The Switch

When I was managing the training and development team of one of the biggest employers in our country, I remember how often our HR colleagues would think that we’re having a bit too much fun for their taste. Outside looking in, our job was bursting with interesting and exciting tasks. And it was very much so. Communicating on a daily basis with hundreds of employees and taking the training responsibility for thousands more filled our everyday lives with an array of challenges. Successfully hurdling through various working styles and viewpoints was key. We thought we were doing a good job of convincing our internal clients in the benefits of a certain development approach and that we had nearly any tool at our disposal to achieve that, until we stumbled upon a slightly different project.

A large number of new employees needed to go through an induction training covering technical, product and soft skills topics and come out with a guaranteed level of particular knowledge and skills. This was a key project for the company and everything needed to go smooth while measuring the results was a required indicator of success. The real challenge was not only the unified approach and the measuring of results, but the fact that the entire process was to fit in a bare couple of weeks and involve hundreds of people. To top it all off, part of the product training had to happen at the very last moment to avoid confidentiality issues. Whatever plans we devised for the rest of the scheduled trainings, something about the products part was always off. The products presentation was short, but an immensely vital one and the main roadblock turned out to be the limited number of trainers who could teach this part of the puzzle.

Our usual approach involved the respective product manager teaching the internal Training & Development trainers, who in turn had to pass on their knowledge to the larger part of the trainee groups. This time around though that was not an option, part because of the confidentiality issues and part because of the tight deadline. Our internal client was quite a rigorous one and knew exactly what he wanted, which is usually a good thing and it helps in finding a solution, but here and now we ended up with a pickle of a situation.

I had a certain amount of experience in eLearning and in one of our meetings the idea to make an online course popped up. We were tackling a whole bunch of problems this way – we could train the entire trainee lot in an hour and a half without having to bother a product manager and still complying with the confidentiality requirements. At the same time we could assess what had been learned right off the bat and thus guarantee a level of knowledge throughout the trainees. Discussing this option with the project team we agreed it is a viable one, but yet we did not have a deployed and integrated eLearning system. Certainly we did not have the time to deploy one either. Despite this we decided to meet an LMS vendor and go through our problems together so we can hear their thoughts on the matter.

Switch

And so we did. We sat down together and explained about the big group of trainees, the simultaneous last moment training, the guarantee for the level of assimilation on our products information all coupled with the lack of an eLearning system. The task at hand seemed impossible to overcome, but once again I convinced myself that there are no impossible solutions once you stop thinking in terms of problems.

Together we came up with an elegant way to hit our marks and overcome the obstacles. We created an online course which included all the important topics and a short test after each topic to make sure everyone would understand and remember the key aspects. To enforce this we allowed continuing to the next topic only with a perfect score from the previous. Should the learner give a wrong answer, they would have the option to go back to the respective section and go through the content again, so they can find the right answer. The lack of an LMS which would track and report the results we solved by booking an hour and a half more at the computer lab. All we needed was somebody to take the role of an “overseer”, so the trainees could go through the product training and he or she can make sure everyone had completed the eCourse.

Sure enough this solution had its flaws, but for the time being and the situation at hand the upsides were many. More importantly, we achieved our goals that were set as a part of this important for our team and company project. Later on this paved the way for adopting a learning management system which in a few years developed to become a key training instrument for the entire company. It has been used daily ever since, adding even more functionalities and value along the way and regularly updated to meet the various needs and goals of all teams.

Looking at it now, when I’m on the vendor of eLearning products and services side, I see how snuggly a cloud-based eLearning that allows for a quick setup and training would have fit our bill. I see how technology nowadays empowers training and development professionals to overcome seemingly impossible tasks and find alternative and innovative solutions that help their internal clients achieve great results in a quick and efficient way. I also see how learning is drastically different compared to only 6-7 years ago, when I was faced with the challenge of finding an innovative solution. Nowadays we learn mostly online – with or without the help of our company’s training department and I firmly believe that successful employers embrace that to their advantage.

Categories: eLearning

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