Learning Visuals

Five classic signs your training lacks empathy

Stepping into someone else’s shoes to see things from their perspective can have maximum impact in both personal and professional situations. We have discussed empathetic learning design, and how to teach empathy, but how do you know if your learning initiatives need an empathy makeover? Below are some signs your training lacks empathy. If you’re noticing these, you may be in need of an empathetic learning approach to take your organization to the next level.

1. Your actual learner population isn’t reflected in the course visuals. 

If your staff comprises more than one gender, culture, or background, yet all of the visuals represent a single category, you may need to change things up. Corporate training frequently makes heavy use of stock photos, which isn’t necessarily a problem. It’s when those images lack diversity that the whole program can come across as generic and not applicable to individual learners. Your course visuals should represent the learner population in all its diversity. If they don’t, learners will have a harder time picturing themselves in the scenarios, and may even feel excluded and undervalued. 

Ideas for representing your learners in course visuals

There are a few ways to take a more inclusive approach with your visuals. First, if you’re going to use stock photos, choose images that represent the learner population. Sites like iStock and Shutterstock have come a long way in offering photos of people in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Even royalty-free stock photo sites offer cultural diversity that has come a long way over the past few years. Alternatively, consider using photos of actual employees in your company. Although it’ll require more effort to shoot or collect photos, the payoff of learners seeing themselves represented will make the work worthwhile.

Another work-around is to avoid using photorealistic visuals at all. There are many other visual art styles that can be effective without looking cartoonish. Sometimes it can be an effective design technique to help learners step away from interpersonal situations by representing them in an entirely different way. Even colors, animals, and textures can add visual interest while side-stepping the need for photos of people. Alternate images can also help learners through situations that have no clear answer by eliminating the bias that many images with humans can represent.

2. Difficult interpersonal situations are treated as having clear-cut answers.

When conducting training that involves challenging situations between people or teams, evaluate whether clear-cut answers are truly representative of the real-world situation. In most cases, navigating situations that require emotional intelligence can’t be boiled down to right vs. wrong. The gray area is what leads learners into thoughtful conversations, discussions of ideas, feelings, and perspectives. If you remove the gray area and limit learners to a right or wrong answer, you will have missed the opportunity to develop empathy. 

How to embrace the gray in learning simulations

It is possible to design training that encourages exploration of topics without a hard right or wrong answer. Traditionally these types of initiatives took place in classroom workshops, or may have required a high-end gamified scenario. New learning modalities adapted to the hybrid workforce are enabling companies to provide safe environments for teams to grapple with complex problems. That need is exactly what led to the development of our ExperienceBUILDER platform. In brief, we create space for learners to assess non-absolute questions by creating multiple scoring parameters for each decision. The real magic happens as teams interact to solve these problems together, competing against other teams using metrics that reflect real-world constraints.

3. You aren’t using accessible design principles.

Organizations need to understand accessible design principles, not only for their customers’ needs but also for their employees. Just like your customers, learners also need to have content that is accessible. If you’re avoiding these design principles for your learners, you could be completely excluding certain individuals or making it harder for them to learn. 

Having empathy toward learners means ensuring that everyone is equally included, regardless of any disabilities. Imagine if you were color blind, and your training was designed in colors that make it impossible for you to see. Chances are you would feel discouraged and would struggle to fully immerse yourself in the learning. Meeting learners where they are increases buy-in, leading to higher adoption and enhanced learning rates.

How to design online training with accessibility in mind

This is a huge topic of ongoing importance for all of us, and too much to address here in a brief blog post. There are many resources online that can help you navigate the basics of accessible design. Two we recommend are Sheryl Burgstahler’s 20 Tips for Teaching an Accessible Online Course and 10 Tips for Creating Accessible Course Content from Iowa State. To continue to exercise empathy in this area, evaluate the needs of the people in your learning audience. Are there specific concerns or needs that require more than the most basic accommodations? To get started exploring this area of the workforce, talk with your partners in HR.

4. People aren’t given adequate support to grapple with complex problems and implement changes back on the job

If you’ve launched a training program and expect to see results on day one, you may want to reevaluate your expectations. In order to help learners make improvements and implement desired change back into their jobs, you must give them grace, encouragement, and provide ongoing support. Learners will then feel comfortable implementing what they have learned where they see fit and when they feel it is right.

Build post-event support right into the training

What this looks like will really depend on the topic of the training itself. For example, many leadership development initiatives are now paired with ongoing coaching and mentorship programs. In other cases, a follow-up training event is appropriate. Considering what learners need after they’ve completed the initial program will go a long way toward adoption and overall impact.

5. You’ve assumed you understand what people need but have missed the mark

This is oftentimes one of the greatest challenges facing a leader. You may feel as though you know what people need, how they feel, or what will help them, but in reality you don’t see the whole picture. Lack of empathy and emotional intelligence can lead to missing the mark in all sorts of scenarios, and it’s particularly important for us to be aware of as learning leaders. We’ve all dealt with the classic challenge of being asked to build training for something that is actually a process or management problem; assuming you know exactly what learners need in a complex situation is the other side of the same coin.

How to overcome bias when assessing training need

There are many ways to get to the root of a need or problem when designing training; what they all boil down to is getting outside of your own perspective (i.e., showing empathy for the learner’s perspective). An empathy map is one helpful tool for working through the questions from the perspective of the learner. We also use a process called the Voice of the Business to bring in disparate perspectives. You may know what the organization needs as a whole, but your learners quite possibly know what is needed at their level better than you. Take the time to ask questions, offer anonymous questionnaires, and practice active listening. 

It’s important to develop empathetic learning practices, and also to help your learners develop empathy as a key skill for emotional intelligence. Nobody overtly tries to create training that lacks empathy, which is why it’s so important to look out for the signs. If you’re guilty of any of the above-mentioned items and unsure of the way forward, reach out to us. We can create a plan customized for your business needs that will help to incorporate empathy into the organization. 

Using Simulation to Put Learning in Context

There’s little question that adoption and retention are driven by immersion and engagement. And there’s no better way to both immerse and engage your learners than through simulation.

Simulation is uniquely effective because it creates an opportunity for learners to apply knowledge, skills and behaviors in context. Many simulation designs also are able to deliver just-in-time, just enough performance support at the point of need. And some simulations can even be used as assessment instruments, helping to identify learners with the greatest need and pinpointing specific skill deficiencies.

why-simulations

Types of Simulation

There are essentially two types of simulation: branching/decision-tree and spreadsheet.

Branching/decision-tree simulations can be used to model interactions with people, software and machines. They range from simple hard-coded faux sim designs that give the illusion of choice to robust designs that distribute and repurpose thousands of nodes based on algorithmic rules and probabilities. This type of simulation is very effective at developing a broad range of interpersonal and decision-focused competencies such as sales, service, coaching and problem-solving and can incorporate interactions with relevant software and machines.

Spreadsheet simulations use complex scenario-modeling frameworks to simulate business strategy and marketplace dynamics. They range from simple sim-board designs that require teams of participants to move chips and tally their own results to sophisticated networked designs that mirror the dynamics of a rapidly changing marketplace. This type of simulation is effective at developing competencies such as business acumen, leadership, change management and judgment.

Despite major technological advances that have reduced development cycles and associated costs, custom simulations typically cost more than other learning alternatives. And the higher the fidelity of the simulation and the more integrated with technology, the greater the cost.

As a third option, our signature Blueline BlueprintTM designs borrow elements from branching and spreadsheet simulations to achieve similar levels of engagement and retention at a lower cost. Blueline BlueprintsTM have been proven to build enthusiasm and maximize retention across a broad range of competencies using both discovery and experiential learning methods.

Over the next month, I’ll be addressing four critical questions to ask yourself to determine whether simulation is right for your needs. In the meantime, I invite you to contact us to learn more about any of our custom classroom simulations, Blueline Blueprint™ learning visuals or other innovative delivery methods that have been generating notable business results in leading organizations worldwide for more than 13 years.

Owning It: Getting High Potentials to Think and Act Like the Business Is Theirs

Like most organizations, yours likely has a special group of employees whom you view as high potentials – individuals who stand out because they already demonstrate many of the characteristics necessary to be future organizational leaders.

training high potentials
training high potentials

They know their jobs, they know the organization, they know how to build relationships, manage employees and serve customers. But do they really understand the business? Do they understand the financial metrics that lead to success?

Making decisions based on financial indicators may not be part of your high potentials’ daily job responsibilities today, but such knowledge will likely add enormous value in the future.

That’s why Blueline Simulations is excited to offer Business Challenge™, a one-day simulation in which competing teams of first- and second-level leaders strive to grow their businesses effectively by making investment decisions, funding their strategies and evaluating their results based on real-world financial metrics. Training high potentials has never been so immersive.

This revolutionary program is delivered as either a classroom or virtual classroom experience. An optional online program called Fluent in Finance™ is recommended to help participants prepare for success in Business Challenge™.

Rather than try to explain in any more detail, I invite you to watch our Business Challenge™ webinar and see for yourself how this experience can add a vital missing piece to your high-potential grooming puzzle.

Looking for more? Discover our complete set of leadership development experiences first hand through a series of 50-minute webinars hosted by Blueline’s Managing Partner and its Director of Leadership Innovations.

I also invite you to contact us to learn more about any of our custom classroom simulations, Blueline Blueprint™ learning visuals or other innovative delivery methods that have been generating notable business results in leading organizations worldwide for more than 13 years.

If Not Training, Then What?

There’s a lot to be said for training; it certainly has solidified its place in corporate culture as a means of addressing issues, teaching skills and strategies and getting employees aligned, motivated and on track for great success.

But there are times when training isn’t the answer – when the situation calls for a different approach.

As a case in point, a client called several years ago asking to revise and update a training program we had developed in 2006. A short discussion, however, revealed issues that pointed to a different solution. The client didn’t have a training need, they had a communication need.

Rather than update the current training, together with the client we decided to develop two high-impact communication pieces:

  • The first piece, a telestration, served as the ideal medium for communicating exactly what leadership wanted employees to know in a very engaging and visually stimulating way. Being just a few minutes in length drove high levels of viewership.
  • The second piece we developed was a powerful Blueline infographic that served to refresh the target audience on the overall process they’d been trained on by graphically displaying key inputs, process steps and decision points. This engaging one-page visual then became a just-in-time ready-reference job aide.

Sharing graphic elements between the telestration and the infographic enabled us to drive adoption through consistent branding while keeping costs down. The solution met the goal without one minute of training.

One of the many frameworks Blueline Simulations uses to explore how to best help clients solve their business challenges is BKD (Believe-Know-Do). We start with what you want your target audience to be able to Do. Then we explore what they need to Know in order to Do that effectively. And finally, we pinpoint what they need to Believe to be motivated to Do it.

training program
training program

I invite you to contact us to learn more about any of our custom classroom simulations, Blueline Blueprint™ learning visuals or other innovative delivery methods that have been generating notable business results in leading organizations worldwide for more than 13 years.

Communicating Through Change

How a Blueline Blueprint Learning Visual and Quick Draw Video Can Help Tell the Story

Whether self-induced or triggered by external forces, organizational change can create confusion, uncertainty and fear at all levels – having a notable effect on morale, production and overall organizational climate.blueline-2.24.16v2

Although the end result is almost always positive, getting there can be a painful journey for everyone involved.

How you approach and communicate the change makes all the difference.

Whether change is embraced or polarizing, celebrated or chastised all comes down to one thing: leadership. It’s leadership’s job to align, communicate and get buy-in through a common message of both purpose and vision. “We’re doing this with you” rather than, “We’re doing this to you” is a message that’s both powerful and uniting.

Case in Point

A Fortune 100 healthcare company turned to Blueline Simulations after changes at all levels created fear and confusion throughout the organization. They enlisted our help in aligning stakeholders through a common purpose and vision for the future.

supportive_selling-web

Blueline led the way in helping to define their future and prioritize the actions that would bring it to life. More than that, we devised an approach to telling the story of their journey in a way that inspired employees and clients to embrace the vision and take the actions prioritized by leadership.

Capturing the Story Through a Blueline Blueprint

It started with one of our Master Artists drafting a Blueline Learning Visual that told the story of where the company had been. Plenty of white space was left to capture their vision for the future.

We then facilitated a one-day strategic planning session to guide our client’s efforts to define their vision for the future and prioritize the steps it would take to get there. Throughout the meeting, our Master Artist captured the process and the leadership team’s decisions. The final output was a table-size learning visual that the leadership team could use to engage others by telling the story of “where they had been, where they were going and how they planned to get there” in a fun, engaging way.

We repurposed the drawing and memorialized the leadership team’s efforts through a 4-minute narrated quick draw video telestration of the Master Artist creating the drawing so that it could be used to define and promote the organization’s brand. The final deliverable was a professionally narrated video of the Master Artist rendering the drawing for the audience. (Through the power of technology, the rendering takes place in about 1/60th of the time it actually takes to recreate the drawing.)

Communicating

The client kicked off its annual meeting with the quick draw video telestration, which set the foundation for a presentation by the leadership team. Large posters of the Blueline Learning Visual were on display throughout the meeting space so that participants could “re-experience” the journey with leadership.

The result is best summarized by the head of the organization, who opined: “The successful outcomes of this initiative are an important lesson in embracing the types of innovation we want to support throughout the organization. Through these efforts, we got 80% of the way to our destination in 20% of the time it usually takes us.”

Is your organization facing a challenging transformation? Contact the change management experts at Blueline today!