How to keep employees coming back for more?

There is a lot of talk about connecting with and professionally developing millennials in the workplace. I certainly face this challenge with most of my clients, which can also be compounded we also have to provide training to seasoned staff, and sometimes even long-time credentialed professionals.

For a company to be successful in providing quality training and professional development for their employees, they need to engage their learners from the moment they logg into the training portal.

Training and professional development is critical when you are looking to recruit potential employees, develop and retain current staff, and ultimately generate an environment of company pride, loyalty, and excitement. If you want people across the country to be buzzing about how you take care of your employees, how you help develop their skills in the industry, how you help them grow professionally, and how you create a path for they to succeed, you need to provide your employees with engaging training and a detailed development plan.

The training and education industry is not much different from any other industry attempting to engage the end-user. We live in a technology-rich environment, constantly stimulated by the latest and greatest. As a result, our attention span as a society has shortened and the challenge has become, how do we keep the interest of the end-user?

The movie industry pushes the limits of special effects to attract and entertain movie goers – look at the abundance of action movie remakes from the 80s. With today’s technology, producers and directors are confident that they can turn a 30 year old movie into a new and exciting experience. This is ingenious because not only do they attract the younger generations, but also those individuals who saw the original some 30 years ago and are interested in how that original can be improved upon.

Computer manufactures recognize this shift in life-styles. When was the last time you saw a commercial about the latest and greatest desktop computer? Today’s demand is in convenience and mobility, but still powerful. It wasn’t that long ago that the computer had its role, and your cell phone had its distinctive roll as a method of communication, but that is no longer the case. The gap between these two technologies has been bridged with the development of the tablet. How many of you have your tablet with you at this conference? With the tablet, I can host a conference call, talk to my family, schedule appointments, work on spreadsheets, search the internet, and even take classes. The desktop is becoming obsolete, because today’s person is constantly on the go. They are constantly seeking interaction and engagement. That is why hardware manufacturers are focused on the research and development of more powerful tablets and phones, rather than clunky and restrictive desktop computers.

Let’s take a look at the video game industry, and think back to the days of Atari and original Nintendo. Generation X grew up with games like Donkey Kong and Pac Man.  And I know there are some baby boomer parents out there who were playing these video games after their kids went to bed. Now jump ahead to today’s generation – the millenials and their generation X parents are entertained by life-like characters and 3D effects. I still have my original Nintendo system, and I tried to get my 7 year old son to play the football game – “10 Yard Fight”. He lasted for about 3 minutes and was completely bored. He got frustrated that the players moved so slowly. He wanted to know why there weren’t plays to select, and why the players were so small and all one color. Why the remote control didn’t shake when you tackled someone, and why there was only 2 buttons on the remote.

This experience got me thinking about my profession and the online trainings I develop. The question we must ask ourselves is, in today’s technology-rich society, are we engaging our employees with high quality training, encouraging them to keep coming back for more, or are we simply forcing a lot of information on our staff?  Are you using PowerPoint slides that were converted into E-learning modules, webinar recordings that with sub-par audio quality, videos that look more like home videos, and an over-abundance of PDF documents that are likely never read, or simply printed out and sit somewhere in a binder until it becomes outdated. Take a look at your user-interface. Is it boring? Does is lack any kind of graphic design? Are courses difficult to find? Do your courses play on a variety of platforms such as tablets and smartphones? Are your interactions within the courses limited to icons that simply trigger text boxes to appear to provide more information?

I am a firm believer that the quality of training you provide to your employees is a clear reflection of your company’s philosophies as a whole. If a company’s priority is taking care of their customer’s needs, than that company should have quality training that takes care of their employees’ needs. If a company preaches state of the art technology, then their training should be developed using state of the art technology.

One of the first things I do when assessing a clients current training, is determine, whether their training adequately reflects who they are as a company. And too many times I find that they are the culprit of one of the most common mistakes by instructional designers moving to mobile – they take pre-existing courses and simply shrink up the content, and rely too heavily on PDF documents or simple videos.

The fact is, if the learner is taking a course on a mobile device, they are likely on the go. That means distractions, time limitations, and overall greater potential for disengagement. PDFs, standard training videos, and PowerPoint slides do nothing to overcome these obstacles.  With the advances in technology available to today’s consumer, there is an expectation by the learner that the quality of engagement would be reflective of 2014, and not 1995 or even 2005.

Companies, specifically instructional designers and training departments need to focus on creating an intuitive, engaging platform for training that will keep employees coming back for more.

The first step is to brainstorm as a team, to dream big. Push the limits of what is possible and only concede those impossible elements, once they were proven to truly be impossible.  With the design in place it is time to develop the necessary skills within your current instructional design staff, and hire additional instructional designers who already have the skill-set to accomplish what was designed.  Be sure to gain support from the executives in this dream by accepting the budget necessary to grow the instructional design team, and purchase the required software and hardware to develop industry leading training materials.

With the advances in HTML5 and mobile apps – utilized today’s software such as iClone, Maya, even Sketch-up to begin building a virtual learning environments and avatars so that you can develop customized training for all key elements within your company including customer service, new hire orientation, product knowledge, risk and safety, and continuing education credit courses for credentialed professionals. 

Be sure your courses use branched learning methodology with the enhancement of 3D modeling for a modern video game quality engagement. Interactions, including simulations and discovery, so that the end-users are empowered to control their learning experience. Develop a combination of videos on demand and live telepresence courses enhanced by social learning, so that your employees truly have the opportunity to learn, grow, and succeed in both a mobile environment and in a more traditional online setting.

What I would like you to all ask yourselves is, does your training materials adequately reflect the philosophies of your company? Are you developing and distributing training appropriate for the Atari and Desktop Computer generation, or for the Tablet and Nintendo 3Ds generation?



Home Depot: The Customer Experience

This is the first blog of a new series called “Who Needs Training?”.  This series is designed to provide the consumer’s prospective on the need for staff and management training, based on personal experiences with businesses. We have all encountered both excellent and poor customer service; those experiences are critical to the success of any business. By approaching these experiences in Human Performance Technology, we can identify those who need training and professional development, while appreciating others who have been trained effectively, and apply those behaviors and practices in the workplace. This is by no means a complete Human Performance Technology analysis, but rather feedback from a customer’s view point.

My wife has an amazing green thumb and enjoys caring for her small garden.  Unfortunately, so do the bugs. Her solution was to purchase more bugs – specifically, lady bugs, that are suppose to protect her tomato plants. So today, on October 15, 2012, at approximately 4:30 p.m., I accompanied my wife to Home Depot in search of these protective lady bugs.  I, myself, know nothing about gardening or bugs, so the practical thing to do, is to seek a little more information in the Gardening Section of Home Depot. To my surprise, the customer service experience was terrible. Because of the time of the day, the store was fairly empty so finding employee assistance was very easy, however, their helpfulness ended with their accessibility.  As we approached the cashier in the Garden Section, it seemed as if we startled him, as it appeared that he was either hiding or avoiding doing any work.  When asked if they sold lady bugs, his only response was that he does not normally work in the Garden Section and we should find someone else to ask!

I am a practical individual and I understand that it’s unrealistic to expect staff members to know where every item in the store is located; however, in basic customer service training, all staff should have learned and developed the “soft-skills” necessary to assist customers and their needs. Calling for additional help, taking a moment to reference a directory of product inventory, or responding with a simple phrase such as “I am not sure, let me find out for you” is the difference between good and poor customer service.

My initial response was that this particular staff member was lazy or simply a poor employee, however, as we approached a second staff member, working in the Garden Section, he provided a similar response, and again offered us no additional assistance.  He had indicated that he was new in the Garden Section and thought that the lady bugs were a seasonal item, but was uncertain. Based on this second encounter, and the inability to find any additional staff members trained to assist us in the Garden Section, we left the store with a negative experience rather than our lady bugs.

A classic model used in Human Performance Technology is included below and will be used to analyze the customer experience throughout this blog series.

The Person

The Environment

Skills and Knowledge

Data or Information


Tools and Setting



When reviewing the customer experience at Home Depot, we will first address “the person”. Both staff members we interacted with in the Garden Section lacked any knowledge about the Garden Section. Regarding capacity, both individuals appeared to have the ability to possess the skills required to complete the tasks they were presented, however, we can only assume that they have not been trained to develop such skills and knowledge and/or lacked the motivation to provide simple customer service.

From an environmental aspect, neither staff member referred to any reference or resource to answer our question, which leads me to believe that supportive material is not provided to staff members, which is reflective of poor management, failing to provide an environment for staff to succeed. Reflective of the similar responses we were given by multiple staff members, I can conclude that these staff members have not been trained in customer service skills, therefore setting these employees up for failure by not providing the tools necessary to satisfy each customer’s needs. If argued, that these staff members are trained and prepared with everything they need to succeed, then it would appear that there is a lack of incentives for employees, as both these individuals lacked any desire to go above and beyond to find the answer to a relatively simple question regarding product inventory.

To consistently quantify and simplify the customer service experience from a Human Performance Technology approach throughout this blog series, we will refer back to the HPT model and give an “X” for each failed section. Since the model is developed in three sections, the worst score a business can receive is “XXX”, while the best score would be no “X”s. In my opinion, I have scored the Home Depot experience as follows:

Home Depot Experience (10/15/12)

    The Person & The Environment
X Skills and Knowledge & Data or Information
X Capacity & Tools and Setting
X Motives & Incentives

Human Performance Technology Grade: XXX

If you are interested in learning how to maximize Human Performance Technology for your business, please contact Higher Power Training

Higher Power Training Instructional Design Portfolio

At Higher Power Training (HPT), we provide service Instructional Design Services as an outside consultant for a variety of companies.  We are responsible for evaluating effective teaching methods and technologies for adult learners; we conduct organizational needs and performance gap assessments using analysis of subject matter, job/task, audience and context; we extract key knowledge and experiences from Subject Matter Experts to compile valuable storyboards, curriculums, publications, and training and instructional programs and materials; and by applying adult learning theory, instructional theory, and interactive communication theory with the use of various technology methods across disciplines we are capable of maximizing Human Performance Technology (HPT) or Human Performance Improvement (HPI).

By constructing instructional modules using appropriate theories and methodologies, such as the ADDIE Model we can successfully integrate interdisciplinary connections from technology, psychology, and computer assisted interactive communications based on behavior, cognitive, constructive, and multiple intelligence approaches.  We coach and monitor internal instructors to ensure the highest level of quality of programs are maintained, and provide train-the-trainer sessions when necessary. We also integrate multimedia elements into simulations, virtual worlds, scenario-based trainings and learning objects to enhance and reinforce the learning materials.

We conduct employee trainings, leadership and management classes, professional development programs, and sales and customer service seminars in a variety of industries including finance, education, engineering, science, healthcare, beauty, technology, performing arts, hospitality, retail, sports, and not-for-profits.

Our developed programs have varied from half day to semester length classroom, online, and hybrid style trainings for groups ranging from 5 executive staff members to 300 company employees to more than 125,000 customers.

The Advantage of the Podcast in Education

The greatest technology I have used is the podcast.  In today’s society, podcasts are the newest, greatest thing, and most importantly, free.  iPod was the word of the year in 2005 and most students have some device that plays mp3s or mp4s, whether it is a cell phone, computer, or mp3/mp4 player.  The lesson plan I created for podcasts includes developing student-produced podcasts as both a teaching tool as well as an assessment tool.

Creating podcasts gives students the opportunity to also develop skills using computers, software such as PowerPoint, Excel, movie editing, and other industry specific software, as well as a variety of hardware, along with Internet and RSS feeds.  This constructivist approach allows students the flexibility to use their own creativity as well as motivate the students to produce quality podcasts due to the fact that the podcasts are then showcased worldwide on iTunes.

This activity although designed to enhance the learning of science labs, can be adapted for any subject matter.  I have found that when students learn that they will have to teach what they learn, it motivates them to pay more attention to detail and can provide excitement in the classroom when students can create their own product.

By Higher Power Training: Providing Instructional Design and Training Services since 2000

Learning Theories and Technology

There are a number of learning theories applicable in the Instructional Design process.  Two common approaches include: behavioral and cognitive.

While behaviorist theories base their learning on the stimulus-response interaction, cognitivists base their learning on the process of discovery with the aid of an instructor.  Cognitivists place greater interest in knowledge, meaning, intentions, feelings, creativity, expectations, and problem-solving.  Behaviorists place greater emphasis on positive re-enforcement and negative punishment.  Although behaviorists and cognitivists are very different, both have some similarities.  Both believe learning theories should be objective and discuss the environmental impact training has upon the learner.  Cognitivists also believe in reinforcement, but on a different level. They reinforce the learner through a process of retrieving existing knowledge and presentation of new information.

Jerome Burner is the cognitivist that best reflects Higher Power Training‘s view of learning.  We are a firm believer in providing an environment that allows students to explore in a controlled environment allowing students to process, store, and retrieve information for use.  As a trainer it is essential to establish a foundation to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills within students.

Higher Power Training is responsible for designing innovative and interactive training programs that can be implemented into classrooms or online.  In the workplace, the cognitive approach works best because of the ever-changing growth of a company or organization.  With the use of the cognitive approach students have the opportunity to discover their own findings and share their results in a controlled but creative way.  Leadership qualities will be developed by providing a structured program that encourages inquiry-based learning and student creativity by branching through scenario based e-learning modules.

By Higher Power Training: Providing Instructional Design and Training Services since 2000

Technology Can Help Training

When comparing computer use in grade school to that in high school, grade school programs are much more behaviorist in their use and effect.  Whether the computers are used for English, math, science, or social studies, computer-based training is generally designed to supply immediate feed back.  Most training programs will give feed back at the end of each assignment or at the end of each question.  If students are successful, they are rewarded by being permitted to enter the next level; if the students are unsuccessful, they are required to repeat the level they are current trying to complete.

Computer-based training programs are designed purposely this way to offer students learning methods that instructors are not capable of providing in the classroom.  For example, it is not practical to expect a trainer to assess a quiz immediately after each student has completed their work, but with computer-based training programs students have the opportunity to receive immediate feed back, while supplying the training department with valuable information to help shape their training programs and instructional design process by assessing the students’ growth, using this Kirkpatrick Level 2 Evaluation.  These computer based and web based training programs are critical in student growth and development.

By Higher Power Training: Providing Instructional Design and Training Services since 2000

Classifying the Learner

As an Instructional Design and Trainer, it is essential to have a complete understanding of how people learn and that students have different learning capacities.

The Intuitive Learner – encompasses all of us in early childhood as we are all intuitive learners from birth to the age 7, when education in schools transform children into traditional students.  However, it is not uncommon that intuitive learners can extend beyond the age of seven.  Intuitive learners are typically more motivated to learn due to the hands-on approach for learning.

The Traditional Student – are students from the ages 7 and up are traditional students.  A traditional student is one that that learners gains knowledge from teacher lectures, books, and data.  Traditional students are taught to remember and regurgitate information, but not are unable to apply the information into real life situations.  Traditional learning does not support effective learning for all students, due to the fact that not all students have the ability to conform to a traditional student.  There are also are disadvantages for traditional students such as a lack of motivational learning and critical thinking.

The Disciplinary Expert – are those people who are able to take the knowledge of a traditional learner and apply that information to real life situations.  Disciplinary experts are those that base their learning more on inquiry based learning rather than standards based learning.  To become a disciplinary expert, a learner needs to be able to achieve higher order thinking when learning and assessing information in either a traditional or intuitive way.  Critical thinking is an essential part of being a disciplinary expert.

By Higher Power Training: Providing Instructional Design and Training Services since 2000