Meridian Debuts Career Development, Enhanced Privacy and Compliance Features

Reston, Va. – April 27, 2018 – Meridian Knowledge Solutions, a leading cloud-based learning management system (LMS) provider, announces the availability of Meridian LMSTMversion 18.1. In this release, Meridian applies their long-term focus on learning to innovative ways for users to organize and oversee their own career development paths, increased flexibility and functionality in employee career development for managers, enhanced data privacy and compliance features, and restructured system architecture for easier and more efficient navigation across devices.

“We have many customers who have been looking to move their training programs beyond compliance to focus on upskilling workers for the jobs the company will need in the future. We’ve partnered with them to create a powerful suite of tools to give visibility into the skills and competencies needed for these jobs, and an engaging ‘what’s in it for me’ point of reference for learners.  We also heard our customers tell us that they love what we’re doing with gap analysis in Career Development, but they want to use data from an external performance system to drive it. So, we made it happen.”

– Geoff Perry, Chief Product Officer
Meridian Knowledge Solutions

With each release, Meridian reiterates their commitment to learning, providing increasingly complex and in-depth functionality to meet the learning needs of businesses and organizations across the industry spectrum.

Meridian LMS 18.1 release focuses on career development, improved system architecture, and compliance/user privacy

 

Meridian LMS 18.1 release highlights include:

Career Development:

Given the high cost of a bad hire, quality career development is a huge asset to a business. A new Career Development area allows learners to easily view and manage all aspects of their career development, both for success in their current positions and in search of future advancement. The new Career Management area allows managers and administrators to easily access tools to manage their teams. These improvements help complex organizations develop their employees, moving beyond compliance training and toward well-considered long-term career-focused learning paths.

Import of Rating Data:

Rating data can now be imported from another system, allowing this valuable information to be instantly accessed and leveraged as part of career development planning in the LMS. While most companies conduct some sort of job reviews, many do nothing with their rating data. Often, it sits unused in dusty talent management systems, completely divorced from plans for employee development and training. Now, this important data can be easily decoupled from talent management systems and added to the LMS, where it will serve a vital role in career management.

Too often, career management and development are bundled with bulky talent management and acquisition systems—expanded and efficient career development within Meridian LMS allows customers the freedom to dissociate these very different functions.

Enhanced Privacy & Compliance Features:

System owners now have access to new features to support the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) which are scheduled to take effect on May 25, 2018.  With these new features, system owners have more control over their privacy policy, requiring user consent prior to users storing their data, exporting learning data, and removing user’s personal data from the system if requested.

Architectural Improvements:

Significant improvements have been made to the underlying system architecture, including the creation of a new site map. This allows for consistent menus and breadcrumbs across the site, as well as more efficient navigation across devices.

Meridian LMS 18.1 is available April 28, 2018. For more information, contact your Meridian representative or go to meridianks.com.

About Meridian Knowledge Solutions:

Meridian Knowledge Solutions, LLC, is a leading provider of enterprise, web-based learning management software. Meridian LMS is leveraged by organizations dedicated to building world-class learning enterprises. With over 7 million users worldwide, Meridian offers a flexible, best-of-breed learning management system that gives organizations and users alike a seamless, integrated experience, all while strengthening the bottom line. Meridian is headquartered in Reston, VA.

Powerful Practices: Improving Learning Effectiveness

Welcome to the Powerful Practices Top 10 Series.

These next few blog posts will highlight top Learning & Development challenges, their criticality, best practices for resolution, and how the Meridian Learning Management System can position you and your team for success.

In my many years of learning consulting, two of the most frequent and often subjective questions that I ask my clients are What are your measures of success?  and How do you determine learning effectiveness?

Sure, Kirkpatrick’s Levels of Evaluation will give you hardcore statistics, however, there are so many layers that need to be analyzed as well i.e.,

Does the training program align with the overall strategy?
Is the training program geared towards the correct audiences?
Is training really the answer?
Through the levels of organizational politics and bureaucracy, including the various stakeholders with their own agendas, not to mention HR’s involvement with their hold on policy and procedure…

How would you successfully answer these questions?

Learning effectiveness is a highly subjective topic which encompasses levels ranging from the standpoint of the learner, the business unit, the division, and so on. Taking a holistic approach to determining learning effectiveness is a smart strategy that you can employ when gauging and measuring outcomes. Learning effectiveness does not simply fall with the learner, it’s a much broader, ongoing conversation that all levels in the organization must participate in to maintain an engaged, motivated learning culture.

 

So, what does this look like?

In previous Powerful Practices posts, I discussed strategy, alignment and targeting.  These are all key players in ensuring learning effectiveness.  Learning strategy is essential in building relationships and alignment with the overall organization mission, vision and goals of the business.  Learning alignment is critical to the overall health of the organization to ensure that all business units are aware, informed, and poised to work cohesively towards a common goal.  And, learning relevancy is vital due to the fact that the learner must able to apply the acquired knowledge to solve a current business problem, support a new product launch, or generally know why they are learning said materials.

To improve and ensure learning effectiveness throughout your organization, these key players must be actively engaged throughout the process.  Learning effectiveness heavily relates to these key players.

For learning to be effective, not only for the learner, but to the overall health of the organization, the following elements must be thoroughly discussed, defined and strategized for success learning:

  • Learner – Ultimately, the learner is at the heart of this process. A formal instructional design methodology must be utilized to design, develop, and implement an instructionally sound, engaging, and knowledge training product.  I would strongly advocate using Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Evaluation as your measurement tools and processes.  These levels provide solid measurement and statistics to ensure your learners are receiving the very best solution to meet their needs.
  • Subject Matter Expert – To ensure and improve learning effectiveness, the SME’s role is critical. They are the primary source of content, context, and process. The role of the SME is to provide the learning process with rich chunks of knowledge to incorporate into both the learning design process, as well as, implementation.  For example, the SME can provide valuable information regarding the business unit that may impact a successful launch like the potential language barriers of a remote team OR the multiple shifts in multiple time zones that must be trained for a successful launch.
  • Manager – A manager’s role in learning effectiveness plays across many different layers. The first layer is managing their team and productiveness. Then, there is the role managers play in the broader organization, as a conduit of top-down information to ensure business operates successfully and efficiently.   Their role is to ensure all parties have the correct information, at the right time, and with the right direction.
  • Business Unit – This role is pivotal in the learning effectiveness process. The individual business units must be aligned to the greater good of the organization to ensure the training solution is aligned and relevant to the current business goals and strategies.
  • Division – Since business units roll-up to divisional leaders, this layer of administration acts as the glue to keep everything together. Ultimately, they are the gatekeepers to ensure proper alignment of all business units to the greater good of the organization; which translates into designing, developing, and implementing a strong, dynamic learning culture.

To operate as a cohesive and strategic, business entity, all business units must collaborate in a healthy, open arena for sharing, communicating, living and breathing the mission, vision, and strategic goals of your organization.  Learning effectiveness, whether it is ensuring or improving, must be discussed and strategized at every level.

Meridian LMS™ offers a variety of tools, workflows, and functions that assist you in creating and implementing effective training solutions.  For instance, curricula and bundles on effective organization strategies can be created for leadership teams that include knowledge transfers, on-the-job training, collaboration spaces and professional development scenarios.  Meridian also offers an OpenSesame Marketplace integration that allows you to purchase relevant, aligned content that can be imported right into Meridian LMS for seamless transactions.

Certifications can be created to define the perfect aligned learning path in a structured, sequential order. Those certification paths can, in turn, be delivered on a multitude of platforms on-demand, 24/7 via our LMS. Collaboration spaces can also be configured allowing learners to post files, wikis, and discussions to aid in sharing of best practices, white papers. The collaboration spaces help foster open discussions of real-time challenges and resolutions. And Meridian’s robust reporting tools also allow you to track, manage and drive performance easily through the use of custom dashboards and ad-hoc reporting.

Meridian Knowledge Solutions, LLC, is the leading provider of enterprise, web-based learning management software. Meridian’s powerful, easy-to-use solutions are leveraged by organizations dedicated to building world-class learning enterprises. Meridian has over 7+ million users worldwide and believes that learning is first, learning is yours, and learning is without limits.

Check out a Meridian LMS Demo to uncover more and schedule your live system demonstration.

Download our infographic The 5 Keys to Learning Effectiveness

What’s New in Meridian Global LMS 17.2

The 2017 Summer Release of Meridian Global LMS adds seamless integration with OpenSesame’s eLearning Marketplace, exciting new gamification capabilities and effortless efficiency advancements.

 

Reston, Va. – June 24, 2017 – Meridian Knowledge Solutions, a leading learning management system (LMS) provider, today announced the availability of Meridian Global LMS® version 17.2. With the newest release of its flagship learning management product, Meridian makes the jobs of LMS administrators and instructors easier.

Meridian Global LMS 17.2 streamlines the way users find and manage content, giving learners access to more items from the learning catalog, and providing a tool for increasing user engagement.

“Providing a great experience for administrators and instructors is just as important as it is for learners.  In this release, we’ve introduced more tools to allow administrators to grow and manage their learning catalog and increase engagement with learners.”

— Geoff Perry, Chief Product Officer

Meridian Global LMS® 17.2 release includes:

Navigation Enhancements: Navigate with confidence. Meridian Global 17.2 delivers an improved navigation experience, allowing easier, more direct ways to access necessary functionality.

  • Streamlined Navigation
  • Quick Create for Learning Content: Meridian added a universal content create button to the navigation bar, allowing for quick creation of content from anywhere in the system.
  • Edit from catalog details: Content administrators can now jump directly to editing a content item from its catalog details page.
  • Enhanced Predictive Search: Predictive search results now display below the search field and include both the title of the item and its content type.


Classroom Section Updates: Designed with Administrators and Instructors in mind, classroom section updates improve frequently used workflows, easing the burden on your time and resources.

  • Easy-print roster: A printable sign-in sheet that can also be exported to Excel has been added to classroom courses.
  • Information repository for course notes and files: Administrators and instructors can now add files and notes to classroom section details that can be shared between authorized users.
  • Completion Codes: Users can now indicate they have enrolled in, attended, and completed a course, all in one step.
  • Time zones in Section Management: When authorized users create, or edit a classroom course section, they now have the option to associated a time zone with course section start and end times.

Extended Permission Scope

Let your LMS work for you with extended permission scope. Administrators can more effectively delegate administration and increase a user’s influence in the system.

Administrators now have the option to assign individual “scope of control” permissions to users, allowing for more specificity in designating which users a particular administrator can see in Manage Users and Manage Enrollment.

Gamification

Meridian Global 17.2 delivers a new tool, Gamification, designed to spark user engagement and motivation – Administrators have the configurable option to assign points to content items and create badges to be awarded to users based on point accumulation. There is also an optional leaderboard, allowing users to view their progress as well as that of their colleagues.

OpenSesame Integration

The OpenSesame eLearning Marketplace is now integrated with the Meridian Global Learning Management System, making it easier than ever to build your library of online content. Choose from more than 20,000 courses in a variety disciplines and expand your users’ professional skills in a seamless, comprehensive learning experience.

Find the courses you want, choose the number of seats you need, and let Meridian Global LMS import the courses for you. No more uploading courses one at a time.

OpenSesame Integration Highlights:

  • Seamless integration with Meridian Global Learning Management System
  • Access to a library of more than 20,000 carefully curated, professional development courses
  • Choose the courses and number of seats to meet your training goals
  • Maintain complete control over learner access to content
  • OpenSesame courses are automatically added to existing Meridian LMS™ course catalog
  • Single sign-on purchasing and synchronization of content

Availability

Meridian’s 17.2 release is available on June 24, 2017.

Request a live demo of Meridian Global LMS.

 

About Meridian Knowledge Solutions:

Meridian Knowledge Solutions, LLC, is the leading provider of enterprise, web-based learning management software. Meridian’s powerful yet easy-to-use solutions are leveraged by organizations dedicated to building world-class learning enterprises inspired and focused on delivering exceptional results. With over 7 million users worldwide, Meridian offers a flexible, best-of-breed learning management system that gives organizations and users alike a seamless, integrated experience, all while strengthening the bottom line. The company is headquartered in Reston, VA.

Media Contact:

John Carmean
Director, Marketing and Communications
Meridian Knowledge Solutions
jcarmean@meridianks.com

Powerful Practices: Alignment

Welcome to the Powerful Practices Top 10 Series.

My next few blog posts will highlight top Learning & Development challenges, their criticality, best practices for resolution, and how Meridian Global Learning Management System can position you for success.

Alignment.  It’s almost a taboo topic in business now-a-days. We all know we have to do it, but very few actually execute well.

Alignment is the key strategic principle in designing and deploying effective learning programs, but why?

This best practice post will define alignment, defend its importance, demonstrate how to effectively align L&D strategically to organizational and business objectives, and describe how Meridian LMS™ can help you achieve alignment success!

What exactly is alignment?  Alignment occurs when the framework of your organization – HR, Business Units, L&D, Quality, IT – all work cohesively together to support the philosophy, purpose and stated strategy of the organization.  Culture also plays a huge role in these support structures coming together.

Think of it this way…

When building a house, the architect begins with designing the home and creating the blueprints. Next, is meeting with the builders to determine the materials, cost, timing and location.  After that is the ground breaking with core structure going up… if there was no alignment, communication and strategy, the house build might start without the basement being dug.

You get the picture.

With the aligned business units coming together, the process is deployed like the construction of a well-designed piece of architecture.  Each phase, strategically, and functionally, comes together as a firm foundation on which to build the next phase in the process.

In the business world, the underlying framework needs to operate in the same manner.  HR needs to be in constant communication with the business units; L&D needs to be strategically tied to the business units for clear understanding of the current business drivers. HR needs to act as an overlying enforcer of policy and procedure; all while each unit works to meet the goals and objectives of the organization.

  • Alignment is key.
  • Continuous Communication is key.
  • Strategy and Planning are key.
  • Learning is key.

Each of these processes work in harmony to create a synergistic business balance.

Learning and Development plays a huge role in alignment.  L&D must be fully aligned to their respective business units as well as the overall needs of the organization.

Let’s put this into a real-world context… The CLO wants the corporate onboarding program completely overhauled. The L&D Managers have been tasked with redesigning the program, as well as the continuing education program afterwards. Where do they start? What resources do they bring in? What is the time frame? What is the core content?

To be strategically focused…

  1. The first KEY action item would be to create a cross-functional committee representing business units cross the organization ranging from HR to Business Leaders to garner a holistic view and business buy-in from each business unit represented. Each unit gets to voice their opinions, discuss their business objectives, communicate their direction, and have the ultimate buy-in and approval for strategic success.
  2. The second action would be to conduct a needs assessment to fully review the existing program including content, deployment, trainers, quality leads, business leaders to identify what works, what doesn’t, what they would like to see going forward, business alignment, and document these into a “best practices” document to use as a guide in designing the new program.
  3. The third action would be to develop the core team with assigned responsibilities (project plan and direction) so all members are fully aware of their roles, responsibilities, timelines, and outputs.

Again, alignment is the number one KEY in pulling all this together.  Each team, with their representatives, will be able to voice their opinions, business drivers, strategic goals, and most importantly get buy-in for ultimate success.

Now, the important question comes … how do you teach alignment?

It isn’t necessarily a course you can launch in the LMS that everyone is required to take.  This competency is comprised of a variety of skills such as strategic planning, project management, leadership, accountability, communication, and organization.

Learning & Development can collaborate with the Executive Leadership team to define the alignment competency for your organization and then design a series of courses, curriculum, or certifications to educate and move the needle towards proper organizational alignment.

Meridian Global LMS offers a variety of tools that can then assist in helping your organization meet their organization and alignment needs.  Certifications can be created to define the perfect Alignment learning path in a structured, sequential order, which in turn can be delivered across a multitude of platforms on-demand, 24/7 via our LMS. Meridian’s OpenSesame Content Marketplace integration allows you to purchase relevant, aligned content that can be effortlessly imported right into our LMS for seamless transactions.  Then, Meridian’s robust, real-time reporting tools also allow you to track, manage and drive performance easily using custom dashboards and ad-hoc reporting.  Collaboration spaces can also be configured to allow learners to post files, wikis, and discussions to aid in sharing of best practices, white papers, and open discussions of current challenges and resolutions.

Alignment is the key to overall business success.  Not just for L&D, but for every unit in the organization.  To operate as a cohesive, strategic, business entity, all units must collaborate in a healthy, open arena for sharing, communicating, living and breathing the mission, vision, and strategic goals of your organization.

Meridian Knowledge Solutions is the leading provider of enterprise, web-based learning management software. Meridian’s powerful, easy-to-use solutions are leveraged by organizations dedicated to building world-class learning enterprises.

To schedule a Meridian Global LMS demo, visit http://learn.meridianks.com/RequestDemo.html

Follow Meridian on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company-beta/40932/

 

The Anatomy of a Great RFP Requirement

When I’m not giving demos or travelling to tradeshows to meet potential and existing clients, I spend the majority of each day evaluating client RFPs and RFP requirements to determine if our product and solution provide a good fit for your various business needs.

 

After doing this for a decade, I estimate I have evaluated almost 100,000 written requirements from clients across approximately 750 proposals.

 

Accordingly, I can speak with professional expertise that there are generally three types of RFP requirements… the good, the bad and the ugly.

 

The Good—A good requirement is a single question or statement clearly organized into the context of the surrounding requirements placed in a clearly defined section of the RFP.  Good requirements are easy to respond to, clear and concise, and are logically presented in the context of the surrounding requirements. For example, reporting requirements are presented with other reporting requirements, for instance.  Good requirements allow your potential vendors to best present their solution while still giving you an apples-to-apples comparison.

 

  1. Example: Do you support classroom course scheduling?  Please describe these tools with brief narrative and screen captures where applicable. 

This requirement is clear, concise, and provides detailed instructions on the preferred response format. 

 

The Bad—A bad requirement is often multiple, non-related questions laced into a single requirement.  Some of the questions might apply to the context of the surrounding requirements but outliers often tend to sneak in and muddy the waters.  Two part and even three part questions are okay and even expected.  However, LMS buyers should be aware that increasing the complexity of requirements can often lead to responses that may address all elements of the requirement in a compliant manner, but are ultimately non-responsive in nature.  It is tough to answer reporting, hosting, and customer support questions in a single response with clarity.   Instead of the details you were hoping for, you will instead receive generalizations and high-level information.

 

  1. Example: Please describe your reporting tools, company mission statement, compliance capabilities, and provide a disaster recovery plan. 

This requirement goes in four different directions and is vague.  Instead of getting the details you seek in this type of requirement, you will get four general statements on the various aspects of the requirement without any real detail or compelling information. 

 

The Ugly—Ugly requirements generally fall into one of three categories.

 

  1. The first type of Ugly requirement is one that is not clear and does not make sense or one is that repeated multiple times throughout the RFP. Typos are forgivable and understandable.  I often see client requirements repeated multiple times throughout the document.  These force respondents to either be redundant or to ask the RFP evaluator to jump back to previous responses in the proposal. Keep in mind that redundant requirements make a proposal more difficult to evaluate.
  • Example 1: We want to use reporting to drive eCommerce and tie into classroom courses.  This requirement does not make sense and would force respondents to seek clarification.

 

  1. The second are requirements from industries like manufacturing that sneak their way into software RFPs from existing company templates. These requirements are just not relevant to a software purchase and should be removed from your RFP template prior to distribution to potential vendors.
  • Example 2: Please describe your warehouse security. This is not relevant to software vendors as they do not warehouse physical products.  

 

  1. The third type of ugly requirement is one that is best demonstrated in a live presentation of the software. Vendors understand that often an RFP is unavoidable, we also understand that the best place for our product to shine is in the demos.
  • Example 3: Please show us the procedure for an end user to access the LMS, register for a course, and check their compliance. This seems like an innocuous requirement but screen captures can be edited and selectively chosen to make processes and elements of the system seem easier than they really are.  Workflows, uses cases, user scenarios, etc. are all best left to the demonstration phase of the procurement. 

 

At this point, careful readers have noted that I have promised the anatomy of a great RFP requirement, yet we have only discussed the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.  So, what makes a Great RFP requirement?

 

The answer is, one that eliminates all but the most capable vendors in a manner that keeps the process efficient and illuminating for the evaluators.

 

Most RFPs contain 3-5 minimum and critical requirements that will disqualify any vendor that cannot meet them. These are often referred to as “must haves” or “minimum requirements” and allow vendors to make easy go/no-go decisions while also ensuring the client is not flooded with bids from unqualified vendors.  These requirements are your critical ones, the requirements that determine if you will move forward or not.  They are often hot button issues driven from either your client base of employees or customers or from a lack of features with the incumbent vendor solution.

 

Forgive me for trotting out this old cliché, but time is money and evaluating and responding to RFPs takes a lot of both. The more upfront you are about your mission critical requirements, the easier you will be able to identify the right vendor for your business. Smart unqualified vendors will disqualify themselves before you must if they are given the information they need in the RFP to make an educated decision.

 

Example:  We must have single sign on with SAML 2.0 or other industry standard authentication scheme.  Our current solution does not support this and it is critical to our future eLearning initiatives.  Vendors who cannot meet this requirement will be disqualified from the bid process and their RFP will not be considered for evaluation.

 

Example:  We use WebEx to deliver virtual classroom training.  Please describe your support for this tool.  Vendors with a built in WebEx integration will receive preference during evaluation.

 

A Great RFP requirement then meets all the characteristics of a “good” requirement as it is clear, concise, and easy to respond to while also giving vendors the information they need on which requirements are your most critical.

 

Get off to a great start in your search for a learning management system with Meridian’s best practice LMS RFP template.

Download Meridian’s best practice RFP template now.

Back to school, Back to learning

It’s that time of year! Across the country, students are heading back to school (and parents are rejoicing!). With new backpacks, supplies and books in tow, students are ready to kick off the school year. The long days of summer might be winding down, but there’s no denying there’s a certain refreshing energy in the air this time of year.

 

Students are excited to learn; they’re ready to take on new challenges and experience new things. After a rewarding summer of block parties and vacations, it’s nice to get back into a routine.

 

The beginning of school year always reminds me of the start of the New Year. There’s this renewed feeling that anything is possible if you put your mind to it – especially when it comes to personal and professional growth.

 

Throughout the workday, we get pulled in a dozen different directions. We set an intention to invest in our professional development, but unavoidable commitments and deadlines get in the way. There’s something inspiring about watching students of all ages – from first-time kindergarteners to last-year graduate students – get ready for the new school year.

 

So as professional learners, why not take this opportunity to set new goals, explore new areas of interest and grow your careers?

 

It could be something as grandiose as heading back to graduate school or as small (but mighty) as committing 10 minutes a week to learning something new. The most important thing is never to stop learning.

 

As Albert Einstein once said, “Once you stop learning, you start dying.” — Click to Tweet!

 

How do you plan to learn something new this school year?

 

Share your learning goals, inspiration and accomplishments on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #NeverStopLearning to stay motivated and get connected with other lifetime learners. Or leave a comment below!

3 Tips to Make More Time for Learning

In any given week, employees dedicate about 1% of their time to learning and development. I did the math, during the average 40-hour workweek only 24 minutes can be carved out for learning. Yet, learning and development consistently rank as top priorities for both employers and employees.

 

People want to learn; they want to take advantage of on-the-job training and continuous career development programs so they can be better performers and more skilled. But the workforce today is busy and distracted. When employees are pulled into new projects and asked to take on bigger workloads, learning and development gets put on the backburner. At some point in your career, I’d be willing to bet you had to forgo a learning opportunity, or were forced to complete a training course outside of traditional work hours, because you simply didn’t have enough time during the workday.  It doesn’t have to be that way. Shifting your corporate mindset to embrace and celebrate learning at work is completely doable. Here are three simple tips managers can implement today to make more time for learning.

 

3 tips to make learning and development a priority:

 

  1. Make learning part of the job – Learners are overwhelmed. In fact, according to Bersin by Deloitte, 2/3 of knowledge workers complain that they don’t have time to do their jobs. If they don’t have the bandwidth to do their actual jobs, they certainly won’t have time for learning. This is why making learning part of the job is critical to user adoption and success. By dedicating specific hours to employee development, and making those hours a requirement of the job, learners will actually benefit from your programs. It alleviates employee’s fear that they are wasting precious time that could otherwise be dedicated to their real workload, and eliminates the stigma that learning should happen off hours. If managers embrace learning and make it part of the job, your teams will be more engaged and more productive, and of course, more knowledgeable and better equipped to do their jobs.
  2. Limit the interruptions – Workers are interrupted every five minutes, and ironically enough the interruptions are often attributed to work applications and collaboration tools. Go figure. By limiting the interruptions and forcing learners to focus solely on the task at hand, they will walk always with tangible lessons learned. I recently completed an interactive training course, and if I clicked off the module at any point during the session it would pause. It was impossible to multitask! As a result, I actually paid attention to the training because I wasn’t distracted by emails and desktop alerts throughout the session. This is just one example of the dozens of different ways you can limit the interruptions during training activities so that people can completely dedicate their attention to the lesson and walk away having gained more information and skills.
  3. Lead by example – If managers don’t take learning seriously, employees won’t either. It is critical that value and importance of taking time for learning is communicated from the top down. Executives and managers are responsible for creating and emphasizing the mind shift that learning isn’t a hassle, it’s an opportunity. Check out one of our new whitepapers, written by Ed Nathanson, founder of Red Pill Talent, titled “How L&D Solves Retention and Attrition.” In the whitepaper, Ed covers a lot of different approaches to help you shift your organizational culture from dreading learning to celebrating learning.

 

What do you think? Do you have more tips on how to help organizations embrace time spent on learning? Share your feedback below!

 

 

Learning: Keep it short, small and sweet!

Recently I’ve been thinking of a famous quote popularly attributed to Mark Twain and the French mathematician Blaise Pascal, which states: “I’m sorry I wrote you such a long letter; I didn’t have time to write a short one.”

 

While many historians doubt the veracity of the quote, it has been employed to illustrate why “bigger” doesn’t necessarily equal “better” in many contexts. Training and development are no exceptions! An emphasis on small forces our learning content to only be the most relevant, the most actionable and the most targeted to the learner. In addition, the small commitment of time entices more learners to actually take the learning, which is especially important as the industry moves towards facilitating more pull–based, rather than push-based learning.  Small tip: Provide that short length of time upfront to entice learners to commit.

 

Learning goes Micro

A few weeks ago I attended the fantastic 2016 ATD conference and Microlearning generated significant buzz during the event. Microlearning is exactly what it sounds, learning broken up into smaller segments. These bite sized pieces of content should be kept short, visual, and simple. Ideally, they can be coupled with “learning challenges” where learners are given very specific problems to solve with clear desired outcomes. The interplay between these small bits of actionable learning, reinforced by small bits of usage, thus minimizing the time between learning and applying, can help learners more fully internalize their newly acquired skills and knowledge. With research from Robert Brinkerhoff concluding that 20% of learners never try to apply new skills back on the job, and an astounding 65% tried applying their new skills but reverted back to their pre-existing modes of operation, it’s more critical than ever to focus on learning retention and skill usage. Oh, and when it comes to mobile learning, the importance of small bits of learning are doubly true.

 

Small bits of collaboration with instructor led training

Live classroom training is a great opportunity to engage in small bits of social and collaborative exercises between students, instead of focusing excessively on traditional lectures. The lessons of “small” can apply here as well, especially in classes with large numbers of students. Short collaborative exercises can be a great way to reinforce the traditional lecture based learning in a classroom.

 

Some applicable ideas include:

  • Split into small groups of 5-8 people
  • As an icebreaker, everyone does a 7 second intro
  • Or better yet, everyone describes how they feel in 1 word
  • 5 in 5 – Group comes up with 5 ideas in 5 minutes
  • Provide all students with a job aide. Keep it small. One page max. Better yet, how about an index card?
  • Have students write a 140 character review of the course on their most important takeway

Small Data

With all the hype these days on big data, some thought leaders in the learning analytics space have advised the opposite; find a few key performance indicators that measure business outcomes and learning input and don’t obsess over complexity or quantity.  Relevancy is what’s most important. Think about simple heuristics and rules of thumb that can track your training investments and learner competencies that you can output from a learning management system (LMS). Map those investments to a few relevant business outcomes. While complex data and business integration (BI) tools have their place, plenty of important metrics can be captured using a simple Excel sheet.

 

When it comes to learning, keep it short, keep it small and keep it sweet. If you follow this framework, you’ll likely see more engagement and knowledge retention from your learners! That’s what we all want, after all.

 

 

3 Takeaways from ATD 2016

The ATD International Conference and Exposition is undoubtedly one of the best shows for learning and development pros to attend, and this year was no exception. Last month, I had the opportunity to travel to Denver and attend 26 sessions at ATD. From the opening keynote to the individual sessions this is a great show offering many broad choices and opportunities for everyone to learn something. Reflecting on the overall experience, there are three major themes repeated throughout the event that anyone can apply today and see immediate results.

 

1. Make it Easy

Your success depends on making it easy for your customers, whether they are learners, executives, team members, your staff or your supervisor. Here’s how you can make it easier:

 

  • When communicating get to the point quickly and be succinct. Apply this at every level, whether it’s presentation and approval for a major project, content development, a blog entry, or an email to a colleague.
  • Learn to speak the language of your audience, rather than asking them to translate what is familiar to you. Besides making it easy, meeting them on their turf in this way builds good will and respect.
  • Make is easy for stakeholders to say yes when seeking approval of projects and initiatives. Provide supporting data, anticipate objections, and address skepticism up front. Success metrics make it easier for stakeholders to understand the need and impact of your proposal because they’re in their language, not yours.
  • Learning content must be easy to find, easy to consume, and easy to apply. This is huge for end-users! On the content curation side, sharpen your marketing skills and optimize discovery of your content. People don’t have a lot of time on their hands, so think about developing micro content wherever it’s possible, or break large courses into smaller chunks.
  • Identify your allies and champions and make it easy for them help you. Going beyond providing tools and resources that help managers diagnose skills gaps by offering recommend training that predicts what the team needs to learn based on their profiles. This will strategically build your team’s skills, making success easier for everyone involved.

 

2. Leverage Resources You Already Have

Budget dollars are at a higher premium than ever, so don’t underestimate the power of your creativity and allies to kick start a virtuous cycle of success that pays off with access to the financial resources you need. Here’s a few tips on how to leverage the resources you already have:

 

  • Extend your project influence and success with stakeholder allies. By speaking their language, asking what success looks like to them, and understanding their concerns up front you can make it easy for them to support you.
  • Extend your learning engagement through early adopter allies. The secret to successful engagement is to find champions who believe in your goals and are willing to help, and then winning them over and keeping them engaged by making it easy for them to assist.
  • Extend your content development resources by harnessing subject matter experts and user generated content. Timely content of minimum quality beats high quality content delivered too late. Define a tiered quality structure based on urgency, audience and legal or regulatory needs. Develop tools, resources and review processes appropriate to each tier.
  • Stay focused on one goal to help limit complexity and resource consumption.

 

A little creativity goes a long way when you’re trying to squeeze more money out of your budget, justify costs and achieve success! Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.

 

3. Begin With The End in Mind

Addressing big organizational challenges is hard, and many of the largest and well attended sessions had teams sharing the keys to success. The number one key to success they all had in common was know your end goal and stay focused on it. Some examples of how this was successfully applied are:

 

  • One popular session shared the experiences of a large retail franchise reinvigorating an existing learning management system (LMS) to stream video training sessions. They initially started the project to replace their existing LMS, and along the way they discovered their existing LMS had the capability to meet their goals. However when the software was implemented years earlier their goal of streaming video didn’t exist. With the goal of prominently displaying video based content at the forefront of their minds, they relaunched their LMS and grew engagement providing a much better return on investment.
  • Another organization shared their experience with implementing an LMS for the first time. They founded the project by measuring how profit was correlated to learning. Building on this revenue metric, as well as the importance of engagement, they minimized implemented features and maximized internal marketing. By continuing to measure their profit to learning metric and sharing out results broadly, they created a cycle of gaining more allies, stronger internal marketing, more resource availability and expanded features.
  • Achieving Kirkpatrick level four isn’t easy, but I attended multiple sessions where organization’s shared their success in achieving level four. The common theme among those who achieved level four is that they started by figuring out what success at level four looks like to them, then defined success at each lower level before implementing the improvement program. They made it easy for their customer by using the customer’s definition of success and existing success metrics, then correlating learning to those measures.

 

Rolling out major learning initiatives can be an overwhelming task, but if you focus on making it easy, leveraging the resources you already have and begin with the end in mind, you’ll be in a better position to achieve success.

 

What did you think of ATD 2016 this year? Leave a comment below!

Spring into Learning: 3 Tips to Jump-start Your Learning Goals

Spring is more than a new season, it’s a time of renewal. Days are longer, flowers are beginning to bloom, and the air is filled with the sound of birds chirping. Opportunities are sprouting all around us. As we anticipate the growth and rejuvenation that comes with spring, businesses are looking forward to brighter days and fresh starts too! It was a long, cold winter, wasn’t it?

 

The excitement of spring in the air had me thinking about the different ways organizations could take advantage of this time of growth. Learning has a tendency to get a bad rap; a requirement organizations must check off to maintain compliance, keep up with certifications and quickly onboard new hires. Those learning activities, while important, are only a fraction of the equation. In order for employees to continue to learn, grow and develop, their minds need to be nourished and their skills sharpened. In order to grow, we must keep learning.

 

Often learning professional’s biggest struggle is getting leadership buy-in. Learning has the reputation of being a waste of time. Time employees could have been spent doing their job, contributing to projects and working with customers.

 

So, how can learning teams transform learning and development, in the minds of executives, into an asset, a catalyst to move the organization in a more positive direction? Organizations must learn from past seasons of slow and dismal growth and move into a new season full of fresh and smart changes.

 

Think of spring as an opportunity to refocus your learning initiatives and demonstrate how learning can impact critical business outcomes that sustains innovation and drives future organizational growth.

 

Here are three spring-themed best practices to jump-start learning initiatives for the second half of the year, and execute effective training programs with positive results:

 

  1. Go Green – If you are only using your learning management system (LMS) to administer and manage classes, you are probably not utilizing all of its functions. Now is the time to go green and use your LMS for everything it has to offer, like social, tracking, documentation and reporting. There are so many organizations that are not taking full advantage of the capabilities of their LMS. Only 59% of L&D organizations admit they have trouble connecting learning to business outcomes, and 22% of L&D organizations rarely or never track progress towards strategic initiatives. By streamlining specific functions and showing strategic uses for a LMS, your organization will be in a better position in the future. This spring I challenge you to make it a priority to set some goals in place to start going green.
  2. Blossom –Training is often geared toward one specific job or job group, for example onboarding seasonal hires in a call center. You need to get them up and running as quickly as possible so they can tend to the needs of the customers. But, learning opportunities in your organization are plentiful and reach far beyond basic training needs. Now is the time for your organization to look past one-off learning activities and requirements and examine how different roles and departments can benefit from ongoing development. Investing in employees’ development not only benefits your bottom line and productivity rates, it demonstrates an honest commitment to their careers and future.
  3. Get your hands dirty – Smart learning organizations need to reprioritize and rethink the way employee development programs are being delivered and communicated across the organization. Shut down the “we’ve always done it this way” mentality and start thinking about how you can get your hands dirty and change things up. Think about new and different ways to start marketing your LMS, perhaps you could leverage email marketing techniques to communicate new courses and drive demand for learning. Gamification is also another way to drum up excitement around learning. You could create a learning leader board and reward employees for completing activities. Surveys are also a great tool to get feedback about your learning offerings. Ask your employees what they want from learning and development. Not just the course content, but also how it’s delivered. These are just a few ideas on how to shake things up! Figure out what works best for you and give it a go.

 

Like spring flowers, employees want their careers to bloom. They want to sharpen and expand their skills and a strong learning program, rooted in a robust LMS, will provide an opportunity to keep your workforce engaged and focused on clearly aligned goals.

 

Now is the time for organizations to and realize how valuable programs like a training program will directly impact employees is the key to long-term business survival.

 

Happy spring and happy learning!