Sunday, January 18, 2009

Demonstrate Your Value

The training blogosphere has been buzzing lately with a great deal of agonizing, soul-searching and prognosticating about what the recession means for the industry. As with recessions that have come before, there are concerns about huge cuts to training budgets, loss of training staff through down-sizing, and a general retrenchment in training operations.

Many point to eLearning as a possible saving grace among all the doom and gloom. They rightly note that eLearning provides many savings and efficiencies over traditional training methodologies in terms of reduced travel costs, reduced back-fill costs to cover for the physical absence of trainees, and increased reach by being able to train large numbers of people in a short time frame.

For many executives and senior managers, however, a more efficient and cost-effective training function may not be enough to save the training area from serious down-sizing in tough economic times. In good times, they may give the training operation the benefit of the doubt that training interventions are having positive impacts on the organization. Bad times require proof. If, as a training manager, all you can offer is savings over the way you did things before, senior management may decide that the greatest savings would be to cut your operation all together.

So, by all means, do all you can to streamline your training efforts. Use eLearning wisely to reach more and more learners for less and less money expended per learner over time. But you need to go beyond this to demonstrate training's value to the organization. You need to address some pain the organization is experiencing and make a positive contribution to alleviating this through training.

Whether this pain is a need to increase sales, improve customer retention rates, or decrease defect rates, you need to position your eLearning efforts as part of the solution to this problem. You need to work with the relevant business unit to devise a training program that addresses the pain, and to collect metrics that demonstrate the intervention is working.

This is how you can move the training function from an expense line that is easy to cut, to a valued contributor to solutions. Of course, you should be doing this in good times as well as bad.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Lessons from Wii Fit

We visited some friends over the holidays and they were lucky enough to secure the Wii Fit balance board. Nintendo, the makers of this device, have been having difficulties keeping up with the demand for this nifty game. It plays with the Wii console, hooks up to a TV, and allows users to perform various physical exercises on it (e.g. balance games, yoga, aerobic, and strength training) and see their results on the screen.

Six adults managed to spend an entire afternoon engaged in various activities on this device. Instead of the usual holiday pursuits of over eating and imbibing, we were exercising and having a ball. As we headed home later that night, I started thinking about the genius that lies behind Wii Fit and the lessons it can teach those of us in the business of eLearning.

Personalized and Goal-Based

You enter in your own personal information (apparently I am a little short for my weight), set your own goals around fitness, and can monitor your progress over time.

There is built in motivation as you can earn "Fit Credits" which allow you access to even more activities as you progress.

You can compete against yourself (trying to meet your own goals) and/or compete against others for added motivation.

Coaching and Immediate Feedback

There are virtual coaches who explain how everything works and provide immediate feedback on your performance, along with some encouragement along the way.


You can spend as much or as little time as you would like on the various exercises, investing time as you have it.

Simple, Intuitive Navigation

Six adults in their 40s and 50s did not have to once ask a child how the system works. A simple screen layout, along with helpful audio and visual prompts throughout, made for an easily-understood interface.

Hard Fun

The activities are fun, but not necessarily easy. They push you to perform. In fact, as you progress and earn more points, the activities become more challenging. This is as it should be as you begin mastering any task.

Of course, most of us do not have millions of dollars in development money to spend on our eLearning projects. However, that is not the point. You may not be able to equal the production value of the Wii Fit, but there are real lessons to be taken away regarding how to make learning personalized, motivational, supported, flexible, intuitive, fun and challenging.