• July 30, 2019 10:58 AM | Lovina Akowuah

    Leading organizations put humans at the center of work. SEWI-ATD VP, Finance, Genevieve Daniels, director of organizational development at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, was recently featured in a podcast Capital H: Reinvent with a human focus to share how talent development can drive these efforts:


    About the Author

    Genevieve Daniels is the VP of Finance for SEWI-ATD. She is also the Director of Organizational Development for Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.

    Learn more about Genevieve from her recent feature in our member spotlight. 

  • March 28, 2019 3:20 PM | Lovina Akowuah

    Written by SEWI-ATD Guest Blogger, Marilyn Zwissler, President of Zwissler Associates and 2016 SEWI-ATD Past President.

    There is so much more to creating and managing a training program around games than you see on the surface. Sure, pull up that game you like to play and, where are you? If you play anything from Checkers to Ready Player One, you are in another space. And what are you engaged in? Story and challenge.

    So how do you take that experience and turn your compliance safety training into something your employees will engage in, challenge them to learn, and achieve the goal your organization wants? What I learned from Sententia Gamification’s series is how to think of the learning outcomes in terms of a story that intrigues learners, teases them into a training, engages them to stay and see what happens. When was the last time you took a corporate training that challenged you? Something that made you stop clicking through PowerPoints to just take the test at the end? And made you come out of it with a new understanding or skill? That’s what gamification does.

    Monica Cornetti and Jonathan Peters take you on a journey where you apply the very principles of game psychology to your own projects. They take the lid off the surface and show you the inner workings of learning. We all learn from experience, and gamified programs provide deep learning that stays with us.

    Attending the Gamification Certificate program last year started me on a new instructional design path. I came away with a plan that I continued to develop in my own practice. But more than that, I am conscientiously aware of why I am choosing one game mechanic over another and who my players are. Don’t miss this opportunity to up your game and make your training programs the talk of your organization.

    Don't Miss out on this opportunity.

    Register now 

    About the Author

    Marilyn Zwissler is the President of Zwissler Associates and 2016 SEWI-ATD Past President. She has a Master’s degree in Adult Education and Organizational Development from Alverno College and is a Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) . Today, she is an Adjunct Professor of New Media at Alverno College and a speaker for Balance Life Issues

  • December 07, 2018 10:26 AM | Lovina Akowuah

    Written by SEWI-ATD Guest Blogger, Matthew Meuleners, Leadership Trainer and Consultant at FOCUS Training, and SEWI-ATD President-Elect.

    A manager I meet with regularly called me to vent this morning.  

    "I give up. This new tech I hired is just not getting it. I've showed him again and again, but he keeps making the same mistakes. How do I get through to him?"

    This frustration is common among managers and leaders everywhere. We want our people to succeed... and the work to get done well.

    If you find yourself in this scenario, start by asking some clarifying questions:

    • Are these actually the same mistakes each time? Or is the employee discovering new ways to err as they repeat the process?
    • Are these actually mistakes? Or are they subjective choices that you prefer would be different?
    • Are these mistakes the fault of the employee? Or are there environmental factors that could be causing the errors?

    A "no" to any of these questions does not mean there isn't a problem to overcome. However, it is a different problem than the one we are discussing here. The process of coaching an employee to reduce and eventually eliminate repeated errors is challenging because it typically combines two forces that the leader needs to impact:

    1. How the employee learns

    Sometimes the root cause of repeated mistakes is exactly what we like to assume - they aren't getting it. Before you blame the learner, take a hard look at how you are attempting to teach the process. If you just sat down and told them how to do it, you delivered the equivalent of a lecture. Learning experts will tell you this is one of the least effective teaching methods, particularly when teaching an individual a complex task. Instead, try talking it through, then modeling it for them to observe, and then asking them to try it while you observe. Follow that up with a bit of Q&A. This is a greater investment of time, but makes it much less likely that you will have to go through it again. In the end, you will save time (and anxiety) with a more robust teaching approach.

    If you are exhausted by having to repeat yourself about how to do a process correctly for the third or fourth time, consider that this might also be part of the problem. If your teaching approach didn't connect with them last time, simply repeating yourself is unlikely to move the needle now. Try mixing up your teaching approach – a sample project, a case study, a new voice, or a round of shadowing another employee are all possibilities.

    2. How the employee is motivated

    There are times when the barrier to improvement is not skill but desire. When an employee knows how to do the task properly, but continues to make the same errors, a skilled manager will look to the drivers of motivation. What sorts of forces help the employee to make progress in other areas, and how can you apply them here? This could mean something as simple as asking to see a preliminary report before they complete the task, which adds some personal accountability earlier in the process. This could also mean walking the employee through the impact that their mistakes are having on their coworkers, which connects their results to a social force.

    In these cases when the error is really stemming from a lack of care (or self-awareness), motivating the employee to invest extra thought in the process is key. Leaders should remove as many barriers as possible to help. For example, limiting distractions or conflicting priorities for the employee on the day when that process needs to be their focus.

    These are just two considerations to help an employee learn from and eliminate errors in their work. Like any performance issue, the willingness of a manager to patiently coach is a significant factor. Take a deep breath, think about your approach, and try again.

    What other factors have you tackled in your experience coaching others to overcome a repeated error?

    About the Author

    Matt Meuleners has more than 18 years of experience as a Talent Development professional. He is a leadership trainer who is known for his ability to drill into an organization’s challenges. As Executive Partner with FOCUS Training, Matt focuses on corporate leadership and new product development. His specialties are: Training program design and delivery, consulting on leadership development and training, development of corporate mentoring programs, training audits, presentation skills coaching.

    Matt holds an MBA from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, School of Business Administration.

  • November 16, 2018 7:58 AM | Lovina Akowuah

    Written by SEWI-ATD Guest Blogger, Tom Dybro, Senior Talent Development Consultant.

    You’ve noticed Design Thinking is all the rage. As a talent/OD practitioner you may be considering these questions. How would you answer them today?

    • What is “Design Thinking” and why do I care?     
    • When and How will I add value to Design Thinking initiatives in my organization?
    • Who drives ROI for Design Thinking in my organization and what are the implications for talent development/OD?
    • What are next steps for me?

    In the Beginning…

    Design Thinking (DT) came to life in the 1950s and 60s just as “Mad Men”  (the popular TV Show as well as true-to-life characters entrenched in organizations then) – led corporate direction and growth by designing a superior product.* To “design” with the customer/client in mind, leaders of innovation needed a break from the linear, problem-solution mindset. Today, DT is a methodology and mindset which returns many millions of dollars to the bottom line in small, medium, large, manufacturing and service businesses alike. When performed with diverse teams with divergent perspectives who collaborate rigorously in each phase of the journey the team and organization win! Most importantly, DT enables the client/customer to remember your brand fondly and return for their experience with you over and over again.

    What is Design Thinking?

    When practiced in the true innovative and “organic” form, DT is not a series of steps lined up in chronological order that produce a desired outcome. Instead, a DT effort is meant to be simple, human-centered and empathetic (focused primarily on the customer/client). Consider it as a literacy and language around innovation. It is used in situations with significant ambiguity, and with little existing data to review at the outset. DT is iterative and focused on possibilities.

    Jeremy Alexis, Professor of Design Illinois Institute of Technology, explains that beyond mapping the end to end value chain, Design Thinking creates an ecosystem of partners for innovation.

    Stages in Design Thinking – Empathize, Define, Ideate (Generate Ideas), Prototype, Test

    Empathize - It is your effort to understand the way customers and clients do things and why; their physical and emotional needs; how they think about their world; and what is meaningful.

    Define – This is the result of getting close to your client/customer, thinking through and synthesizing and formulating a problem statement.

    Ideate – Using a wide lens to generate ideas. Use the wisdom of a diverse collective to go beyond, take liberty and expand your mind through and through.

    Prototype – Iterate multiple and divergent artifacts to replicate the client/customer’s interests. E.g. Put the client within a slice of the order fulfillment process and note their delight or dismay in real-time. This produces the possibility for a new “algorithm” to view the client/customer consumption of your end product.

    Test – Working out ideas into iterative trials and noting wins and opportunities to improve keeps you focused on the experience of end users.

    At its core, Design Thinking cultivates a deep sensitivity to the challenges and opportunities the customer/client faces with an emphasis on quickly spinning out mini prototypes and failures over and over ultimately leading to better experiences.

    Why has DT become so popular?

    Three things have made DT more appealing to organizations: 1) explosive complexity, 2) continued disruptive change, and 3) a greater premium on grabbing and retaining customers/clients in a technology-soaked environment that operates with increasing speed, 24X7, across our globe. Simply put, it is the “Amazonization” of…well…everything!

    Potential Next Steps…

    1. Educate yourself/team on Design Thinking (see resource list below)

    2. Step in – embrace Design Thinking. Remember a few years back when you were telling every manager who would listen about the 70-20-10 Model of Development. Yup – this is your opportunity to get your hands dirty in the 70%.

    3. Be about change management, raise your hand to lead the change effort. Business leaders want support to transform the business and this work demands a growth mindset (Carol Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success). This is development and leadership-rich…go get ‘em!

    *While men dominated organizations in the 50’s and 60’s, both women and men with their unique perspectives are adding huge value.


    Harvard Business Review, “Design Thinking Comes of Age,” by John Kolko, September 2015.

    Wired Magazine, “The Origins of Design Thinking”

    The Art of Innovation, Tom Kelley and Jonathan Littman

    Design Driven Innovation, Roberto Verganti

    The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage, Roger Martin

    IDEO’s Human-Centered Design Toolkit

    Solving Problems with Design Thinking, Jeanne Liedtka and Andrew King

    The Design Thinking Process, YouTube Video –


    About the Author

    Tom Dybro has over 15 years of experience in human performance  consulting, coaching, and facilitation within financial technology services. He has a proven track record of support to leadership executives, teams, managers and individuals. Tom increases organizational effectiveness using tools and techniques that enhance communication, engagement and strategic direction and is Six Sigma trained. Dybro is a contributing author to the book Chained to the Desk – A Guidebook for Workaholics by Bryan Robinson.

  • October 31, 2018 4:12 PM | Lovina Akowuah

    Written by SEWI-ATD Guest Blogger Tresha Lovell Program Manager at Johnson Controls.

    Often exceptional training, produced by hardworking Learning and Development professionals, is under utilized or not used at all. Some have argued that Learning Management Systems are the cause; the sheer amount of content and lack of ‘user friendliness’ makes it difficult for learners to find the training content needed. Others have stated that they simply are unaware of the training resources available to them. Both arguments have merit and may also be true. However, the root cause for the arguments is the same: Learning and Development needs a positive ‘brand’ association within the organization that both excites and creates tangible value for learners. In the study, “Incentivizing Training: The Role of Corporate Marketing,” it is reported that “73% of respondents agree that L&D communication need to stand out more and 63% respondents agree that the L&D brands within their company should be more focused” (Training Industry). Scott Bedbury, CEO of Brandstream, describes the power of a positive brand this way: “ A great brand raises the bar—it adds a greater sense of purpose to the experience, whether it's the challenge to do your best in sports and fitness, or the affirmation that the cup of coffee you're drinking really matters” (Annand, “Branding the Learning Function”). As with consumer products, a positive, strategic brand for the Learning and Development function can increase the perceive value of the team’s contributions to the overall success of the organization.

    When attempting to sell a new product, marketing campaigns are typically waged via various communication mediums to convey the product’s value to the intended audience. Learning and development professionals should do the same when launching new training solutions to generate interest. However, marketing strategies alone will not guarantee that learners will take advantage of the new solutions, as Brevetta Hassell notes in her article, “Is Your Organization’s Learning Brand Effective?” (Hassell). The Learning function may lack a reputation for being a business partner to the organization: “To be more strategic in marketing their function learning leaders should begin by assessing their department’s brand” (Hassell). Bravetta Hassell provides further commentary given by J. Hruby, Vice President of sales and marketing at Fredrickson Learning, “every learning organization has one. ‘The question is, is it the brand you want?’” (Hassell). By understanding their current perceived value (or lack thereof), learning functions can begin the process of either rebuilding or enhancing their current reputation within their organizations.

    To accomplish this, it is vital that input about your performance is actively solicited from others outside of the department. Hassell summarizes the process by doing a 360 evaluation of the training function and its perceived responsibilities with stakeholders throughout the organization: “…gauge the current brand standing by: soliciting feedback from key business partners, monitoring learner and leader experiences and processes within the function and taking an objective look at the customer-friendliness of its products and initiatives” (Hassell). Once gaps are understood, learning leaders can then begin crafting a plan to change the perception of their department within the organization.

    The next step centers around building positive brand image within your organization. To create an effective brand, it’s necessary to understand what a brand is and how it can impact the Learning function: “…a ‘Brand’ is what creates an image, generates instant recall, and talks about a uniqueness while creating differentiation… A Brand brings in context and credibility in L&D initiatives such that employees start looking at them as impactful and functional solutions” (Gautam, “6 Marketing Skills For Learning And Development”). Learning leaders need to ensure they are aware of the long-term, short-term business goals and ensure that what they offer aligns to providing tangible solutions to reach those objectives. This will ensure alignment with stakeholders when trying to position learning as a partner that can service teams and improve the organization’s performance.

    As learning leaders continue to look for ways to prove their value to their organizations, they must first be honest with the value of the contributions their team has made to date and their reputation within the organization. Once these leaders make the necessary changes to position their teams as valued business partners, they will gain the respect of their business stakeholders and invitations will be given to join other business leaders in crucial conversations that determine the organization’s future. From there, a domino effect will ensue as training’s value is touted, not just by the learning team, but by those they serve.


    - Hassell, Bravetta. “Is Your Organization’s Learning Brand Effective? Chief Learning Officer, Chief Learning Officer – CLO Media, Inc. 5 July 2016, clomedia.com/2016/07/05/is-your-organizations-learning-brand-effective/.

    - Annand, Preethi. “Branding the Learning Function.” TD Magazine, ATD, September 2012, td.org/magazines/td-magazine/branding-the-learning-function.

    - Gautam, Amit. “6 Marketing Skills for Learning and Development.” eLearning Industry, eLearning Industry, 24 August 2018, elearningindustry.com/marketing-skills-for-learning-and-development.

    - “Incentivizing Training: The Role of Corporate Marketing,” Training Industry, Allencomm, May 2016, trainingindustry.com/content/uploads/2016/05/allencomm_report_2016_DIGITAL.pdf.

    About the Author

    Tresha Lovell is a Talent Development professional with over 7 years of  corporate learning experience. After starting her career in IT and business development, Tresha transitioned into training and development and has used her ability to design and implement learning solutions in various organizations, including Johnson Controls, Northwestern Mutual and SoftwareONE. Tresha's experience includes delivering training for complex technology solutions, systems, and consultative sales methodologies. A proven communicator and presenter, Tresha's passion is to equip both individuals and business leaders with the skills needed to uncover and fulfill their purpose.

  • October 31, 2018 3:57 PM | Lovina Akowuah

    Written by SEWI-ATD Guest Blogger Tresha Lovell Program Manager at Johnson Controls.

    Due to economic pressures, competition and stakeholder demands, organizations are steadily looking for ways to operate more efficiently. In many cases, this involves organizational streamlining and cost reductions to projects and initiatives and Learning and Development is often included in these budget cuts. In their book, “Training on Trial,” Jim and Wendy Kirkpatrick detail the scrutiny that training often undergoes to prove value by asking this question: “What evidence can you provide to demonstrate your value to the bottom line of the business in relation to your efforts?” (Kirkpatrick, pp 3). The business climate demands that learning and development evolves to find new methods to increase learning transfer, improve employee performance and show significant return on investment while spending less time and resources to do so. One solution has been the introduction of the Flipped Learning model in corporate training. In this article, we’re going to explore how this model provides quality training that increases employee engagement and learning transfer while reducing cost over time. By leveraging this model, Learning and Development teams can significantly improve employee performance, thereby, proving their value to their organizational leaders.

    The Flipped learning method was introduced by Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams and is based on the premise of introducing “direct instruction and lecture” material using on-demand tools before class and reserving classroom time to apply knowledge through interactive modalities like exercises, discussions and projects (Bergman and Sams, pp 29). With the increased development of low cost, easy-to-use technologies, organizations can create high-quality videos, screencasts, podcasts and eLearning materials that can be deployed ahead of instructor-led sessions (Jacot, Noren & Berge, pp 23-24). This approach allows focus and attention to be given to complex topics, individual instruction and real-world application during training sessions (Bergman and Sams, pp 29-30).

    Although originally introduced in K12 classrooms, the Flipped learning model and has been adopted in corporate training to answer the question if “professional training time [can] be maximized to meet the demands of specialized instruction, difficult schedules, various learning styles, expensive travel costs and constantly changing curriculum?” (Bergman and Sams, pp 29). The model answers this question by providing “a blend of both mediums – e-learning and classroom training – is often considered best for engaged and effective learning” (Majumdar “Flipped Classroom in Corporate Learning, Concept or Reality”). In addition to a shift in instructional design and development, and the role of the instructor also shifts under this model to that of a ‘coach’ (Bergman and Sams, pp 31) This enables learner to move beyond the first two level’s of Bloom’s Taxonomy and to begin moving up the triangle to Application and Analysis while in the classroom versus remaining at the bottom levels of the pyramid because of lack of time and/or resources to practice applying knowledge within their business context (“Bloom’s Taxonomy”).

    The final benefit centers around cost control and return on investment. Through extensive study on the Flipped Learning model and its benefit to corporate learning, researchers Melanie Jacot, Jason Noren and Zane Berge arrived at this conclusion:

    “For organizations aligning with constructivist ideals, looking to integrate modern Web-based applications and cognizant of the need for a reimagining of the conventional classroom environment, the flipped classroom will prove impossible to resist. Equally, corporations that see the value of in-class instructional sessions prioritizing creativity, experiential learning activities and authentic skills-based training that directly correspond to increased levels of productivity and ROI will be similarly allured” (Jacot, Noren & Berge, pp 27).

    As Learning teams continue to look for ways to both provide effective training solutions and control costs associated with Learning and Development, considerations must be given to non-traditional approaches. The Flipped Learning model is one such approach that has proven to be effective for talent development, improving employee performance and providing solid returns.


    - Bergmann, Jon and Aaron Sams. “Flipped Learning: Maximizing Face Time.” T+D Training + Development, ASTD, February 2014, Vol. 82, No. 2, pp: 28 – 31.

    - Kirkpatrick, Jim D. and Wendy Kayser Kirkpatrick. “Training on Trial: How Workplace learning Must Reinvent Itself to Remain Relevant.” Amacom, 2010.

    - Majumdar, Arunima. “Flipped Classroom in Corporate Learning, Concept or Reality?” G-Cube Blog, G-Cube, 13 Oct 2013, gc-solutions.net/blog/flipped-classrooms-in-corporate-learning-concept-or-reality/.

    - Jacot, Melanie and Jason Noren and Zane Berge. “The Flipped Classroom in Training and Development: Fad or Future?”

    - “Bloom’s Taxonomy.” Training Industry, Training Industry, 23 May 2013, trainingindustry.com/wiki/content-development/blooms-taxonomy/.

    About the Author

    Tresha Lovell is a Talent Development professional with over 7 years of  corporate learning experience. After starting her career in IT and business development, Tresha transitioned into training and development and has used her ability to design and implement learning solutions in various organizations, including Johnson Controls, Northwestern Mutual and SoftwareONE. Tresha's experience includes delivering training for complex technology solutions, systems, and consultative sales methodologies. A proven communicator and presenter, Tresha's passion is to equip both individuals and business leaders with the skills needed to uncover and fulfill their purpose.

  • October 31, 2018 4:58 AM | Lovina Akowuah

    Written by SEWI-ATD Guest Blogger Tresha Lovell Program Manager at Johnson Controls.

    The demands made upon training professionals to help organizations become successful are steadily increasing. Many are having to balance multiple projects, while both learning and improving their skills in talent development areas of expertise, and in ‘non-traditional’ areas like project management. This is often occurring as learning professionals are assisting senior business leaders, new hires and high potentials to develop the skills needed for managing, leading and coaching others within the organization. 

    To maintain this balancing act and excel, highly developed Emotional Intelligence (EI) is a necessity. According to Fast Company, “90% of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in pressurized situations in order to remain calm and in control” (Thygesen, “Why Emotional Intelligence is More Important to Hiring Thank You Think”). Although a core requisite for job performance, Emotional Intelligence is rarely the focus of development in traditional certification and degree programs for learning professionals. In this article, we’re going to explore how growth in Emotional Intelligence can improve the performance of training professionals in the areas of communications, motivating learners and coaching. As learning professionals develop their Emotional Intelligence, they are better equipped to help organizations become more successful.

    Emotional Intelligence (EI) is defined as the ability to “recognize, understand and manage our own emotions” and to “recognize, understand and influence the emotions of others” (Institute for Health and Human Potential). EI aims to help people become “aware that emotions can drive our behavior and impact people (positively and negatively), and [learn] how to manage those emotions – both our own and others – especially when we are under pressure” (Institute for Health and Human Potential). To develop EI in others, Travis Bradberry & Jean Greaves state that you must understand your own “Personal Competence,” which is comprised of “your own self-awareness and self-management skills” (Bradberry & Graves, pp 23.) When your emotions are triggered, how do you react to different situations and circumstances? Self-awareness is a skill that directly correlates to success: “83% of people that are high in self-awareness are top performers” (Bradberry & Graves, pp 26). This is also the starting point for emotional intelligence development. By understanding oneself and actively working on those areas in which gaps exist, learning professionals can begin growing in Emotional Intelligence and help others to do the same (Thygesen, “Why Emotional Intelligence Is More Important To Hiring Than You Think”).

    The two remaining areas of Emotional Intelligence are Social Awareness and Relationship Management (Bradberry & Graves pp 38 -50). Social awareness is the “ability to accurately pick up on emotions in other people and understand what is really going on with them,’ while Relationship Management focuses on “[using] your awareness of your own emotions and those of others to manage interactions successfully” (pp 38, 44). A core function of a learning professional is working effectively with others. Stakeholders, project team members, other learning professionals and vendors are those commonly collaborated with when uncovering learning needs and developing learning solutions for organizations. Solid communications skills are essential for team building, conflict resolution and needs analysis. Being able to meet people where they are and build professional relationships increases effectiveness when working with stakeholders, creating relevant learning solutions, and delivering those solutions to learner audiences. Therefore, Emotional Intelligence development are the foundations for job success.

    In addition to communications, coaching and motivation are other areas that can also improve as a direct result of Emotional Development growth. As a result of understanding themselves and others better, training professionals can uncover motivation drivers in others at a faster rate than those with lower Emotional Intelligence (Administrate “The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Training”). In addition, highly developed Emotional Intelligence also develops empathy, creating the impression of being approachable, and equips you to coach others, helping you to identify areas of strengths and opportunities to grow to them “to rise to the level” of their potential (Administrate “The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Training).

    As organizations continue to look for ways to improve employee performance, company leaders must realize the necessity to invest in Emotional Intelligence development for their learning professionals. These critical skills, coupled with traditional talent development competencies, will ensure your learning team is prepared with the skills necessary to take your organization to the next level.


    - Bradberry, Travis and Jean Greaves. Emotional Intelligence 2.0. TalentSmart, 2009.

    - “What is Emotional Intelligence?” Institute for Health and Human Potential, ihhp.com/meaning-of-emotional-intelligence.

    - “The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Training.” Administrate, Administrate Limited, 7, July 2014, getadministrate.com/blog/the-importance-of-emotional-intelligence-in-training/.

    - Thygesen, Kes. “Why Emotional Intelligence Is More Important To Hiring Than You Think.” FastCompany, FastCompany, 21, April 2014, fastcompany.com/3029306/why-you-should-make-emotional-intelligence-the-cornerstone-of-your-hiring-strategy.


    About the Author

    Tresha Lovell is a Talent Development professional with over 7 years of  corporate learning experience. After starting her career in IT and business development, Tresha transitioned into training and development and has used her ability to design and implement learning solutions in various organizations, including Johnson Controls, Northwestern Mutual and SoftwareONE. Tresha's experience includes delivering training for complex technology solutions, systems, and consultative sales methodologies. A proven communicator and presenter, Tresha's passion is to equip both individuals and business leaders with the skills needed to uncover and fulfill their purpose.

  • October 30, 2018 5:09 AM | Lovina Akowuah

    Written by SEWI-ATD Guest Blogger Tresha Lovell Program Manager at Johnson Controls.

    As sales organizations experience growth, in both size and revenue, many companies invest in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions with the intentions of: standardizing sales processes, increasing efficiency and productivity, and to ultimately increase the organization’s revenue.  Depending on the size of the organization, CRM implementations typically require a project team and significant capital and human resource investments for system design, implementation and adoption. Although many CRM projects are funded and approved, it is estimated that 33% of all CRM implementations fail (Tabor from “What to Do When Your CRM Project Fails”). According to Faye Business Systems Group, failure can result from a variety of root causes, including: lack of clear objectives for the project, poor planning or project management, insufficient training & support and incomplete, erroneous or bogus data in the new Software. (Faye Business Systems Group).

    Once ‘Vesuvius’ metaphorically erupts, the following questions may emerge: “Is there a way to turn a failing project around?” Or, “how can we prevent this from happening again?” (Tabor). In this article, we’re going to explore key areas that are directly ‘owned’ or ‘impacted’ by Learning and Development in CRM implementations, and the need for project teams to both fund and effectively engage Learning and Development over the course of the project. By understanding the Learning team’s scope of work, providing the needed resources required to execute the training project plan, and engaging Learning and Development throughout the project, the project team will provide Learning with the tools and support needed to influence the project’s success.

    Understanding the Role of Learning and Development

    With any new system implementation, Learning and Development has vital roles to play over the course of the project to: help teach learners how to effectively use new resources, “[empower] users to make changes on their own,” motivate learners to become change advocates and “[arm] them with the tools needed to be successful” (Rinke from “Training Can Influence the Success of Your CRM Implementation”). Key areas of responsibility for Learning may include: creating and executing the learning strategy, leading or co-leading change management efforts, learning deployment, end-user support, and measuring the effectiveness of the training and/or change management strategies.

    For these core tasks to be performed effectively, the project team must understand the value of the Learning function and include Learning and Change Management in the project charter and as a part of the project team at the onset of the initiative. “Far too often businesses will dismiss training as a superfluous line item that isn’t tied to the success of a project,” (Rinke). TJ Coyle, the Chief Learning Officer of Alphanumeric, states the importance of including training throughout various area of the project life cycle:

    “Which comes first, the end user training plan or the software roll-out plan? This is not a chicken/egg question. Consider buying a piece of assemble-it-yourself furniture. Open the box; throw away the assembly instructions. Helpful? No. Yet that is the attitude you radiate to everyone on a project when you don’t have the complete scope and sequence of an end user training plan in place as you work through the software roll-out checklist” (Coyle from “How to Develop an End User Training Plan Before Software Roll Out).

    Engaging Learning early (and often throughout the project) helps to mitigate risks associated with low user adoption and possible failure of the implementation. It is essential to the implementation for project sponsors and managers to understand the Learning function, it’s value, and to include the team early in the implementation process.

    Does Learning and Development Have the Tools Needed to Be Successful?

    For Learning to meet the expectations of the stakeholders, the team must be given the resources required to execute the training strategy for the project. Although this list is not comprehensive, it does provide key point considerations when creating a training plan:

    1. Has the business goals for the project been clearly stated? According to the Faye Business Systems Group, this is one key reason why CRM implementations fail: “Not defining clear objectives for the software implementation is a commonly cited contributing factor associated with failed implementations. “A successful project is one that attains its objectives, but it is amazing how many business entities undertake a CRM solution with vague, unidentified, immeasurable goals” (Faye Business Systems Group). Clear project goals enable training professionals to align learning objectives to the project and create accurate metrics to measure success.

    2. Is Change Management included in the project plan? It is true that CRM roll-outs include process changes; however, “it is actually the employees of your organization who have to ultimately change how they do their jobs. If these individuals are unsuccessful in their personal transitions and they don’t embrace and learn a new way of working, the initiative will fail” (Prosci).

    3. Has a budget been allocated to training that provides sufficient funding to execute the training plan? Given the scope of work for the project and the expectations held by the business, Training must have access to the resources that are needed. If a budget has not been allocated for either function, training and change leaders will need to assess their ability to provide the expected deliverable given budgetary constraints and communicate any concerns to the project team ahead of time. “CIO magazine did a study and found that a good training program should account for 10 to 13 percent of the project spend. From my experience of having done this for more than 28 years, very few projects invest anywhere near this figure, and suffer the results. Successful training is highly correlated to CRM software adoption, software utilization and technology payback. Plan accordingly” (Schaeffer from “CRM Software Training Best Practices).

    4. Has the processes for using the ‘old system’ and the new CRM been provided? How do these processes differ and how impactful is the change to each user group? To create training that is tailored to each user’s experience, processes need to be documented, understood and provided to the training team prior to content design. “Training should flow according to role-based business processes, not software screens. Users learn best when training is presented as part of their daily context…emphasize end to end business process efficiencies and effectiveness – and how staff can do their jobs easier and better” (Schaeffer).

    Support from project team and access to the required resources needed to execute the learning strategy are essential to the success of the training strategy. Without it, the effectiveness of the Learning and Development team will become minimal, leading to the potential marginalization of the team members and possible failure of the overall project.


    - Tabor, David. “What to Do When Your CRM Project Fails.” CIO by IDG, IDG Communications, 18 Sept. 2017, cio.com/article/2381909/customer-relationship-management/what-to-do-when-your-crm-project-fails.html.

    - Faye Business Systems Group. “Top 10 Reasons Why Software Implementations Fail.” Faye Business Systems Group, FBSG Inc, 17 Oct. 2016, fayebsg.com/2016/10/the-top-10-reasons-why-software-implementations-fail/.

    - Rinke, Linus. “Training Can Influence the Success of Your CRM Implementation.” Upcurve Cloud, Upcurve Cloud, 24 Mar. 2016, upcurvecloud.com/blog/how-training-and-change-management-influence-the-success-of-your-crm-implementation/.

    - Prosci. “Thought Leadership Articles: What is Change Management?” Prosci, Prosci Inc, prosci.com/resources/articles/what-is-change-management.

    - Schaeffer, Chuck. “CRM Software Training Best Practices.” CRMSearch, CRMSearch, crmsearch.com/crm-training-best-practices.ph.

    - Coyle, TJ. “How to Develop an End User Training Plan Before Software Roll Out.” Alphanumeric Systems Inc, Alphanumeric System Inc, info.alphanumeric.com/blog/develop-end-user-training-plan-before-software-roll-out.

    About the Author

    Tresha Lovell is a Talent Development professional with over 7 years of  corporate learning experience. After starting her career in IT and business development, Tresha transitioned into training and development and has used her ability to design and implement learning solutions in various organizations, including Johnson Controls, Northwestern Mutual and SoftwareONE. Tresha's experience includes delivering training for complex technology solutions, systems, and consultative sales methodologies. A proven communicator and presenter, Tresha's passion is to equip both individuals and business leaders with the skills needed to uncover and fulfill their purpose.

  • October 17, 2018 9:32 AM | Lovina Akowuah

    Written by SEWI-ATD Guest Blogger, Mark Brewer, Senior Organizational Development Manager at Milwaukee Tool, and SEWI-ATD VP of Special Projects.

    In the first quarter of this year I urged anyone who waded through my first three paragraphs to help managers do what we can’t do for them:  have ongoing performance conversations with their employees in everyday interactions, model giving and receiving feedback, and focusing on the future, the only place where growth and development happens.  All of that was fixed on the end-of-year performance review process, traditionally celebrated some three months after the end of the actual year.

    Also, I made some murky references to the dental profession.

    Well, this isn’t about performance reviews, but it does involve the impending year-end.  And the dental profession.

    When I was a kid my dentist had a yellowing placard taped to his wall that read The Dentist cannot undo what the Patient won’t do.”

    I couldn’t have been more than nine years old, and my dentist was older then than I am now, so it’s doubtful I saw that little sign more than two or three times.  Yet it so captured my imagination that the memory of it has withstood the ravages of time (and the 70’s) to remain a lasting image in what remains of my long-term memory.

    Having chosen to spend half of his adult life poking around inside other peoples’ foul mouths, this little bit wit and wisdom obviously held special meaning for him.  Not to mention that it was the only adornment on the walls of his offices.

    But we could replace “Dentist” and “Patient” with a lot of other identities and the wisdom would hold up.  (Maybe not “Cats” and “Dogs” perhaps, but that does make you think, doesn’t it?)

    As trainers and designers of training we might not see our role as “undoing” anything for our learners, though they may come to us with bad habits aplenty.  However, we know too well that our best efforts cannot do for the learner what she/he will not do on their own, on the job, every day. You know this: if they won’t practice what we teach, we might as well have filled the classroom with bags of potatoes.

    What our learners do and don’t do on the job – what they choose to put into practice from our exquisite training – may be partly due to their willingness.  We all know employees who are deeply committed to owning their success, and to the development investment that supports it.  Beyond those twelve people though lies a population hostage to a great force for decay (another dental reference).

    I’m talking about their managers.  Yes, those hapless individuals on whom the organization has placed the burden of employee productivity and engagement.  Those poor beasts who, through no fault of their own, find themselves responsible for other people getting the job done, stripped of their own ability to do it themselves.

    For better or worse they are the models for rewarded behavior in every team, every organization.  They are the purveyors of company culture (no, not those pretty posters, pamphlets, screensavers, coffee mugs, breath mints and pens).  Their actions are the signals that guide employee work practices.  When our training and development efforts are out of synch with those signals, it’s only natural to expect employees’ practices to gravitate toward their manager’s model (or dictate, as the case may be).

    If you’ve read this far you’re thinking “Tell me something I didn’t know” or “So what?”

    So what?  So we are focused on the wrong employees!!  I’m not kidding.  We and our training and development programs might touch an employee for barely one-half of one percent of their work year.  Their managers, on the other hand, touch them far more than that, figuratively speaking of course.

    We all know the 70-20-10 “rule.” In reality that “rule” plays out more like 95-4.9-0.1.  You know this too: 99.9% of the average employee’s professional learning and development takes place beyond the reach of our development interventions. We are the dentists who our patients might see a few times a year.

    So what can we do to make sure everyone’s brushing at home?  Connect with the managers.  Make them an active part of the development programs and processes.  You probably do much of it already:

    • Do managers know when their employees are spending time in training or other development activities?
    • Do managers know what’s in that training? (do you know what’s in that “granola” bar you’re eating?)
    • Do managers know how to support that training and reinforce it on the job?
    • If we can ask the learner to “evaluate” their learning experience, we can ask managers to do the same: evaluate how the learning translates into observed behavior change on the job.
    • For every learning activity, tell managers “what to watch for” in their employees
    • Conduct learning activities with intact teams, in which managers are visible participants.
    • Provide managers with a single easy-to-use follow-up coaching question – just one -- aligned with every class or learning activity

    Why is all this pertinent to year-end?  It’s not!  It’s year-long.  It’s every day.  And if the year’s gone by without it, better now than later. Like, performance reviews. Help managers make their most valuable contribution to the organization:  developing people. It’s more their job than ours.

    A little regular flossing probably wouldn’t hurt either.

    About the Author

    Mark Brewer is a Talent Development professional with over 25 years of corporate experience. After a short career as a high school English teacher Mark earned a master’s degree in Instructional Design at Florida State University and began his corporate career at Arthur Andersen designing operational and interpersonal skills training for the Audit practice. By the time he moved to Motorola University his focus had turned primarily to Management and Leadership development. With Kohl’s Department Stores Mark was engaged in management training, performance management process, talent management and succession planning strategy, and executive coaching and development.

    Currently Mark serves as an adjunct instructor for UW’s Center for Professional and Executive Development and a Senior Organizational Development Manager with Milwaukee Tool. His professional passion is helping business leaders become more confident and more proficient in developing their organizations’ talent.

  • July 27, 2018 7:44 AM | Lovina Akowuah

    Written by SEWI-ATD Guest Blogger, Colin J Hahn, Director of Talent Development  for Leadership Ecademy.

    One of the greatest challenges that L&D professionals face is creating programs that cause our participants to change their behaviors. We have direct control over what happens in our classrooms, so we know that we can deliver knowledge. But, having participants translate that knowledge into new behaviors, and then adopting those new behaviors in the workplace, is something that we can only influence indirectly.

    Many L&D professionals struggle to measure behavioral change—level 3 in the Kirkpatrick model of training evaluation. But, the more fundamental problem is that causing behavioral change is hard. A typical estimate is that only 30-40% of learners implement soft skill behaviors they learn in training, forming what is known as the “transfer gap.” Because the gap is so wide, improving the rate of behavioral change is one of the highest leverage improvements that we can make to our training programs.

    L&D professionals have long known how important it is to change behaviors, but we are under increasing pressure to deliver on that goal. Compared to five years ago, business leaders more frequently stress the need for employees to adapt, innovate, and embrace rapid change. With a tightening labor market, employers are under pressure to grow the skills of their workforce on the job.

    Both of these trends are increasing the stakes for L&D professionals. If we are successful at changing behaviors, we can have a dramatic impact on business results. But, if we can’t deliver, then our budgets can be on the chopping block as companies look to trim services that don’t contribute to the bottom line.

    At Leadership Ecademy, we realized that reliably changing behavior is a critical outcome for talent development, and we focused on developing techniques that consistently produced positive behavioral changes in the workplace. We identified three primary reasons why training programs fail to change behaviors. By targeting those three challenges, we achieved a 93% success rate in our participants demonstrating behavioral changes as a result of our training.

    Challenge #1: Conducting fire talks vs fire drills

    One of my mentors, Gary Klugiewicz, frequently says, “There’s a reason we conduct fire drills and not fire talks.” When you are under stress, you don’t think clearly, you experience tunnel vision, and your motor skills are impaired. During a fire is the worst possible time to try a psychomotor skill for the first time, which is why it is so important to practice when the stakes are low. When you are trying to walk out of the correct exit for a fire—or when temperatures are rising between team members and you’re trying to remember the next step in a de-escalation sequence—you are liable to make mistakes unless you’ve rehearsed the skill beforehand.

    Most training and development programs are more fire talk than fire drill. The participants will spend most of their time listening to the facilitator present or discussing the topic in small groups. As L&D professionals, we proudly point to the interactive elements of our sessions: role plays, simulations, and small group discussions. But, it’s rare for these activities to make up more than 30% of our training time. Even when we do incorporate non-lecture activities, they often serve the role of content delivery rather than practice and implementation.

    Below are some of the techniques we adopted in order to conduct more fire drills.

    1. Plan the time. If we truly believe that practice is a priority, then the training schedule should reflect that. At Leadership Ecademy, we set an expectation that 50% of classroom time should be devoted to practice. Content delivery, discussion, and housekeeping tasks all had to fit within the remaining 50%.

    2. Set outcomes for class activities. We defined specific outcomes for each component of our training sessions. We found that group discussions benefited tremendously from that level of detail. Before, a typical discussion prompt might sound like, “Can you think of other trust-building behaviors?” It was common for discussions to meander; while the discussions were intellectually stimulating, they had little practical impact. When we forced ourselves to define outcomes for a discussion (e.g., participants will identify examples of trust-building behaviors from their own experience), we noted that the discussions were more focused, the quality of the discussions improved, and we were able to wrap up the discussions sooner.

    3. Create more “at bats.” When we first conducted role plays, we spent close to five minutes going through a scenario and then debriefing it. A lot of that time was low-impact, as participants were improvising further and further away from the core skill. We reformulated the activity with a tighter script and more concise directions, and we reduced the time to run through the role play to 30 seconds. In that same five minute period, we were able to get six practice attempts and a debrief. When the participants had more at bats, their fluency increased and they felt more comfortable with the skill. As a bonus, the increased pace also kept the participants more engaged in the class.

    Challenge #2: Adapting to the situational snowflake

    One of the fundamental realities of behavioral change is that no two situations are the same. Like the proverbial snowflakes, there are always differences between the scenarios we practice in class and the situations our participants face back at the workplace.

    These differences pose significant barriers for participants attempting to use their new skills. When the participants can’t figure out how to work through the unique elements of their situation, they are much less likely to attempt the skill—let alone succeed. In one of our conflict management classes, for instance, one participant was paralyzed because her conflict was with her boss, and none of our examples explicitly showed how to adjust for the power differential in that situation. Another participant struggled to apply the technique of establishing a mutual purpose because his situation was extremely challenging (he was required to fire someone the week before Christmas, and there was no flexibility in the timeline because of other organizational constraints).

    The snowflake syndrome—when a participant sees their situation as unique and therefore struggles to apply the skill—is a common reason why training doesn’t result in behavioral change. Being able to adapt a skill to novel circumstances requires a high level of proficiency. By definition, someone who is learning a new skill lacks that level of proficiency. While a beginner can stick to a script relatively well, it’s easy for them to get thrown off by unique situational details precisely because they haven’t internalized the skill to the point where they have mastered the general principles and can adapt those principles to meet the demands of the moment.

    Our Team at Leadership Ecademy spent a lot of time working on how to overcome the snowflake syndrome. Some of the techniques we used included:

    1. Present extreme examples. We found that many adaptation barriers stemmed from a participant’s perception that their situation was more challenging than anything we had discussed. So, we began to incorporate more extreme examples into our case studies in order to show the techniques under more difficult circumstances. For instance, we used a case study that pitted police officers charged with enforcing protest ordinances against Occupy Wall Street protesters who were willing to be arrested as an illustration of how to find a mutual purpose in a discussion.

    2. Practice adapting. Sometimes participants just need to put some thought into how a skill would work in their situation. We built practice time for participants to adapt the skill by identifying what could work without change and what elements of the situation needed to be addressed in a different manner. We found pair sharing and small group formats to work well for this component of training.

    3. Coach the adaptation. We developed a training model in which participants worked one-on-one with a coach to implement their skills, and one of the biggest benefits to this approach was that the coach could work with their participant on how to adapt the skill. Providing coaches to all your training participants may be too much of an ask, but consider if there are ways that you can set up participants with mentors or peer role models to provide some of that individualized support.

    Challenge #3: Getting lost in the whirlwind

    In The 4 Disciplines of Execution, Chris McChesney introduces the concept of the whirlwind as all the everyday stuff that comes up and distracts people from making change stick. We found this concept captured the experience of many of our training participants. We knew that participants left our classroom excited about what they had learned and eager to put their skills to use. But, when they got back to their desk, the whirlwind of daily activity undercut their efforts.

    For some participants, just seeing their overflowing inbox was enough to convince them that they didn’t have time to try the new behaviors. Other participants would try once or twice, but if they struggled—which they usually did, because these were new skills—they retreated to their old practices since they at least knew what to expect. Several participants described giving up in frustration because their manager didn’t know what they had learned and couldn’t support them.

    Overcoming the whirlwind required us to think about training as a method of change management. It wasn’t enough for us to have a solution. We needed to support that solution so that others were convinced to implement it.

    To get that support, we worked with decision-makers and influencers within our clients’ organizations. There was no magic bullet that solved this challenge. But, we found that the following behaviors made a difference in helping our training transfer to the workplace:

    1. Action plans instead of takeaways. We eliminated the end-of-day sharing about what participants would take away from the class because we realized those ideas didn’t translate to behaviors. Instead, we used the time to have participants write an action plan for what they would do as a result of the training.

    2. Prepare for success. We also gave the participants time to plan how they would prepare for their action plan. We used techniques like identifying critical moments and vital behaviors to make the action plan concrete, as well as gathering support resources such as scripts or peer accountability partners.

    3. Follow up and create accountability. Because our participants worked one-on-one with a coach, we had our coaches follow up with their participants after a few weeks to debrief their action plan results. If you can’t conduct a coaching call with each participant, consider following up with email reminders, using peer groups to review progress, or debriefing action plans in a future face-to-face setting.

    4. Transfer to the manager. The participant’s manager will have more influence on what people do in the office than your training facilitator, so bring the manager into the loop. We emailed the managers before the class to set their expectations of what participants would be able to do afterwards. We encouraged participants to share what they learned with their managers and provided conversational templates so the participants could ask for assignments that would enable them to continue practicing their new skills, and we followed up with managers to verify that they saw the participants successfully using their new skills. You can also provide class summaries and discussion prompts to managers, require participants to share their action plans with their managers, or even ask managers to provide feedback on their direct reports’ learning experiences.

    Designing for Behavioral Change

    Designing training programs that reliably change behaviors is the critical missing link between L&D and business results. When we focus on creating training that impacts workplace behavior, we can directly contribute to the success of our organizations.

    When change management professionals plan their efforts, they think about “overdetermining” change. Instead of asking what is the minimum they need to do to make change possible, they strategize how to tap as many sources of influence as possible in order to overcome resistance.

    L&D professionals should adopt the same mindset. Just like change leaders, we can only indirectly influence the behaviors that occur after participants leave our classes. We need to identify the reasons for resistance—that the participants spend most of their time attending fire talks, overlook the situational snowflake, and get lost in the whirlwind—and marshal a variety of techniques to overcome those points of resistance. Hopefully the techniques in this article can help you start thinking about ways that you can improve the rate of behavior change in your programs.

    About the Author

    Colin J. Hahn is passionate about helping people master new skills and has built his career around helping organizations solving their talent development challenges. As Director of Talent Development for Leadership Ecademy, he is responsible for creating training experiences that produce measurable behavioral changes. Hahn's past clients include Naval Air Systems Command, Walmart, Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, and Goodwill of North Central Wisconsin.

    Hahn holds a Ph.D. in philosophy, as well as an M.A. in philosophy, from Marquette University. He earned his bachelor's degree in philosophy and political science from Gonzaga University.

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