Have to design a virtual L&D initiative that needs to drive behavior change? Think performance, not learning.

Author: Professor Robert Brinkerhoff
Published: October 8, 2020

My evaluation colleagues and I recently conducted an impact evaluation of a large-cohort (500+ participants), mission-critical global leadership development program for a very large company.  The program, 100% on-line, was intended to help leaders change their behaviours to be more innovative: supportive of experimentation and risk-taking, creative with trying new ideas, innovating with new market initiatives, and so forth. 

With more than 500 leaders across the globe, the impact rate (percentage of participants that applied their program experience) was greater than 90%. Leadership actions we documented in this impact study were shown to have driven multiple and valuable results: new market initiatives, new revenues, increased profits, leaner organization changes, and so forth. In short, a booming success that thrilled stakeholders. But get this: fewer than 10% of participants believed that the program helped them learn any new skill that was helpful to them.


So what made the difference?

Here are the top elements of the program that participants said helped them take action:

  • Examples of practical application actions that could be taken
  • Convincing evidence and messaging about the high priority of a need to change
  • Examples of valuable results that changed actions could achieve
  • Senior leader presence and engagement that sent the message “This is important!”
  • Dialogue between participants and their managers in which commitments to act were discussed
  • Peer interactions that raised a sense of accountability and shared determination

In my view, there are lessons here for all of us L&D folks who are struggling to leverage online modalities for impact and results.


Performance vs. learning

Kudos to the L&D program designers who viewed their challenge through a ‘performance-change’ lens, versus a ‘learning lens’.  They recognized the truth that when it comes to doing new things, most people already have the fundamental skills to do them, but there is something else that is keeping them from changing: lack of motivation, fear of failure, lack of trust that the new actions can make a worthwhile difference, lack of encouragement, and so forth.

Any of you facing similar design challenges would do well to think about this example. And make sure your design is chock full of the task assignments and other program parts that would address the elements in the bulleted list above.


Learn more on manager engagement!
Register to our webinar How Manager Engagement Effects Training Transfer.

What are key types of supervisor support that impact training transfer?

Author: Edward Boon
Published: October 1st, 2020

For decades the research has shown and the professional Learning and Development community have intuitively known that supervisor engagement makes a difference to training transfer.  Or to be more specific, if a training participant’s supervisor is actively engaged and supportive before and after a learning initiative, then the transfer of learning to on-job performance (training transfer) is likely to significantly increase.

However, what has been less clear is EXACTLY what a training participant supervisor should be doing to make the BIGGEST difference.  What are key types of support that supervisors should provide trainees?  We (the professional L&D community) have become used to and comfortable talking in catch-all terms like ‘supervisor support’ that – when you get right down to it – are not terribly illuminating for us as instructional designers or helpful to those participant supervisors who are relying on us for guidance.  By studying more closely the full spectrum of ways in which a supervisor might support a training participant, it should be possible to find more nuanced ways for supervisors to support their trainees and thereby increase the degree of training transfer and business impact from our training initiatives.

The new study

This was the premise for a recent study Promote International conducted in collaboration with a team of leading researchers; Brian Blume (University of Michigan-Flint), J. Kevin Ford (Michigan State University), and Jason Huang (Michigan State University).  Directly after the training intervention, training participants were asked to complete a survey asking them about their motivation to transfer the training.  A second (delayed) survey administered a few weeks later assessed the trainee’s perceptions of their training transfer and level & type of support they received from their supervisor.  A third survey was administered to participant supervisors asking them about the type & level of support they gave their trainee, as well as their rating of the trainee’s transfer of training.  The study gathered 394 survey responses from training participants and 38 supervisors across 4 different companies and nearly 50 training programs.

Different types of supervisor support

Before we get to the findings let’s take a closer look at the types of supervisor support the study considered.  In order to assess what kind of supervisor support had the most influence on training transfer the surveys included specific items that captured three types of support that a supervisor can provide a trainee;

  1. Direct or Behavioral Assistance – Instrumental and appraisal. Requires behaviour from supervisor (beyond verbal interaction) or deeper investment/involvement in two-way communication/ interaction to effectively set goals and give feedback.
  2. Guidance – Information, explanation, advice, guidance; but more of a general nature (e.g., verbal exchange) than getting deeper into goal-setting and giving specific feedback related to transfer attempts or behaviours, which would require more ‘hands-on’ actions related to the training.
  3. Emotional Support – encouragement; affective expression; empathy


The results – so far

So, what have we learned so far? Results showed some backing for thinking about supervisor support in terms of the three types conceptualized above.  However, perhaps more interesting was the fact that results showed that the three types were highly correlated.  This suggests that trainees could not or did not differentiate much between these three types of support, and/or that supervisors who were rated high in providing one type of support were also very likely to be rated high in providing the other types of support (or vice versa, those supervisors that trainees rated as low-to-moderate on one of the support dimensions, also were rated low-moderate on the other support dimensions).

In addition, a regression analysis of the data indicated that trainees’ overall level of supervisor support had a larger impact on their training transfer than their reported motivation to transfer.  This indicates that supervisor support is a key to training transfer and suggests that all three types of supervisor support can be important to facilitate transfer.

The findings of the study are still somewhat tentative due to limited supervisor responses.  However, we have learned enough from this first phase to further explore how these three types of support might be combined and optimized to maximize training transfer.

Learn more in our upcoming webinar

If you would like to know more about the study, please join us for the upcoming webinar “How Manager Engagement Effects Training Transfer”.  We will share the specific supervisor support items covered in the study as well as a useful checklist job aid.

If you would like to receive the full report of the study findings or would be interested in joining the next phase of the study, please contact us: promote@promoteint.com.

”Can we make a pilot?” Three good reasons why you should try it!

Author: Karin Plith
Published: September 16th, 2020

“Can we make a pilot?” is a very common question I get from a lot of people I meet. I always answer like this: “What is it that you want to pilot?”. Yet, they rarely know. You can be sure of one thing though when you meet us: you never have to try if Promote works as a platform while executing a training program.

Many out there are looking for a platform, a tool or digital support and wants to “try and feel in the system” or “click around” before the decision is made to invest. Let us start there. Is it really the system you have to try out? Wanting to try if Promote could be used as a digital platform to implement an on-the-job-training for a pilot? We know that it works. You can leave that part to us.

There are multiple organizations within our two target groups; middle-sized to big corporations with internal Learning and Development departments as well as training providers all over the world that already tried if it works – we promise. Our clients have implemented multiple training programs supported by Promote for you to feel certain that Promote is an excellent tool for what it has been designed for – to push and implement learning journeys, make a training program to a process, get the wanted effect from the training program etc.

However, there are other reasons, good reasons, to make a pilot. Here are three of the most important reasons:

  1. Test how mature and open to change the organization is and communicate thereafter
  2. Challenge the organization to formulate a goal, concrete actions and effect as a result of the training program
  3. Clarify and concretize which roles and resources are required within the organization

Insights concerning these three bullet points contribute to successful progress with Promote or another platform for your training program. When focusing on these three bullet points you will realize quite quickly that a pilot is very little about the tool itself. Features and technique should not be in the centre when doing a pilot. A pilot’s primary focus should be about design, work method and your organization. Let me dive into these three bullet points:


1. Test how mature and sensitive the organization is and communicate thereafter

Since Promotes sole purpose is to push learning journeys the assumption is that the organization is prepared to change its mindset and see the training program as a learning journey and not only an individual course. Which means that you see the training program as a process, not an event.

Those who had hoped for an “ordinary”, let us pretend 2 day course in a classroom, without any preparations and a plan to actually implement in Promote and hope for a good result is going to be disappointed. Bullshit in, bullshit out, poorly expressed!


2. Challenge the organization to formulate a goal, concrete actions and effect as a result of the training program

The organization needs to do its homework for a successful pilot – that’s unfortunately not something we can help you with. This means that you have to be prepared to put in some effort into the pilot – unfortunately, it will not do this on its own. Above all, it is about setting a goal that is connected to the business growth and to find the situations and behaviours that will lead to development, and the results you want to achieve. Within the HPLJ-methodology we call it “Moments that matter” – the opportunities you get to practise your new knowledge.

Moreover, this means that you as the project owner is prepared to demand that it is expected to complete all the assignments throughout the training program from the organization. Also, this means that the organization is prepared to demand that its managers be involved.


3. Clarify and concretize which roles and resources are needed within the organization

When the pilot starts it is relevant to talk about the roles and resources within the organization that are required. Which roles are needed? Who should do what? How do we divide the work? In some cases, it could be relevant that the training provider has the responsibility to design, build the training program in Promote, import the participants and send the invitations.

In other cases, these assignments are divided between different functions within the team, such as Program Manager, facilitators and Administration. In my experience, it is when clients have worked with Promote for a while and you have a clear vision of how the organization want to use Promote, that it is relevant to talk about roles. HOWEVER, we always find the right roles with our clients, but it is after we have an understanding of the organization and have seen how the client wants to make progress and which results the client wants to achieve.


A pilot is an investment – for you and us

To conclude, a pilot is an investment – in time and resources – for us and for you. A pilot is not to test functions in a system, click around and feel it. A pilot is to create the right conditions for a new way of working and prepare for a behavioural change, better results and a clear effect – as successful as possible.



Other benefits with a pilot for a training program with Promote:

  • You are not bound to something that you, in the end, would not use if you for some reason are not happy (however, we are certain you are going to be ?)
  • You can try us as a provider and partner in your Learning and Development team. We have years of experience to cooperate, coach and support Learning and Development departments, Managers and teams – let us know if you want to get in touch with a reference
  • For a small investment you get A LOT: knowledge, insights, results, thoughts and wonderings – regarding training programs, designing a learning journey and the effect from the training program! That we can guarantee – what you choose to do with your new knowledge is up to you – and we promise not to leave you hanging!

Post Corona - what have the learning industry learned and what happens now?

Author: Alex Brittain-Catlin
Published: September 10, 2020

Not so long ago, pre-pandemic, many in the Learning and Development industry were delivering face-to-face, classroom-based training. The move into digital and virtual was a disruptive element but by no means was it a universally accepted method of delivery, by customers and service providers alike. In many cases, digital tools and virtually delivered elements were perhaps an add-on at best. Perhaps having a virtual kick-off, or viewing the digital tools available very much for administrative or support purposes only. Their job was to let the stars shine in the classroom.

A lot has changed as a result of the ongoing pandemic, which now looks like it will be far more of a disruptive factor in this industry than was thought not so long ago. When speaking to customers, there has been a wait and see approach in the hope that things would return to normal once this was just a particularly unpleasant memory. Now, this view is changing as the news headlines talk about new outbreaks of Covid-19 and that there may not be a return to normal until sometime next year – the hope anyway. The realization that virtual delivery of L&D programmes may not be the short-term fix that was intended but instead might just be the new normal is felt by many that we have spoken to.

The short-term solution is not here to stay

What this means is that many of us are having to rethink our approach to delivering training and really get going with a conversion of our programmes into digitally supported and virtually delivered offerings. This time not as a temporary stop-gap until the pandemic passes but as a genuine approach to future delivery. For many this is somewhat unsettling, not least because it requires a different approach from face-to-face training, the subject matter may be the same but actually the differences, whilst in many cases quite subtle, require programmes to be re-worked from the bottom up. It may have been accepted as a temporary solution to deliver some hours of PowerPoint driven material but this has its challenges and is less likely to pass muster in the longer term.

Our customers require and demand an effective approach to delivering their programmes that offers them the quality that they want and at the same time leads to change in the participants afterwards. The purpose, after all, of Learning and Development programmes is to train the workforce to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow and there is also increasing pressure from business to ensure that these often-costly undertakings lead to real results. We may have been able to get away with a temporary solution for the last few months but this is increasingly untenable as we see the disruption we are experiencing lasting well into next year.

The great fear of something new

Though not everything has been in vain, the steps that have been taken over the last few months have set the Learning and Development industry up for future success if only we can take stock of what has happened and really press forward with the digital approach.

One of the game changers that has resulted from social distancing is the rapid uptake of digital methods in the course of work. Prior to the pandemic, there was some hesitation in going fully digital because of the fear that would be participants would be unable to really partake in digitally delivered, live programmes. This fear and the ease of holding face-to-face sessions often lead to using the tried and tested methods over trying something new, which might lead to unknown problems. Only yesterday, I conducted a survey of facilitators and their main fear when asked about challenges in their organization was the unpreparedness of participants to participate in virtual trainings. This fear of the unknown persists and it’s still a challenge to have the discussion around the necessity of having a digitally supported, virtually delivered programmes.

What we have seen is that participants in most cases are more proficient at using digital tools that we give them credit for. The last few months have required most of us to familiarize ourselves with digital meeting tools and even the idea that blue-collar workers are technically unsophisticated is challenged. What happens when they go home from work? They turn on their tablets, mobile phones, and computers and just like the rest of us, live in the digital world. This provides us with an opportunity, to embrace digital as a method of delivering programmes.

The greater challenge

We also have to be honest about another challenge, an uncomfortable one. Many of us are unprepared to deliver virtual training – we simply do not have the digital material available to go virtual. Most of our material has hitherto been aimed at the classroom, where a skilled facilitator can display their skills. Suddenly, we need to provide digital aids, to reproduce material that works in a digital format and create the videos that we need to make such sessions really fly. There is an increasing number of ways to host videos but that doesn’t really seem to be the problem. Rather than the precise content that we need for our company doesn’t exist and has to be created. Many of us are having to start from scratch in creating the material we need, or at the very least trying to curate the content that exists somewhere in the organization. Whilst it is not so difficult to do, it is a new skill set and takes not only time but also money to get it right. With the hope that we were going to be able to return to the classroom, there has been a delay in creating long term solutions, but it’s now looking as though we will have to build programmes from the bottom up once again and generate the digital material that we need.

Digital tools have come a long way

Additionally, gaining buy-in within our organisations for the digital approach is not as straight-forward as may be thought. It’s all very well for the L&D department to understand and support the move towards digital solutions but it’s still an uphill struggle to persuade our organizations. Senior managers are familiar with face-to-face training and so converting them to something that is seen as being potentially risky is no simple task. That there will be costs and time required to redevelop programmes that may have been running successfully in the past is not a welcome message. Similarly, there is still the hope amongst trainers, both inhouse and consultants alike, that the move to digital is unnecessary and that the good old days will come again. Too many times in the last few weeks have we heard that digital delivery is impossible for this or that programme. It is true that not everything can be turned into digital training, particularly when it comes to on-the-job training, but much of what used to be delivered in the classroom can and should be.

The argument to provide digitally supported and virtually delivered training should not come down to whether there is a pandemic or not. Actually, it should be judged on its own merits and not in response solely to the current situation. Digital tools have come a long way and we can really deliver something special today. Not something that is a simple replacement for classroom-based training but something that gives us more opportunities than we ever had in the classroom and the potential to support performance in the workplace that simply was not possible before – well not in a replicable, reliable manner.

Digital is here to stay – so where do you start?

The move into digital is happening right now and the questions is: are we on board or not? Whatever happens in the future, digital is here to stay. This is not to say that there will not be some return to classroom-based training, but this will be based on a compelling case to hold such sessions rather than being the default, first-choice option.

To get going there are some requirements:

  • A common approach as to how we are designing programmes is a good starting point. A means by which we have a similar understanding and starting point when it comes to delivering programmes in the digital world.
  • The support of an internal champion, to gain buy-in, take the challenge. Also to perform the duty as someone who has the mandate to make the changes and overcome the obstacles, who often come in human form, that are needed to gain momentum and uptake of digital delivery.
  • An internal expert or access to a subject matter expert who can smooth the transition to an effective approach from everything from design through to delivery and application.

Having these resources should not only get the move into digital underway but support an organisation through its L&D transition.

Set up for success

Success doesn’t just reside within L&D and top-management stakeholders. If we are going to succeed in this journey there also needs to be revaluation of what is required to get the successful application of learning to work in an organisation. That managers at all levels can no longer expect to have their direct reports go away for a couple of days and come back “uploaded” with a new approach. Instead, we are going to have to get buy-in from managers that their direct reports need to apply learning on the job and that they will need direct support to successfully apply what they’ve learned. That participants will be attending a training for extended periods of time but that this is designed to deliver results directly to the business. We will have to gain the commitment of managers in supporting their direct reports to achieve the results that we are after. Equally, when it comes to Performance Management, there needs to be a direct link to what has been learned and what has been applied and that there is an expectation to apply when someone goes to training and that it’s not just nice to have. It has long been the cry of Learning & Development professionals that gaining management commitment at the hands-on level has been a challenge and, unfortunately, they will not be able to gain this without organisational support.

There are challenges in converting to a digital approach but they are not insurmountable. They require dedication, a change in mindset and a budget. Digital should no longer be seen as a temporary replacement for classroom-based training in times of a pandemic but rather as a means that organisations can achieve their business objectives in an effective manner. After all, the cost of getting it wrong will not be solely reflected in the classroom but in the balance sheets of the organisation which we serve.

From the good old training catalogue to today’s learning journey

Author: Louise Hållberg
Published: August 28th, 2020

When changing and transferring competence and behaviour, you need a good portion of commitment and training to get the results you want to achieve. Today, organizations talk a lot about creating a “learning” culture. All to often, this means that the focus lies on creating the content and thereafter create a program connected to the content which is offered to parts of or everyone in the organization. Do you recognize the approach?

A great example from my own experience and I am sure a lot of others are with me on this, was when GDPR was entering the world. My organization set up a training program considering how GDPR would affect our organization. Like other organizations, this training contained the same content with the same structure, a 45 minutes long e-Learning created to reach every employee within the organization. The training program was well written and the content was supposed to cover everyone’s needs on the subject, regardless of your role in the organization. Time and money were put into this training aiming to give all of us the best content. But it was only one training program…

How did it go?

First of all: it took me more than the estimated 45 minutes to get through the training and pass it. I lost my focus within seconds into this modern e-Learning and my mind went somewhere else. I had to start all over at least 5 times before I passed. It turned out I was not the only one going through the training this way. How come it turned out like this? This was an expensive, rich in content and well-produced e-Learning, designed with multiple presentation methods, all from reading and videos to digital quizzes.

What really happened?

First of all, the most obvious reason was that at least 75% of the content was not specifically connected to my role, which made it really hard for me to stay focused multiple times, and which got my mind to go somewhere else. Secondly, even if there were a few alternatives on how to get the facts presented to me, the only thing I could do was to sit and just watch my computer during the training, with a few exceptions to do tests and ticking of checkbox alternatives. Was this inspiring?  Motivating? Connected to my challenges? No, definitely not! I was not more dedicated – rather sleepy! The intention of the organization was good and we should not stop designing training programs for our employees. HOWEVER, what was overlooked was to design the training according to the results the organization wanted to achieve – and to implement it!

How do you design a successful Learning Journey?

It is essential when designing a successful learning journey, that will lead to a behavioural change for the participant, that it is designed with the result in mind. It should start with what you want to achieve as the starting point.


  1. First of all, the participant needs to understand the purpose of the training and the results the training should contribute to. This will inspire the participant to commit to his or her learning journey, understand why the training is taking place and what the expectations are. The results are rarely achieved without commitment or understanding. Moreover, it is also important to create and maintain the commitment for the participants since the seed of commitment could easily die if you do not nurture it properly.


  1. The foundation in the training is to give the participants the tools they need to take in the content and facts in the subject so they can practice and develop their skills. Make it clear and make sure the participant has the opportunity to really understand the content and its purpose.


  1. Create an opportunity for the participant to practice and make progress. The goal is not necessarily to get a new skill set for the participant, it could also lead to strengthen and increase the awareness and self-esteem within the area of expertise. Make sure that the participant has an opportunity to practise on the job what he or she learnt as a part of the training!


  1. Give the participant time to reflect, to him or herself as well as in the group, and make sure you are in the assignment as active support – do not leave this part to e.g. a digital quiz. When a participant is having a wow-experience through reflection, the chance to make a change is significantly higher. A winning method to achieve the wanted results is when a leader is involved and supportive throughout the process. For a participant to implement his or her new knowledge with the support from his or her manager makes the learning journey stick when the participant returns back to work.


What is essential to get results?

When a training program’s sole purpose is changed behaviour, which basically always is the goal, we cannot only distribute our training through one digital course catalogue. To actually accomplish the wanted results and changed behaviour you need a properly designed learning journey – and above all – a platform that supports all the 4 points mentioned above – otherwise you are making it harder than it has to be. The time for monotonous training packaged as e-learnings on your computer or in a classroom is over.

To encourage commitment and results it is a Learning Journey we are going to design, not a separate training event. The learning journey is designed to make the participant improve and for the organization to follow the progress, behavioural change and results of the employee.

So, back to the trending “learning” organization. Let us learn – with a clear purpose, goal and expectation on what this investment in time and money means to both the employee and organization.  Furthermore, let us start with a good learning journey design and a platform that makes it tangible!


Learn more!

Would you like to know more about designing a learning journey? Read more about our Brinkerhoff Certification – for High Performance Learning Journeys®!


Empowering Anti-Racism Allies: A Personal High Performance Learning Journey

Author: Allison Mahaley & Steve Mahaley
Published: August 20, 2020

A pandemic has arisen all around the world. And no, we are not only talking about the Covid-19 disease, but we are also talking about the pandemic of systemic racism – at the workplace, at our homes and in society. So how do you change someone’s mind and behaviour? Steve and Allison Mahaley, Red Fern LLC, has created a digital learning path based on the High Performance Learning journey methodology to help organizations interrupt the system of systemic racism. 


In the news

It’s alarming.  We, globally, are witnessing a pandemic unfold as of this writing – a pandemic that disproportionately affects people of color and other minority groups.  While we may be thinking, rightly, of the COVID-19 disease, there is another pandemic that has been gripping the US since its inception – that of systemic racism[1].

In the US

The murder of George Floyd (and others) has turned the spotlight on deadly racism[2] here, but other countries around the world are certainly not immune to this particular disease.  In fact, there are long and terrible histories of racial domination, exclusion, enslavement and marginalization all around the world.

Organizational impact

It would be comforting to think that the external context of systemic and ongoing racism does not affect our organizations – our workplaces, our teams, or our collective performance.  Of course, that would be naïve.  Studies abound that point to the advantages that inclusive environments have for performance[3], and the power of psychological safety[4] to unlock trust and innovation within teams.

It’s personal

We believe everyone is somewhere on a continuum of awareness, acceptance,  understanding, and engagement on issues of systemic racism. We also believe that it is important for leaders to help others move along this spectrum toward more inclusive work cultures which in turn, will lead to more inclusive communities. Many people are ready to do something about racism but are unsure where to start. We believe that every place is a good place to start – there is no ‘bad’ starting point.

Everyone is invited to learning and do more.  Simply activating curiosity to learn more about the experience of others, and more explicitly connect one’s values to one’s actions can turn into powerful motivation.  Once the values of inclusivity and human understanding are elevated, it is important to understand the field of play – the dimensions in one’s life and work where they can act as agents for change.  We have identified four such dimensions:

  • Personal: Deepening one’s own understanding and knowledgebase about unconscious bias, historical and current context of racism
  • Work: Forging authentic cross-cultural relationships in the workplace that are rooted in mutual respect
  • Inner Circle: brave conversations we can have in our families and with friends regarding race
  • Outer Circle: The work we do civically to disrupt and change the systems that have been revealed

What to do

Changing patterns of thought and behaviour takes time.  This must be a journey of personal insight, growth and action.  We have designed what we term a ‘personal high performance learning journey’, borrowing heavily from the work of Prof. Robert Brinkerhoff.  In fact, we have used the structure and components of high performance learning journey design to create courses designed for the would-be ally[5].  These courses are open to the public, and tailorable to our corporate and non-profit clients.

The common denominator

It begins with the individual, declaring their intentions, understanding context, becoming acquainted with their own bias, and then building a skillset for productively interrupting the systems that (often unwittingly) limit opportunities and performance.  Yes, public declarations by CEO’s of opposition to racism[6] are welcome, but the real work of anti-racist action begins at home, with you, and us.

Learn more at our upcoming webinar with Steve and Allison!

Register for our upcoming webinar: Powering a Personalized Learning Journey for Anti-Racist Allies

Curious about how you can build your own learning journeys? Learn more about our High Performance Learning Journey certifications program here!


[1] https://theconversation.com/weve-been-facing-a-pandemic-of-racism-how-can-we-stop-it-140284

[2] https://theconversation.com/white-nationalism-born-in-the-usa-is-now-a-global-terror-threat-113825

[3] https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/why-diversity-matters

[4] https://rework.withgoogle.com/print/guides/5721312655835136/

[5] https://myredfern.com/open-enrollment/the-white-ally-toolkit/

[6] https://qz.com/work/1864328/ceo-statements-on-race-matter-more-than-you-think/

High Performance Learning Journeys - Why should you build them?

Author: Edward Boon
Published: August 13th 2020

Talk of learning journeys in the world of training and development has become so commonplace that it is easy to lose sight of why we are making this shift.  Let’s take a moment to remind ourselves and get to the essence of why we should build learning journeys… and in particular, why we should build high performance learning journeys. Spoiler alert: it’s not because they are easy or require less effort.

Perhaps it is easiest to begin by considering what the alternative to a learning journey is. In terms of training design, we usually describe the polar opposite of the ‘learning journey’ as the ‘learning event’.  A learning event might be anything from a couple of hours to a few days; the only uniquely defining characteristic is it’s ‘stand-aloneness’. Sure, there might be an invitation with a nominal description of the purpose and goals. There might even be an action plan at the end. However, all the action really happens (and is expected to happen) in the event itself. Participants see their responsibility as turning up and paying attention. After that, they have done their bit!

At this point, I would like to add a disclaimer. I am writing this blog post making the assumption that there is at least some sort of wish, desire or outright requirement for a participant to use their learned knowledge to benefit the organization they work for – why else would the organization invest good money in such an initiative?

Why do participants not use their knowledge?

So, with my disclaimer out of the way let’s consider the chances of the event-based approach reaping benefits for the organization. The research of thought-leader Professor Robert Brinkerhoff has repeatedly shown over several decades that participants of stand-alone learning events are unlikely to use their knowledge and skills in impactful ways. There are several reasons for this; here are three of the key ones:

  1. Identifying the most impactful scenarios to use new knowledge and skills is by no means easy or obvious – especially for soft skills training like communication or diversity and inclusion. Finding powerful ways to use new skills requires ongoing dialogue and discussion.
  2. When the daily workflow runs counter to the application of new skills – guess what gets deprioritized? Yep, application of news skills every time… UNLESS the participant’s supervisor is also invested and ensures priorities are guided towards the application of new behaviours.
  3. Sustained behaviour change will require support, encouragement and feedback to help participants develop and feel confident using their new skills in their real performance environment. Without this support, participants that experience difficulties on their first application attempts will likely give up.

Design training for results

So, if we want to see more results from our training initiatives our training designs need to a) help our participants to identify the most impactful application scenarios, b) include the participants’ supervisor as an invested stakeholder and c) provide repeated opportunities to practice and receive qualified feedback in the performance environment – all of these design characteristics indicate a more process driven approach… more of a learning journey.

Importantly, this definition of a learning journey is not just breaking the event into smaller pieces and stretching it over time – that approach just takes a longer time to produce no impact for the organization. No, our definition of a learning journey puts the focus on the bits ‘in between’ the learning events. These are the bits where participants traditionally struggle and need support. These are the bits where the business impact is created.

Improve the business impact with extended reach

Traditionally, learning professionals and training designers have been reluctant to concern themselves with what happens ‘outside the classroom’ because of their limited reach; i.e. once the participant has left the classroom, the learning professional has no influence or control and can therefore not take responsibility. However, by employing combination of performance focused learning journey design principles with a learning transfer platform like Promote, it is entirely possible to not only extend that reach but to significantly improve the degree of business impact.

Learn how to build high performance learning journeys

So how do you start creating learning journeys and business impact with a measurable result?

Outside the Classroom: How to Deliver Engaging, Impactful Higher Ed Courses Virtually

Author: Anne M. Apking
Published: June 29, 2020

In a recent conversation with a close friend, who is also an excellent example of a “lifelong learner,” we discussed her experiences with earning advanced degrees and certifications virtually. I thought, “Perfect timing! Especially now as colleges and universities are scrambling to re-design their curricula in the aftermath of the pandemic.”

Her virtual learning experiences were both exceptional and mundane, but she gained insights from both. And for me, they also reinforced the five dimensions of “stretch” that Rob, Edward, and I describe in our recent publication, Improving Performance Through Learning.


The Cohort is Key!

Even though students are not physically in the classroom, they are still a cohort, experiencing the same learning journey during the same stretch of time. Instructors and professors must take advantage of the powerful dimension of “relationships” and build strong connections among the cohort.

  • Launch the course with one or more synchronous events to allow for rich, deep introductions so that students get to know one another and begin building lasting relationships.
  • When meeting synchronously, require the use of cameras to create a more personal and engaging learning environment.
  • Create tasks and assignments for pairs, trios, or small teams of students to work on together. Better yet, make these assignments significant and stretch them over the dimension of time to require ongoing collaboration.
  • Encourage continuous curiosity and discussion across the cohort.


Break Out of the ISD Monotony

All too often, the repetitive learning approach for a higher education classroom of “lecture/take notes/write a paper/take an exam” is translated into an equally repetitive virtual instructional design: “Read this/write a paper/take an exam.” Instead, think about stretching on the dimensions of both “spaces” and “tools and structure” to spice up the design a bit.

  • Consider new ways to deliver content beyond simply serving it up to students. Instead, have students search for it or create it on their own.
  • Consider new ways for students to demonstrate learning outside of writing papers or taking quizzes and tests. Here are a few ideas:
    • Create a video, a job aid, an infographic, or some other more interesting and creative output…maybe even creating a new learning asset for future cohorts.
    • Have students teach one another. There is no better way to really learn a topic than to have to teach it to someone else.
    • Create engaging case studies or performance simulations to allow real-world application of their newly acquired knowledge and skills.


Leverage Other Sources of Feedback

This may seem revolutionary but consider structuring feedback to students on assignments from sources other than the course instructor or professor. Who else could provide relevant and detailed feedback? How about subject-matter experts, past students, or even members of the cohort? If students are also employed, perhaps they can engage their manager, supervisor, coach, mentor, or co-worker to support their learning and offer feedback on tasks and assignments. All it takes is a well-designed feedback rubric and maybe a quick coaching session so that feedback providers know “what good looks like.”

This fruitful conversation with my friend was rich with reminders that stretching our learning into a true high performance learning journey applies to all learning, whether the learning is aimed at corporations and their employees, or at college and university students. The added challenge of delivering learning virtually just bumps the bar up a bit higher.


Want to learn more about how to “stretch” learning journeys for greater engagement and impact?  Want to deliver engaging courses virtually? Order Improving Performance Through Learning by Robert Brinkerhoff, Anne Apking and Edward Boon at Amazon here.

Cover of the book Improving performance through learning

Brinkerhoff Certification - for High Performance Learning Journeys®

The HPLJ certification program is highly hands-on and practical. It provides you with first-hand experience using powerful tools and proven techniques that you will put into practice in your own working environment during the certification process.

How to succeed with your virtual education - our overall experiences & tips from this spring

Author: Louise Hållberg
Published: June 22, 2020

Success with virtual education, how do you do it? During this spring, we conducted all our training and leadership training virtually. Together with our customers and participants, we have accumulated a wealth of good experiences. Now we would like to share our tips on how you can think, do, and prepare for success with virtual education. These tips are things that we think are important to consider when conducting training – both in the role of client and as an educator. Our goal is, as always, to get the best results and the greatest impact of your planned education.


Clear information to participants

One of the basics for succeeding with your virtual training is to have clear communication with your participants. To avoid misunderstandings and provide the best possible conditions for them, you need to be clear about the educational purpose and goals. They also need instructions on whatthey are expected to do, what systems they will use and what they will do in those systems. Your participants need to know the following regarding the training program:

  • Do I expect to do something before the training? If so, what, and for what purpose and purpose?
  • What is expected of me during the training itself? For what purpose and purpose?
  • Am I expected to do something after the training? If so, what, and for what purpose and purpose?


Group size – an important factor

To succeed with virtual education we have seen that we get the best results in groups of up to 10 people. Here, everyone dares to be involved and it is harder to hide behind a screen. In groups with up to 15 participants, the result will be ok, but if we go over 15 we lose both interaction and engagement. This is because it will be easier for the participant to hide in the crowd. With a larger group, there is also a much greater risk that you as a participant will zoom out and lose focus.


Technology preparation is a must

Make sure that both yourself and the participants are making sure that our technology works before we start. By doing so we avoid that time and energy that we need to spend on the training itself is spent on solving technical problems. If technology runs smooth – the greater the chance of succeeding with your virtual education! We therefore always make sure to do the following:

  • Ask the participant to test that the sound and camera work before the training starts.
  • Have the participants log in at least 10 minutes before the start of the training in order to ward off technology tricks.
  • Inform about the importance of participating with the camera on so that the participant understands the purpose and are comfortable with the camera on.


Keep the level of engagement high throughout the course

During our courses, we always strive for a high level of engagement and commitment among the participants. When we meet virtually, this can be an additional challenge. We have noticed that the following helps us to keep the participation of the participants up:

  • Mix in questions with the information to the participants.
  • Remember to ask questions even to those who are not active.
  • At breakout, ask the groups to give feedback, for example, 3 findings that they came up within a chat. The trainer then reposts some of the findings.

Want to learn more? Learn more about how to successfully implement and train virtual session with our online program Conducting effective virtual trainings.

Design more effective L&D programs by Stretching the Dimensions

Author: Alex Brittain-Catlin
Published: March 29, 2019

We asked our participants on our High-Performance Learning Journey program what was best practice when it came to designing programs. This is what they said.

Download the full report here.