This week I had the pleasure and privilege of participating in the Fort Hill Company's 2009 Best Practices Summit. It was a gathering of learning professionals who had come together to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the learning community in today's economic climate. The folks at Fort Hill did an excellent job as hosts, facilitators, and subject matter experts at the event which featured keynote speakers David Allen, author of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity, Sue Todd, President and CEO of the Corporate University Xchange, speaking on branding learning, and Jim Kelly, COO of ING Direct, sharing his perspective on what business leaders want from learning and development. There were also more than a dozen best practice presentations by Fort Hill customers and business partners. I had the opportunity to talk about the training program I run at my company to develop high-potential sales managers.
Fort Hill's primary focus is enabling learning departments to deliver business results by driving learning transfer. This has to do with learners being able to transfer the knowledge and skills acquired in the training setting back to the job. When wearing my instructional designer hat, the three main things I try to attend to in course development to aid learning transfer are:
- Clearly specifying conditions of performance when writing objectives - these are often those "givens" you see written into objectives such as, "Given a list of terms about leasing, write a definition for each one." There is something a little unnatural about the rhythm of this type of statement so I don't always include objective statements that are written this way in the training materials that my participants see. However, behind the scenes, this is how I prepare my instructional objectives.
- Using authentic tools or situations when designing learning activities - for example, when training new sales associates on how to uncover customer needs, instead of using an artificial form created for training purposes, supply them with the actual needs analysis tool they will be expected to use on the job.
- Building mechanisms for follow-through right into the training - get learners to commit to specific actions they will take after training has been completed.
In support of item three on this list, The Fort Hill Company has an excellent line of products and services that do just that. I use their Friday5s® tool in the program for our high potential sales managers. Our goal is to prepare these managers for promotional opportunities at the next management level. We want to develop their problem-solving and decision-making skills now to make sure they can handle the business challenges they will face at the next level. To that end, each program participant is asked to set two specific goals during the later stages of the training program. These goals are entered into the Friday5s® tool. Through the system, participants are prompted to spend five minutes each Friday for a period of time to plan actions and update activities to follow through on these goals. The training participant's manager is also able to access the system so he or she has line of sight into the goals and actions for coaching and feedback. Using this system helps our participants sustain what they have learned and put it to use back on the job. As an added bonus, it gives me the ability to identify evidence that items learned in training are being applied and that they are leading to business results. This makes reporting on the impact of the training clearer and much more effective.
The Fort Hill event itself was a great model for learning transfer. Their team pulled together a knowledgeable group of learning and development professionals who shared real experiences and applications of learning tools. There was something that each of us could transfer back to our jobs. It truly was a best practices summit.