When creating a corporate training program today, we can no longer just dump a pile of manuals on the learner. If members of Gen Z entering the workforce are known to hate micromanaging managers, we need to use technology to help guide them by designing instructional workflows, not just providing stacks of readings.
Content and Experience
Many of us are used to thinking about training programs in a content-first way. If there is a training problem, the first question you might ask yourself is “what can a learner read or watch that will address this problem?” From there we might create content until we’ve built up a sizable library of materials to address our many documented problems. But does this help a new employee who is just learning the ropes?
In addition to producing lots of content, we need to think in terms of workflows. By workflows, I mean planning the experiences that make up your training program; whether it’s a new employee, a new role, or a change of operations.
Documenting and Designing Instructional Workflows
The series of experiences that make up a training program should flow together smoothly in the most logical way. Likewise, the knowledge learned (or assessed) should match the medium used to teach. We want to optimize synchronous training time (time spent with an instructor) vs asynchronous (time spent learning alone) and get the best of both worlds.
Documenting your workflow is the important first step. Draw a flowchart that describes each of the learner’s steps. Here are a few ideas on how to structure your flow chart to capture the critical aspects of your design.
- Learning content: This is the media or activity learners must experience such as e-learning modules or instructor-led training.
- Interactions: an interaction often is needed to be able to say the required training was completed. This might mean passing an automated test, signing a form, or having an instructor mark a submission.
- Conditions: these conditions must be met before the learner can move on to the next step. Some examples of conditions might include: completing prerequisites, having a manager schedule the next learning content, or waiting for time released content.
A Quick Example
When using the pieces above to create a flow chart, we can indicate the experience that the learner in a particular role will go through.
In this example, learners must complete the orientation e-learning prerequisite before they can move on. As a part of the compliance training, we’ll collect their e-signatures. Next, they must schedule an on-site training with their manager. 1 week later, we’ll assign them product knowledge training.
By laying our plan out as a workflow, we can see when key tasks should be done and know who is responsible for moving the process forward. We can also step back and check that our learning goals are being met by our design.
After a workflow has been implemented, we want to be able to track learners as they progress through it. Ideally, tracking completions and conditions is integrated into your LMS but simple tools (such as a spreadsheet) can help. Documenting and tracking workflows also helps you analyze the effectiveness of your training program and make improvements.
Thinking in terms of training workflows helps us lay out the path learners should take, identify areas of complexity, and discover ways to improve the program. It’s only after you have a well-planned workflow that you should start putting pen to paper. As learners demand more self-paced and guided training programs, instructional designers are going to have to adapt our approaches and tools to create solutions that work.