Monday, August 07, 2017

Disrupting Employee Development

I work for a truly wonderful company that creates the best training you can imagine. For an instructional design nerd like me, I'm in the candy store every day. It is a dream job. I work with the smartest people, the most creative folks, to design and build projects for the most visionary organizations doing the most important work. Wow. Just. Wow.

As the manager of the ID team, there are challenges, though. For starters, our standards for what our folks have to be able to do are going up every day. The technology we are designing for keeps evolving and emerging. Yesterday it was elearning. Today it's virtual reality with a side of augmentation. Who knows what exciting things will begin to show up tomorrow.

Plus we are growing like mad. The projects are coming in the door fast and furious. I'm a working manager, so I staff projects that might want a little white-glove attention or maybe just need a senior level ID.

So, what to do -- how to give my team the opportunity to grow and learn, in a way that they will enjoy and doesn't take a ton of my energy? That's when I came up with the idea of a flash mob approach.

As you know, a "flash mob" is a crowd that is organized on social media, comes together to do one thing, and then disperses. Instead of singing the Halleluia Chorus in Grand Central Station, I call people together to think about one thing, and then to make an example of it. The first flash mob was around infographics - what are they, when should they be used, and here's one we made. I asked people to form themselves into teams, and I said the teams had to have at least one of each role. Teams had a (very) limited time to work together, and then they presented to me (Director of Instructional Design), the Chief Creative Officer, and a creative director.

People loved it! We collected what we learned and now knew about infographics. Everyone said they wanted to do it again.

So we did, this time on the topic of games. Games are a hot topic in instructional design, and most IDs want to be able to point to one in their portfolio. But the budget for them can be steep, and obviously they aren't suited to every project or client. So not everyone has had the opportunity to work on a game project.

For the games flash mob, I made the high level design (topic outline, learning objectives, and audience description) and course content available to a few projects with different modalities (elearning, ILT, vILT). Again, I asked people to form teams, with at least one person of each discipline on the team. I gave the teams a short period to work and had a couple of checkins. I invited some folks to be "judges," and created a scoring rubric for them to use. I shared that with the teams, and told them that they would get extra points if their design was reusable and could be added to our library.

It was a huge success -- people got the opportunity to work with team members they hadn't worked with before. And we saw some amazing games come out of it.

If you are looking for a way to breathe life into your employee development, here's my best advice:

1. Give people a choice, about what they are doing and/or who they are doing it with. Adults like choice.
2. Train people on things that will improve their personal portfolios.
3. Choose topics that the company needs a deeper pool of talent in, and let the trainees know that they are going to be a part of the company's future by participating.
4. Always stay true to your corporate values. Teamwork, thinking outside the box, creativity are all part of my company's DNA. The flash mob concept seemed natural and comfortable to folks because of that.

And don't be afraid to try something completely different. Modeling creative thinking to your team is more than something you talk about. It is taking a risk and trying something new. It sure worked for me!