Is Your Training Linked To Business Results?
In the first part of this series, I introduced the persona of an “eLearning Champion” and revisited some basic aspects of training and learning. In the second part, I dealt with how to fit eLearning into the overall training strategy, including blending eLearning with classroom training.
This final part deals with the all-important aspect of setting learning objectives which seals the fate of any learning if not done properly.
How Do Business Leaders View Training?
A majority of line managers think that training is of limited value and of limited use. It is rare that we come across line managers beating a path to the training director’s office seeking help to train their people. It’s usually the other way around—training managers trying hard to find work! Most training managers seldom think about how their training is going to impact business results. They just react to a demand from a line manager, jump in, and start designing or delivering the course.
Most training is done in isolation without linking it to the terminal objective of achieving business results. Neither the line manager nor the training manager pays much attention to this very important aspect. Not doing so results in enormous costs, ineffective training that has little impact on business results, and loss of credibility of training and training managers. So, how do we make training a much sought-after value-producing endeavor that positively impacts results?
Linking Training To Business Results
Let’s look at the continuum below. The correct sequence is from left to right: first identify or understand the desired organizational result (increase sales, reduce cost and/or time, improve quality, reduce waste…), then translate it into the desired performance (what is the human performance that would achieve these business results, all other things being constant?), and then this desired performance needs to be translated into performance-based learning objectives (what is the performance you wish to see from the learners after they complete the training?).
That is how you establish a link between your business goals, human performance, and your own training interventions.
Learning Objectives And Business Results
Setting learning objectives is the first step you need to take before you even think of design or development or choice of an authoring tool. This applies to both classroom and eLearning as well.
Learning objectives should be:
- With CONDITIONS of performance clearly decided
- And CRITERIA of performance carefully set
First you need to decide what is the performance you want to improve with your training. Performance-based learning objectives are learning objectives that include performance in them, which means they can be measured at the end of the training. If not for the benefit of the learner, then at least for the designer’s, the conditions in which the performance takes place should be thought about and decided—the conditions around which, or rather in which, performance is going to take place. And finally, the accepted level of performance, criteria, and pass mark should be carefully determined. If you focus on these three elements before you go to your drawing boards to design a course, then your course will be high-value and impactful.
We cannot over-emphasize the value of having performance-based learning objectives in place first. They not only link the objectives of the course to the performance that delivers the desired business results, but they will also act as a frame of reference to decide the following:
1. Scope Of Content
Most of the time, Subject Matter Experts dump a lot of content on you and expect all of it to be included in the course, whether eLearning or classroom. The course becomes long and unwieldy with a lot of extraneous, and sometimes irrelevant content. So, what are the criteria to select the most relevant content and reject the rest? The learning objectives! With very clear performance-based learning objectives, you can not only accurately identify relevant and irrelevant content, but you can also do it easily.
2. Choice Of Instructional Method
The choice of instructional method depends on the objectives. An instructional strategy depends on three factors: the learners, objectives, and subject. Let’s see how objectives will define the method. If an objective has “calculate a value” in it, the method of teaching how to calculate is different than that of an objective that has, say, “compare and contrast the values” in it. Your evaluation will also depend on the objectives.
When it comes to evaluating learning, say, through a summative assessment or a course end quiz, how can one frame the questions? It can become a virtual minefield if you do not juxtapose questions against each objective. You might end up with questions that test something entirely different from what you have set yourself for at the beginning of the exercise—and the linkage to performance will be broken.
4. Cost Of Training
The duration of the course will depend on the objectives; more objectives, more duration. Generally, line managers will come up and ask for “a three-day course” or “30-minute eLearning.” They don’t talk about learning objectives, but you should. And when you do, they will want all the learning objectives in the world to be included in the course. The best way to counter this kind of request is to explain to them that if all these objectives are included, it will take three days, not one. Or you will need a 3-hour eLearning, not a 30-minute one. Duration impacts the cost.
Design, Develop, And Translate
If I were to ask you which is your favorite authoring tool, you would probably say, “Articulate Storyline.” That’s not surprising, but there are some who prefer Adobe Captivate or Lectora Inspire. Is there a perfect authoring tool? Well, there is none.
The choice of an authoring tool depends on the following.
1. Required Output
Are you looking for rapid conversions or do you have, you know, text-heavy content which you want to convert into eLearning? Are you looking at translating the English master course into multiple languages? Or are you looking at device-agnostic content which you want to push to multiple devices?
2. Process Of Development
How are you going to design your courses? Are you going to have collaborative authoring? Are your authors or your instructional designers spread over different countries or are they all sitting in the same place? Where are your SMEs? Would they prefer to do online reviews? At what stage of eLearning adoption are you in? Are you in the “Beginner” stage or the “Very Advanced” stage?
As you can see, there are a lot of factors that come into play in selecting your authoring tool. Authoring tools have their own advantages and disadvantages; the best way is to evaluate your requirement and select one tool across the organization. Multiple tools will give rise to a lot of problems once your organization scales up eLearning.
eLearning Translations For Global Training
Nobody was talking about eLearning translations about 10 years ago. Now almost all our customers are translating their English language master course into about 40 international languages. The main consideration about translating eLearning is that it is not something which you decide on as an afterthought. You can’t suddenly choose to translate your eLearning course after you design and develop it. That’s because you will be spending more time, effort, and money if you need to translate it after the master course development. You have to make this decision right in the beginning.
You should plan translations along with the course because the instructional strategy, content strategy, visuals, audio, and choice of authoring tool will be heavily influenced by the decision to design a multilingual course. You may not need to translate it right away. You may want to do it after six months or one year. But if you have designed for this eventuality, you will save a lot of effort and cost.
The reasons to translate and localize are quite commonsensical. Culture and language impact how people learn. It makes a lot of sense to translate your courses to reach the maximum number of employees and achieve maximum impact.
With this piece, I have come to the end of my 3-article series on “Becoming an eLearning Champion.” I hope you found them useful and thought-provoking. If you want to go deeper into these subjects, you may wish to get my book with the same name, now selling on Amazon.