Archives for February 2015

How to Beat Creative Fatigue in E-Learning Design

Are you tired of building the same courses over and over again? Sure you may get to build a hundred courses, but they’re essentially the same course built a hundred times. The result is that many of the courses look the same and they don’t provide the opportunity to expand your course design skills.

Today I’d like to offer a few tips on how you can get out of the hundred course rut.

Build Better E-learning by Making Time to Do Something Different

Many organizations allow their employees to have some free time to hack together ideas or work on other types of projects. I spoke to one elearning manager that lets his employees spend a few days each month on personal projects. His rationale is that it gives them “time to unwind and play around with ideas.”

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - build better elearning courses by doing something new

Most organizations probably won’t make time for you to “mess around with ideas” so you need to find ways to get the time. We often used the team meeting time to brainstorm ideas. For example, one challenge was how to navigate a course if all you could do was drag and drop objects and couldn’t click anywhere on the screen. Another was to come up with 100 analogies we could apply to our training programs: climbing stairs, climbing mountains, going down a road, entering a building’s lobby, etc. We then used some of the ideas as models for our course designs.

The main point in the activity was to think about things in a different way and to prototype ideas. They may not always be used, but they will help develop your skills.

Build Better E-Learning Through Inspiration

As you know, I am a big fan of the weekly elearning challenges because they do exactly what I’m talking about above. They’re a springboard to playing with ideas. We present simple challenges to help nudge you a bit. They’re not intended to be big courses or even all that elaborate.

Some people put together complete ideas and some just build quick prototypes. The main goal is to get you to try something different than what you normally do at work. Through that process you find new ideas and production techniques.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - build better elearning courses by finding inspiration

Even if you don’t participate in the weekly challenges, I still encourage you to look at what’s being done. They’re a great source of inspiration. You may pick up some neat ideas that can be applied in your own elearning courses. All of the participants get the same instructions but the results are always different. It’s nice to see the diverse ideas.

Build Better E-Learning Through Mimicry & Iteration

All of the Articulate community managers do a great job building courses. However, if I were to look at the demos they build without knowing who built them, odds are that I’d be able to match the course author to the course. And the reason is because we all tend to have our own style.

That means our course screens tend to look similar. The layouts, colors, fonts, and object sizes all tend to be the same. That’s not a bad thing. But build the same type of course a hundred times exactly the same way can cause some creative fatigue.

By stepping away from our own style and attempting to mimic the work of others we become better course designers. I recommend collecting elearning courses, multimedia examples, or visual design ideas that you find inspiring and then setting some time to practice recreating them.

  • Step 1: Try to replicate what the content creator did. This helps you figure out what they did and how you’d do the same thing with your authoring tools. Don’t worry about copyright or anything like that. This isn’t for public consumption. Instead it’s for your personal development.
  • Step 2: Once you have decent replication, start to iterate. Pretend that a client told you they wanted this project redone. What would you do? From there you’ll be able to transform the idea that inspired you to something that’s uniquely yours. And most likely it’ll look a lot different than what you would have done on your own. I usually look for color themes, font pairings, and visual design ideas like how shapes and lines are used. I’ll create a few different layouts based on the original design.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - build better elearning courses practicing new techniques

Here are some of the places I go to find inspiration:

  • E-Learning Examples: a good collection of all sorts of elearning and interactive multimedia examples that could inspire course design ideas.
  • Articulate demos: the elearning challenges have produced over 1000 different examples. You can find a complete list here. But we also feature a few of the more popular ones and other demos in our examples section.
  • News multimedia: with every major news event there’s usually some multimedia composed to explain it. USA Today and NY Times (links to examples) usually have some good demos.
  • Museums: many of the large museums have interactive tours and demos. Here’s one from the Smithsonian on how to build a sod house and an interactive tour of the Louvre.
  • Design sites: I’m not a graphic artist but I can glean ideas from those who are. I like to look at some of the portfolios on sites like Dribbble and Loviv. I often get ideas on layouts, colors, and UI.

If you don’t want to get stuck building the same course over and over again, challenge yourself to find inspiration in the work of your peers. Make some time to connect with others and if you have time, join one of the weekly challenges. I’d love to see what you do.

About the Author:

Tom Kuhlman is host of The Rapid E-Learning Blog and has over 20 years experience in the training industry. He’s developed hundreds of hours of elearning and managed elearning and training projects at Capital One, Washington Mutual, and Weyerhaeuser. Tom currently runs the user community for Articulate, with a focus on building a passionate community of rapid elearning developers.

The Best Talent Strategies are Marketing Strategies

I have been discussing the converging roles of marketing and HR in the past few posts. I believe that organizations will eventually find themselves with a critical role that is a hybrid of the CMO and CHRO.

But for now, I want to take a deeper look at why HR should continue to take strong cues from marketing as it adapts the talent strategy and process to the current and future workforce.

Specifically, I’m discussing why a progressive recruiting strategy might start looking more like the strategy marketing pros apply to the customer purchase funnel.

For many organizations a highly desirable talent target and the “ideal consumer persona” that marketing departments are already obsessed with engaging is actually the same person. Marketers are in the business of mastering the emotional consumer buying process of brand awareness, consideration, preference, purchase, loyalty and advocacy.

Replace the word ‘purchase’ with ‘apply’ and you can see where this is going. Logic tells me that HR must begin to think more like a marketer and visualize engaging and recruiting talent much like a content marketer visualizes the stages of the purchase funnel. That means crafting the appropriate type of content to complement each stage.

Oh, and marketers need to serve up nearly every piece of content through a mobile experience. I’ll address some technology trends at the end of this article that support that. First, let’s dissect a typical marketing funnel and apply it to the world of recruiting:

Awareness: For marketing, brand awareness is table stakes. If the brand has no presence where potential customers are, the marketing strategy is already a fail. To that end, marketers are having growing success integrating brand messaging into social/mobile platforms.

For example, the fact that 21 of the top 25 brands are using the ‘new’ IAB Rising Stars Ad Units [1] shows us that cutting edge brands are increasing engagement and interaction by delivering ads that leverage native mobile behavior (swiping, clicking) and are optimized for mobile consumption.

In the recruiting world, there is stiff competition for real world experience and desirable skills.

Therefore, much like a marketer, your strategy must include creating brand awareness where talent is not necessarily ‘shopping’ – yes – I’m talking about passive candidates. This likely begins on a platform where the talent is already engaged.

Consideration: As a culture, we are now programmed to do our research before we make purchase decisions. We also value the influence of others in our decision making process. In fact, 70% of Millennials are more excited about a decision they have made when their friends agree.[2] Marketers have embraced the new reality that consumers trust word of mouth over a traditional marketing message crafted by the brand.

By acknowledging this and applying technology appropriately (think shareable consumer ratings), they are finding ways to infuse brand interaction points with authentic stories generated by their existing customers and fans. Great visual examples abound in the fashion industry: jewelry brand Stella & Dot leverages the visual story telling of their stylists by streaming Instagram posts right on the product shopping page (stylists are the freelance workforce of the brand). In this case, what’s true in consumerism holds true in recruiting – authenticity matters.

Therefore, much like a marketer, your strategy should include serving up user generated content – think employment brand stories. To see this concept playing out today look at Zappos. Zappos has turned the recruiting process upside down by eliminating job postings all together and turning recruitment into a full blown marketing experience born from authentic employee ‘reviews’.

Preference: Brand preference happens when the consumer is given something valuable – when the brand delivers on its promise. Maybe it’s a solution to a problem, maybe its inspiration or aspiration, maybe it’s just a different perspective on something – whatever the ‘value’ is – that is when the magic begins to happen and a brand rises above the noise.

Therefore, much like a marketer, once you have the disposable attention of a potential candidate, it’s critical that your interaction provides VALUE. In the case of millennial talent, maybe it’s an explanation of your tuition reimbursement program or a look at how the company gives back to the community.

In the case of a Gen X parent, perhaps it’s a flexible workweek and remote office capability – Whatever “it” is, it’s incumbent upon you to serve up the information at the appropriate touch-point. (Side note: this is an interesting article in Fast Co. about the difference between brand preference and brand relevance.)

Purchase: When a consumer finally takes action (the big purchase!) the real work kicks off and marketing’s job really heats up. Delivering on the product/promise begins, and sets the tone for the next stages in the marketing funnel – customer loyalty and brand advocacy.

Ecommerce marketers are haunted by the abandoned cart – it’s a constant reminder that something in the process failed and caused the consumer to move on.

Much like a marketer, HR needs to make sure that the purchase process (which we are replacing with “application process”) echoes the desired brand experience, values the candidates time, and is worthy of completion. Using technology to make the process mobile, easy and dare I say enjoyable is critical as HR builds out the recruitment strategy that delivers on the next part of the funnel…

Loyalty & Advocacy. I’m combining these last two because this piece is focused on recruitment strategy, and we could iterate these into full blown discussions about onboarding and employee referral programs (maybe I will – let me know if you’re interested.) Brand Loyalty & Advocacy are the Holy Grail of marketing. I’m not talking about loyalty programs either – I’m talking about true loyalty – why a consumer will pay more, patiently wait for, or go without something that is not their preferred brand.

Marketers strive for this, and the really smart ones find a way to capitalize on it and reward it appropriately. Much like marketers, HR needs to tap into the most loyal talent within the organization and transform that energy into advocacy (think NPS scores). The ability to capture that energy and put it at the top of the entire employment brand ‘funnel’ is the cycle that will continue to build on the overall success of the strategy.

While I’ve focused on the strategy that marketers apply to the funnel, I also want to make mention that marketers are viewing all of this through a mobile enabled lens. Their strategy accounts for the way consumers behave on mobile devices and it would behoove HR to do that as well.

Consider the impact these mobile trends might have on your strategy:

1) Mobile ad spend soars past digital ad spend by 2017[4]. Design content for mobile consumption.
2) 80% of time on mobile is WITHIN Apps. HR must engage via social platforms, a ‘mobile career site’ isn’t enough.
3) Hyper local overtakes national ad spend by 2017[6] When location is a factor, ex. retail hiring, seize the opportunity with location aware engagement.

Further indications that recruitment will continue to look like marketing can be found in continued growth of HR technology platforms built to empower organizations with tools that look a lot like those inherent in inbound marketing platforms: SmashFly, Jobvite, Jibe, SmartRecruiter, KarmaHire, Recruitics are just a few of the companies worth following.

[2] US Chamber of Commerce: Millennial Generation Research Review:

About the Author:

Jason Averbook is CEO of the Marcus Buckingham Company and recognized as one of the top thought leaders in the space of HR and workforce technology. Jason contributes to Inc., Businessweek, Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, CIO Magazine, HR Executive Online, Talent Management Magazine, NPR, SHRM, IHRIM and other well-known publications. He also is author of the new book HR From Now To Next: Reimagining the Workplace of Tomorrow.

Are You Creating the Right Mix of Theory and Action in Training?

A colleague asked me recently, “What I do requires people to make a shift in their thinking. How much time should I spend explaining the ideas behind why the change needs to occur?”

I appreciate the conundrum. Here’s an old bit of wisdom that I try to follow:

Start as High as You Need To, But Take Them as Low as You Can

Here’s how I think we get there.

Remember that adults process new input against pre-existing knowledge or beliefs

A new set of action items will go nowhere if they contradict someone’s current paradigm. Adults need time to process. It’s where the change occurs.

Frame up your theory in terms of “why”

The theory or principle behind the paradigm shift you’re sharing is the “why.” It’s their why you’re trying to impact, and frankly, it might not be the same as your why.

The trick here is to answer the question, “How much do I get them to own this new, foundational idea that changes the context of action items that will follow?”

Note that “know your audience” is a pretty critical thing to grasp here. If you don’t, you’ll have to make reasonable assumptions.

Plan interactions that invite reflection and/or discussion

You talking is one thing. Them talking is better. This could be literal (discussion) or figurative (writing their thoughts in a participant guide, the chat window or…).

It’s also the best way for you to gauge when to move on.

Get to the application as quickly as possible

By your own question, you’re not there just to talk about theory, you want people to take action based on a changed perspective. This is the “take them as low as you can” part. In other words, spend as much of your time together as you can talking about the “how.”

Don’t get trapped by the lowest common denominator

Remember that there is no perfect answer to the question, “When is the right time?” If you wait for everyone to “get it,” you’ll bore some or most of your learners. This means you’ll separately have to figure out how to bring the laggards along (if that’s a requirement of what you’re doing).

Take a step toward “correspondence course”

This process is often one of the places people feel like fish-out-of-water when they move a class into a virtual classroom. They’re used to using visual feedback as they try to figure out where their learners are at.

If you were conducting a correspondence course via the mail, you’d have to use other ways of figuring out where a learner’s understanding was at.

Quite fortunately web conferencing is waaaay easier than that. It’s not hard, but it is different. Fair warning, though…if you fail to adapt to the medium (learn to interact and “keep your eye on them” in a new way), you’re going to struggle.

 About the Author:

Roger Courville speaks, trains, consults, and writes about psychosocial effectiveness when communicating via web, audio and video conferencing. He is a  veteran of the web conferencing industry and has taught tens of thousands people worldwide, reaching thousands more with writing appearances and interviews. For more information about Roger’s services and thought leadership, visit the website, The Virtual Presenter

Why Predictive is Not the Nirvana of HR Analytics

Predictive analytics has long been considered the apex of HR analytics. Although speculating about the future is never a bad thing (it is, in a manner of speaking, my line of work), viewing predictive analytics as the end goal may be looking at things the wrong way.

The message many of these graphical representations send is that if you aren’t using predictive analytics, you haven’t fully realized your potential as an HR analytics operation. Conversely, if you have the ability to do predictive analytics, then you need never fear, as you have reached the nirvana level of data mining and all problems will begin melting away in a soft, backlit glow.

However, the evidence to support this theory is not there. Plenty of companies have been around long enough to have developed top-level analytics programs, but still struggle with data issues (security is at the forefront, but usage is also a big part). There are also many smaller companies that have been able to leverage the people data they possess for maximum results, despite not having the technical infrastructure to support big data or predictive analytics.

This is because predictive analytics isn’t really the end-all-be-all of HR data. Predictive analytics, and this might be heresy, isn’t even all that difficult–some of the models that exist are plug and play–but what is the final goal of any people data endeavor?

It should be to help the business succeed, and predicting turnover is not the only way in which businesses succeed.

In fact, this highlights the glaring weakness of predictive analysis; it is a one-size-fits-one approach–tailored people analytics–very useful for answering a specific question (e.g., will the organization have enough people to achieve our goals in three years?), but quite useless for answering others (e.g., can we expand into China?).

For the majority of HR problems, predictive analytics are not the answer. Daily issues arise that are more easily solved with reporting, correlations, or some other simple analysis. The trick lies in knowing which tool or approach to select for the job (and in having access to the right tools). This is where the concept of adaptive analytics comes into play. By having the right mix of analytic talent, analytical tools, and team structure, problems that can be solved using people data are solvable quickly.

Solving problems quickly should be considered the true endgame for anyone in the people analytics space. Having complex models is necessary for some questions, but not for others. Sometimes the simplest solution is best, and if HR analytics teams are able to solve a variety of problems in a variety of ways, they are truly poised for success.

When i4cp investigated the components of the most successful HR analytics teams, four main themes were reasserted throughout, all of which are characteristics of high-performance companies (and explored in the report The Rise of Adaptive Analytics, now available exclusively to i4cp members).

1) The use of adaptable analytics technologies
2) A focus on integration of technologies
3) Usage of analytics for leadership and risk assessments
4) A separate reporting function

The first on the list, the use of adaptable analytics technology, is a good example of the adaptive analytics method. Traditional business intelligence software, such as SAP, performed well (i.e., had a positive correlation to market performance and analytic acumen), but the standouts were RapidMiner and R (R in particular was a top-rated analytical tool, yet only 5% of respondents reported use).

If you are unfamiliar with R, it is a statistical computing language that has the dual advantages of being open source and having strong global community support. The open source background means that not only is it free, it’s also easy to adapt for multiple types of uses. The community support means that there are ready-made packages that have specialized capabilities, helpful for the complex problems presented by people data.

In the Adaptive Analytics study, flexibility was the one trait that all of the highest-rated analytical software had in common. Flexibility allows the user to mold the tools to whatever form is best suited for the problem at hand. This provides for as many variation on the types of solutions as there are on the types of problems that HR analytical teams must solve.

This is what adaptive analytics is all about: having the mindset and the capabilities to react and adapt to the challenges that arise, as opposed to forcing the problems to fit the skills and tools that are available. Perhaps even worse is the erroneous idea that data analysis is not the purview of HR, and thus investment into the development of HR teams is unnecessary; this is a proven path to failure and the very antithesis of the adaptive mindset.

To succeed in business, HR leaders must see that the way forward involves not building up, but building out. A variety of tools and expertise is the recipe for a highly adaptive analytics teams (as spelled out in more detail in the i4cp report The Rise of Adaptive Analytics).

The companies that succeed will be the ones that embrace agility and adaptability–at least, that’s the prediction brought on by the analysis.

About the Author:

Cliff Stevenson is a senior research analyst with i4cp whose work is focused on data and analytics, performance management, recruitment, acquisition, retention, and attrition. Before joining i4cp, he was the head of HR for a consulting firm in Boston. Cliff received his MS in Organizational Development from Suffolk University and BA in Psychology from the University of South Florida. Reprinted with permission of i4cp

7 Essentials for Leaders to Develop Trust

There is, perhaps, nothing that harms an organization more than a lack of trust in those leading it. Yet trust seems to be a very fickle idea, very challenging to develop and maintain, yet so easy to destroy. Developing a culture of trust in organizations is a difficult, painstaking journey, but if the will is there, it can be done.

Here are 7 essentials for leaders to develop trust:

1) Secure in their own skin

A leader who is not confident in themselves or was promoted on reasons other than merit, will always be looking over their shoulders; always fearing they will be found out or someone better will be looking to take their job. Such a leader will have a difficult time trusting those under them and will not inspire trust amongst their staff.

Confident leaders are secure in their own skin and not worried about how they will appear to others. This will allow them to make the right decisions without worrying what others will think of them.

2) Aren’t allergic to the truth

Leaders who are trusted tell the truth even when it is easier and more convenient to lie or leave out embarrassing facts. They also come clean and “tell all” in situations where there is little or no chance that the truth will be discovered. I remember receiving an email from someone at a college apologizing for referring to my book without my permission. Since there was no chance that I would have ever discovered this, this person’s actions spoke volumes about his honesty and integrity.

There is perhaps no better way for a leader to develop trust than to tell the truth, especially in situations where that truth would not likely have been discovered.

3) Do the right thing

One of the easiest ways for a leader to lose trust is to do what is convenient and beneficial for them rather than what is right. This sets up a culture where staff feel justified to primarily look out for themselves rather than doing what is most beneficial for the organization. Doing the right thing usually means doing the most difficult thing even if it means taking a personal risk. Leaders who do this are held up as examples of integrity for others to follow.

If the leader has made a mistake, coming clean and owning up to the mistake will earn the respect and trust of those under them.  This has been shown to be the case with great political leaders such as John F. Kennedy when he demonstrated to be vulnerable by admitting they have made mistakes.

4) Consistent with messages to superiors and staff

A sure way to develop a culture of mistrust is for managers to be found saying one thing to those in positions above them and another way to their staff.  This makes staff feel like they are being used to make their manager look good and win them a promotion. This is a not a good way to build motivation and trust in the workplace.  Trust is developed when staff are confident their management will have a consistent message regardless of the audience.  Leaders who have a consistent message to their superiors and staff will be perceived to be working for the overall good of the organization rather than for their own personal advancement.

5) Share accurate information in a timely manner

In the absence of accurate and timely information, rumors spread. Often the rumors paint a worse picture of the situation than would exist if the truth were told. Withholding information gives staff the message they are not to be trusted to know the truth and therefore sets up a culture of suspicion and mistrust that rumors will only feed and fuel.

Weak leaders see information as power and will attempt to withhold information as a means of maintaining control over their reports.  Strong leaders look for ways to empower those under them and sharing information quickly is one way that they can achieve this.

6) Communicate vision and values, then abide by them

A sure way to lose trust in an organization is for management to be seen as having one set of rules for themselves and another for their staff. If there is a value statement that management has developed for the organization, they need to ensure they follow those values themselves before expecting their staff will follow them.  If not, staff will see the values as a way to manipulate and control them rather than a set of values that would guide and motivate everyone in the organization to strive towards a shared goal.

7) Treat everyone fairly and give credit where due

One of the most common complaints in the workplaces is favoritism and unfair treatment. Treating everyone fairly,consistently and giving credit to those who deserve it is one of the most difficult things for leaders to do. We all have our own biases and certain people appeal to us more than others. One of the challenges of leadership is to see beyond personal preferences and clearly see the value that each person brings to the organization.

About the Author:

Harvey Deutschendorf is an emotional intelligence expert, speaker and internationally published author of The Other Kind of Smart: Simple Ways to Boost Your Emotional Intelligence for Greater Personal Effectiveness and Success,   He is a regular contributor to Fast Company and writes a monthly column for HR PROFESSIONALS magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @Theeiguy.

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