Trust Me. I’m a Professional. Part 2

In Trust Me. I’m a Professional. Part 1, we explored client expectations of instructional designers and challenged clients to really expect more so their training and performance solutions will be designed to have a bigger, measurable impact on business goals.

So, what should clients be looking for when outsourcing issues related to performance (I like to call these “human factor issues.”)?

Here is what I’d be looking for (in the form of a Request for Proposals) if I were looking for someone to provide advice on how to resolve my organization’s performance issues:

Client Request for Proposals

Our company has a performance issue and the issue is two-fold:

  1. Our customers are having trouble setting up our product in their home. Seventy-five percent of the customers who buy our product have to call tech support to set it up. Once they’re set up, things are fine – if customers make it through the set-up process, 98% of them continue to use the product with no complaints or issues.
  2. Of the 75% of customers who have to engage with our tech support employees, 30% of them return the product in frustration before they are able to get the product set up in their home.

We are looking for a performance improvement / instructional design professional to help us identify the root cause of our issues and recommend performance solutions that will increase our initial customer satisfaction from 25% to 90% (i.e. instead of 75% of customers calling in for help with set-up, only 10% or fewer will need to call in). Additionally, we’d like someone to help us identify the root cause of our customer support issue in order to decrease returns from 30% to 3%.

We expect this performance improvement professional to be well-versed in:

  • Project management for perfromance solution development
  • Performance improvement processes
  • Front-end analysis
  • Root cause analysis
  • Gap analysis
  • Identification and selection (recommendation) of performance solutions including, but not limited to:
    • Learning
    • Performance Support
    • Job Analysis / Work Design
    • Personal Development
    • Human Resource Development
    • Organizational Communication
    • Organizational Design and Development
    • Financial Systems
    • Leadership Commitment
    • Feasibility
    • Sustainability
  • Performance solution implementation, including (but not limited to) the use of:
    • Partnering, networking, and alliance building
    • Process consulting
    • Employee development
    • Communication
    • Project management
  • Planning for evaluation
  • Evaluating performance solutions and programs to track impact and return on investment
  • Change management

We also expect the candidate to be able to design and develop any training solutions identified as part of the performance solution. In order to do this, the candidate must possess the following knowledge and abilities:

  • Project management for training development
  • Adept understanding of instructional design theories, such as:
    • ADDIE
    • SAM
    • Action Mapping
    • Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction
    • Adult Learning Theories
    • ARCS model of motivation
  • Adept understanding of training evaluation theories, such as:
    • Kirkpatrick’s Levels of Evaluation
    • Thalheimer’s Performance Focused Smile Sheets
    • Brinkerhoff’s Success Case Method of Evaluation
  • Adept understanding of change management theories, such as:
    • Dormant’s Chocolate Model of Change
    • Kotter’s Leading Change and The Heart of Change
    • Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations
  • Scenario development
  • eLearning development using tools, such as:
    • Blackboard
    • Articulate Storyline
    • Adobe Captivate
    • Lectora
  • Course implementation, management, and maintenance using a learning management system, such as:
    • Absorb
    • Plateau
    • Blackboard
    • Litmos

What is NOT in the RFP is as important as what IS

What’s not in here?

Remember the scenario of the homeowner hiring an electrician?

What’s not in this RFP is an initial assumption that training is the answer.

This RFP leaves the door open for the instructional designer to analyze the client’s needs so any solution(s) recommended and/or developed will most effectively solve the client’s biggest problems.

It’s quite a beautiful thing, really, when an instructional designer can walk a client through a problem and realize that instead of costing $15,000 to develop an online training course (not to mention the time and cost associated with deploying and tracking it), a simple “just in time help guide” could be integrated with the application to help learners where they need it, when they need it. Or a simple job aid with links to resources and references might do the trick and produce better results than a full-fledged training. But, you’d never figure this out if you go into the ring thinking a course is the only solution.

What’s not in this RFP is “Here’s the content we have. Develop a course.”

This RFP allows the instructional designer to perform appropriate analysis to determine what actions the client wants the learners to do once they’ve completed the training or engaged with the performance solution.

Instead of being a well-crafted, clickable information dump (as content-based courses tend to be), the instructional designer is able to design something (training or otherwise) realistic that the learner can engage with in the right place, at the right time for maximum transfer of learning, so they can do what the client wants them to do on the job.

So, What Do You Think?

You may be thinking, “Wow! There is a LOT of background knowledge, experience, and expertise bundled up in there!”

You’re right.

You may never have considered that an instructional designer would or could have such a wide variety of skills and tools in her arsenal, but now that you know, I hope you consider the impact a performance-focused instructional designer can have on your program and your organization.

All the expert graphic design or eLearning development expertise in the world cannot replace the impact of savvy performance-focused design, wrapped in a warm blanket of change management with a strong thread of evaluation woven throughout.

Strong graphic design and eLearning development skills can make pretty, shiny courses, but, like most pretty, shiny things, they are very costly and without excellent instructional design, they could just be a sinkhole for your money, producing negligible – or negative! – results.

Advertisements

Trust me. I’m a professional. Part 1

Have you ever hired a professional to do something in your home that you didn’t have the expertise to do yourself? Maybe you’re remodeling your basement and you need an electrician to run the wires. When your electrician comes to your house, do you:

a. Tell him about your problem. Tell him your desired end-state. Rely on his expertise to resolve it in a manner that is within standards, safe for your home and the inhabitants in it, and visually pleasing (i.e. he doesn’t leave gaping holes in your walls).

…or do you

b. Invite him into your home and provide him step by step instructions on how you would solve the problem if you were a certified electrician.

Most people would stick with choice a. After all, that’s why we hire out these kinds of projects – because we don’t have the expertise, right?

Why is it, then, that so many clients outsource their training projects using the tactics described in choice b?

My guess is that they don’t know what they don’t know.

In this case, they don’t know what they should expect of a seasoned instructional designer and they don’t realize the benefits of hiring someone who can look beyond making an information dump (also known as death by Power Point) more palatable to their poor, drowning, bored learners.

If your instructional designer starts your project with:

“Give me all your content and I’ll make an interesting, engaging, interactive e-learning course for you,”

then you’re likely to end up with your good, old death by Power Point jazzed up a bit with a knowledge check here, a branching scenario there, possibly some “gamification” to make it more “fun” and, of course, the all important FINAL QUIZ to prove that “learning has occurred.” (Really? A quiz is proof that someone has learned something? And if it does prove that they’ve learned something, so what? If they don’t apply what they’ve learned on the job, does it matter?)

What SHOULD I expect?

A lot of instructional designers prefer to just “get the content” and “make it fun to navigate.” I’d caution clients that

developing training from content without doing an initial analysis is a breeding ground for ineffective training.

The initial analysis is key and too many instructional designers (and clients) skip it to “get to the good stuff,” because the development part is much more “fun” to do than the analysis part. Unfortunately, this method of creating training is costly and will not result in the performance improvements that the client was anticipating. If no initial analysis is done and the client has their prescription for training already written, the resulting course is likely to be garbage in, garbage out.

So, what SHOULD you expect from your instructional designer? Check out Trust Me. I’m a Professional. Part 2 to look at an ideal request for proposals that would catch highly qualified instructional designers with performance improvement experience in your talent net.