Guest Post: After all, they learn! Promote as the fountain of youth for the learning and development culture

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Guest post by Michael Haas originally published on MDI Management Development Institute

Maybe you ask yourself if a simple blog entry about a learning transfer platform is able to keep the promise given in the headline. And if you think of me as a sales consultant for this very learning transfer platform you might expect mere sales and marketing packed in some nice words explaining the benefits you as a company might gain from Promote. Well, you will read a little bit of that. But first and foremost I’d like to explain why I love my new role as a sales consultant for the platform and which renovations I see by using the learning transfer platform.

Since 20 years I’m occupied with planning, design and implementation of learning and development processes within organisations. In doing so I had both the internal and external position twice, so I genuinely know the perspectives and challenges on both sides.


What happens after the training?

Talking polemically but nevertheless to the point I’d like to say what we all experiences from time to time: A single training shot often moves little. Those “happy sheets” (pay attention to the word!!) evaluating a training are nice to have but often the well-meant resolutions get killed by the mighty forces of persistence. Only one or two out of twelve participants succeed in effectively applying what they learned in the training. All the other try, meet internal or external resistance, give up, fail. It was a nice training. Mission complete.

But there are implementation agreements! And the line managers are on board, that improves both quality and results, you might think. That’s right. But that’s the snag. I don’t want to know in which drawer, or using more modern words: in which sub-sub-folder, all those agreements, formally signed, disappear. Out of sight, out of mind. Nobody will notice. And the trainer is just an onlooker. Until HR remarks that nobody applies the trained contents there are new programs ready to start.


Changing the learning culture

Changing learning culture means taking huge strides. And that’s the hour of Promote. Entertaining and easy to understand a video shows how it works. Use the chance to watch the video and learn how development processes may be displayed in a motivating, result-oriented and sustainable way. By the way, this would be the perfect shortcut for the very hurried readers.

And now I’ll say goodbye with my personal “sales arguments” for the learning transfer platform: With Promote I discovered a practicable way to manage learning and learning processes in an easy and effective way. One of my favourites is the possibility of the (very pragmatic and little time consuming) way to integrate line managers as learning coaches. At any time during the process HR has a perfect overview, sees the individual learning progress of participants and has the chance to intervene. Promote is a tool encouraging a dynamic learning culture focussing on practice and application and simultaneously using the communication forms and rules of social media in a very smart way.

So that’s why I am motivated and why I spend all my efforts and know-how on Promote in order to find new ways in terms of learning effectiveness. The only remaining question is: Why didn’t they hit on it earlier?



Your Michael Haas, MDI

PS: PROMOTE is developed by trainers for trainers and HR.

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Your most important journey

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Probably not.

To do so, would be to blunder. An error one doesn’t need to make.

How best to prepare then? For example, what might you be willing to invest?

Time? Money? Commitment? To name but three.

And so to a journey of another kind. A business journey and getting started with Promote. Possibly one of the most important journeys your business will ever make. It’s not hard to start using Promote. It’s really rather easy. But given it has the potential to add a completely new dimension to your business, we understand this sometimes causes circumspect.

We’ll wait for the perfect business case to come along before investing in Promote, we hear you say. More blundering.

And here’s why:

  • Do you really want to be introduced to Promote at the same time as your client?
  • You’d be full of trepidation
  • Will this work, or won’t it, you simply wouldn’t know
  • Anxiety builds, where you could have smoothed it away
  • A new program, wanting to do your best
  • All made possible by having a meaningful business case of your own
  • You know Promote, you’ve experienced the benefits, for yourself
  • By doing, you are competent and confident
  • You’re going to sell it well


Why not hit the ground running instead?

Here’s a more seamless approach, from beginning to end:

  • Select a training program that you run often and are already familiar with. Doing so will allow for a clear comparison between old and new and thereby, the difference that Promote will make. You might also want to consider working with a client that you already have a good working relationship with
  • Select a program starting no earlier than 4-6 weeks from the point of signing the license agreement (allow a week for us to technically create your own version of Promote, two weeks for the online certification process although this could be done in a day, if you had the time, and lastly, a week for when we help you build your first program, to ensure you have absolute confidence, before going live)
  • Make sure someone in your organization has completed the online certification program. In advance, pinpoint “system users” (e.g. one or two consultants and whomever is likely to be responsible for administering Promote)
  • Start using Promote straight away, because the more experienced you become, the greater your confidence in using the system and in selling it onto your own clients

Do not wait until conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes conditions perfect.

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Activities that don’t add value to your business are waste.

[vc_row full_width=”stretch_row” css=”.vc_custom_1579602043102{background-color: #d33375 !important;}”][vc_column][pi_hero headline=”Activities that don’t add value to your business are waste.”][/pi_hero][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”5/6″][pi_image image=”995″][vc_column_text]Far too often we learn that our customers have unclear expectations on a training initiative. This makes it harder to design training programs but also much harder for the participant to understand and develop the right set of skills.

What do you expect to come out of a training program? What do your key-stakeholders expect? When you guide your organizations to elaborate on the expectations on a training program you, your training and your participants will be more successful.

The basis of many successful theories and models consists of knowing where you’re going. It is also Kirkpatrick Foundational Principle #1 – “The end is the beginning”.

To be in line with performance management and lean thinking, every activity that doesn’t add value to your business is a waste. Consider how your training initiative will support a high level goal of your organization. In what way does your program contribute to your organizations abilities to reach the goal?

Designing training with the end in mind will make your training programs as efficient and cost-effective as possible.

To know your destination is to know your direction. To know what needs to be accomplished puts the right questions in place. Your target break-down, could consist of answering the following questions: How does my target group affect the outcome of this goal? In what situations? What is success? What is best-practice? What are the critical behaviors that we need to address?  How will I address and train the desired behaviors in the program?

Find out and clarify the applications of your training program. Prompt for and direct the desired behaviors in these applications. Who will be able to follow-up on progress and application? Normally it is the closest supervisor or manager and they need to know what to look for and what to encourage. Help your participants be better where it counts and help your organization to support and encourage the application of the desired behaviors. Design for application, design for success.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/6″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Expect behaviors to develop!

[vc_row full_width=”stretch_row” css=”.vc_custom_1579602072815{background-color: #00c570 !important;}”][vc_column][pi_hero headline=”Expect behaviors to develop!”][/pi_hero][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”5/6″][pi_image image=”998″][vc_column_text]When you try something new, do you expect yourself to be 100% right on the first attempt?

Or, do you allow yourself some “learning slack”, maybe put a goal that is possible to reach before you expect yourself to master your new skill? I believe that the second approach will build self-confidence and measurable progress.

We know that behaviors are developed step by step and that they will not be a 100% correct to start with. So we need to recognize the different phases of behavioral development: awareness, understanding, acceptance, engagement and responsibility.

We need to identify the expected initial reaction, the early indicators and how we will be able to see that the desired behaviors are displayed. In that way we can recognize efforts and support the desired development.

So we need to clarify what to look for when and also determine how different roles contribute over a period of time. This is why you need to build partnerships,  a trainer can’t solve on his/her own, a manager needs support and guidance and the organization needs skills and insights to drive the requested development and monitor the critical situations.

Don Kirkpatrick designed a 4-level model to evaluate the results of a training program. The points to follow-up on for each of the 4 levels are often the same activities that drive and support the desired behavior. While building an evaluation plan to display a solid chain of evidence you also build a plan to increase the impact of your program.

The use of Promote shows progress and activities concretely and makes follow-up on desired behaviors easy. It also supports and drives the desired behaviors as well as builds self-motivation and provides feedback for the participant.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/6″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Replace smile sheets with actual results

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Imagine: 416 learners from 52 stores. 18,174 mandatory on-the-job assignments completed, 1,143 of those reviewed and approved by the learners’ managers. 15,086 written comments on results and learning shared among the learners’.

Imagine you’re on your way to a senior management meeting. A senior management meeting where you’re the HR representative. Imagine that ten minutes ago you got a report from your L&D guy. A report stating the figures above. The same L&D guy you gave the responsibility to “get that sales programme up and running” one year ago.

This after struggling with the business area managers’ somewhat adverse attitude towards sending their people on courses. You had an idea of the importance of being able to answer their never ending questions about “what’s in it for me?”, “it’s just another three days away from the store” etc. You remember how annoyed you used to be when handling these questions armed only with smile sheet evaluations about how the actual training days were conducted. The coy smiles from the business area managers and the standard follow up question; “oh great, they had fun. But what’s in it for me?”

Then you met with that training vendor that basically wasn’t interested in talking about “what and how” before you agreed to spend some time agreeing on actual business needs for the training, how to involve the store managers in coaching the learners before and after actual training. And most interesting of all; they said they’d be able to visualize what learners and their managers actually do after the training, in real time and aggregated at the intervals you want. They smiled when you said that you already had an LMS and then a great discussion on what learning transfer really is and where people actually develop in their work roles followed. This ending with them introducing their Learning Transfer Platform, designed for just that. You ended the meeting in agreement of what’s important and went forward from here working as partners.
Even if your L&D guy is officially responsible, you know the buck ultimately stops with you when it comes to delivering results.

You now want to see how those figures relate to the latest bottom line ones for each store. Your experience tells you that these KPI’s, or at least early indicators must show for something. Then you need to capture some shining examples to create and spread success stories as best practice. Finally, a course where your line managers were seen as much as a participant as the learners. Actually; finally a course being a proven investment instead of a cost!

Imagine this feeling going to a senior management meeting next time there’s L&D topics to be discussed.

416 learners from 52 stores. 18,174 mandatory on the job assignments completed, 1,143 of those reviewed and approved by the learners’ managers. 15,086 written comments on results and learning shared among the learners.

Actual figures from a retail sales training initiative run by Promote Partner Mindset AB in Sweden.
The initiative was run over a period of 11 months in 2013 with 52 individual programme starts. The HR representative’s inner thoughts are pure fiction of course 😉

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“They don’t have the time…” Really? (Part1)

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According to Dr Robert Brinkerhoff’s research, traditional training only creates 15 % learning transfer, meaning that only 15 % of the people we train actually apply something when they come back to the workplace. According to the same research, the common denominator for these 15 % is management involvement.

Knowing the importance of management involvement, not only from the research of Dr Brinkerhoff, but also from own experience, we always talk about the importance of this subject with potential and existing customers. Often in our customer meetings, we ask the customers to guess what the common denominator of the 15% who apply something is. To some clients, it’s crystal clear that it’s management involvement, but not for everyone. And very often when we talk about this, the clients start to get uncomfortable and very often they say “our managers do not have the time”. Really? Ok. Let’s start over.

What do we mean by management involvement? The bottom line of management involvement when it comes to training is setting goals, following up on progress and coaching the employees to new or improved behaviours. Sound familiar? Getting involved in the employees’ progress and development is probably one of the most important duties there is for a manager.

One way or probably the best way to handle the objection “they don’t have time” is to ask a question like “What do you want your managers to do?”. In almost any case, the clients come to the conclusion that it is (surprisingly enough!) goal setting, giving feedback and coaching their employees. With this conclusion in mind it is fairly easy to get the clients to start elaborating around the subject of management involvement and what they have to do to get their managers involved in the training.

So, the assumption that the managers don’t have the time is not true. When they are getting the chance to be involved and know what to do, they enjoy it. Give managers a chance to do their job and let them get involved in the training and development, and you will see great results.

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Three things I have learned from Professor Brinkerhoff

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First time I met Rob Brinkerhoff I didn’t actually meet him, in fact he didn’t even see me. I was sitting way back at his speaking engagement at the 2010 ASTD (ATD) conference in Chicago and I instantly became a fan.

Finally, someone pointing out the elephant in the room, the fact that most learners in a soft skill training don’t apply what they are being taught, while at the same time making a compelling case for what could be done to fix this. The wealth of knowledge and experience behind his reasoning emerging from many years research and field work made it all crystal clear. A gauntlet had been thrown down and I decided to pick it up. I went back to Sweden filled with energy and in my notebook, the last piece of the puzzle that would soon become Promote®.

Little did I suspect that Rob and I would meet again, this time face to face.

January 2015, Kalamazoo, MI. I parked my car outside the house of a legend, got out and knocked on the door. Just a week earlier I had contacted Rob under the pretext that I was in the neighborhood and wanted to know if he could spare an hour and a cup of coffee and give me feedback on some ideas I had. Being “in the neighborhood” was a stretch… I was actually going from Stockholm to San Francisco so this was quite a detour.

Nonetheless, Rob had graciously accepted my request and here I was, about to have a “fika” with the one and only Professor Brinkerhoff. And the coffee turned into lunch, turned into another cup of coffee and as the sun set, two strangers had become friends and a seed for the future had been sown.

Since then I’ve had the privilege to work closely with Rob on a number of projects. Evaluations for clients, writing papers and articles, development work for the Promote platform, instructional design work, documenting best practices, arranging conferences etc. And although we have almost daily contact I’m still amazed how much I can learn from his vast knowledge and experience.


Here are a few insights that have made a lot of difference to me and that I hope can be useful for you too:

1. Design your trainings as learner-centric “journeys” with the focus being performance improvement. Cut out any scrap that doesn’t help achieve this in order to maintain a clear “line-of-sight” for the learners towards the business objectives.

2. The learning journey needs to be powerful enough (focus, length, design et c.) to propel the learners beyond the “gravitational pull” of old ways and get them adopting, the new knowledge/behaviors in their working environment.

3. The initial phase of the learning journey is more important than you might think. The learners focus, intentionality and sense of accountability trumps everything, so make sure to help them get into the right mindset.

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Congrats, Almost there!

A few things to consider before trying the platform:

And to make it as easy as possible...

…there’s a Demo guide within each module, explaining all the nifty features of the Promote Platform! You can find it under resources on the right hand side of the screen.