Saturday, May 9, 2015

Check Out the ATD Forum Sessions at ICE

Are you headed to the Association for Talent Development International Conference & Expo next week in Orlando?   If so, you may want to check out an ATD Forum session.

The ATD Forum is a networking group of senior learning and talent development professionals that share best practices and help each other problem-solve.  My company has been an ATD Forum member since 2011 and  I have been privileged to serve on the Forum's Advisory Group for the last two years.

Each year at ICE we offer a workshop series that provides conference attendees with an experience that is a little bit different than what you get in other sessions.   The Forum workshops are led by our members and are generally experiential in design.   So not only do you get to discuss the topic at hand with other session attendees, you also get to experience some techniques that might be helpful when you are looking for creative ways to facilitate back on the job.

Here are the dates and times for the ATD Forum sessions at this year's conference:

Click here to add any or all of these sessions to your schedule.   Or just stop by room W209C when you have some down time during the conference.  There is usually a Forum staffer or two and/or a few members in the room if you have any questions about what we do and how we work together.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Five Questions to Ask when Translating Learning Content

Are You Translating Learning Content?

Over the last two years, my company has evolved its operating structure from being a multinational corporation into a true global organization.   As a result of this, our L&D services have changed in scope and scale.   In addition to developing and delivering training for our employees in North America, we are now tasked with supporting all of the markets in which we do business.

Needless to say, we have developed our capability to deliver learning services in multiple languages.  In fact, our internal translation management group recently told us that we have pushed ahead of marketing and communications to become the number one consumer of translation services in the company.   We have now taken on somewhat of a spokesperson role inside the company to help other departments who have translation needs.

We have learned quite of few things along the way – some of them the hard way.   Now when faced with a learning project that has to be produced in multiple languages, here are a few questions we must get answered in order to move forward:

  1. Who pays?   This is the biggest issue we face.   We do not carry a budget to cover the cost of translations as part of our learning design process.   We must ask this question to the project requester.   Most often the response is, “I hadn’t thought about that.”   We do our best to provide an estimated translation cost.  Then the project sponsor must decide how to proceed.  In most cases, the cost ends up being borne by whoever is trying to push the content out to a particular audience.  But in some cases, the costs are covered by the countries that require the translations.   Either way, we do not move forward until it is clear who will be paying the bill.

  2. Who will review this?   We work with some wonderful translation vendors.  They are reputable and reliable, but they are not part of our company and don’t know our culture.  Before we can finalize any learning material, we require sign-off on the translation from someone inside the company.   It can really derail your project if you don’t have your reviewers lined up ahead of time and ready to go when needed.   Our L&D team doesn’t have the language skills or resources to evaluate the translations, so we require whoever is paying for the translations to identify who the reviewers will be.

  3. What is unique about your content?  The world would be a great place if there was one translation vendor who could do everything we needed, but unfortunately, that is not the case.   Just as different vendors specialize in different languages, many of them specialize in different content types.  We provide learning services to all parts of the company.  This means that we deal with content that can sometimes be very technical in nature (such as product training), very nuanced (such as soft skills training), very marketing oriented (such as training aimed at external audiences), or very heavy with legal implications (such as compliance training).  Different vendors specialize in each of these areas.   It is good to have relationships with a few vendors to cover the whole content spectrum.

  4. What is unique about the target audience?   Straight translation from one language to another can be a dangerous thing.  It is important to understand a little bit about a country and its culture before publishing translated learning content to them.   Some countries expect more formal language than others.   Idioms don’t translate well.   And there are host of other differences that need to be taken into consideration.   A good translation vendor can help with some of these issues, but it really falls on to your in-company language reviewers to let you know what will and will not work for their audience.   A few years back, I worked on a new orientation program that we titled, “Get Connected!”  It had to be translated into several languages.  One of my in-country reviewers told me that the way our vendor had translated the program title it came out as, “Let’s Hook Up!”  That is certainly not what we meant to convey.

  5. What type of learning approach are you taking?   Different languages say things in different ways.  Some languages require more time and space to say something that may have been short and quick in the language of origin.  This has implications for text size, placement of graphics, synchronization of narration, and a number of other things.   It can create some complex problems for integrating translated content back into your source files.   Some translation vendors can do this for you, but they don’t do it for free.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Three Essential Workstreams for Deploying Mobile Learning

For years, corporate learning has been ramping up to go mobile.   At conferences such as ATD ICE, mLearnCon, DevLearn, and others, the concurrent sessions that feature mobile topics fill up with learning professionals anxiously awaiting a session leader who they hope will unlock the mysteries of mobile learning and show them the way to make it happen for their companies.   I’ve spent plenty of time sitting in those sessions myself.

Where has it gotten us?   Not very far.  According to the ATD 2014 State of the Industry Report, only 1.47% of learning content is made available to learners through mobile technology.   Yet we all carry around our mobile devices trying to puzzle this out like Rubik’s cube.

In 2013, my company decided to get serious about developing a mobile learning program.  We did some research, worked out our plan, and selected a vendor partner to help us run a pilot.  (You can read about our pilot here.)  Two years later, we are up and running but it has been a long journey.  Getting an experienced vendor with a ready-to-go platform and a track record of success in setting up mobile learning with other companies was critical for us.

As I think about it now, there were three key workstreams that we had to move through to get our mobile learning program up and running.

Learning Strategy workstream – This is the most important workstream.  We had to flesh out how we wanted to use mobile learning in my company and build a communication plan to manage expectations.   Our plan focuses on using mobile technology for supplemental learning and performance support.   At this stage of the game, we don’t see our mobile program as the way to address primary learning needs, but rather a way to reinforce and support what people are learning in the classroom or through self-paced eLearning.

Information Technology workstream – This is the most challenging workstream.  We had to establish a feed from our Human Resources database to the mobile platform and establish single sign-on to ensure a positive user experience.   Partnering with the IT team was critical for our mobile launch.   At first, our IT team didn’t understand what we were trying to do. We lost a lot of time on our implementation trying to get the right level of support, but once we finally did things went smoothly.

Content workstream – This is the most fun workstream.   I have a good team of Instructional Designers.   They are passionate about learning and they understand what it takes to create a meaningful, engaging and effective learning experience.  Once we were clear on our strategy and got over the IT hurdles, I was able to let my team do what they do best – build great learning solutions.   Although I must admit, there has been a learning curve.   Most of our mobile learning objects run about 1 to 4 minutes in duration.  Creating short burst learning nuggets and mini-courses that are being deployed over a hand-held device or tablet requires different thinking when it comes to design.   Our learning objects are continuing to evolve as we gain more experience and gather feedback from our learners.

I’m glad I can now count my Learning and Development team among the few who are actually offering mobile learning to their workforce.   It is so powerful for learners to be able to get what they need, right in their hands, right when they need it.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

ASTD becomes ATD: It is more than just dropping the "S"

On Tuesday afternoon May 6, ASTD President and CEO Tony Bingham, announced the rebranding of ASTD to the Association for Talent Development (ATD).   An ASTD name change was not unexpected.  Everyone recognized for a long time that this was an international organization that continues to grow outside of the US.  So we all knew the "American" part of the American Society for Training and Development was done.   We also suspected that the word "Training" was likely over as well.   Many of us in the industry had stopped referring to ourselves as trainers long ago.  Our work has become much broader in scope and impact.   Yes, we provide training when needed, but it is just one element of what we do to help people learn, grow, and perform better at their jobs.

The new word added to the name is "Talent."  This was a surprise. Judging by the mixed reactions both at the conference immediately following the announcement and via social media this week, the jury is still out on this one.

Personally, I'm comfortable fitting the definition of the work that I do under the name "Talent Development" but it is not ideal.   I usually refer to myself as a "Workplace Learning Professional."   I see my job as helping people learn what they need to either perform better at what they are currently doing, or develop their skills to be able to take on new roles or tasks so they can grow in their careers.  This will still take some getting used to. There are connotations with "Talent" that don't quite feel like a fit to me.  "Talent Management" as a function inside a business often includes recruiting, which is not something that I do.   "Talent Development" can include many activities that are not specifically learning related, but in which learning takes place.   This could be things like 360 degree feedback, coaching, mentoring, performance management activities, etc.   My team gets involved in supporting this type of activity - usually by helping people learn how to do it - but it is most often led by people who are more likely be members of SHRM rather than what was ASTD.

Still, I feel it is close enough to call what I do Talent Development.  "Development" is a good word.  I do feel my work helps people develop and grow.  But "Performance" is a good word too.  I do help people perform well to succeed in their current jobs and to help my company ultimately be successful.   That would have been a nice word to bring into this change.  And of course "Learning" is my favorite word to use in describing what I do.  I help people learn no matter what their goal is.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

#ASTD 2014: A Mix of Old and New

Embracing my new association.
Even as I was making my way up the escalator to Hall D in the Washington Convention Center on Tuesday to hear Tony Bingham deliver the Big Announcement, I had already decided that the theme for this blog post to summarize my experience at ASTD's 2014 International Conference and Exposition (ICE) was going to be: a mix of the old and new.  Tony himself had started me on this path with his introductory remarks about change before yielding the stage to Arianna Huffington for a poignant, humorous, and inspiring keynote address derived from her new book, Thrive. "Change is important," he said.  "L&D professionals must get more involved in change management."  He was setting the stage not just for Ms. Huffington, but also for the announcement he would deliver at the end of the second day.

Change would be a recurring theme throughout the conference.  We heard it in the excerpts from Thrive as we were asked to focus on well-being, wisdom, and wonder to prepare ourselves for success. We heard it again in Tuesday's keynote address from General Stan McChrystal.  He expressed it as "the need to adapt" which he clearly illustrated using examples such as the Jet Blue crew landing their plane safely in the Hudson River, and the completion of the raid on Osama Bin Laden's compound by the Navy Seals, even after one of their helicopters crash landed at the beginning of the mission.

Change links the old and the new.  If we do it right, we discard tools and behaviors we no longer need, in favor of new ones.  But we also carry forward experiences and wisdom that can still serve us well in the future we are trying to create.   So here are examples of the juxtapositions of old and new I experienced during this year's conference:

  • I stopped by Ken Blanchard's booth in the Expo Hall on Tuesday.  It was his 75th birthday.  He was surrounded by many of the books he has published over the years.  They are those short, easy-to-read type books that seem commonplace nowadays.  But those of us from my generation remember them as groundbreaking alternatives to the large textbook-like business books of the time. It is the same way the session leaders at ICE were advocating the idea of short learning bursts as opposed to full-blown courses today.
  • I attended a session on Designing Learning for a Global Audience.  Alongside new information about addressing language and cultural differences, the session leaders were presenting design principles from Clark & Mayer's e-Learning and the Science of Instruction (and I'm not entirely sure they knew that!)
  • In another session I attended on Social Learning, I heard ideas presented that came right out of Gloria Gery's Electronic Performance Support presented while Jane Hart's Comet's Tail of Workplace Learning Trends was being shown on the screen.
  • On my trip home from the conference, I posted a tweet to illustrate what I had learned in Jane Bozarth's  Show Your Work session.  Jane's recent and current work inspires me to think creatively about learning.  My tweet was favorited by the Bob Pike Group.  Bob's Creative Training Techniques course and handbook provided similar inspiration to me as a new trainer early in my career.

  • Finally, in announcing that ASTD is changing its name to the Association for Talent Development, Tony Bingham talked about "where we've been" and "where we're going." That was clearly illustrated when we arrived at the conference center Wednesday morning to see all of the old ASTD banners and marketing collateral had already been replaced with new ATD branded material.
As I stated earlier, if we go about change the right way, we bring a mix of old and new with us as we move forward.  For me, I find it easy to identify with being part of ATD.  The new name encompasses the work that I've done so far in my career and it embraces the wider possibilities of supporting global audiences with a broader range of services.  I think I can live with that.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Want to Learn Something at #ASTD2014? Attend a Forum Session

It is that time of year again.   Learning & Development professionals from all corners of the globe make their annual migration to attend the ASTD International Conference & Exposition (aka ICE; aka #ASTD2014).  This year's event is in Washington DC.   It offers a great line up of key note speakers,  hundreds of concurrent sessions to choose from, and more learning vendors assembled in one place than you can ever possibly want to see.

Like many of my industry colleagues, I'm looking forward to exhausting myself trying to get as much out of the event as I possibly can. (Here are my key takeaways from last year's conference.)   For many of us, that means spending a lot of time in rooms that have rows of chairs facing a dais with a jovial speaker presenting information using a PowerPoint presentation on a giant screen.  It is ironic, that this is the primary format for session delivery in a conference that is focused on learning.  Granted, this is a conference, not a learning event per se, but we do all go there to learn something.

If you are looking for a break from the rows of chairs, and you want to really learn something.  Check out one of the four sessions being hosted by the ASTD Forum.   The Forum is  a consortium of senior learning professionals from about 50+ member companies who connect to collaborate and share best practices on learning.   I'm in my third year of membership and it has been richly rewarding for my company and for me personally.
The Forum Sessions at ICE offer a true learning experience.  When you walk into the room, you will notice the difference immediately.  The Forum sessions are set up with round tables, not rows of chairs.  There is interaction and engagement between the participants and with the facilitators.  You'll leave with tangible takeaways.

Here are the topics that will be covered in this year's Forum sessions.  Each one is delivered in a unique format:

  1. Monday, 1 PM - Selling Learning's Value Proposition (format: Whiteboarding with Visual Icons)
  2. Monday, 3 PM - Building a Culture that Supports Learning Innovation in Your Organization (format: Force Field Analysis)
  3. Tuesday, 10 AM - Onboarding - Practices that Get Results! (format: Zing Rounds with 4 member companies)
  4. Tuesday, 1:30 PM - Creating a Global Mindset as a Leadership Competency (format: Creative Matrix)

They are all being held in room 101, so please come by and check one out. But you better get there early. Like all good learning events, we limit group size to ensure participants can maximize their learning experience.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Three Considerations for Global Learning

I have been working in Learning & Development for many years.  Until now, I have only occasionally had to support projects that were global in scope.   Most of the time, that meant creating something here in North America and then shipping it overseas to be translated.

But recently my company has been evolving from a multi-national operation to one that is truly globally integrated.   This has meant that my team has been asked to develop learning solutions to support our employees in all markets in which we do business, not just those here in the US.  So now we are working to scale up our operations.   We are trying to develop curriculum that is appropriate for broader audiences, and to create design processes that take into account that we need to work with stakeholders and subject matter experts that may be in other parts of the world.  We are clearly on a journey here.  We have a long way to go, but we are learning a lot along the way. 

Here are three observations so far about creating global learning solutions.   They may seem simple and obvious to those of you who have been operating this way for a long time, but for those of us who are in the early stages of our global journey, their implications are profound.

Culture is more important than language.   It isn't enough to do word-for-word translations of your learning content.  Localization is just as important.  You have to make sure that the context, style, and learning examples are consistent with the beliefs, values and expectations of your audiences. Also, people have different expectations about what constitutes a learning experience.  This impacts how they interact with instructors and peers in class settings.

Technology must be tested.  Technology is not the easy answer.   Technology deployment is uneven around the globe.  Bandwidth issues exist in many places.  If you plan to use virtual delivery tools or elearning, my advice is test and retest the technology before going live with it.

Local resource support is critical.   You can accomplish a lot more with active local support than you can on your own and at a distance.   We have engaged our  Human Resource Business Partners and key local business leaders to help us create the right conditions for learning and help us minimize the pitfalls. So far, this has proven to be the most critical factor in helping us to be successful.

There is certainly more to the story than these items, but they make a big difference for us.