Using Job Aids

Have you ever assembled a piece of furniture from IKEA? Or perhaps you put together a toy at Christmas? Or maybe you had to clear a paper jam in the printer, but forgot how to do it? Whether it was one of these situations or something else, you probably have used a job aid. It is a document or tutorial designed to give you just enough information to get a specific task accomplished, at the moment it needs to be done. Once you start looking, you’ll see them everywhere.

What you may not have known is that Instructional Designers are experts at creating job aids. It’s another learning deliverable, just like creating a training course. Sometimes they are used along with a training course as supplemental material. Sometimes they stand on their own.

Types of Job Aids

There are several types of job aids including:

  • Step-by-Step: These job aids give step-by-step instructions on how to perform a task.
  • Worksheets: These work well when there are calculations involved. Responses are recorded, and information to complete a task is generated based on formulas.
  • Checklists: Checklists are great if items can be completed in any order. They are also helpful in maintaining consistency.
  • Decision Tree: When there are limited options with each decision, a decision tree can guide an employee in making the correct choice based upon their input.
  • Flow Chart: Flow charts work well as troubleshooting guides.
  • Reference List: This type of job aid is good when a task requires data, as opposed to a set of steps.

When to Use Job Aids

Job aids are best used when trying to remember how to do something you’ve already learned how to do, or doing a task you know in a new or unique situation. They also work well when troubleshooting, or solving a problem. Also, they are helpful in situations where you’ve been trained on a process, but one aspect of the routine has been changed.

Job aids speed up work by reducing hesitancy, and the opportunity for making errors. They essentially coach the user along the way, increasing consistency of performance. They allow employees to focus on one step at a time, making the task seem less complex than it is.

When NOT to Use Job Aids

Job aids are not a good fit if you’re trying to learn something brand new for the first time, especially on an unfamiliar topic. They also aren’t that great at teaching conceptual knowledge, or taking learning to a deeper level. Finally, they should not be used to replace an entire training course. They should be viewed as supplemental material, not the main event.

Evaluating Instructional Design Quality

Instructional Design quality is actually easy to evaluate, if you know what to look for. The following pointers will help you in that regard. This is not an exhaustive list, but it does cover the most critical considerations of high-quality Instructional Design.

Starts with Learning Objectives

High-quality Instructional Design starts with solid, well-written learning objectives that describe expected outcomes. They will say things like, “at the end of this course, the learner will be able to _____,” followed by a clear description of the desired outcome, in terms of observable behavior. Look at this comparison:

  • “This course will teach photosynthesis.” This is not a solid learning objective, because it can’t be measured.
  • “At the end of this course, the learner will be able to describe the relationship between carbon dioxide levels and photosynthesis.” This is well written, because the outcome can be assessed.

It’s Fundamentally Learner-Centered

If the course is designed as one-way instruction, where the learner is expected to sit quietly and absorb the material, chances are that it will fail miserably. Learners today expect interaction, exploration, and much less talking or telling on the part of the trainer. In fact, the trainer should be playing the role of learning facilitator and guide, as opposed to all-knowing expert. Quality design is focused on the learner, always taking their specific needs into consideration.

There is Continuous Improvement

Another hallmark of high-quality Instructional Design is the never-ending process of assessment and improvement. After each delivery, it is important look for areas that may need improvement. Then, take the time to make those improvements before the next course delivery.

It Uses a Robust System

If the Instructional Design is good, it’s going to follow a well-defined system or model. There are several to choose from. Which one you use is not as important as being rigorous in following a logical sequence of design and development. Such a system will also include an assessment step, which is covered above.

The Course Keeps it Real

One final key to quality Instructional Design is that the course helps learners discover ways to address their real world problems. Good design also helps learners gain the confidence to apply their new skills back on the job. If the training is just an academic exercise, then it really does nothing to meet the needs of the learner, or the organization for that matter. Effective design presents realistic and practical solutions to business needs, with measurable outcomes that move the organization in the right direction.

Professional and Management Development Training – Part Two

Successful organizations already recognize the value of professional and management development training. That doesn’t mean, however, that they are necessarily getting the best value out of their development dollar. To do that, businesses need to be aware of some cutting-edge trends. Below is a brief summary of a few of the leading ideas in this field.

Content Isn’t King

It doesn’t matter how wonderful the training content is, if employees don’t find the time to use it or they aren’t inspired to even try. For professional and management development training efforts to be successful, they need to be able to fit into already tight calendars. Training needs to draw the learner in, with manageable chunks of information that seem doable in small fragments of time. Usually this means a heavier reliance on remote learning. Using today’s cutting-edge technologies to make training available on mobile devices will help employees find the time for learning. Also, using a fixed-calendar of training delivery is giving way to on-demand applications that can be accessed anytime, from anywhere.

Be Social

Just because training is offered online, doesn’t mean that the social aspects of learning need to go away. There are creative new ways of allowing learners to share their experiences with colleagues. For example, Workplace by Facebook is a tool that allows employees to connect and communicate, with all of the familiar features of Facebook. Companies can join Workplace for free, or pay a fee for an enhanced version. Either way, allowing employees to collaborate via a social platform will take current professional and management development efforts and kick them up a notch by enhancing engagement.

Gamification

The popularity of online gaming has been growing steadily for the last several years, and there are no signs of it slowing. Taking this high level of interest, and using it to incentivize online learning is a smart business move. Gamification of training will not turn the content into the next Fortnite Battle Royale, but it will help motivate learners. Through a simple system of points, badges, and leaderboards, training can grab the attention of the most cynical employee.

Balance Technology Training with Soft Skills

Millennials are known for their tech savvy, but there continues to be a soft skills gap with these employees. There needs to be increased emphasis on such soft skills as communication, interpersonal relationships, negotiation, problem-solving, and decision-making. This type of training can be still be delivered online to appeal to the younger members of the workforce.

Staying Current with Professional Development Courses for Business

Business professionals need to polish their skills all the time, and an excellent way to do that is by enrolling in professional development courses. In fact, continuous lifelong learning has become the norm in most thriving organizations today. Taking one or two classes every year is not excessive, and it can help employees gain confidence and boost productivity.

Picking Topics

There are so many possibilities available; it may be difficult to know where to start. Some employees want to stay up to date with current trends and industry changes. Others may wish to broaden their knowledge in a particular field, or develop new skills that can be immediately applied on the job. That’s why it’s so important to identify goals before jumping in and signing up for random courses.

Career Development

For people just wanting some general career development, who don’t have any specific skills in mind, here is a short list of suggested course topics that may be useful:

  • Networking: Everyone knows how important it is for career advancement, yet many talented business professionals lose out on important opportunities because they lack networking skills.
  • Time Management: Increasing personal productivity begins with good time management skills. Taking a course on time management will help employees focus on goal setting, maintaining focus, and taking responsibility for their personal success.
  • Career Branding: Smart organizations already use branding to give themselves a competitive advantage. Using brand management on an individual career level will have the same effect, helping individuals become competitive in the current job market.
  • Negotiation: Here is a topic that is key to business success. Whether it’s negotiating a new contract, or a pay increase, spending some time developing better negotiation skills is never a waste of time.
  • Public Speaking: It has been said that some people fear public speaking more than death itself, and the reason is often just a lack of proper training and development on the topic. Having excellent public speaking skills can help in all aspects of a career, from delivering a report at a staff meeting, to making a major presentation at an industry conference.

Make it a Priority

Taking professional development courses is an investment in the future, and should not be dismissed as optional or elective. Too many employees discover too late that they have not spent enough time or effort keeping themselves competitive in the job market. Taking just one or two courses a year can keep a competitive advantage.

Options for Leadership and Professional Development

Leadership and professional development often takes place in a classroom, which might be either online or in-person. But that’s not the only way to enhance your knowledge, skills, and abilities. Below are several additional options for career enhancement.

Job Shadowing

If you are curious about the various leadership roles available in your company, then you may wish to consider job shadowing. It is an easy way to learn first-hand about the roles and responsibilities of a position, before committing too much time learning about an area in-depth. Some companies have formal job shadowing programs, usually available through your Human Resources Department. If that’s not an option, you can still approach someone you know and ask them informally. Your manager may be able to help you with this.

Professional and Trade Organizations

You might consider membership in a professional or trade organization. You will find members who share your interests, either in a common profession or in a particular industry. One of the main reasons that these organizations exist is to expand the knowledge and skills of its members, while also promoting a set of professional standards. You could attend industry events, conferences, or workshops that are put on by the organization. Other opportunities don’t require physical attendance, such as reading trade journals, newsletters, or participating in webinars. All of these undertakings can promote professional development, and some companies will reimburse their employees for membership activities.

Volunteer

Consider volunteering as a way to promote your leadership and development plans. If there are limited opportunities for you to exhibit a particular skill within your organization, going outside as a volunteer may be an option for you. For example, if you need experience in accounting and finance, consider volunteering as the treasurer for a local club. Want to develop goal-setting, planning, and budgeting skills? Why not volunteer to plan and implement a major fund raising event? And don’t overlook the benefits of networking that come with a volunteer position.

Committees

Most companies have committees that are looking for new members. Perhaps you might join a committee on health and wellness, or office safety. Committee membership can sharpen your communication skills, as well as develop your leadership, influencing, organizational, and teamwork skills. This can be particularly useful if you don’t have those opportunities in your present position.

Don’t Limit Yourself!

Traditional training classes and workshops are just one way to go about leadership and professional development. As you can see, there are many other options available. Don’t get stuck thinking you have to wait for a class to improve yourself!

Professional Development Programs for Managers Today

With more and more baby boomers retiring, major changes are taking place in the workplace. In particular, as Millennials take over manager positions from their Baby Boomer (as well as Generation X) predecessors, professional development programs will need to be re-evaluated and made more relevant to today’s work environment. Unlike those before them, Millennials are actually excited about professional development, viewing it as extremely important to them. Therefore, companies need to offer updated and enhanced professional growth and development opportunities in order to attract and retain top talent.

Love of Learning

Millennials, more than any previous generation, have a love of learning new things. They grew up with access to the Internet, and are accustomed to having answers to their questions on-demand and personalized by a Google search. This translates to a continuous drive to acquire new knowledge, and learn new skills. Millennials will never be satisfied with the status quo. They need new challenges, and expect to be provided with developmental opportunities. And they expect these opportunities to start right away, not just after they have been in their position for a while. They expect to learn new things early and often. In fact, Millennials value quality developmental opportunities more than job security, or even higher pay.

Offer More Learning Options

Learning in a classroom is fine, but it’s not the only option. Millennials are eager to learn and acquire new skills, so offering a variety of learning options is a smart move. Some of these options might include:

  • Establish mentor programs
  • Create job shadowing opportunities
  • Provide job rotation and cross-training
  • Send workers to professional conferences
  • Offer the ability to attend off-site training and workshops
  • Bring in guest speakers
  • Assign stretch projects that go beyond regular duties
  • Develop “micro-learning” for mobile devices

Areas of Development

Helping your employees prepare for a digital future (e.g., advanced analytics, automation, artificial intelligence, etc.) is just one element of professional development. Other skill areas are in high demand, such as:

  • Managing interpersonal relationships
  • Enhancing innovation and creativity
  • Becoming more self-aware
  • Thinking strategically
  • Planning and organizing
  • Building business relationships

Become a Learning Organization

Millennials are going to push the envelope when it comes to personal and professional development, but that’s not a bad thing. Creating a learning organization is not only good for employee retention, it will also create a better workplace. One where every generation will want to work.

Training Courses for Leadership Development

Effective leadership is vital to the success of every organization, from corporations, to small businesses, and even non-profit ventures. An effective leader can make all the difference in how well an organization performs, to say nothing of the firm’s reputation. Leaders inspire followers to do their best work, and empower them to achieve organizational and team goals.

Training Courses for Leadership Development

Natural Born Leader?

Some people come by leadership naturally. Most, however, need training and development to achieve their full potential. Training courses for leadership development can help a novice leader become a good leader, and move a good leader towards greatness. Training that includes the emotional, practical, as well as theoretical aspects of leadership can be invaluable.

What to Expect from Leadership Training

Effective leadership training courses can bring about significant changes in an organization. These changes range from increases in productivity to improvements in decision-making skills. Let’s take a look at some specific topics, and how leadership development training can produce undeniable results.

Improve Decision-Making

Leadership training can enhance decision-making skills. Good decisions balance emotional intelligence with reason and logic, while considering all the stakeholders in that decision. Sometimes decisions need to be made quickly, while others require time to gather additional information and support. The decision-making process can involve uncertainty, stress, and potentially unfavorable reactions from others. That is why decision-making is one of the most important skills that should be offered as part of leadership training.

Productivity

People work most productively when they feel their leadership understands them. Leadership training on emotional intelligence can be particularly effective in helping leaders and managers connect with their employees by using empathy to empower and engage them. Productive employees are highly engaged employees. Effective leaders know how to give praise when it is well-earned, as well as constructive feedback when it is warranted – skills that can be learned through effective leadership development training.

Employee Retention

Employees don’t leave a company, so much as they leave a poor boss. Effective leaders have higher levels of employee retention, which in turn reduces recruitment and training costs. It also makes the workplace much more enjoyable.

Developing Future Leaders

Smart organizations always have a “pipeline” of future managers and leaders, who are being groomed with the appropriate leadership development training. Starting with employees who possess the right qualities and desire to fill leadership roles, leadership training nurtures future leaders and supports succession planning. As a side benefit, this approach also increases employee retention, since employees can see a positive career pathway.

The Importance of Training Evaluation

Creating and delivering a training program without evaluating it would be like designing a new car and releasing it to market without finding out how it performs, or whether the drivers enjoy the ride. Training evaluation is fundamental to any training effort. It is, after all, the final “E” in the ADDIE model. With such importance, why then do some organizations spend so little time and effort on evaluation? Mainly expense, and perhaps also lack of expertise. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Learner Satisfaction

The simplest form of training evaluation is learner feedback. Sometimes called “smile sheets,” most programs end with a brief survey on learner satisfaction. While this is a great start, it should not be the only form of evaluation used in a training program. Also, there needs to be a planned effort to use the data from learner assessments as a means of improving future programs. This includes elements of design, as well as delivery. With so many online survey programs out there, there really is no excuse to skip this step.

Skills and Knowledge Gained

Also fundamental to training evaluation is some measurement of what was gained from attending the training program. This can be done simply with an assessment (i.e., quiz, performance test, etc.) at the end of the program. Of course, this evaluation could be meaningless without a baseline assessment to go with it. For example, if your learners already possess a certain skill before they attend the training class, claiming successful learning of that skill after the class would be worthless. So, if you plan to conduct this type of assessment, it is equally important to start with a pre-class measurement for comparison purposes.

Application in the Workplace

This level of evaluation is somewhat more difficult to pull off. To successfully measure the impact of your training back in the “real world,” you will need the assistance and cooperation of line supervisors and managers. If you’re serious about doing this, set this step up in advance. Sending out an email with the planned learning objectives and what knowledge, skills, and abilities are being addressed by training before the class takes place will allow local management an opportunity to observe employees in a meaningful way. Then it’s just a matter of collecting data from them a few months after the class is over.

Return on Expectations

By far the most difficult form of evaluation is determining in the impact of the training on the bottom line. It’s sometimes nearly impossible to quantify changes in behavior that resulted from training programs. For this reason, an alternative approach is to measure whether or not management feels the training met their expectations. This can be accomplished by an online survey. Although it doesn’t take much time, it can be an extremely powerful step in proving the worth of your training efforts.

Leadership and Professional Development

Training

When a business person decides that it’s time to move up to the next level, that generally means seeking out professional development to master the competencies needed as a leader. Although everyone’s journey is unique, there are certain key abilities where everyone will require proficiency. Let’s explore some of those competencies in detail.

Training

Making Decisions Under Pressure

Members of any organization look toward their leader for direction and guidance. An effective leader will make confident decisions that drive productivity, resolve conflicts, and focus a team’s efforts on the right tasks at the right time. Professional development will help budding leaders evaluate their options, generate possible solutions, and then decide upon and implement the most logical strategies. With the proper development, these leaders will be able to convert conflicting opinions into useful insights, and make intelligent decisions even with limited time and other resources.

Developing Emotional Intelligence

Few would argue the importance of Emotional Intelligence (EI) to the effective functioning of any organization or team. It helps leaders identify and manage their own emotions, while simultaneously recognizing and influencing the emotions of others. Leaders benefit from professional development that will help them learn how to effectively connect with others, and support healthy and productive interactions even in stressful situations. EI also helps leaders identify team members who might be frustrated or burnt out, before these emotions can have an adverse impact on work.

Prioritizing Effectively

Everyone can benefit from some time management training. For leaders, the emphasis is less on being efficient, and more on being effective in their positions. This means improving their focus, identifying and avoiding obstacles, staying on track, and maintaining focus on the right priorities. Everyone has the same amount of time available to them. Effective leaders know how to get the most out of every minute.

Getting Results

Goals, plans, and objectives are important, but at the end of the day success is measured by the results that are accomplished. Leaders will benefit from professional development that helps them grow a leadership style that commands results, motivates their teams, and influences others to get the results they desire.

Using Critical Thinking

Critical thinking gives leaders the ability to evaluate, identify, and distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information. It helps leaders determine the most efficient and effective course of action, while exploring challenges, identifying incorrect assumptions, and looking at things from a new perspective.

Customized Professional Development

There are many “off the shelf” professional development courses available on the market today. Depending on the organization and the resources available, it may be beneficial to ask an instructional design professional to customize these development resources to more effectively meet the needs of your organization. It can save time and effort in the long run.

 

Professional Development Programs for Managers

Professional Development Programs for Managers

 

In another post we discussed the type of training courses that are important for developing leadership skills. Leaders are like the captain of sailing vessels, where they chart the course, and make the big decisions when course corrections are required. But most ships (other than a single-person dinghy) also require team members to execute the orders of the captain, and team leaders to coordinate their activities.

Professional Development Programs for Managers

The larger the vessel, the greater the need for someone to coordinate the efforts of all team members so that they are working together in unison. In a corporation, that person would be a manager. The manager doesn’t typically select the mission of the organization. The role of manager requires a person who can execute orders, in an efficient and effective manner. That requires a different and complementary set of skills than that of the leader.

Developing Managers

While some of the management skills may seem identical to those required of leaders, there are subtle differences. For example, communication skills are important for both roles. However, managers do more individualized one-on-one communication with their direct reports, where leaders do more presentations and strategic communications. The changing nature of the workplace has also brought about the need to develop new management skills, even for experienced managers. Here are a few examples.

Managing Virtual Teams

There have been some technological advancements recently that have brought about the need for new management skills. For example, managing virtual teams requires managers to redouble their efforts in terms of clear communications, establishing well-defined goals, running effective virtual meetings, and keeping employees engaged even when they don’t see each other face-to-face.

New Employee Relationships

Starting at one company and staying there for 30 years is a thing of the past. Today’s employees value mobility over stability. Professional development courses for managers need to address the growing number of employees who work as freelancers, contractors, or even temporary employees. Managers need to learn how to stay ahead of the curve by communicating expectations on workplace arrangements and changing demographics. They also need to bring employees up to speed quickly, and work to keep them engaged.

Dynamic Organizational Structures

Traditional hierarchical organizational structures are being replaced by newer designs that facilitate agility, collaboration, and working across multiple time zones and media. In order to accommodate this new type of structure, managers are now expected to provide real-time feedback and coaching, rather than cyclical performance reviews.

More Trends

These are just a few of the trends in developing managers. As technology evolves and demographics continue to change, more skills development will be needed.