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Training Tactics and Resources from a Senior Instructional Designer

Q. What do you do at your current role for Management Concepts?

Management Concepts does most of their business with the Federal Government, and thus, my role encompasses creating dynamic learning experiences for both custom and open enrollment classes on a number of topics within the project management content area.

Depending on the project, I may start with planning and design. Other times, I am working from design documents others have produced in conjunction with the client.

A large part of my job is forging very productive relationships with my SMEs. In the specific area of federal acquisition project management (my current project) very few professionals have the scope of knowledge needed, so I often need to manage multiple SMEs for a course.

We have a very thorough QA/editing process, I work with SMEs and the editorial staff to produce the highest quality product possible, in terms in covering the content right for the audience at the right level and the professionalism of the content—the tone, grammar, style, look and feel and, of course, error free.

As far as development, I’m responsible for creating the course in Word and PowerPoint. We pilot nearly all of our classes, so I attend the pilots for my courses, solicit feedback from learners and amend the class based on my observations and the learner and instructor feedback.

Q. Could you go into more detail about your current project of federal acquisition project management?

My group’s focus is on project management, and given the increased accountability and transparency required in the government, this area is “hot” for federal project managers.

But, in addition to the knowledge covered in the PMP, those project managers who have projects which include the purchase or lease of goods and services need additional knowledge to do their jobs. This is where our courses come in.

Management Concepts provides training on how to project manage these types of projects, taking the government acquisition life cycle into account. The government even has a special certification, the FAC-P/PM or Federal Acquisition Certification for Program and Project Managers, and this is the certification that our courses support.

I have been working on courses that prepare learners to gain their certification. The courses are a blend of content presentation and threaded case studies, which enable the learner to practice managing an acquisition program or project within a relevant context.

After 13 years developing training for a retail organization, I find doing development in a new area (project management) for a federal audience exciting and challenging. On one hand, a lot of project management is common sense. You have a lot of federal guidelines and processes that must be addressed, that in a corporate setting aren’t really relevant.

Q. How do get your employees to see the link between the training and his/her ability to contribute to the accomplishment of the organization’s business plan and goals?

I think you can provide the link and it’s up the employees to decide if it resonates for them. The WIIFM, simple as that may be, it the starting point. Company initiatives or department plans mean nothing unless the employee can determine what their role is, and honestly buy in.

Setting the stage and empowering employees to have an impact is another key. But is has to be genuine. Learning plays a huge part, but you can’t sell a process, program or product to an employee if they can’t see the benefit.

Working with business partners and sponsors on really articulating goals; it goes so far beyond ROI. Learning has to get away from being a cost center and making the meter move in response to learning programs is the only way we can do that.

So, if you are successful in eliciting the organization’s business goals and how the proposed learning program supports those goals, as an ID, you can take those and create your learning objective to support that.

This is the performance consulting aspect of learning. If your learners can see how the training will enable them to do their jobs better and make an actual difference, they can see that link. And if you follow up that event with reinforcement.

Q. What tactics have you seen that work to motivate employees?

Home Depot, for example, has a wall of fame, which posts compliments from customers, sales goals and a number of performance measures relating to current training initiatives. It makes an employee feel good to have their peers see their efforts as well. It also helps evangelize the class to other employees.

I took this amazing class on X, and I’ve had students tell me they saw their performance improve immediately because they knew how they were impacting the company goals and that made them feel good, and they had the skills to actually do it.

I cannot say enough about empowering your employees, and that’s really my mission; I am always the learner advocate. I am also of the mind that it’s more about learning as a process than an isolated training event.

A class is only going to show you short term gains in behavior and performance. A culture that supports and empowers the employee through relevant learning programs can move the needle on business goals.

Q. Do you have any suggestions on what to read for those who want to stay current in your line of work?

I’m currently reading the Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning, (Wick, Pollack & Jefferson) which is a great book on tying learning initiatives and outcomes to business goals—it has some really innovative and tried and true techniques on creating true value in your training organization.

I’m also reading The Elements of Scrum (Sims & Johnson) about Agile Development, which has some real application potential in building learning programs, especially e-learning.

I like to look for inspiration outside the general training field too; for example, The Checklist Manifesto (Gwande) has inspired me to looking how my team can strive for higher deliverables quality using checklists.

My connections on LinkedIn always have great recommendations for books through the Amazon Reading List.

I constantly check the LinkedIn jobs as well as USAJOBs to see what skills people need within the learning fields and government (my current client). It’s good to keep your skills fresh even if you are deliriously happy where you are.

Checking out your own company’s website and blog is often overlooked, but it’s a good look at the brand your company shows the world and what content they are contributing to the industry. I check mine often to see what new classes we’ve launched outside my team for example.

I also “like” several industry-related Facebook pages, Pro-Edit, a current vendor for my company and a great place for learning jobs, Adobe Software Training, which provides training on all Adobe products including Captivate. I get an email newsletter on from Icon Logic “Skills and Drills” which has tons of Captivate tips and bug fixes. It’s a lifesaver when you are working on a Captivate project.

I also “like” my company’s Facebook page, which lets me know about events where we have a presence, speaking engagements and government rules and regulations that can effect government workers and our business training them.

Speaking of LinkedIn, I cannot say enough about how valuable this site is to networking and your career. Take the time to really build your profile, describe your areas of expertise, ask for recommendations (and offer to write them as well) and make friends with lots of recruiters. Again, even if you are happy where you are, helping a recruiter find a candidate or a connection land an interview will pay back in spades.

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