Learn and Lead

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What Kept Training Managers Awake in 2012?

So what kept training managers awake during 2012? What challenges they have been facing? During last year I was fortunate enough to be in touch with training managers of various companies in India. While not statistically conclusive, here are some general trends I noticed from my various conversations.
  • Cost: Almost all training managers are pressurized to show some cost savings. Mostly this is resulting in passing on pressure to reduce costs on their training vendors. Cost seems to be their single biggest challenge these days.
  • Uncertain Business Environment: There’s a constant challenge in planning the training for the year. The business environment has a great deal of uncertainty. The hiring is unpredictable making it harder to plan even the induction batches. There pressure of get trained resources on projects, putting pressure on training managers to schedule training with practically no notice.
  • Training Effectiveness: Many training managers spoke about showing training effectiveness. This seems to be the biggest “ask” from training partners. How can they show effectiveness of training to their senior management?

What I didn't find in my conversations with them:
  • Elearning, Blended Learning: Perhaps I was talking to “Training Managers”, perhaps most companies I spoke with were large and already have elearning libraries, I am not sure why but I didn’t find elearning as a strategic initiative while speaking with training managers. Most want it, or have it, but it was not clear to me how it was being used as a key initiative to drive down costs in the overall learning strategy. In most cases there was no linkage between elearning available and the training plans and goals in the company, or how to blend it with classroom training.
  • Social Learning: Still too early for this. It didn’t get a mention even as a buzz word in our conversations. I am fortunate to be working on a project for a government department involving social learning where we are experimenting with using Facebook for social learning. Unfortunately this is not something I found being used in corporate customers, inspite of the LMSs and Corporate Virtual Universities.
  • Mobile Learning: It’s still at the stage of “management fad”. Most training managers don’t really care about this much, though still want to see some “proof of concept”. My guess is “mobile learning” and “social learning” are likely to take off together whenever they do.

The More Things Change, The More They Remain The Same

This year I completed 20 years in the learning and development industry. As I reflect back, some things just remain the same, especially in elearning. Even today when I tell someone that I develop elearning, I get the “Oh that’s an upcoming industry”. Even after 20 years, elearning is still an upcoming industry!!!

Elearning development continues to be riddled with the same questions over the years with no right answers. Many years ago, when I was learning Instructional Design (ID), one of the mentors said the full form of ID is actually “It Depends”. Seems like the same for elearning. “It Depends” on so many factors and even after so many years, it is still the same.

What is one hour of elearning? I explored this question a few years back on eCube blog. I don’t think there’s still any right answer for this. Even when elearning was simplistic frame-based, it was hard to agree on what is one hour of elearning. Now with a host of interactivities, social learning, gamification of elearning, it is even harder to define what is one hour of elearning. And even if we take the simple calculation of frames per hour, there are ranges based on “levels” of elearning. Hopefully we will have new questions with the advent of social learning. Can it even be measured in hours?

What are different levels of elearning? While the amount of interactivity and media treatment in elearning is used to define “levels” of elearning, you also need to keep in mind what instructional objective the elearning is trying to achieve, and the complexity of content being delivered. Still no right answers here.

How long does it take to create one hour of elearning? This question that is asked all the time but still really has no simple answer. “It Depends” on various factors. An interesting resource is a year 2009 ASTD article by Karl Kapp. Even this is not a good enough guideline and no two elearning experts will agree with these numbers.

How much does it cost? “It Depends”. But even after defining the cost affecting parameters, there are still no standard costs in the industry. In one competition analysis, we realized that for the same opportunity the customer got bids from 50K to 500K (INR) for the requirements they floated. Obviously it’s going to confuse the customers completely, especially the ones who are new at embarking on the elearning journey.

How many elearning hours will my existing ILT translate to? First, how many hours is one day of ILT? Is it 8 hours, 7 hours, 6 hours? And what’s the conversion to ILT to elearning? Is it 2:1, 1:1, 1.5:1? No consensus in the industry on that. And there continue to be wild expectations from elearning. One potential customer recently was expecting their 5 day ILT class to be converted into a couple of hours of elearning. Wouldn’t that be nice!

I have all the content. Why does it cost so much? All you are doing is putting it all together. I find this very similar to the question that photographers are asked. Why does it cost so much. All you are doing is pressing the shutter on the camera to take pictures.

Why does it take so long? Of course it can be done faster. But are the customers ready to respond with the speed at which they demand it to be done, and especially if they are attempting to do it the first time? This also will help understand why it costs so much. So are the management structures in place to approve the various stages during development? Even with rapid elearning development models, there’re always too many levels of management having views on what’s being developed and whether it works for the company or not. So while the pure elearning development can be quick, the deployment can take a long time.

How do I measure the effectiveness? The question continues to be asked over the years. While we have evolve from the simple ROI calculation (save travel costs through elearning), there are no right answers for measuring effectiveness of specific programs. Perhaps that’s not right for me to say. There are specific ways to measure effectiveness. However to implement these requires time, effort and more money. So while the customers are looking for effectiveness and ROI measures, they are unwilling to spend on actual implementation of practices to measure the effectiveness.

I need something different in elearning. Err, to be honest I still get away by impressing potential customers with elearning developed 7 to 10 years ago. The elearning content that I see is still the same as it was 15-20 years ago. So we moved from DOS and Video based learning to GUI based to Web based. But it’s pretty much the same stuff. There’re still the same learning paths or table of contents, learning objects that need to be tracked, still the same old next-previous button, still the same show-me/try-it simulations, still the same glossary button. And it’s not that these designs don’t work, they still do. And we continue our quest for finding the next best thing in elearning.

So even though a lot has changed in elearning in the last 20 years, the questions we ask pretty much remain the same.

Firing is Easy

We mostly hear how hard it is to give negative feedback and fire people. I have been wondering about this. Yes giving negative feedback is hard and firing people is harder. However come to think of it, actually this is a easiest thing. We are all critical of others and so giving negative feedback comes naturally. We more often than not, find it easier to find mistakes rather than appreciate what's going on well. And if a subordinate isn't working out, firing is an easy way out. The work pressures are high and we can't afford a non-performer on the team, right. Actually, that is the easy way out. What's really hard is to make the non-performers succeed. That is the true challenge of leadership.

Invisible Innovation in India

Over past few years I have written about Innovation on this blog. Recently I came across this TEDx video where Nirmalya Kumar talks about invisible innovation happening in India. Not quite the interesting innovation that we expect but innovation nevertheless.

Nirmalya Kumar is a professor of Marketing at the London Business School and a passionate voice for new entrepreneurs in India.

What’s your Language, ‘We should’ or ‘I will’?

Many times we get frustrated with things around us, things that are not working or not working the way we want. That’s when we are full of ideas on how to make things right, make it more productive, more effective, and more… well, just more right. So what’s our language when we share ideas? “We should…” do this or that, “We shouldn’t…” do this or that. And these ideas are all in good faith, because we feel for the situation and want to improve it.

The problem with “We should…” is usually no one ends up doing this or that, or no one ends up not doing this or that. When we say “We should…” we might appear to be externalizing the problem, no matter how genuine the intention. What “We should…” usually means is that everything is right with what I am doing but something’s not right with what others are doing.

How about saying “I will…” do this or that, or “I will…” not do this or that. And feel more empowered about doing something about the situation. Take control over the situation with such language rather than feeling frustrated about things not happening the way you want them to be.

Three Elements of a Learning Organization

The other day we were discussing how can we build an environment where everyone in the organization will continuously learn from each other.

I feel there are three key elements to build a learning organization.

  1. Technology: This in my view is relatively the easiest component to set up. While it is the easiest, care must be taken to ensure that the technology solution chosen is easy to use and flexible enough to change with the times. It also helps if there is one common platform across the different departments of the organization.
  2. Framework: By this I mean a process framework that makes it easier to share and learn. These could include defined project wash-up meetings, periodic forums that invite people to share what’s happening in their area of work, or defined networking groups that allow exchange of ideas.
  3. Culture: The most critical element of a learning organization and perhaps the hardest to build. The culture of sharing is where people share without fear, where the greatest reward for sharing is more sharing by others.

Questions I Want To Explore In 2012

I am promising to myself to read more and blog more in 2012. Here are some of the questions I want to explore in 2012.
  • What’s changed in the learning and development industry? I will be completing 20 years in the industry and yet I feel the more things change, the more they remain the same.
  • How are the CxOs and Business Heads really viewing talent development? While most CxOs say that talent development is a key driver to the growth of their organizations, what are they really doing about it?
  • What’s keeping the training managers awake? What are the training managers’ performance drivers, their goals and the challenges they are facing.
  • What are the expectations from Social Learning? While social learning is being talked about in the learning blogger circles, are the on-ground managers in synch with it? What is their understanding and expectations from it?
  • What are the learner’s expectations from talent development interventions? While the focus is on seeking the managers’ views, what about the people who are actual recipients of the talent development interventions? What do they look for?
  • What’s the new ROI/ROE mantra? With tightening budgets, everyone wants to know the “ROI” of their training spend. ROI has been the holy grail of training, everyone is seeking it, but there are no clear cut answers to this.

Would love to hear from you on these and other things on your mind. Looking forward to your comments and conversations here.

Wishing you and your loved ones a Very Happy New Year.



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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my personal opinions. Content published here is not read or approved in advance by my employers and does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of my employers.

Creative Commons License This work by Manish Mohan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 India License.