2 Traits Instructional Designers Need Most

TraCorp is a custom learning solutions provider and, due to the nature of our business, we regularly build diverse teams of learning professionals that meet specific client needs. For a given project, we might need a team with specific industry experience (e.g. finance), a specialized skill set (e.g. video scripting and production), or content familiarity (e.g. leadership development). However—regardless the role, project, or client—we look for two traits in our team members: a knack for problem solving and the know-how to boost performance via training (in and out of the classroom). Why? We view training not as a process of transferring information but as a platform for transforming people into better performers. We also approach training development as an exciting opportunity to analyze and improve processes and procedures that, by extension, progress the overall business. To accomplish these feats, our teams need to be consistently aware of how all gears – such as our client’s business goals, learning objectives, target audiences, delivery platforms, drivers of deadlines, technology needs, related business and training initiatives, and so on – interact with each other to create a transformative training program. If one of these gears gets stuck (e.g. learners are using outdated software for the next six months, but the training needs to go out now), a team member who can brainstorm and recommend solutions (instead of simply raising red flags) offers incredible value. If this idea is new to you, consider this tip: think outside the classroom. In other words, what external factors impact what happens in training, and vice versa? The following scenarios illustrate this idea. Problem Solving: Learners Have Trouble Accessing the Training Solution: Streamline Online Enrollment + Help Desk. Our client, Sun Health Senior Living, is a large nonprofit in Arizona that provides retirement communities with resort-style amenities. A few years ago, they engaged us to launch an online wellness program. However, instead of simply converting content to a new platform, our team collaborated with the client to determine how to improve the overall learning experience. Throughout this process, we learned that residents had to call the front desk to enroll in a course. The client explained that this manual process was labor-intensive and wondered what we could do to make it less so. First, we enabled users to enroll in online courses—but that’s not all—knowing that some residents may require assistance with technology, we also set up a dedicated help desk line to help residents register. Something to think about: How hard is it for your learners to access training today? What can you do to help them access learning (in fewer clicks, for instance)?   Opportunity: Build Relationships with External Customers via Training Solution: Offer External Customers Training to Boost Their Business. Did you know the Golf Channel has an online booking service for golf course tee times? It is called GolfNow, and it can be accessed via the GolfNow website or mobile app. Over the last couple years, GolfNow has engaged us to develop training to help their customers—golf course operators—improve their business by building revenue management skills and developing communication strategies. In this case, GolfNow not only thought outside the classroom, but they also thought outside their typical training audience. They broadened their focus from training internal employees only to building relationships with external clients via training. Something to think about: What training audiences are you overlooking? Can your training department help other departments reach their goals by helping them build relationships with external customers or partners via training?   Problem Solving: Develop Training with Unstable Content Solution: House Content on a Website That Can Be Referenced in Training Materials. In my article, “The Single Source Method: How to Deal with Unstable Training Content,” I share a case study in which a team of designers solved a complex problem: developing a training program with over 100 deliverables using content that was going to change due to regulations that had not yet been fully defined. As part of the solution, the client uploaded its policies and procedures to a website that was simple and easy to update. Then, our team of designers developed over 100 instructor-led training deliverables that referenced sections of the website but never quoted the policies and procedures directly. This creative solution enabled the client and our design team to proceed with training development even though the content was not finalized. Something to think about: How much of your training content is out of date? What creative solutions can you use to make course maintenance easier?   What Problems Will You Solve? What Opportunities Will You Take? Having read these scenarios, does training mean anything different to you now? I hope you see how training can be used—not just to teach—but to improve performance, processes, external customer relationships, and so much more. What problem-solving have you done lately to transform—instead of simply teach—in your training programs? What innovative opportunities have you identified to use training to boost performance? We’d love to hear from you!

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