Custom eLearning Development

Know Your Business Objective if you want a Business Result

My friend and fellow Toastmaster Mike Hayes, wrote an article this week titled, Strong Opinions Make Your PR Campaign Great!  The basic premise being that you need to take a stand and have a position in order for your message to be heard in a crowded marketplace.  This got me thinking about how this basic premise should be applied to online training application for businesses.  The e-learning world tends to be run by academics and instructional design theory.  Those principles certainly have their place, but without focus on a sound business objectives results may be hard to come by, much like having your marketing or PR message heard when you fail to take a firm stance or have an opinion.

E-learning, whether you are looking at it from a big picture view or down to a specific course must focus on the business objective in order to achieve a business result.  Resolutions has had the good fortune of working with many different types of clients all of whom have different objectives when it comes to the development of online training applications, but the constant message we preach to them is, “what is the business objective ?”  It seems like a simple question that should warrant a simple answer, but that is not always the case.  You would be surprised how difficult it can be to answer if it was not the focus in the first place.

When I talk about a business objective I am not talking about the specific learning objectives of a course.  Every online training module has its learning objectives, I am talking about the big picture.  The things that keep the CEO up at night like major citations, fines, accidents, bad press, declining revenue… the list goes on.  E-learning applications built for a company should consider how they can positively affect the actual BUSINESS of their business.  If a client comes to me and says, “I need to build a course on ladder safety.”  My first question is, “What happened?  Did someone get hurt?”  Chances are their is a hidden business objective behind the launch of a ladder safety course that the person put in charge of execution may not have been made aware.  My guess is there was an accident, someone got hurt and either sued the company or made an extremely costly insurance claim that leadership would like to avoid in the future.  Simply understanding that will make a dramatic difference in the development of the training.

Think about it.  If you go to work and all of a sudden you are asked to take a course on ladder safety, what is your first thought?  Most likely, “This is ridiculous  I know how to climb a ladder.”  You are probably right, you do know how to climb a ladder, but if the person developing the training presents ladder safety with an clear understanding of the business objective it can be framed in such a way that is valuable to the user.  When you present something of value there is a much higher likelihood of retention and behavior change over time.

A clear focus on the business objective can help trainers and e-learning developers build training that can have a real impact on their company.  Take a stance, have an opinion and meet a specific business objective.  It will help the company and the user achieve and actual result.

Compliance or Behavior Change?

You are busy, your business is required to produce results, and you rely heavily on your employees to help produce those results.  Training is probably seen as a necessary evil, or considered an afterthought.  Something that sounds good in theory, but not something that is going to help your business get Results!  What if you took a different approach to training and use it as an opportunity to change behavior and create a company culture.

It all starts with one simple question, “What is the terminal objective of my training?”  Typically there are two answers, but how you answer can dramatically the result you get from the training.  Many times we see the answer to this simple question fall into one of two categories.

  1. Meet Compliance:  Employees should be able to pass a test in order to be in compliance with some sort of regulation
  2. Change Behavior:  Help my employees understand the consequences of the actions on the job and ultimately transfer that knowledge to their job performance.

Your answer will dictate the type of training you develop for your organization and ultimately make the difference in the return you see on your e-learning investment.

A look at the use cases for each will give you a better perspective on the differences in the two answers. Many times training simply to meet compliance results in training with little to no interactivity, media stimulus and is primarily text and graphic based.  The positive is that it will most likely be relevant to the users job function since it is of a regulatory nature and in most cases the employee’s job will be dependent on staying in compliance.   The outcome for this type of training is for the student to be able to recall information for the test and pass.  The return on investment is the employee keeps their job and the company does not incur penalties or fines for lack of compliance.

Changing behavior requires a different approach.  In order to successfully change behavior the employee must successfully transfer knowledge learned to on the job skills.  There are some key points to remember when delivering training for behavior change, deliver in small easily digestible learning chunks, relevant, easy to use interactive content.  Appropriate use of media and you are much more likely to develop engaging and effective e-learning which maximizes ROI.  Returns could be a safer workplace, consistent customer service, a defined sales process and of course compliance, on paper and in practice.

Before you begin your next training project ask yourself, “Is my goal to simply be compliant?” or “Do I want to change behavior?”  You answer could change your business.