October 16, 2013

No one ever really wants to buy “training!” If they didn’t have to, they wouldn’t.

People only purchase training programs when they want to solve a particular problem. Training becomes only a means to resolving issues that management wants to fix.

Two decades ago, most buying was done at the plant level. Today most purchasing decisions are made in the corporate office. When a plant level purchase was made, the decision was generally in the hands of the Maintenance Manager or HR Manager — individuals who had firsthand knowledge of both employee demographics and the procedures that needed fixing. These same people also, often, knew the media choices that were available, along with the pros and cons of each. They shopped for the best learning solution and dealt with multiple vendors in order to find the best choice for a particular procedural problem.

On the other hand, when Corporate Management began to make the purchasing decisions they were generally unaware of the available choices. They also seldom understood the specifics of the procedural problems to-be-fixed. Today, unfortunately, their decisions are most often confined to a single vendor solution, primarily due to the short term economic efficiencies of that choice.

Because of their quest to find a single vendor solution, they, too often, ignore the most important reasons for making those purchasing decisions — learning and its ultimate paybacks: greater retention and better on-the-job performance. Yet, those are really the only two items that will actually add positively to their long term bottom lines. And, no single vendor can provide effective training for those disparate needs. They can only provide titles that camouflage the lack of substance in their courseware.

By focusing purely on cost-of-initial-purchase, they move directly away from future cost vs return and become entwined with a single vendor that offers them everything in a single package: management systems accompanied by hundreds of cookie cutter program titles. Because most Corporate Management knows so little about learning and its effects on the bottom line, the largely effective training that went on during the “individual plant purchasing days” is lost and, subsequently, the plant efficiencies become eroded.

While I realize that we can’t go back in time, I can at least give some tips to Corporate Management that should help them when making training purchases in the future:

  • Always remember that “Content is King!” Review the programs from a content accuracy and completeness point-of-view. (Titles in a single vendor’s offerings seldom reflect actual content accuracy, appropriateness or completeness. They are merely titles that mask the emptiness of their courseware.)
  • It is very important that the vendor’s SMEs (the ones involved in producing the courseware) were actually hands-on practitioners of the skills presented.
  • Be certain that the video used in the program comes from actual plant environments rather than being staged and that the graphic animations accurately represent those same environments.
  • Thoroughly review the instructional design used in the course creation, paying close attention to whether the design is focused on “individual learner control” or, incorrectly, developed from a “cookie cutter” philosophy.
  • Plant Maintenance Managers, for example, generally know what makes training work in their specific environment. Corporate Management needs to listen carefully to those Maintenance Managers and pay closer attention to the attributes of effective learning before making any training-purchase decision.
  • Above all, they need to remember that today’s adults live in a television and gaming society — where the true potential for learning resides. Reading-based e-Learning (i.e., repurposed PowerPoint presentations) will completely fail many of their employees since nearly half of them cannot assimilate anything written above a 4th grade reading level. Therefore, optional word-for-word audio is always a must.

We can’t turn back the clock — but, we can certainly reset it!

More on Monday – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder
ITC Learning (Mondays & Wednesdays)