This is part of our ongoing series, Interviews with Learning Leaders.
Scott Leta is a courseware development project engineer for Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training, which provides training and simulation technologies to global security, civil, and commercial markets. A global training & development leader and performance improvement champion, Scott has 20 years of experience conceiving, developing, and executing training and performance improvement solutions in corporate, industry trade group, and Department of Defense settings. He specializes in content and learner analysis, and developing and conducting engaging and impactful instructor-led training.
What is your advice for rolling out initiatives across multiple companies?
Rolling out a learning initiative across multiple companies means that needs and audiences will vary. I suggest concentrating content analysis on the core tasks—the processes that the audience has in common. This becomes the “80% solution” for the training need. Use creative learning activities, such as breakout sessions or case studies, to address company-unique application requirements.
How do you design training to make it relevant and applicable for varied countries and cultures?
The key ingredient for successful training is nailing down the core content as the learner is expected to apply it and perform on the job. Once the content is determined, then the developer needs to design the training so the learner interacts with the content through real-life activities. Having these basics in place goes a long way toward making the training impactful, and now the developer can focus on fine-tuning adjustments based on country and culture. For example, scrub the materials for potentially offensive text or media and for phrases that are typically unique to the US. Lastly, do not be afraid to create learning events that allow the learner to absorb the core content but explore—on their own—culturally unique applications.
Please share a success story related to improved performance or training application.
One that comes to mind is a new-hire project I worked on just a few years ago. The champion of the effort was a VP who requested a performance analysis to determine why projects were performing poorly within the first 90 days of start-up. A couple of the root causes identified could be addressed through training. The decision was made to develop a one-day new-hire course to help staff hit the ground running. I was assured that this would be little or no effort, as the subject matter experts already identified the content, and in fact had built the course. Well, the content and course was nothing more than 500-plus PowerPoint slides. The intent was to simply lecture for eight hours, making sure all slides were covered.
My work was cut out for me. I immediately went back to the performance analysis and identified four critical tasks that were not being performed, or were being performed improperly. I used these four tasks as the filter to sift through the slides and pare down the content. Next I asked a simple question: “How are the learners expected to apply this information back on the job?” The answers to this question formed the initial application activities that would be used to get the learners practicing using the content. Armed with this information, I called an update meeting with the team of VPs and directors serving as the Training Advisory Committee and walked them though a high-level presentation of how to make this a hands-on course.
The committee was very excited about the approach, and I designed, developed, and delivered the course to rave reviews. More importantly, I ended up training over 200 new hires and proved a return-on-expectations that included a 40% reduction in the time it took a new hire to hit the ground running.
Have there been any lessons you learned the hard way?
When designing and developing learning, focus on the most important thing. You have to nail the content and create meaningful application activities for the learners.
Can you recommend some resources for newcomers to the learning and development field?
Of course, the Caveo blog is high-value. I frequent ATD and ISPI sites, posts, and blogs.
What I recommend is filtering all the latest advances and technologies through some nonnegotiable principles. There is no shortage of adult learning theories and opinions. In fact, the amount of information can be overwhelming and downright confusing for a new designer. When researching trends and ideas, remember there are two critical ingredients for a successful learning experience: the content learners need to do their job, and the activities learners need to practice applying the content within the formal training event. Expert instructional designers and content developers understand that regardless of the delivery mechanism (web, eLearning, instructor-led), these two ingredients must be part of the recipe.