners to make learning more effective? It turns out that science does have answers and it’s called “active learning.” Participants learn best when they have to immediately use the knowledge they have gained to problem solve. For an example, Sarah Leupen uses active learning in her introductory physiology class at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. An original question in her course was: “Name the sensory nerves of the leg.” Her new question, forcing the students to use critical thinking skills, is:
You're innocently walking down the street when aliens zap away the sensory neurons in your legs. What happens?
a) Your walking movements show no significant change.
b) You can no longer walk.
c) You can walk, but the pace changes.
d) You can walk, but clumsily.
“We usually get lots of vigorous debate on this one,” says Leupen, who spends most of her class time firing such questions at her students. “It's lovely to experience.”
It’s a tough sell to ask curriculum developers and instructional designers to give up their familiar learning styles model. It’s even tougher to start adding the active learning components that challenge the participants to think and immediately put material to use. However, the science is telling us that if we want to improve the effectiveness of learning, the time is now. Would we rather have an inexpensive-to-develop training that is ineffective, or spend a little more and actually get results?
It's part of our human nature to categorize. This skill allows us to efficiently interact with new experiences and the world. While reading an article written by Ryan Diller and published online by MultiBriefs: Exclusive recently, the thought occurred to me: When we think of inclusion in the workplace, do we resort to the classic categorizations of race, gender, age, and sexual orientation without regard to transgender inclusivity? Perhaps, and I suspect we all can do better to educate and inform ourselves and our work environments, and transform existing spaces to create a trans-friendly workplace.
How does your workplace rate on transgender inclusivity? Diller's article outlines four tips to help organizations transition cultures and messaging.
Cultural change doesn't just happen automatically by proclaiming, "this is who we are". It requires learning and development throughout the organization from leadership to all levels within an organization. What do you offer current employees to help them uncover and address personal and organizational obstacles to change and embracing diversity?
At Solutions Arts, we're committed to helping our clients grow into, lead, and perform at their best. We welcome the opportunity to support your efforts. Let us know how we can help.
Our clients and the training community ask us questions and often consistent themes emerge. From making learning stick to developing skills we once assumed every employee possessed, the challenges today’s businesses face can be transformed through a strong learning culture.
Every year, the learning and development industry presents exciting developments, time-saving innovations, and new research. Solutions Arts follows and tests theories, practices, and technologies, and our clients benefit from what we learn. We value sharing what we learn and the opportunity to discuss it here on our blog.