The Nuts and Bolts of Creating an Engaging Training Program

It is no secret that today’s workforce is distracted. According to a 2013 Towards Maturity report, 88% of employees don’t have time, or make time, to engage with learning and development (L&D) offerings. When you add in the fact that the average attention span for adults engaging with learning is only 8.25 seconds* (…….sorry, what was I saying?) you can see why competing for your employee’s attention can be challenging when it comes to learning.


On a recent Training Magazine webinar, Odette Santiago-Elmer, Meridian University training manager, shared her insight into how the basics of creating an engaging training program really come down to a well thought out strategy that is balanced between focusing on the needs of the company, as well as the needs and overall experiences of the learner. It’s hard to make time for webinars in our busy day, so here are some of the top takeaways from the session that you can apply to your L&D programs right now.


What makes creating engaging learning so challenging?

It isn’t just a distracted workforce that makes creating engaging training programs difficult, there are several challenges at an organizational level that often also need to be overcome.


Doing more with less, has become a common theme for the expectations of L&D departments and limited funds put a strain on the amount of resources available to your team. A reduction of head count in the overall workforce means that the employees that organizations hire and retain need to be highly skilled, or need the necessary training to improve their current skillset so they can operate at a higher level. On top of this, a climate of constantly changing business initiatives can make it difficult to decide what is relevant when developing training.


Creating engaging and targeted training

Engaging training programs start with “focused” instructional design and a strategic plan.

  • Plan, plan, plan – Any training program starts with an idea or problem that needs to be solved. For internal training courses, think about what skills the people in a specific position must have. Who is responsible for identifying what that require training must be? Your HR department, direct supervisors for that role? When it comes to external training, think about the group of partners/vendors that you are targeting. What is in it for them? How will they benefit from completing the course or program (especially if they are paying you for that training)?
  • Know your audience – This seems like a no-brainer, but can often be an area where content doesn’t stack up. What line of the business are you targeting with this course? What is their work environment? Are they at a desk all day with access to a computer, or will the training need to be available on a mobile device? Odette’s #1 tip – Always target the lowest common denominator, not the expert that may be taking the course. It is better to cover information that may already be known than to assume that all learners have this prior knowledge.


Branding and Communicating Your Offerings

There are several key elements when it comes to successfully increasing exposure for your training program (for more check out the Nuts and Bolts of Creating an Engaging Training Program whitepaper).

  • Develop a brand for your learning offerings – It’s time to think like a marketer (or to reach out to your marketing team for their insight)! After putting a lot of hard work into creating your training, you want to make sure that it doesn’t go unnoticed. Think about a formal name and a logo that compliment your organization’s brand.
  • Establish a clear communication plan – Set up a cadence of communication that consistently reminds learners about the L&D offerings that are available to them and any new courses or options.
  • Share your success – Communication doesn’t have to only be to your learners, share the success of your program with the company and executive team. Show how each of your training assets is aligned with corporate objectives, and how your learning program addresses real challenges within the business.


View the webinar replay for all of Odette’s insights into creating an engaging training program that will keep your learners coming back for more!


New Year, New Learning Resolutions

When it comes to our personal lives getting fit, organized and healthy are always top our list of New Year’s resolutions year after year. When it comes to our work life, we’re always looking for ways to advance our careers, manage time more wisely and be better leaders.


If you haven’t figured it out, most New Year’s resolutions share a common theme – they’re all about personal development.


But, if you’re a learning and development pro have you thought about taking New Year’s resolutions one step further? Do you have goals in mind for your organizational development programs in 2016?


Lucky for you, Kris Dunn, CHRO of Kinetix and founder of Fistful of Talent, is dropping some knowledge (a few days after the Times Square ball drops!) on the top New Year’s resolutions for learning and development pros.


Find out how to:

  1. Get your L&D programs organized
  2. Onboard with a purpose
  3. Execute L&D with an eye on retaining top performers
  4. Invest in managers of people
  5. Reinforce your company culture using your L&D function


Save your virtual seat on Tuesday, January 19th at 2:00 PM EST for our webinar, “New Year’s Resolutions for Your Learning and Development Function.” In the meantime, if there’s anything you want Kris to cover during the event, leave us a comment below!

The Great HR and L&D Bucket List

10 great things every pro should know (and how to do them without feeling like a tourist!)

I was standing in line at my local supermarket over the weekend and noticed a cover of Washingtonian Magazine titled, “The Great Washington Bucket List.” The issue offered a rundown of the cool, hip things to do in Washington, D.C., whether you were a local or a tourist. As I thumbed through the issue (impressed with myself for picking up something other than gossip rags), it got me thinking about bucket lists and what would be on my version of an HR and learning bucket list.


The big question is – where do you start?

When was the last time you flew out to Vegas for The HR Technology Conference? Or, watched a HR debate go down on #TChat?


Admit it, it’s been awhile.


We’re busy and it’s difficult to step back, evaluate and prioritize. So, I set out to pull together a collection of things we thought was important to do as a HR and learning and development practitioner. Here is my collection of the 10 most memorable sights, sounds and events you really shouldn’t miss, and some tips of how to see them like you have “been there and done that.”


  1. Visit HR Tech 2015 – If you are a HR or learning executive, this is the one event you don’t want to miss! It’s your one stop shop for all the latest technology and information about the HR and learning space. And if nothing else… its Vegas baby! (Shameless plug… feel free to visit Meridian at Booth #2614)
  2. Visit ATD 2015 – This is by far the best learning and training event of the year! Where else can you learn all about your industry and visit Harry Potter World! (One more shameless plug… visit Meridian at Booth #1209)
  3. Subscribe to Fistful of Talent website – If you want a good laugh and great, honest advice from people in the trenches, look no further from the gang over at Fistful of Talent. The blogs are hysterical, relatable and authentic.  They understand HR problems and always provide an interesting twist on how to handle rough situations.
  4. Pick up a copy of Power of a Habit by Charles Duhigg. Leadership advice is in no short supply, but this book is worth a read. Don’t just take my word for it, Daniel H. Pink gives a glowing review saying, “You’ll never look at yourself, your organization, or your world quite the same way.”
  5. Bookmark the top HR websites. Make a habit of visiting CLO, Human Resources Executive, and Training Industry weekly. These publications are full of smart articles that will resonate with you and your organization.
  6. Rip the band-aid off and get social! Log onto twitter and follow the latest happenings and insights from some of the industry thought leaders. They spend their day tweeting meaningful perspectives on leadership, development and good-old-fashioned HR issues. A few of my favorites: @ednathanson, @timsackett, @steveboese, and, of course,@oprah (and, my final shameless plug, @MeridianKS)
  7. Spend some time reading up on the latest industry research. Subscribe to the email lists of industry analyst firms like Bersin, Deloitte, Forrester and Gartner. There is a lot of free research out there is meaningful to you. Here’s a free Brandon Hall Report on how to turn your learning center into a profit center!
  8. Become a member of your local SHRM chapter!
  9. Check out the Meridian Learning and Development Hangouts – where else can you take a 20 minute break and hear the latest info and insight on the latest HR and Learning topics. We promise you won’t be disappointed!
  10. And my final shameless plug, visit the Meridian Knowledge Solutions Blog. We are committed to keeping it packed full of relevant content and thought leadership around learning, development, human resources and workplace culture.


That’s all for now!


Why Development Planning Shouldn’t be an Afterthought

Most of us who have spent time in the HR or training space understand development planning often manifests itself as an ugly compromise within organizations. Those who see learning and development as a line-item expense, rather than an investment in future performance, fight to minimize the impact development planning has in terms of taking people away from productive work.


Whether you just finished your performance review, or you have one right around the corner, I often see that this is the only time employees have even somewhat of a conversation around development.
If the bullet points employees add to their plan wind up shoved in a drawer, or submitted online (buried in a virtual drawer), the result is often the same: a forgotten conversation that manages to exclude learning and development – the very people the organization has hired to help grow employees’ skill sets.


So it’s easy to despair or dread launching into an uphill battle for new processes or new tools. However, I believe effective development planning can still be done with nothing more than a generic “areas for development” box on an annual appraisal. Employees and managers simply need a little help.

Here are 5 ways to get employees engaged in the process:

  1. Send an email or other communication to employees as the annual appraisal approaches letting them know about the L&D team, where to get information on training that is already provided, how to request additional training, and to consider these things as they complete the development part of the appraisal.
  2. Expose job descriptions and requirements somewhere employees can easily browse and apply for open opportunities. Remind them of this during development planning season.
  3. Point employees to an easily-searchable resource that lists available training interventions for desired skills, competencies or jobs. If all you have is a spreadsheet, make it available! Your learning management system (LMS) provider will likely have tools to make this process easier.
  4. Suggest a structure for filling out that aspect of the form. Something like, “I want to get better at ______ so that I can _____. To achieve this, I am going to ______.” Asking for the “what, why and how” of each part of the plan elicits important context.
  5. If you can’t capture what’s being added to plans via an automated system, send out a standalone survey asking what development needs are out there and what learning opportunities are desired.


At the end of the day, development planning is much less about a system, and more about employee-manager conversation, and the ability to create meaningful, actionable next steps. That meaning, the “What’s in it for me?” becomes more apparent when it’s framed around future aspirations.


When L&D can set the table for these conversations, everyone benefits.