The tools that corporate training departments are using for non-technical training are outdated and ineffective. E-learning for soft skills is missing the dialogue and exchange of ideas more prevalent in classroom training and classroom training lacks the efficiencies of e-learning for a geographically dispersed workforce with an ever increasing number of remote works. Sophisticated simulations have proven cost effective for pilots, but not for new supervisors of a small local company of 250 employees.
The problem is providing a cost effective, intellectually rigorous and experiential based training on soft skills for management (such as: communication, employee relations, delegation, and critical thinking) that will truly change behaviors and improve teams.
Serious Learning is the solution. Serious Learning is the next evolution of corporate training. It incorporates the dialogue and intellectual rigor of class room training, with the efficiency and travel-free convenience of online training, and the engagement of gaming (serious games) with the follow-up necessary to modify behaviors. All of this is packaged in a framework with tools that even a small training department can afford and use to create their own in-house Serious Learning programs.
Serious Learning Framework:
- Use of virtual space (Meetings happen online for the group and all teams, using a single site with tools such as: web conferencing, scoring, leaderboards, chat rooms, discussion boards, and shared documents)
- Self managing teams (Teams are given tasks with deadlines and they figure out how to get it done)
- Time and follow-up (A Serious Learning event will last 3-5 weeks, with weekly group sessions, teams meeting between the group sessions and individual homework)
- Scoring and feedback from other teams (as teams present their work at the group meetings, they receive feedback and points from the other teams, and team members can assign points to their own top contributor or take them from a slacker)
- Opportunity to re-work (after the group meeting, teams will receive a similar challenge and the chance to improve by using what they learned in the previous round)
- Reward for winning (cash incentives for top individual and team)
The days of coming to training to gain information are gone. Information is everywhere. For example: If you want a communication model, you can find a plethora of them on the internet in seconds. If you want a communication model you trust, go ask your social network. If you want a communication model that you will use, then do this: research it, refine it with a team, present it to others, get feedback, use it in a case study with the possibility of winning cash. The purpose of sending people to training is to develop them so they will do things better. Serious Learning is a framework that does just that. Serious Learning provides a cost effective, intellectually rigorous and experiential based training environment where participants gain new skills that they remember and use.
These steps are things that I intend to do this year to launch Serious Learning in my organization.
- Identify a corporate need that could be addressed by improving managerial prowess. For example: communication in times of uncertainty, harassment, delegation, addressing performance issues, setting expectations, or other management basics.
- Get a technical partner, either internal or external, to create Serious Learning tools that will allow you to lead a session in a Serious Learning environment. Ideally, I envision a single site with all the tools available and connected, but with a smaller investment it would be possible to get by with things such as LiveMeeting, SharePoint, email, Wiggio, Twitter, or a folder on a shared network drive.
- Create a Serious Learning plan that identifies: what content is shared during the group meetings, what are the homework assignments between meetings, how points will be awarded for the assignments, plausible case studies that could be assigned for teams to apply their theories, other ways to display application such as a two minute video.
- Get 15 people who will dedicate themselves to playing hard in your first pilot. (Participants should self-organize into teams of 3 to 5 people each).