Training Our Team
We couldn't have battled those cultural issues and achieved all that we did if we hadn't had a top- notch team supporting us. When we began researching this project together, we knew that success hinged on the readiness of the learning consultants , so we devoted a lot of thought and effort to their training. Throughout the first year we were constantly building the skills of our team, and we still coach them and give them training opportunities whenever the need arises.
If your team members aren't prepared, or they are confused about their roles or assignments, the project will flounder. It's important to give them the support and training they need not only to do their jobs but also to promote the program within the company. They will be the face of your project, the conduit between your department and the rest of the company, so make sure they are capable before turning them loose.
In the beginning, the learning consultants were overwhelmed by the amount of work and education we required of them. Theirs was a constant process of training, and there were many frustrating moments. Our team members were ready for change, but they were not prepared for the intense effort and juggling that would be required of them. Not only were they expected to revamp their skill sets and present themselves as experts for the project, but they also had to continue to deliver 70 percent of Rockwell Collins's old courses in the classroom.
We redefined their roles early on in the research phase and assigned tasks to get them educated on the latest technology available, but their full training as ambassadors of Project Oasis was far from over. Along with formal training sessions on sales and facilitation skills, there were constant opportunities for mentoring and informal training during teachable moments to help the team make the transition. In the beginning we monitored their ability to deal with employees and to facilitate learning councils. They learned leadership skills during the initial charter sessions and showed their personal strengths and weaknesses as we progressed through those early meetings.
Their skills ran the gamut from those who had highly developed process skills that needed minimal polishing to those who had no idea what they were doing. As we assessed their needs, Butler established individual mentoring programs. Because the team was small, it made sense to work with the team members individually and informally to focus on their unique strengths. Had ours been a larger group with similar skill sets, we would have opted for more formal training sessions.
Beyond mentoring, we sent them to workshops and seminars for the various tools we'd selected, such as Centra's virtual-classroom curriculum-development course. Purington gave them books to read, including The Occasional Trainers Handbook by the Emergency Management Laboratory, The Handbook for Developing Competency-Based Training Programs by William E. Blank, and Teaching Online by William A. Draves. For each book he held brown-bag lunches to discuss its content and how it could be applied at Rockwell Collins.
The team members were also expected to find their niche within the overall project. Even though we had defined their general roles as learning consultants, they were given some flexibility regarding their ultimate tasks. They were told to choose a major project ”curriculum design, virtual classroom, self-paced training ”as a primary part of their daily responsibilities.
Because we gave them this flexibility, there was a constant need for clarity among team members. They attended vendor seminars, worked with outside experts, and practiced using the tools. Some found their place early on while others struggled to find a comfort zone in this unfamiliar environment. Even with our guidance there were setbacks, but we felt it was important for them to find their way and figure out where their expertise and interest fit. We gave them our support and made it clear that the company wouldn't fall apart if they made mistakes. There were some setbacks, but they were so excited to be a part of this process that they hung in there, and, in the end, only two of the original team left the company and one of those was hired away by one of our prime vendors .
Whatever area they chose, we provided them with the tools to guide them through their first decision-making situations. Before the launch, as a team we had already mapped many of the work processes that the consultants would use to choose and implement training opportunities. The various learning platforms were defined and the reasons for choosing each methodology were established, giving the consultants tools to assist them as they made training decisions. They used the course development flowcharts and make-or-buy evaluations to help them build their vendor relationships.
Even with these tools defined, however, they still needed training and experience in using them, so before we turned them loose on the Rockwell Collins population we gave them time to play around with the various tools and training scenarios. For example, they practiced filling out the training needs analysis form. Then we showed them how to coach the managers, who would be expected to fill these out before making training requests .
There were other procedures that still needed to be defined, and part of the learning consultants' training was to be involved with that development process. We took a team approach to curriculum development, which required a consultant and SME to work with vendors on course design. Together with the learning consultants, we laid out the responsibilities of each team member, including how the SME would be chosen and how the learning consultant would oversee the work.
Along with an outside instructional-design expert, all of the learning consultants worked as a team to write the instructional-design standards guide, which has since been used for every course developed for Rockwell Collins. Involving learning consultants in this project established a process for development that the entire team had ownership in and educated them on how to create an instructionally sound course.
Finally, one of the most important aspects of their training as learning consultants came from shadowing us. Every time we made a presentation or hosted a focus group in Cedar Rapids, we brought as many learning consultants as were available. We introduced them to our audiences by name so employees would become familiar with our team. At first they sat quietly in the background, and slowly, as their confidence grew, we gave them segments of the presentation to handle themselves. Over and over they watched us talk about the system and our strategy. They memorized the statistics we used frequently to emphasize our impact ”such as the fact that of the 1,400 individually titled courses delivered in the past seven years, 76 percent were delivered one time to an audience of no more than eight people. We also mentioned the fact that 53 percent of employees reported having to cancel their attendance at a scheduled training event because of work demands. Even now, more than three years later, they still watch and learn as we sell this project to Rockwell Collins's people. However, now every member of the team can present and discuss the strategic plan as well as we can.
Within a year, many of them surpassed us in their areas of expertise. Our manager of curriculum ”who knew little about instructional-systems design when the project launched ”now uses technical jargon we've never heard before. Not only has he become our expert in the field, he's found a career niche that he loves.