December 9 2014

3 Tips to Succeed as an Instructional Designer

Written by Lambda Solutions

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instructional designerIn today’s growing e-learning market, instructional designers are critical in helping organizations reach their goals but all too often, many do not see the value they bring to organizational development.

This is becoming more common in organizations that view training and learning as a necessary evil versus understanding the strategic business value it can bring. In a struggling economy, executive pressures are at an all time high and the value of training is often forgotten.

There are three key areas where instructional designers can reverse the death of their value and bring better business outcomes to training. Here they are:

1. Understand your Audience

All too often we see instructional designers who are very focused on delivering content but have little understanding on who their audience is. This makes it difficult to deliver effective training that resonates.

We encourage you to not just connect with the management who are looking to have the training delivered but to interview the learners as well. With an understanding on how trainees will want to learn and what will be most helpful to their struggles, you will be better equipped to design training that sticks. One method that is becoming increasingly popular is blended learning.

The value of a blended learning has been proven time and time again in research from elementary classrooms, university courses and corporate training. Different audiences have different attention spans and propensities to learn which need to be taken into consideration when learning paths are developed. Blended learning helps to engage every learner in a way that matters most to them.

The importance of engagement is critical for today’s instructional designers to be successful. Especially around how training is delivered - there are many tools in the instructional designer tool kits that range from videos, animations, self paced guides or photos that are often underutilized. We have found that powerpoint is completely over utilized and can be ineffective in teaching. If you haven’t seen Guy Kawaski’s video on the 10-20-30 rule then you can check it out here.

Taking the time to understand your audience, their goals and their competencies is an important focus for designing effective training. To understand competencies better, download this guide here.

2. Connect Training to Business Value

I read a great book a number of years ago called the “The e-Myth: Why Small Businesses Fail”. In the book, Michael E Gerber gave an example of a bakery that was started by a baker who loved to bake but was failing.

It was a great example because it exemplified that being able to bake was not the only skill needed to run a successful bakery. We commonly see this in training where a salesperson, a nurse or someone in a line of business who has a propensity to train becomes an instructional designer. Like baking, there is more to training than putting a bun in the oven. There are additional business skills required to be successful as an instructional designer, especially if you want to run your own business.

Organizations typically only invest in areas where money will be made, saved or protected (like insurance for example). Training can fall into all of these buckets so it is important to clearly understand how your training is contributing to business value so outcomes can be achieved.

As an instructional designer, you are instrumental to the value of an organization but understanding that value is what is key. Do you understand the bigger picture and how you fit in?Taking a step back for a birds eye view will often guide your plan in a more effective fashion.

3. Understanding How to Sell your Value

In today’s economy, everyone needs to know how to sell. I have always considered everyone to be a salesperson. Think about it, you had to sell someone to get the role you're in now, right?

Same thing applies to training - I used to sell business intelligence (BI) tools for many years and BI was always an afterthought. An organization would spend millions implementing a new ERP system for example but when it came time to understanding the reporting and analytics needs of the users, it was an afterthought. Strange for something so critical for success.

Training and development falls into the same bucket. Organizations are looking to grow, save costs or be compliant but do not consider the learning needs of the organization in the initial process. In other words, they want growth, cost savings and compliance but do not consider the training that must occur in order to achieve these things. Thus, the discussion and understanding that needs to happen for success must start at the beginning of the cycle for learning and training to be considered. While you may not be privy to these c-suite discussions, it is important to connect with the HR executive who is.

This is a chance for you to shine. Understand your business, the challenges, goals and understand how to communicate the value of the training you design. When is the last time you engaged your senior management to ask these questions or if you are a public company - have you read the annual report or 10Q filing? Get out of your comfort zone and start asking these questions now to understand how your efforts will impact your organization….I guarantee it will be eye opening for you.

 If you want to learn more, check out our webinar on Creating Effective and Engaging eLearning in your LMS:

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