Gamification, Badges, Levels, or Leaderboards

Gamification – Badges, Levels, or Leaderboards?

Gamification, Badges, Levels, or Leaderboards

Gamification – Badges, Levels, or Leaderboards?

Gamification is a buzzword you have undoubtedly encountered. The novel concept of taking something that is intrinsically fun and forming it around a learning exercise is an incredible notion that really invigorates the field of corporate learning and development. But anything new tends to lead to a lot of questions and with those develop a few barriers of entry that the industry must overcome. Over the coming weeks, I’ll investigate the answers to questions such as: does it really work? How does it work? What method should my organization choose? Should my organization even use it? And most importantly, will it actually yield better results in my talent pool?

 

In order to truly approach these questions, we must first understand what gamification really is and how it motivates us to complete learnings. To qualify, I will address what makes me uniquely qualified to approach this topic. When I was a child, I had difficulty with a math class, and an obsession with baseball cards; my father, saw this as an opportunity. As a capable programmer, he dusted off an old Apple II and created a game. If I managed to answer all of my multiplication and division tables correctly, I could be incentivized by the reward of a pack of baseball cards. Back then I was truly amazed that accomplishing a task could lead to such a prize, but I was also intensely fixated on being precise and accomplishing the task at the speed of the computer, that the process truly left a lasting impression on me.

 

To me, a self-proclaimed, “modern chic geek”, I think of the hours I have wasted playing games at home and what I was really accomplishing. What motivated me to keep playing when I was stuck in a level? What pushed me to do the same thing over and over again to obtain a silly achievement next to my username? Why did I need to have the highest score possible in the multiplayer game when I was just hanging out with my closest friends? Thinking of traditional video games and their value proposition is the best method for truly understanding the value of gamification. What motivated me was my inner drive for accomplishments and my competitive nature. Good gamification addresses that inner drive in 3 ways:

 

Badging

Gyrus is quite a fan of this approach, as we’ve opted to include Mozilla OpenBadges integration in our GyrusAim product. Badging is an online representation of an earned skill, allowing you to share your skills and interests with the world in a visual manner. This is most likened in the video game world with achievements, which are rewarded for doing something very difficult in a game, playing the game for so many hours, or repeating a process enough that the designers have previously designated as significant. In the video game world, these emblems are proudly emblazoned in players’ online user profiles, and to the hardcore gamers are prideful reminders of time spent in the digital world and accomplishments their friends and cohorts were unable to achieve. Badges motivate users by defining a clearly obtainable goal, one that if achieved can boost an internal resume, as well as show smooth progression within an organization.

 

Leveling

In the gamified world, there are games just like World of Warcraft and Diablo. Games in which character levels are clearly defined and are the motivation for continued use. Skills are preset by the instructor within a level, and once the student obtains said skills or enough experience, they can level-up their character and move on to the next; often more difficult level ahead. In modern games, levels are often disguised within storylines. Once you accomplish something, you must talk with someone else within the digital land to obtain more experience and designate your next course of action in the environment. This allows for the opportunity of sub-tasks and additional skill-building exercises to prepare you for the next big event your character will be faced with. This particular environment best motivates people who are enamored with structure and offers a quality foundational learning approach when compared to the training industry.

 

Leaderboards

Leaderboards are my personal favorite. As a kid, I remember going to a local arcade and dropping some serious quarters in games just because the 3 initials on the screen before the scrolling demo were not my own. To this day, if I wander into a place and Galaga is present, there’s a good chance I’m not only going to play it, I’m going to send out a social media blast and call for challengers. In training, some skills can be quantified into scoring with a repeatable process. Imagine the bragging rights you would have if you were the official king of the office! However, this often manifests in the training environment as a social routine and is paired with badges. “Did you see so and so on the third floor? He has 300 Badges!!!” and, “I thought I was doing well with just my 49.”

Regardless of method, people are motivated by different means. The goal of gamification is to present an environment conducive to learning unlike any previously experienced. If learning is fun, the odds of retention are most likely higher than a dry instruction or eLearning piece designed specifically for term learning and processes. Think back on your best classes in school or in business; what stands out the most? Thank you for reading and I hope you’ll continue to join me as I further address the field of gamification.         

Surprisingly Cool Things You Can Do with an LMS

Surprisingly Cool Things You Can Do with an LMS

Surprisingly Cool Things You Can Do with an LMS

Not all Learning Management Systems are created equally. In fact, you would be hard pressed to identify matching features across the entirety of the industry. So instead of "Surprisingly Cool Things You Can Do with an LMS" this article may be more aptly titled, "Things You Did Not Know GyrusAim Could Do for You". However, it is best to gaze upon this list with the intent to evaluate your current LMS, as it too may have some of these capabilities hidden within its standard operating features.

Resource Management

The number one item on our cool stuff list is Resource Management. Having the cooperative capabilities to schedule an instructor on a localized calendar has unmeasurable benefits. Scheduling that same instructor, the classroom, the projector he/she is using, a laser pointer and a shared laptop… priceless. One of the smarter features of an intuitive LMS is being able to fully manage all aspects of the learnings; this includes considerations for conflict management and making sure administrators are not double or triple booking training resources within their organization. This practice also aids in the ability to reschedule due to unforeseen circumstances, as well as to track user metrics within the allotted scheduled times.  

Custom APIs

The second cool thing we find that is typically overlooked is the ability to develop custom APIs. What is an API? According to Beal (2016), an “Application program interface (API) is a set of routines, protocols, and tools for building software applications. An API specifies how software components should interact.” If your organization has developers on board with some time to spare, and you as a training organizer has requirements for interactivity between common programs, an API could be developed to ease inoperability between software components. This could be as simple as integration with your HRIS to as foreign as merging the capabilities of two separate Learning Management Systems.  

Assessment Creation Tool

You are definitely reading that correctly. The ability to generate content directly into the LMS not only exists but is being highlighted on this blog post. Gone are the ways of the past and the need to call your LMS provider every time you need a new bit of content development. If your organization demands an immediate change, an external time component in unnecessary, and the inevitable reception of a bill to reflect that proposed demand can be completely averted. In today’s marketplace organizations need to be able to address their own needs, without cost prohibitive circumstances surrounding their LMS.

Granular Control

When we say granular control at Gyrus Systems, we mean granular control. With 258 permissions currently available in GyrusAim and the ability to define new user roles within the program with just a click of the mouse. Undoubtedly other LMS providers also share at least a portion of these restrictions. Administrators are often unaware of what they are capable of divulging to their users within these settings. Perhaps, there is a view that would add exponential user value or one that would allow for a subroutine to be performed by another role in your department, making your work life infinitely easier.

Title 21 CFR Part 11

Unless it is an organizational requirement, you may not be aware of its availability. At Gyrus, we pride ourselves in being 21 CFR Part 11 compliant. If you are asking yourself what is 21 CFR Part 11, it is defined as, “Title 21 CFR Part 11 is the part of Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations that establishes the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations on electronic records and electronic signatures (ERES). Part 11, as it is commonly called, defines the criteria under which electronic records and electronic signatures are considered to be trustworthy, reliable and equivalent to paper records (Title 21 CFR Part 11 Section 11.1 (a))”  [Wikipedia]  GyrusAim has developed a feature for supporting compliance with Title 21 CFR Part 11. Though your LMS may not support this particular requirement for electronic signatures, there may be an alternative compliance component that can be utilized for security purposes within your current environment.

Thus concludes this segment of Surprisingly Cool Things You Can Do with an LMS. Please continue to join me as I investigate the LMS landscape and offer helpful tips whenever they may arise.  

 

References

Beal, Vangie. "What Is API – Application Program Interface? Webopedia Definition". Webopedia.com. N.p., 2016. Web. 14 June 2016.

"Title 21 CFR Part 11". Wikipedia. N.p., 2016. Web. 14 June 2016.

My Mom and Customer Support

mom smallI spoke with my Mom last night.  During our weekly conversations she enjoys reviewing the week, both the good and the bad.  This call was all about a recent customer support experience she had with her utility company.  I settled into a comfortable chair and donned my headset because I work with customers at Gyrus Systems and I wanted to hear her story.

A little bit of background.  My Mom is nearly 80 years old and swore off technology after the wringer washer was invented, which she bought two of so she’d have a backup.  I’ve been happy to fulfill the role of “all around tech support guy” when she needs help with the tech she does use.  Some issues I recall assisting her with in the past are: troubleshooting the reason why her flashlight doesn’t work; replacing the batteries in her cordless phone; discussing why her garden hose is leaking; why DVD’s aren’t playing (Dad bought the player); and helping with cable modem configuration.  At times I’m unavailable though, so then she calls a help line for official support.

Surprisingly Mom uses the web, so she searched for a support number but failed to find one.  Chat was available but she’s old-fashioned and wanted to speak with somebody.  Finally she dialed 411 and ultimately connected to the company’s voicemail.  She experienced the same frustration we all have with poorly configured, auto-answering, and multilevel voicemail systems.  (Perhaps they are ingeniously designed to never connect a caller to an actual person?)  After several aborted attempts and redials she finally connected with a person……located at an overseas call-center.

My mother is a little hard of hearing.  This fact, combined with a poor quality overseas connection and a person that was not a native English speaker created much frustration during that two-hour phone call.  Additionally the tech simply asked my Mom questions from a script and responded without truly understanding the problem or solution. The patient and friendly Support Tech wasn’t the issue, the problem was a design failure of the Support System.  Mom's problem was finally resolved, but the experience left a bitter taste in her mouth, and a negative support experience that she will discuss with anybody that listens.

Mom’s experience reinforces the reasons why Gyrus Systems, a Learning Management System (LMS) provider, does not rely on voicemail as its default method of answering calls.  We promise excellent support and have designed a Support System that delivers it.  Real people that are actual employees of Gyrus Systems pick up the phone.  Gyrus Systems also treats each call uniquely, because each call IS unique: No customer requesting assistance is in the same situation as another customer, thus both the responses and resolution cannot be scripted.

Technology will have problems, so companies must provide customer support.  The question is whether the company invests in and creates an environment of superior or inferior customer support.  As Mom discovered, it’s easy to determine the type of support a company provides with the very first support call.  Gyrus Systems’ customers can state with confidence that we provide them with superior support, not only because we do not rely on voicemail or scripts, but because of the personal attention that every support call receives.  It’s the promise we make to customers during the sales process and we continue to deliver on that promise.

Show Me the Release Notes!

release notes smallI occasionally help out with RFPs. A common question is to provide a release or upgrade history (Release Notes) of our GyrusAim LMS that shows its revisions over time. Access to such a document is very important for prospects prior to signing a contract.  An ongoing history of software releases provided by an LMS vendor proves that they invest resources into developing the product by adding new features and fixing problems. If a vendor cannot or will not provide such a detailed history, it can be a warning to steer clear of their Learning Management System. (An exception is a start-up vendor that is so new that they really don’t have a release history, other measures must be taken to validate such companies.) Providing such a history is not a problem for Gyrus Systems since we’ve been in business since 1987 and update our GyrusAim LMS several times per year.

A meaningful detail to examine when Release Notes are provided is to ensure that it contains product information up to the current date.  As an example, Release Notes are provided to you by a vendor in December, 2015 with history that ends in 2013.  Questions should be raised with the vendor about why they have not improved their product for such a long time.   It may indicate a loss of product focus or worse.  Perhaps the company is trying to be bought (mergers & acquisitions have been common in the Training & Development Software Industry) and has cut development staff to save costs and make the company more attractive to a buyer.  Most such reasons are good indicators to avoid a vendor.

Revision numbers may be another clue that the software product is not the primary focus of a business, especially if the product has been around for a while.  If the product has been in production for several years and is still a “Version 1,” then there’s a good chance it’s not being developed and a reason to avoid it.  Gyrus Systems is preparing to release its sixth-generation “Release 16” version of the software which means there are many years of development invested in it that translates into a tremendous number of features that help our customers manage their learning environment.

Whether the LMS you are investigating is designed to be installed at your location, is cloud-based, or SaaS, the vendor should readily provide Release Notes when asked for them.  Examine the document in detail and ensure you ask the vendor about gaps or other problems.

Gyrus Systems Earns “Top 10” Award for “Best Employee Compliance LMS” by Talented Learning

gyrusaim - skills smallRichmond, VA · November 30, 2015. Gyrus Systems, a leader in the Learning Management Systems (LMS) industry, proudly announced that Talented Learning named the GyrusAim® Learning Management System as a "Top 10" World Finisher in the "Best Employee Compliance LMS" category. 

Talented Learning is a news, research and consulting organization dedicated to the advancement of all aspects of extended enterprise learning technology solutions.  Gyrus Systems' earned this award by developing GyrusAim features that "are admin focused and have skills, competencies, audit trails, electronic signatures, strong ILT management, facility and resource management, broad content support and powerhouse reporting."  

“It’s a great honor to be recognized by Talented Learning in providing innovative learning solutions for our customers,” said Viren Kapadia, President and CEO of Gyrus Systems. “We are always focusing on market needs, client success and product leadership."

This award means that Gyrus Systems' customers continue to enjoy the ever-expanding enterprise-level compliance features included in GyrusAim, ranging from the deep feature-set of Instructor-Led Training, to Certifications, and more.  Thanks to all of our customers that have provided feature input in 2015, your comments and suggestions continue to make GyrusAim a great LMS!

About Gyrus

Gyrus Systems is the one-stop solution for the efficient management of any size training program.  Since 1987, 450+ companies worldwide have used Gyrus Systems’ products to improve training effectiveness, organization efficiency, and to attain greater success within their respective industries. The company is headquartered in Richmond, Virginia.  For more information, please visit http://www.gyrus.com/.

Why is Skills Management Important?

skills small - whyLast week I defined skills management by referencing and summarizing an existing Wikipedia article.  This week I’ll explain why skills management is important and I’ll begin by repeating Wiki’s definition of Skills Management: “The practice of understanding, developing, and deploying people and their skills.”  Perhaps last week I put the cart before the horse though because I didn’t define “skill.”  Again going to Wikipedia, here’s how it defines skill.  The article’s first two sentences are: “A skill is the learned ability to carry out a task with pre-determined results often within a given amount of time, energy, or both.  In other words the abilities that one possesses.

So the bottom line is that a skill is an ability, and of course we know that companies hire people based upon their abilities and whether they match the abilities required for the job.  The hiring process gets the new employee in the door for a specific job, however the corporate work environment is a very dynamic place.  People and jobs come and go, job requirements change, and people’s abilities also change.  The reason for skills management is to apply some order to this environment both for the benefit of the employees and for the company.  So skills management has both a human component: managing the abilities of employees, and a corporate component: managing the abilities required for positions (jobs).

Thus, when skill management protocols are developed and implemented successfully, employee skillsets are expanded via training to not only more fully match their current job requirements but also to match the skill requirements of other job's within the company.  When an employee's skillset matches their job's skill requirements, it’s a “win-win” situation benefiting both the employee and the organization.  Employees are happier because they have the skills to perform their job, and the organization becomes more efficient and productive which helps the bottom line.

Other benefits of implementing skills management processes are:

1. Enhanced execution of business strategy by developing skills that support business objectives.
2. Improved competitiveness by producing superior products and services because of a better trained workforce.
3. Reduced costs by identifying true training needs that eliminates wasteful spending on unnecessary training.
4. Maximized workforce ROI by more efficiently aligning employee skills with job skill requirements. 
5. Mitigated operational risks and costs by identifying & eliminating skill gaps to reduce risk of non-compliance.
6. Increased employee retention and job satisfaction by improving employee development and utilization.

A computer system is not a requirement for this successful management of skills, however it will help, especially for organizations larger than a few employees.  Some Learning Management Systems (LMSs) are skill-centric, which means they manage training through skills, other LMSs are not skill-centric and manage training only.  If in the market for an LMS, evaluate the benefits of a true skill-centric LMS and strongly consider the advantages versus a non-skill-centric LMS.

What is Skills Management?

skills small

In several recent postings I’ve blogged (a lot) about skills and skill management.  So what IS skills management?  It being 2015 the first place I looked is Wikipedia (of course) and found this: Skills Management. Terrific, a Wiki about skills management! This means other people are interested in the subject as well.  The Wiki really does sum up many important elements of skills management:

  1. Definition: The practice of understanding, developing, and deploying people and their skills.
  2. Well-implemented skills management should identify the skills that job roles require, the skills of individual employees, and any gap between the two.
  3. Skills are usually defined in a skills matrix consisting of a list of skills, a grading system, and what it means to be at a particular level for a skill.
  4. To be useful, skills management must be an ongoing process where skills are regularly assessed.
  5. Benefits

    1. Employees

      1. The ability to review the list of skills they require, the skills they have obtained, and ultimately their skill gaps.
      2. A development plan may be provided to bridge skill gaps over a period of time.
      3. Employees gain from improved identification and understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses, from being able to set personal goals, and to understand the value they bring to the organization, which in turn can boost morale.
    2. Managers

      1. Enables knowledge of employee skill strengths and weaknesses.
      2. Allows them to search for employees with specific skills.
    3. Executives – A rolled up view of skills and skill gaps across an organization can enable its executives to see areas of skill strength and weakness. This enables them to plan for the future against the current and future abilities of staff, as well as to prioritize areas for skills development.

 

These benefits actually closely match with the points I made in my last posting about the “Benefits of a Skill-Centric Learning Management System.”  I guess that’s not too surprising though since the whole point of a Skill-Centric management system is to manage employee skills!

Benefits of a Skill-Centric Learning Management System (LMS)

earth smallIn the 10/23/15 blog I mentioned, “Skills allow people to succeed at their job, not training.” Expanding on that thought, employees can attend training class after training class after training class, and even pass tests that show they’ve “learned,” however that does not truly mean that they can leverage the information presented in the class in the real world as skills.  As an example, a wannabe rocket scientist could take many rocket science classes, however until they build a rocket and put it into orbit, they don’t have rocket science skills.

A skill-centric learning management system (LMS) uses skills as the fundamental building block of training.  The individual’s development plan, the manager’s dashboard, and all other aspects of the LMS focus on learner skills, not just the training classes attended.  I would much rather be an astronaut in the rocket built by the person using a skill-centric LMS that gained actual rocket science skills rather than a person just attending rocket science classes.

An important tool within skill-centric LMSs is the exhibited assessment where a learner actually shows somebody how to build the rocket.  The exhibited assessment combines all of the classroom training and proves synergy: that the sum of the training is greater than the individual bits of training and results in a skill.  The benefit is that the student that passes an exhibited assessment really knows how to put an astronaut into orbit and bring them back safely.

Some other benefits of using a skill-centric LMS include:

Employees provided with

  • A better understanding of quality proficiency related to their jobs.
  • A clear view of current skills and skill gaps.
  • A learning and development plan comprised of job, organizational, and/or certification based skill requirements.
  • An inventory of skill records proving their competency.
  • Recognition of their skills and opportunities to use them in other areas of the company.

 

Managers benefit with

  • A clear picture of the skill requirements of their employees.
  • An understanding of their employees’ skills strengths and weaknesses.
  • An informed basis for career development planning discussions.
  • Ability to develop individualized learning and development plans.
  • Identification of subject matter experts.

 

Executives benefit by

  • Confirmation that their staff has the skills to meet current business needs.
  • Comprehensive and real-time insight of the organization’s capabilities to enable informed strategic decision making.
  • Proof the organization complies with regulatory requirements to avoid penalties and other undesirable results.

How can an LMS Help an Organization?

 

10-16-15 small (larger)

Earlier this week I was asked by an acquaintance what I did for a living, and the conversation naturally transitioned to what a Learning Management System (LMS) was and how it could help his company.  The last several articles here at Gyrus.com have focused on specific LMS features, this one will review general benefits.  User roles are important in LMSs, so the benefits are categorized according to several commonly used roles.

 

Student Role (same as Associate, Employee, or Customer)

  • Skill-centric philosophy – Not all LMSs are skill-centric, however it is a powerful method of managing training that links skills to jobs, organizations, certifications, & people and the required training for those skills.  The benefit is that the focus is student development by skills, not just training.  Skills allow people to succeed at their job, not training.
  • Individual Development Plan (IDP) – It may have different names in each LMS, however it’s a single screen that shows all required skills with links to launch eLearning and enroll into instructor-led classes.  It is a central location for students to manage their development.
  • Skill Gap Analysis / Compliance– A result of skill-centricity, this feature shows a student the skills they must acquire for their department, job, or required certifications.  Students can then easily locate and enroll in training required for those skills.  Furthermore, students can determine the skill requirements for other departments, jobs, or certifications for career-planning purposes.
  • Course Catalog – Central location for all training that students can review to check whether other eLearning or instructor-led training classes are relevant to their development, even if the training is not specifically tied to their job, organization, etc.
  • Knowledge assessment (test) to determine whether student learning was effective.
  • Records availability – Students can easily access their complete training history with just a few mouse-clicks.
  • Remote capability – All of the above is available for the student out of the office, either from their home computer or mobile device.

 

Manager / Instructor

  • A single place for management of employee training activity such as enrollments, approvals, progress, and skill gap analysis.
  • Consolidated data for producing management reports and analysis.
  • Evaluation capabilities to determine quality of training, instructors, and locations so they can be improved if necessary.
  • On-the-job (OJT) training by managers using exhibited assessments to enhance real-time and personal education with instantaneous feedback.
  • Automatic electronic communication to students regarding status of training (enrolled, completed, waiting for approval) and other related activities.
  • Employee development through the use of required and optional skills easily assigned and reviewed by managers.
  • Ability to provide more interesting content like videos and other forms to improve the learning experience.

 

Training Administrator

  • Elimination of duplicated effort.  That is, a record (like a skill) can be created once and then used throughout the system by associating it to different organizations, jobs, certifications, and people.  It can be edited or updated with additional information without the need to completely replicate it.
  • Reports and analytics using vast amounts of historical training information used to improve the workforce development business processes.
  • Simplified procedures for managing, updating, and just working with the data.
  • Creation of safety or other compliance requirements, and assignment of the skills necessary for students to achieve them, improving overall corporate compliance.
  • Reduce overall training costs by enabling remote learning via eLearning and managing virtual classrooms where instructors and students are not in the same location.
  • All of the above working together synergistically to accomplish total workforce development throughout the company.

Managing People in a Learning Management System

final smallAt it’s core a Learning Management System (LMS) is all about managing the learning that an organization’s people need. So let’s review some LMS features that enable the successful learning management of a company’s employees.

Primarily, and around which other management features revolve, is the need to visually arrange learners based upon the company’s multi-level organizational and supervisory structure. If managers cannot centrally and easily view their people, then using other features to support their learning is difficult at best. Let’s review a handful of these features and explain why they are important.

LMSs should provide supervisors with the means to create & update enrollments as well as to approve and complete them for both eLearning and instructor led training. Supervisors should also be able to completely review current and historical enrollment data and easily find new training for learners based on multiple parameters.

Using GyrusAim’s “Manage My People” screen, complete enrollment administration is easy, and several methods exist for finding new training for learners.

GyrusAim is skill-centric, and training is determined by the learner’s Individual Development Plan (IDP) which identifies requirements based on personal, job, organization, or certification goals. Skill Gap Analysis is also readily accessed which shows all required skills for any organization, job, or certification within the company, providing a clear set of objectives for improved workforce planning. Thus, complete metrics are available in a single centralized area for efficient management of skills, training, and related data.

Other ancillary, yet still important functions should also be included in an LMS’s people management screen. One of these functions must be the ability for the manager to quickly communicate with their personnel. For example, with one or two clicks in GyrusAim a manager can send an eMail to users with a list of their required skills, in this way reminding them to complete (or begin) their training. Having a fully functional and integrated communication system in an LMS eliminates the need to copy and paste or manually retype training information from the application into another separate eMail program, thus improving accuracy and saving time.

Other useful features to note in GyrusAim’s “Manage My People” screen are exhibited assessments and quick access to employee details, both which can be accessed in seconds.

Managing employee development can be complex, however using an application that simplifies this complexity by arranging important functions in an easy-to-use interface will improve a company’s ability to successfully achieve their training program goals. When reviewing and qualifying LMS applications, look for such an interface.

Close the Gap with Gap Analysis

small v1Last week I discussed how important the GyrusAim Individual Development Plan (IDP) is for employees to manage their development.  Today I discuss another tool included in GyrusAim that further enables workforce development: Gap Analysis.

The GyrusAim Gap Analysis screen compares obtained skills to required skills for jobs, certifications, and organizations. This concept enables the potential for powerful development planning because not only can an employee compare their skills to their current company requirements, but they can also compare them to other potential jobs, certifications, and organizations.  Additionally, employees can sign up for instructor-led classes, or even take eLearning directly from the Gap Analysis page which streamlines the entire process of locating and taking training.

Gap Analysis has many practical benefits that improve employee competency and the ease by which managers maximize employee development, thus strengthening the company’s overall training program.  Specific benefits are:

Succession planning – Succession planning is the identification and development of potential successors in a company. The key is to create a match between the company’s future needs and the aspirations of individual employees. The Gap Analysis function augments succession planning by identifying if employees have obtained those skills necessary for advancement into such positions.

Career path planning – Career planning is an activity that is best executed on a regular basis because employees, jobs, certifications, and organizations are dynamic and require periodic reassessment. Gap Analysis should be included in this reassessment because it simplifies career path planning by linking lesser skilled positions to more highly skilled positions making identification of required skills obvious.

Cross-training  – Cross-training is useful for managers because it provides flexibility in managing the workforce to meet the company’s goals.  It helps employees because it educates them with new skills increasing their value to the company, and it combats boredom by introducing new concepts and challenges.  Gap Analysis benefits both managers and employees because it streamlines and reduces the complexity of the above processes.

Skill deficiency recognition – Recognizing employees deficient in job related skills can be difficult, especially in large organizations. Not recognizing such skills can lead to safety, product quality, and other critical problems. The GyrusAim Gap Analysis function helps eliminate these issues by identifying areas where employees need additional training to fulfill current job, organization, and certification requirements.

Companies must periodically review their workforce development programs, and for the above reasons GyrusAim’s Gap Analysis should be included as part of this process to provide essential data with which informed decisions can be made.

Individual Development Plans: What are they and why are they important?

small v1If you’re researching Learning Management Systems (LMSs) you’ve heard the term “Individual Development Plan” or “IDP.” So what is an Individual Development Plan, why is it important, and who uses them?

Let’s search on the web to find out. Hundreds of links are referenced for government, education and corporate organizations so IDPs must be important! Where to start? How about at the beginning of the search results, which is at: OPM.gov. OPM is the US Office of Personnel Management so their definition should be accurate. 

OPM defines an IDP as:
“An individual development plan (IDP) is a tool to assist employees in career and personal development. Its primary purpose is to help employees reach short and long-term career goals, as well as improve current job performance. An IDP is not a performance evaluation tool or a one-time activity. It should be looked at like a partnership between the employee and the supervisor. It involves preparation and continuous feedback. Many agencies require IDPs for new and current employees. It is encouraged throughout many organizations. Many Federal agencies require their employees to complete an IDP, annually. All Senior Executives are required to have an Executive Development Plan (EDP) (5 CFR 412.401).”

Let’s summarize the OPM definition:

  1. It’s a tool to assist employees in career and personal development to help employees reach career goals and improve current job performance.  
  2. It’s a partnership between the employee & supervisor and involves preparation and continuous feedback.
  3. Many public and private organizations encourage the use of IDPs.

 

With point #1 in mind, career and personnel development are critical functions of LMSs so including IDP capability into an LMS makes sense to optimize the process of employees reaching their career goals and improving their job performance.

For example, a core feature of the GyrusAim LMS is the “IDP Screen” which employees use to manage their personal development. On this screen all training is shown including required training, completed training, and even recommended (but not required) training. Also all methods for acquiring the training is displayed, from eLearning, scheduled instructor-led training, virtual classrooms, and more. So it’s extremely easy for employees to find and acquire those skills needed or recommended for them, for their job, or for their department! Employees can concentrate on obtaining their skills instead of figuring out how to use a complicated LMS just to manage their personal development.

Point #2 is the “Partnership between employee & supervisor.” This natural partnership must be maintained, even within a computerized LMS. To accomplish this, the GyrusAim LMS includes a “Manage My People” screen which managers use to review their employee’s IDP screens. This allows for easy analysis of their employee’s developmental progress, which promotes focused and easy communication between both parties. Other developmental details can also be accessed from the Manage My People screen such as employee enrollments, skill gap analysis, training transcript, and pending training approvals so that an open communication process is fostered between supervisors and their employees, enhancing their “partnership.”

Lastly, because many public and private organizations encourage the use of IDPs, it is a consistent concept for personal development which once an employee is familiar with it, they can use it for the rest of their career in other organizations too.

For these reasons, using an IDP approach is an excellent idea for employee personal development and when researching LMSs pay particular attention to those systems that use this technique.

The Benefits of Using a Customer-Oriented Learning Management System (LMS) Vendor

Henry Ford small (larger)Someone famously asked Henry Ford if he had talked with customers for their opinions before creating an automobile for the masses.  Henry Ford, wisecrack that he was, quipped “If I’d asked what people wanted, they would have said faster horses.”  That attitude may have flown in the day and age where doctors were still attempting to cure maladies of all sorts by zapping the bejesus out of their patients with raw electricity, but today’s customers are better informed and much more savvy as to what they need.  And doctors thankfully became more judicious with their use of electricity as a form of treatment.

Today’s customers have problems that are unique to their business processes, and they know exactly what functions and abilities they need their learning management system to perform. What good is it to have a system that can’t adapt to changing business processes?  Or even worse, an LMS provider who responds to your unique needs with: “You probably don’t need that. That’s why we don’t have it.”  If you do find yourself in that situation with your LMS provider, check out our LMS Switching Guide on how to ask soul-searching questions about whether or not you should find a new LMS.

Part of Gyrus Systems’ customer focus is to gather feedback from our customers in our product community and to incorporate customer requested features into each release.  The benefit? You get an adaptable product that meets your business needs without the pain and expense of a customization.

Gyrus Systems Awarded Learning Portal “Company to Watch” 2nd Time

Gyrus Systems, a leading Learning Management Systems (LMS) vendor, announced today it has been selected as a 2015 Learning Portal Companies Watch List by Training Industry.com.

“This year’s Learning Portal Companies Watch List features a group of learning technology companies that can be the foundation of a custom learning solution,” said Ken Taylor, president, Training Industry, Inc. “The companies selected have the potential to become leaders in the learning technologies market through their innovation and understanding of adult learning and development.”

“Learning portal solutions have made significant technological advancements over the past few years,” said Doug Howard, chief executive officer, Training Industry, Inc. “The companies chosen for this year’s Watch List are options when looking for a platform to be at the heart of your next learning initiative.”

As part of its commitment to the industry and as a service to its community members, TrainingIndustry.com has announced today its 2015 Learning Portal Companies Watch List. The watch list features Gyrus Systems amongst 16 other companies which the leading portal for the training industry has handpicked.

The selection criteria for the 2015 Learning Portal Companies Watch List was based on:
1. New and innovative service offerings
2. Unique approach to delivering learning solutions
3. Commitment to improving learning through technology
4. Quality of initial clients

Viren Kapadia, President and CEO of Gyrus Systems, shared his excitement about being featured for the 2nd time. He said, “We’re proud that our dedication to learning management technology and customer service has been recognized by the training industry”

View the complete 2015 Learning Portal Companies Watch List!

GyrusAim r15.1 LMS and Title 21 CFR Part 11

21 cfr checkRelease 15.1 of the GyrusAim Learning Management System (LMS) is now available and includes technical controls for the FDA's Title 21 CFR Part 11 compliance for both open and closed systems.  This is good news for FDA-regulated industries such as pharmaceutical companies, medical device manufacturers, biotech, and other such businesses because training records are more secure, electronic signatures are validated, and changes made to all data is completely and automatically audited when Part 11 features are implemented.  

See Title 21 CFR Part 11 Regulations for FDA regulatory details and our July 16th, 2015 blog for background information.

 

Review below for selected Part 11-related enhancements:

  • Data validation to ensure accuracy, reliability, and identification of altered records by requiring a unique two-level security process by individuals when adding, changing, or deleting information.
  • Recording of secure, time-stamped and computer-generated audit trails related to data modifications noted above.
  • All security steps are required when an individual executes one or more electronic signings not performed during a single, continuous period of controlled system access.
  • Each combination of username, password, and PIN are unique to specific a individual.
  • Electronic signatures contain all information required such as printed name of signer, date & time when signature executed, and the meaning of the signature via selection of a company-defined reason code.
  • Completely configurable based on company’s definition of what records require Part 11 authentication.
  • Resetting of PINs for all or selected users can be scheduled or manually updated so that periodic checking, recalling, or revising of security data is manageable.

 

More features included for overall improved security:

  • Immediate notification of attempts to breach system security.  Such notifications require management review and are included in the Part 11 audit trail.
  • Entire system can be locked down in seconds if necessary, preventing data manipulation from occurring in the case of a security breach.

 

These GyrusAim features allow training records to exist in a highly secure Title 21 CFR Part 11 business environment.

Request a demo using the "Request Demo" button to the right for more information about how GyrusAim can help manage the training programs of not just Title 21 CFR Part 11 regulated companies, but all companies!

Ensuring 21 CFR Compliance with GyrusAim LMS

21 cfr checkTechnology has so greatly improved the ability to track and verify training records and certifications via digital signatures that physical records and handwritten signatures are rare in today’s business environment.  To define the trustworthiness of such electronic signatures the FDA created Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations Part 11 which sets the standards and regulations of electronic records and electronic signatures for organizations in bio-technology, medical manufacturing, pharmaceutical, healthcare and other FDA regulated industries.

Issued in 1997, Title 21 CFR Part 11 allowed digital records and signatures to be equivalent to their handwritten counterparts while creating official methods that organizations must use to maintain and electronically submit them to the FDA.  If all electronic records met these requirements then the signatures are officially accepted.

Requirement Highlights:

 

  • Validation to ensure accuracy, reliability, consistent performance and the ability to discern altered records.
  • Ability to generate accurate and complete copies suitable for inspection, review and copying.
  • Protection of records.
  • Limiting system access to unauthorized personnel.
  • Use of secure, computer-generated, and time-stamped audit trails to independently record the date and time of entries and actions that create, modify or delete electronic records.
  • Use of operational systems checks to enforce permitted sequencing of steps and events.
  • Use of authority checks to ensure that only authorized individuals can use the system.
  • Use of device checks to determine the validity of the source of data.

 

How GyrusAim Measures Up

 

Non-compliance during regulatory inspections can risk damaging your company’s integrity and reputation.  Only a handful of learning management system (LMS) providers offer organizations the ability to meet the FDA’s Title 21 CFR Part 11 requirements.  With the July, 2015 “15.1” release of GyrusAim, Gyrus Systems will be part of this select group of LMS providers.

Included in GyrusAim r15.1 are integrated features that thoroughly permit your company’s Title 21 CFR Part 11 compliance.  When enabled they assure compliance by adding an additional layer of security tracking and auditing of any change to GyrusAim data.  All access and functions within GyrusAim are controlled by user identifications and passwords, ensuring audit-trails are properly recorded for every user.  Additional built-in features are included such as on-screen warnings to managers, manager authentication of warnings, instant de-authorization of individual or all user logins by managers when a violation occurs, and more!

With Gyrus Systems’ Learning Management System, GyrusAim, you will have access to these key features to help you manage you 21 CFR Part 11 compliance:

  • Auditing
  • Electronic Training Records
  • Electronic Signatures
  • Reporting
  • Version Control
  • Secure Hosting options-SaaS or Self-Hosted

For more information or to request a demo please visit our website.

Transforming Learning Through Mobile: Managers On-The-Go

As a manager it is hard to stay tied to your desktop computer to check on the progress and status of your employees participating in eLearning.  The lack of accessibility is not the only complaint about traditional eLearning.  A quick internet search shows that both users and managers dislike the boredom and inability to focus when stuck at a computer for a long training session. Mobile Learning, or mLearning, is the solution.

Mobile-Manager-Training

Mobile LMS for Managers

Gyrus Systems’ MobileAim is not just for employees on-the-go, it is also designed to provide managers with more flexible schedules by allowing them to manage employees while in or out of the office.  MobileAim has several tools designed specifically with the manager in mind: “My Enrollments,” “My Assessments,” and “Manage My People” are key features that make life easier for a manager.

While your staff is in the field or on-call you can easily track their training progress via “Manage My People.”   “My Enrollments" allows you to check on your students’ enrollment status and learning status, as well as all eLearning events.  When it is time to give an assessment, the instructor can manage it from the “My Assessments” feature.  Once an employee completes an assessment, the manager receives results in real time.

Benefits of Taking Your LMS Mobile

mLearning allows your employees to stay connected to their training through their mobile device, accessing it on their own time.  Employees no longer need to attend long training sessions, which reduces company training costs and travel expenses.  This flexibility also creates a more efficient workplace by minimizing employee's schedule interruptions to attend classes.  According to a study conducted by Dell “more than two thirds of businesses have seen increases in employee productivity and customer support by allowing employees to use their mobile devices at work.”  (crn.com)

Employees have a higher training completion rate when performed on their own time.  Gyrus Systems’ MobileAim streamlines the process of providing tasks and information to your employees while giving you easy to use tools to monitor their development. The end result is a more efficient and competent workplace.

 

Gyrus Systems ATD 2015 Prize Winner!

Gyrus Systems ATD Prize Winner

Congratulations to Melinda Johnson for being selected as our ATD 2015 first prize winner for the iPad mini!  Recently Melinda visited us in Richmond, VA to pick up her prize and meet the Gyrus team.  We enjoyed seeing her again and know she'll enjoy the iPad mini.

From all of us at Gyrus Systems we'd like to thank everyone who participated in the prize drawing and for stopping by our booth to discuss your training needs.  We met many training professionals that are passionate about training and development like us.  We hope our passion shined through in our product demonstrations and conversations.  Keep in touch with us through our blog!

Gyrus Systems ATD Booth

Many attendees expressed an interest in GyrusAim, and we will be contacting them in the near future to schedule a live demo of our LMS.  If you were unable to stop by the Gyrus Systems ATD 2015 booth, we'll be back next year!  We'd still be happy to give you a demo.  Click the request demo button below to sign up.

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Fast, Good, or Cheap: Pick Two

Early in my career when I suggested a laundry list of useful product features to our Engineering Manager that “just had to be” in the next release he said, “Fast, Good, or Cheap: Pick Two!”  That was the first the first time I heard the phrase, however I’ve been in the business long enough now to appreciate the value of such a simple statement as it relates to product development.  The phrase is common enough, however its value is that it describes, quite succinctly, the relationship between these three important qualities of product development and that if two are selected, then achieving the third is at best, challenging.  

That Engineering Manager is now retired, however I’ve adopted the phrase and used it myself with customers when discussing the development of Gyrus Systems’ Learning Management System product, GyrusAim.  The “Fast, Good, or Cheap” concept quickly allows our customers to “Get It” and understand the challenge we face as a LMS software company to maximize features within a specified time frame while not pricing our product out of our desired market.  In a perfect world all three goals would always be fully achievable, however in the real world each must be weighed and prioritized to create products that best meet the needs of current and prospective customers.

As with previous generations of GyrusAim, a requirement for our latest 5th generation revision was to keep it “Good.” Thus the two remaining qualities are “Cheap” and “Fast.”  I really don’t like the word “Cheap,” so I’ll replace it with “Price Competitive.”  GyrusAim is truly one of the most price competitive, enterprise level, skill-centric LMSs in today’s marketplace, with a very low price-per-learner that minimizes our client's software costs.

So we're left with “Fast.”  While we would love to release every feature on our product roadmap tomorrow, we simply can’t guarantee the “Good” or “Price-Competitive” aspects if we did.  Therefore we take the required time to fully develop and test our new features and release them only when we can guarantee they’ll fully meet our customers’ needs.

In summary, the promise that Gyrus Systems makes to our customers is that the software is good and will meet their learning and development needs now and in the future.  We also strive to keep the price of our LMS solution extremely competitive.  To meet our goals of “Good” and “Price-Competitive” software, we take the time required to analyze our customer needs and prioritize the release of these new features.  Using this philosophy, since January, 2014, we have exceeded our goal of four releases per year.  In fact, we’ve published eleven new releases that allow our customers to leverage hundreds of new features that improve their learning and development programs, a proven track history that we’d love to discuss.  Give us a call!

Buy-in for an LMS Implementation

LMS Buy In

In the introduction to the Change Management Strategies Series I mention three major factors effecting change.  These include an organized implementation plan, communication, and management buy-in.  This blog will focus on management buy-in.  A direct report's level of engagement can be effected by information or business practices received by their manager.  If a manager is resistant to change, often times the direct report will inherit the same attitude.  Understanding that manager's need the same reassurances as direct reports all the way up the line will go a long way in solving this problem.  Increasing manager buy-in can be done by developing test groups during the implementation process.

 
Ideas for test groups:
  • Create a game/raffle out of it. Let managers enter into a raffle to be put on a test team with their direct-reports.  (This method will probably require some type of reward as well for the 'extra' work)
  • Assign one test team per channel or industry that you support.
  • Create real world scenarios for testers that will promote the value add of a new LMS.
  • Never forget to explain the purpose of the test group and show employees how they are directly improving the business by giving their feedback.
  • Add a message to the communication strategy that highlights the achievements of each of the test groups.
  • Hold weekly or bi-weekly meetings where managers can give their feedback and the feedback of their direct reports
  • Encourage test groups to find bugs and errors in the system (this will help you in your overall roll out)

Each of the ideas above is geared toward including managers and allowing them to include their direct reports.  Once managers start to use the LMS they will become promoters of the system (if you can successfully highlight all of the benefits).  Using testing groups for manager buy in can increase adoption rates, reduce launch day glitches, create a positive stir in the organization about the LMS, and accomplish a lot of testing that the training department would have to do on their own.

 

e-Learning Best Practice: How to Make Sure Your System Works

e-Learning Best Practices, and why they can fail from the very start . . .

There are a lot of things that need to go right for your web based content to be successful. Some of them are easy to see. Like when a learner launches a course and the video refuses to play. Others are harder to see. Like when the internet connection that learner is using gets bogged down and the course never shows up.

Of all of the things that need to go right (or can go wrong), it may seem like some of them are more critical than others, but this is not the case. Like the weakest link of a chain, you can get 90% of your content system right….and lose out in the end. And to the learner the cause of the failure doesn’t matter. Regardless of the cause, the end result is still the same. A frustrated learner. To the learner, only one thing matters. When she launches the course it either works or it does not.

If it does not work, well then….Game over.

To get a handle on what can go right or wrong, think of your  as an ordinary garden hose. On one end is a spigot which is delivering water to the input side of the hose. Then there is the hose itself which transports the water all the way along its fifty foot length. And finally there is the nozzle, or output side which delivers the water on target. One part starts the water, one transfers it, and one delivers it. Every part plays an essential role in achieving but a single outcome; delivering life giving water to your garden.

Choke off the water supply, drill holes in the hose, or use a rusty old nozzle and you’ve got a problem. No water. And, from the standpoint of the Gardner it doesn’t matter why no water is coming out. It only matters that nothing is happening. The only thing that will make it right is when you see that constant stream of cool clear water.

In web based training, your job is to keep the WBT streaming; to ensure the learner gets her WBT course.

Start – Transfer – Deliver

And if she doesn’t get it, to quickly find which part is the problem and fix it. And the only way to do that is to move heaven and earth to ensure that each part of your WBT eco-system is functioning as needed to get the job done.

So let’s break it down into its parts and go over what you can do to build and maintain a bullet proof infrastructure.

Keeping with the water hose analogy, let’s begin with the spigot side where the flow of water begins. This content start point is the course itself and the computer server environment that hosts it.

The course itself can be created in any quality content authoring tool capable of publishing SCORM and/or AICC compliant content. But there are a few key things to look for and test to make certain the course works.

First is the file size of the course itself. This is the number you see when you look (in Windows Explorer for example) at the zip file after you have published your course. The size of your course is going to affect everything downstream because it tells you just how much “water” you are trying to pipe down the hose! In fact, most LMS’s have a maximum file restrictor built in. If the file size of your zip file is 200 megabytes and your LMS has a restriction at 150 megabytes…well as you can see, plans will have to be made.

Second is the type of video or audio files used in the course. If your course has animation, movies, or audio, it is important to know what was used to create it. Is, for example, your animation produced in Flash or Shockwave? This can make a big difference if your learners don’t have the right software installed to view the course or if the LMS is set to accept the other kind of file.

Third is the server environment hosting your courses. You want to be sure you have the horsepower and set up you need. Speak frankly with your network administrator about your content needs. Discuss how many courses you will have, their file size, and the kinds of audio/video files they will contain. Go over how they will be backed up and how often they will be updated or replaced. Plan for how many learners will be consuming the courses, how many concurrently, and where, when, and at what time of day they will consume them.

A successful SCORM/AICC experience starts at the beginning. With the courses themselves and how they are hosted on a server to be available for your learners. Just like a clogged or broken water spigot, if the course doesn’t get a good start, all of the fixes made “downstream” will do little good. Be certain to carefully plan and execute this first essential component of a successful WBT Content system.

Next time: “The Hose”, getting e-learning from A to B!

Skills gap or not; why can’t we agree? (Part two)

This is the second of two posts discussing the roots of the issue and a new strategy to address this stubborn problem.  In part one, we talked about the roots of the skills gap and the extent to which executives understand the magnitude of the problem and the significant impacts it can have if unresolved.  We noted research that indicates that up to 80% of learning is ‘scrap’ or wasted, and how the ineffectiveness of traditional training methods leads executives to look for workers with existing skill sets rather than train a capable prospective employee whose skills have not kept up with the market.

Bridging the Gap

Vado calls the efforts of executives searching for improved learning and development strategies and tactics as ‘Bridging the Gap’ and right now this bridging is going pretty slow; of companies surveyed, 94% seek to speed up the application of learning back into the workplace but only 23% feel they achieve this.

Vado’s strategy is simple but not simplistic;

  • Identify pertinent information
  • Break it down into small pieces
  • Deliver to employees “one bite at a time”, and
  • Employ 5 Development Best Practices

Think differently about training

Consider for a moment the difference between Training and Development, which is essentially ‘Push vs. Pull’; Companies PUSH training and Employees PULL development.  Here’s what Vado found:

Make it relevant

Alignment between the development offerings and an increase in personal performance must be demonstrated to the learner as well as alignment between the development offerings and organizational objects.  Employees don’t want to waste time either, more importantly it can harm morale. They also want to be valuable to the organization.  If you make it relevant, they will own it.

Make it accessible

Learners today want to access training when they need it and complete it at their own pace.

‘Chunked’ Learning

Vado believes in the idea of ‘Chunked Learning’, presented by Dr. George A. Miller, the author of “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two”.  The idea is to break down information into bite-sized pieces because too much information presented at one time leads to information overload.

This is supported by two recent articles in CLO Magazine; Malcom Poulin’s ‘In Learning, Size Matters’ which advocates for ‘microlearning’ strategies, and Bite-Sized Strategy, by Sebastian Bailey, in which he speaks to the idea of ‘miniaturization’ which is the distilling of a learning experience into smaller, more easily consumed packages, or shorter with immediate practical application.

Effectiveness of video in training

Vado presented research that highlights the importance of video in training.  Utilizing videos in training increases learning lift in the following areas: overall learning, 200%; absorption, 40%; retention, 38%; persuasion, 43%; and impact 67%.

Incorporate the basic rules of retention

We remember 10% of what we read, 20% of what we hear, 30% what we see, 50% of what we see and hear, 70% of what you say and write, and 90% WHAT YOU DO.

Development Best Practices

1. Aligned to organizational objectives

2. Self-paced and learner focused

3. Embed learning into workflow

4. Granular, bite sized, ‘chunked’ learning

5. Multimedia approach (video, graphics, audio, text)

So the question then becomes not ‘if’ we will train (and waste 80% of what we spend on it) but ‘HOW’ we should train.  Gyrus Systems believes Vado is on the right track and you can employ these same strategies in your own operation to improve your development and talent management efforts.

 

Benefits of Skills-Centric Learning Management Systems (LMS)

EMPLOYEE BENEFITS
Employees benefit by a skills management system because they’re provided with:
• A better understanding of quality proficiency related to their jobs
• A clear view of what skills and skill gaps they currently have
• A learning and development plan that takes into account their job-based skills requirements
• A record of their learning and development achievements
• Recognition of their skills and opportunities to use them in other assignments in the organization

MANAGEMENT BENEFITS
Through skills management, managers are presented with:
• A clear picture of the skill requirements of their employees
• An understanding of their employees’ skills strengths and weaknesses
• An informed basis for career development planning discussions
• Ability to develop prescriptive learning and development plans
• A facility to identify subject matter experts for assignment-based work

EXECUTIVE BENEFITS
Executives need to know that their organization has the skills to fulfill business strategy. A well-implemented skill and learning management system provides:
• A view of the capability of the organization
• Proof that the organization is meeting regulatory requirements
• Learning and development plans that are aligned with business strategy

What is Skill-Centric Approach?

GyrusAim utilizes a skills-centric approach. This provides organizations with a common language to describe skills in the organization and enables an agile workforce by using skills as the common currency of the business. This approach also helps integrate talent management processes.

Many organizations use disparate language across functions to describe the same skill. This leads to inefficiency—a lost opportunity to share and leverage crucial skills information across the organization. On the other hand, by defining skills consistently, skill mapping systems serve as the glue that helps bind these functions together. For example, by using the same language to define a skill in a job profile created by the recruitment and selection function of the organization, the learning and development department is able to compare the cost of developing a current employee against the cost of hiring someone who already has the required skills.

This approach to skill centricity also allows organizations to:
• Improve recruitment by providing a consistent skills specification for each job and facilitating skill-based assessment
• Consistently manage employee performance by comparing people against known skills for each role and providing a common language for assessment
• Support career planning by facilitating assessment for future roles,identifying skill gaps and learning requirements for future roles and using skill-based jobs to identify future roles for each employee
• Enhance the value of the learning & development function by ensuring that learning and development programs are aligned to business requirements and increasing the effectiveness of  an LMS
• Improve leadership development by defining skills and competencies that are aligned with business strategy

Competency Development Best Practices

HR Leaders and C-level Executives agree that developing competencies improves individual and overall organization performance. While most leaders recognize the importance of competency development to the vitality and sustainability of their organization, a recent poll showed that only one third currently develop competencies. It’s interesting to note that in the same poll, 45% of the respondents were also considering implementing a competency based training program within the next 12 months.

To achieve their desired goals, organizations that are currently developing or planning development should understand and build the five competency development best practices into their development process.

Competency Development Best Practices

  1. Development needs to happen on-the-job. There are many research studies that show development happens on the job. The US Department of Labor estimates that 70% or more of work related learning occurs outside of formal training. So it stands to reason that learning needs to integrate seamlessly into the employee’s daily work and on-the-job activities to leverage the natural way people learn.  The other benefit of designing development around on the job activities is the elimination of scrap learning. Scrap learning is training that was successfully delivered and not applied on the job. Some estimate that 50 – 80% of all training is scrap learning and is never applied. This means that five to eight out of every ten dollars of training budgets are wasted. When you add up the cost of formal training to include the cost to provide the training, travel expenses and the time away from the job, total costs are very high. Training and development leaders need to be more effective with their training budgets. By providing on the job competency development you eliminate scrap learning and increase your return on investment by as much as 80%.
  2. Chunked learning. Chunking refers to the strategy of breaking down information into bite sized pieces so the brain can better digest new information. The reason the brain needs this assistance is because working memory, which is the equivalent of being mentally online, holds a limited amount of information at one time. Dr. George A. Miller, the author of one of the most highly cited papers in psychology, “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two” formulated the chunk concept in 1956 as he presented evidence that working memory is limited in capacity. So, how does this relate to learning and application of learning? Here’s an example. If you were given a string of numbers, say 19525456698, most people would have a hard time remembering the number a short while later. However, if you break the number into smaller chunks, 1-952-545-6698, you have a much higher ability to remember the number. A learner’s memory operates the same way. If too much information is presented at the same time, the excess information will drop out and disappear. Presenting information in small chunks prevents information overload as well as scrap learning.
  3. Videos. How people take in information has changed. For instance, people watch short videos to learn everything from how to tile the bathroom floor, to how to fly fish, to how to create a border garden, or prepare a crown roast. Learners are accustomed to learning new skills and capabilities by watching videos. However, in addition to videos, information needs to be presented in multi ways, such as written instructions and downloadable word documents, as one size fits all does not meet the needs of a diverse workforce.
  4. Self paced and self directed. For learning to be self paced and self directed, learners need to be able to access the information when they need it (just in time learning) and complete it at their own pace. Additionally, they need to be able to choose the training and development that best meets their needs. When these conditions are present, learners take more ownership of their learning and are more engaged in the learning process.
  5. Aligned to the organization’s competencies. Organizations spend a great deal of time and energy identifying the competencies that will drive individual performance and organization success. Many organizations build their competencies into their selection process, succession management, and compensation processes. If an organization is selecting job candidates, promoting and rewarding according to their competency model, it makes sense to develop current employees’ competencies. In fact, competency development needs to be tightly aligned to the organization’s competency model to ensure organizational success. Conversely, development that is not aligned to the organization’s competency model can result in developing skills and capabilities that will not drive organization success. Additionally, learners will see you are measuring one thing on their performance reviews, but developing different competencies in practice.  Learners need to see a direct relationship between what they are learning and what the organization has defined as important for effective job performance. The development of personal competencies specifically aligned to your organization’s priorities will lead to increased personal and organizational performance.

So, how does a training and development professional develop their employees’ competencies taking into consideration the five best practices? GyrusAim LMS and Vado’s e-learning courses have the answer.

Our learning content is:

  1. On-the-job development providing a dual benefit – every course instructs the learner to complete an exercise on the job.  This provides a dual benefit: development occurs while real work gets completed
  2. Chunked learning content – videos are short, two minutes maximum, followed by the step by step Implementation Guide detailing exactly what to do on the job
  3. Self-paced and self-directed – we provide five development actions for each competency so learners can choose the learning content that suits their unique needs and situation. Additionally, learning content is delivered through your LMS or technology platform so it is available when learners are ready to develop.
  4. Aligned to your organization’s competency model – by mapping our courses to your organization’s competency model, definitions, and behaviors, we deliver the right set of development courses to specifically build your learners’ competencies.

The LMS Business Analytics

Many workforce key performance indicators (KPI) are tied to critical corporate training goals.  It can be difficult to gather and synthesize such KPI into meaningful results without an effective business analytics capability in your Learning Management System (LMS).  This business analytics function should enable a more granular view of training effectiveness, rather than just training ROI or other overly-simplistic metrics.

Imagine instead a human capital performance measurement tool that shows the true effect that corporate training has on goals such as: employee turnover, production quality, safety, customer satisfaction, customer loyalty, or high performer turnover.

Using “high performer turnover” as an example, perhaps we suspect that the unusual turnover of our high performers indicates serious underlying employee job dissatisfaction. Thus we identify high-performer turnover as one of our KPI and monitor it. We ultimately determine that the turnover rate is indeed increasing, creating a need for more data showing which factors are the cause. One factor could be poor employee development because it often ranks as a top reason for employee job dissatisfaction. Using a properly designed business analytics tool, we can identify and mitigate it by getting even more granular. Is the root cause minimal training hours or reduced learning expenditures? Is it ineffective instructors or the lack of elearning content? With a proper model implemented, such correlations can be ascertained quickly.

An LMS with a business analytics feature is critical for a deeper and more thorough understanding of how training and other personnel development factors affect the overall health of the business.  Without such capability, critical training data may not be available which detrimentally affects the company.

Stay tuned to Gyrus Systems for more information.

Tin Can: Is Your Learning Management System (LMS) Compliant?

What does Tin Can compliance mean?  It means that your Learning Management System (LMS) has been updated to include the latest standard for learning content.  Previous SCORM standards created specifications for learning content that allowed interoperability between content authors and LMS providers.  This goal was admirable (and essential), and achieving it allowed companies to play in the same ball field, ultimately producing many quality LMS applications.

The ever-evolving technological landscape created new learning options that caused a paradigm shift in perception about how and where learning occurs.  Thus the premises upon which SCORM was based fundamentally changed, and SCORM and the LMS applications using it became obsolete.

Product obsolescence is a constant challenge for software development companies.  Balance must be achieved between price and product features, cost and release timelines, cost and product support, and many other priorities to keep software fresh, “not obsolete,” and well-supported.  Companies that successfully balance these requirements thrive by combining relevant and customer-driven software with quality product support at a reasonable price for their customers.

Companies that do not successfully balance these challenges create irrelevant or few new features and product support may be non-existent.  Customers and prospects soon migrate to other vendors.  Corporate survival under such circumstances is difficult and many vendors fail, merge with other businesses, or perhaps get bought out.  As with any enterprise application purchase, caution is the rule and LMS buyers should fully evaluate a vendor’s current product, release schedule, and customer support to remediate future negative results from the LMS purchase.

So how does Tin Can work into all of this?  The Tin Can specification became available mid-year 2012, with the official release being April 26th, 2013.  Many LMS vendors have already, or are in the process of, modifying their application to be Tin Can compliant, potentially indicating forward-thinking companies.  Tin Can compliance is an important “first filter” indicating whether an LMS vendor “has gotten it right” by prioritizing its development effort to become compliant.  If a vendor is not currently, or will not soon be, Tin Can compliant, it’s good reason to avoid them as your LMS vendor.

Here at Gyrus Systems we are proud to have included the Tin Can specification in our GyrusAim application as of April, 2013.  We look forward to continuing our 25 year legacy of organic software development by leveraging the Tin Can specification through the development of many revolutionary enhancements in follow-up versions.  Stay tuned for details!

Public Safety Training: How Well Do You Train for Emergencies?

As we all know, natural disasters, terrorism threats and other public emergencies cannot be predicted. Therefore, it’s important that individuals in the public safety industry are well trained and prepared to respond to just about any occurrence. Poor training in the public safety industry could result in a slow response to incidents, and could even affect someone’s life.

A learning management system (LMS) can make the process of delivering information to several responders easier and quicker. An LMS can not only help responders receive the pertinent information on the situation, but also helps them determine what tools and resources are needed to respond.

GyrusAim is a web-based, enterprise learning management system that provides a centralized system for training, managing, accessing, refreshing and sharing real-time, authoritative information regarding the location, credentials and status of assets. It also addresses police, fire, urban search and rescue and 911 tracking for Public Safety Training.

GyrusAim’s automated scheduled, registration and performance assessments make it easy to use and quick to update, so you have more time to respond to the situations at hand. The software also manages qualifications, certifications and expirations while allowing administrators to manage resources/equipment, records/transcripts and competency as a whole.

 

The Boundaries of Learning: Does Your LMS Cater to International Learners?

Learning has no boundaries. This does not only mean that it has no knowledge boundaries—meaning we never truly stop learning—but this also applies to physical boundaries. Learning in the workplace occurs everywhere, in every department, and in every location. Since the learning process can be so widespread, it’s critical that you’re learning management system is able to accommodate for this kind of international learning (we will call it distance learning).

Distance learning refers to the delivery of education to learners who are not physically present in a traditional learning environment, where learners and the information source are often separated by time and/or distance.* Distance learning is not a new concept, however the ability to educate learners in various locations has been made increasingly easier thanks to technology. An LMS can also open up the opportunity to build a relationship with learners in your organization that are far away in distance.

If your organization has learners across the globe, you’ll want to make sure you can deliver training to these learners as well as those who are in your home country.  One major benefit you’ll want to make sure your learning management system includes is a multilingual capability. Can the software be easily translated into the learner’s native or preferred language? The more translation languages available, the better you will be able to accommodate for learners during training. A web-based product can also makes learning more convenient for your learners because they will be able to access the software virtually anytime from any location (which accommodates for different time zones).

Customer support is critical for international learners. Does your software vendor consider that some of your learners may be in different locations and different time zones? It’s important that these learners get the support that they need as often as the other learners in the organization. A vendor that provides multiple channels of support, such as live chat, phone, email, and/or support tickets is available to respond to all of your learners when necessary.

An LMS like GyrusAim is an ideal solution for international companies because of its ability to deliver to any learner, regardless of where they are located. It is scalable software that is great for companies who are looking to build a global presence in the future. If you’re looking to grow your organization’s global presence in the future (or improve your current relationship with your global learners), look for an learning management system that can grow with you toward success.

 

* Information provided by Wikipedia

The Benefits of a LMS For Government Organizations

While T&D is important for all industries, there is a lot of emphasis placed on T&D  in government organizations. In current times it is absolutely critical for government agencies and organizations to respond quickly to constant challenges and to be trained and competent in order to face them. Training of federal, state and local employees can be easily managed through a learning management system. With the right amount of user learning functions and capabilities, adopting this software can provide a high return on investment (or ROI) and overall workplace development.

A learning management product is perfect for any government organization because it reduces costs and time for a T&D initiative, leading to increased productivity. It also helps organizations remain compliant. Your organization is constantly growing, so you’ll want to choose software that is scalable and can grow with you. The ideal vendor for government agencies will understand the regulatory and compliance needs of government agencies, and especially focus on compliance, safety, security, and T&D. It’s also important that reporting is available within the learning management system to help you track progress and history in an organized manner without paper or spreadsheets.

Since training is so important in the government industry, organizations should make wise decisions on which learning management system and vendor they choose. For example, Gyrus Systems is a government approved vendor and their GyrusAim product can be integrated with OPM’s Enterprise Human Resource Integration system (EHRI). The GyrusAim software can also create, store, manage, and transmit SF-182 requests and is compliant with Section 508 of the United States Workforce Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Safety and security are critical factors of government agencies, which is why GyrusAim is a very secure platform for data, and customers also have the option to self-host their software. Because GyrusAim is a web-based software, it can be accessed by learners from anywhere at their convenience, and can be translated into over 25 languages. Our federal, state, and local government clients are guaranteed the lowest rate available.

Our government clients expect nothing but the best and we strive to deliver that. We understand the difficulties in dealing with the proceedings that go along with acquiring a vendor and maintaining a relationship with that vendor, therefore we are proud to be a General Services Administration (GSA) vendor. We have over a dozen government clients and are familiar with their individual needs. Our learning management system also caters to non-GSA government clients and we are prepared to offer you a learning management system that is customizable to your needs and goals.

 

 

 

Three Reasons Why Tracking Training Should Be Your Top Priority

Got training? Prove it. One of the most important factors in T&D is tracking your company’s programs. Who is certified? When is programs are conducted? What is required and what is optional? Keeping track will not only keep your business up and running (legally), but will lead you to further success because it will allow you to create the most effective program possible. Below are three reasons why tracking students is important:

1. Compliance

Without laws, industry standards, and regulations, training would not be the same. Don’t risk legal action by forgetting to track all of the programs that are going on. Human rights and health and safety are two main compliance categories where T&D is pertinent. But simply conducting the it is not enough—you must track it and therefore be able to prove that your company is compliant and up-to-date.

2. Productivity

By tracking learning, you can discover patterns in the productivity of your workplace. Do performance levels start to diminish after a certain amount of time? Are there more mistakes made after a worker has been with the company for a certain amount of years? A program could be the perfect solution to boost performance and refresh the employee’s knowledge. It can also provide employees with the motivation to succeed and excel in your organization.

3. Record keeping

Referencing back to reason number one (compliance), many laws require you to have documentation of your efforts, such as health and safety requirements. Certifications are also important to keep on record, such as in the healthcare industry. Offering T&D opportunity is simply not enough in today’s day and age, you must also be able to prove that opportunities are being offered and employees are participating regularly as needed. Referencing reason number two (productivity), record keeping can also help you discover which records are effective and helpful, and which ones do not yield as significant results (ILT versus eLearning).

You’ll also need to get rid of your spreadsheets, file folders and paperwork (we think you’ll be more than happy to see them go). If you’re conducting ILT or eLearning, we suggest keeping it organized in a learning management system, such as GyrusAim. Various reporting and certification functions will allow you to manage and track records and employee progress without having to replace any ink cartridges or fix paper jams (again, something we highly doubt you’ll miss dealing with).

Do you have control over your own career path?

When advancing in your career and participating in workforce learning programs, it’s important to take a step back and ask yourself: Am I in control?

Today’s workplace environments call for workers to take a more active role in their career path. Having control over your own learning and development allows you to set personal goals and see what needs to be done to get where you want to be. I repeat: it is up to you to get involved and define your career path, not your HR department or boss. Surely you’ll need some help along the way, such as what courses to take to prepare for future positions or what certifications are necessary to remain compliant, but in the end your future in the organization is in your hands.

A worker’s active role in their own T&D can benefit the organization too—less time and effort is spent on the process if these programs are designed to be self-directed. Employees today are becoming more dedicated and future-driven, with a strong desire to excel in their organizations (one of the only positive things resulting from today’s constantly changing job market). The employee’s active role also allows company management to measure the ROI of their training tools, such as their learning management system. Many of these platforms offer reporting to help measure efforts.

That’s why it’s important for your company to choose the right software. A learning management system such as GyrusAim not only allows users to track accomplishments, run reports, and manage expired licenses, but it also provides a very useful tool for users: the Individual Development Plan (IDP). This provides a ‘roadmap’ for the user’s career path so that they can clearly see what courses, skills, certifications, and so on have been completed (or still need to be obtained). GyrusAim is also flexible, scalable, and can be accessed at the user’s convenience. There is a direct connection between a company’s LMS platform and the performance of the employees, so the software vendor that you choose is extremely important for your organization.

In today’s time, employees are driven. They are self-motivated and have a desire to excel. If we combine this desire to excel with the desire to learn, we can make use of tools, such as GyrusAim, for the training and development of employees. The burning question still remains: Who has control of your career path? The answer should be you.

What is SCORM, anyway?

eLearning is a huge buzz word today, especially in the workplace. In an effort to leverage the cost of staff development and to provide training when necessary, many companies are looking toward using eLearning.  However, if you have never deployed an eLearning solution, how do you get started?  Do you just go out and purchase the courses you need? If you do, how do you know that what you purchased will provide you with the results you need, or the data necessary for reporting?  What is the meaning of these terms that others seem to know — for example, what does “SCORM compliant” mean? If you don’t know the answer, you’re not alone—many don’t.

Before you begin the planning phase of an eLearning project, it is a good idea to prepare yourself with the basics.  Some preliminary research can help you determine what to look for when shopping for an LMS that meets your company’s needs.

Let’s get started by taking a look at some terms.  In this age of eLearning and compliance reporting, most companies have a dual goal of providing required training and to report on which staff members have completed this training.  To avoid late nights of manually tracking and compiling data, the use of a LMS (Learning Management System) that can capture and record training results is beneficial.  However, there must be a mechanism in place to allow the LMS and the eLearning content (training course) to communicate.

The communication mechanism most often talked about today is called SCORM.  This acronym stands for “Shareable Content Object Reference Model.”  This standard is a result of a U.S. Government initiative on Advanced Distributive Learning.  In a nutshell, SCORM is a “set of specifications for developing, packaging and delivering high-quality education and training materials whenever and wherever they are needed.”

SCORM-compliant courses leverage course development investments by ensuring that compliant courses are RAID:
Reusable: easily modified and used by different development tools,
Accessible: can be searched and made available as needed by both learners and content developers,
Interoperable: operates across a wide variety of hardware, operating systems and web browsers, and
Durable: does not require significant modifications with new versions of system software.

If you want to learn more about LMS products, visit www.gyrus.com.  Gyrus has been building Learning Management software since the 1980s, and their LMS solution, GyrusAim, is SCORM 2011.2 compliant.

 

Shopping for an LMS? Five Questions You’ll Want Answers to Before Choosing One

Q: Does my company really need an LMS?

A: More than likely, at some point your company will need to train its employees. This is when you’ll need an LMS the most. Any kind of eLearning practices and training in the workplace is easily done through an LMS of your choice.

 

Q: Do I need to choose an LMS specific to my industry?

A: No. Many LMS solutions can be applied to several different industries. When shopping for an LMS, you’ll want to look for not only the vendors who support your specific industry, but also have a wide variety of choices for any training need(s) that may come up. Should your industry introduce a new employee requirement (such as a specific certification), you won’t want to switch your LMS. The wider the audience of the LMS that you choose, the more safe you’ll be in the future.

 

Q: How do I know my employees will be willing to use an LMS?

A: Firstly, it’s great to consider your employees wants and needs. Sure, an LMS can greatly benefit a company, but if you’re employees dread using it, their morale will go down significantly. The LMS you choose should be easy for users to use and navigate through. Many solutions (such as our LMS, GyrusAIM) make it easy for users to track their progress and expiring courses or certifications, and make use of outside resources when necessary. If you choose an easy-to-use LMS, your users will be able to focus more on learning and improving their skills—and less time learning how to actually use the LMS itself.

 

Q: How will an LMS help my company?

A: In more ways than one, you’ll see a significant difference after adopting an LMS. Two words: training and development. They go hand in hand. If you’re employees don’t have the right skills to do their job—or if their skills are a little rusty since the last training they went through years ago—you’re company will fall behind too. A simple “refresher” course for employees never hurt anybody! Sure, you’re employees may have skills—but it’s important that they have the skills for their specific position or responsibilities. You’ll rest easy knowing that your employees are the best of the best and freshly trained . . . and you’ll be able to keep up with competitors too. In the workplace, you don’t want to just merely survive: you want to grow!

 

Q: But there are so many LMS vendors! How will I ever know which LMS to choose?!

A: Well, it’s different all around. Each vendor is different, and each customer is different—there is no list of universal needs. Therefore, you’ll want a vendor that works with you to learn about what it is you need out of an LMS (and provide it for you!). To start, you’ll want to consider hosting (Do you need to host the LMS yourself or does the vendor provide a host?), language capabilities, (Can the LMS be translated to meet all of your international customer’s needs?), course catalog selection, customer service, and more. If you’re employees aren’t necessarily tech-savvy, you may want to find a software that is easy to use and navigate. If its customization and branding that you’re into, you’ll want to make sure that feature is available. For example, GyrusAIM offers custom course creation so that users feel a sense of customization and can tailor courses specific to what they need.

You’ll also want to consider the vendor itself. How long have they been in business? What is their retention rate? It’s fair to say that a business that’s been around for 25 or more years with a 95 percent retention rate has a great product and loyal customer base. Gyrus Systems has a commitment to their product, with constant updates and versions being released every year and focused customer support. Does the vendor ask for your feedback? If so, this proves that the vendor cares not only about customer satisfaction but also the product, constantly trying to improve it to better serve a customer base. When it comes to choosing an LMS, there are many things to consider—so the first step? Find out what you need and start shopping!

 

Why Buy a Learning Management System (LMS)?

1.    Meeting minimum standards is not sufficient to maintain a competitive edge

2.    Increased, more severe penalties for non-compliance

3.    Need to track/monitor compliance at a significantly more detailed level

4.    Refresher courses due at different times based on employee’s history and role

5.    Different training required for different employees = complex matrix of courses & resources that constantly change due to turnover and organizational changes

6.    Manage cross-functional and cross-enterprise teams across the globe, providing goal alignment to team members and visibility on team effectiveness to senior management

7.    Reliable records that are always up-to-date and available for viewing

8.    Provide education to end customers, creating new revenue streams and improving customer loyalty

9.    Valuable tool to prove safety of a manufacturer, verification of policies/procedures and adherence to laws & regulations

10.  Reduce time-to-market to increase competitive edge

In summary, using a learning management system can help solve many organizational challenges!

Individual Development Plans (IDP) Are Here To Stay

Organizations are made up of individuals working towards a common goal.

Individuals within an organization may share common goals, but chances are, they have goals of their own.

That’s were individual development plans come in.

An individual development plan (IDP) can help employees:

  • Improve skills
  • Gain new experiences
  • Learn about emerging trends and technology
  • Explore unique training and development opportunities
  • Identify resources to keep their career fresh and exciting

An IDP which is a feature of the new Gyrus LMS, GyrusAim. can help employees:

  • Create a list of knowledge, skills, or abilities (KSAs) that they would like to acquire or improve
  • Correspond activities for each KSA to help develop in the areas listed  above
  • Identify specific resources for each activity (i.e.: classes, a mentor, a developmental assignment, etc.)

It is very simple…  employees that can create IDPs are happier and more productive than employees who don’t.

If you are interested in having a happy, motivated workforce, give your people the tools they need to create their own IDP. An LMS like GyrusAim can help.

To learn more about IDPs visit:

http://learning.hhs.gov/career/idps.html

So you’re ready to select Learning Management System

So, you’re convinced it’s finally time to select a real Learning Management System. What was the straw that broke the camel’s back? Was it the latest mandate to develop standardized learning programs company wide? Or is it this year’s directive to incorporate succession planning, career development and pay more attention to employees outside the United States?

Maybe your company is much smaller than the corporate giants with an international presence and it’s just about getting everyone who has a hand in employee development on the same page? Duplicate Excel spreadsheets, new elearning initiatives, redundant training development, managing no-shows, empty seats, training schedules via multiple emails, compiling reports that take hours only to be asked to recreate similar reports at management’s whim each month?

Where do you begin to research vendors and understand the scope of implementing an LMS? How long should the implementation take? Does IT need to be involved up front or should you narrow down your search before putting in a request? What type of services do vendors offer? How much or how little can you do yourself?

These and many, many other questions are fair game for anyone taking the LMS plunge. From the vendor perspective, we want to help you through the research and evaluation process and we want to help set the right expectations. Ultimately, it’s your success that makes us a success.

There are several free resources available for LMS researchers. I recommend this free digital ebook, 339 Tips on LMS/LCMS Implementations, published by the eLearning Guild. Implementing a Learning Management System with the right expectations can make all the difference in your success. Armed with the right tools, you can make a difference in establishing an effective workforce development program.

Using technology to create a high performance learning organization

New technologies are a vital component of delivering high performance learning in a way that is cost-effective and that results in measurable improvements in workforce and business performance.
 
There is no shortage of compelling technology-based learning approaches today, from e-learning to web-based seminars to podcasting to simulations. The challenge most organizations face, however, is in incorporating those specific technologies within an integrated and holistic infrastructure, in a way that makes sense both economically and from the standpoint of learning effectiveness. That’s not an easy job.

A comprehensive high performance learning transformation recently executed by Gyrus Systems also included a transformation of the company’s technology infrastructure for learning. Its existing technology base was in a shape similar to many companies today: it was fragmented, with information distributed over hundreds of databases.  That situation raised distressing data integrity issues, and it also made it difficult to run centralized compliance reports or assess the value delivered from internal training. Managing any of the information centrally was time consuming and needed a great deal of manual support, so the learning infrastructure had also become very expensive.

The transformation path was to Use technology in the most effective way possible to provide exceptional learning experiences, track learning delivery and results, and provide the information needed to support effective decision making about how to steer the learning function in the long term.


Some of the key deliverables for the projects were:

1) Key requirements with metrics for success

2) Team formation

3) A comprehensive learning infrastructure – Gyrus's On Demand cloud

4) Product configuration based on key roles

5) Implementation

6) Training


The proper application of technology to Gyrus’s learning design and delivery capabilities has resulted in more timely and relevant support for the company’s different workforces across the industry. The training team can more effectively plan courses that meet business needs, in ways that also create compelling learning experiences for the company’s employees. Training delivered via e-learning or online seminars can be integrated into the holistic picture of career development and learning for the company. And executives can use reporting from the learning management system to make more informed decisions about helping employees work together toward the common goal of achieving high performance.

How to Keep Your Training Data Neat and Tidy Under Pressure


Neatness counts!

We’ve been told this since elementary school. Our teachers taught us the harsh lesson that sloppiness has consequences. That “A” grade you expected on your Theme that slipped to a “B minus“ because you paid insufficient attention to your grammar and margins.

But when we use computers we are often tempted to toss the quality and accuracy of our data to the back seat in order to get our jobs done faster. Most of us are under pressure to be both organized and quick – and these are not always compatible pressures!

So, we need to strike a balance between these twin towers of pressure. And we should begin by taking a look at what brings them about in the first place.

Organization and accuracy are critical to the administration of your training and to the information that results from the training you provide. The pressure to manage who needs training, make it available, and then see that it all takes place can be an enormous challenge. The fact that the situation “on the ground” is changing daily only adds to the complexity.

As training takes place, the reliability of the resulting data is largely dependent on the quality of your upfront training administration. Effort must be taken to build a logical and easily understandable training system that fits your many needs. Small errors and inconsistencies tend to grow exponentially creating potentially major discrepancies calling your quality of the data and the value of your reports into question.

Quickness is the way business is done today. While there may be some discretion allowed in deciding just how fast to go, the pressure to move swiftly is none the less unavoidable. Being quick and efficient is not a bad thing…until it results in a bad outcome. In the training industry, the temptation is often to employ shortcuts and workarounds just to “get the training done” faster and keep students moving through the training content.

Not too long ago, the small “liberties” we took so that we could keep things moving seemed reasonable because usually only Training Department personnel were aware of them and we knew how to interpret or “filter out” the non-standard data. But this isn’t true today. With the browser based Learning Management Systems in use now, everyone has access to the data and they don’t know what is real and what was used just to keep the training moving quickly.

So, just like school days, neatness is no longer an option and we must find ways to create and manage neat, reliable data while maintaining a fast pace. And there is only one way to accomplish this and it’s called –

Discipline

There are things you can do to address your twin pressures and still achieve the desired outcome. You can come up with your own things, but to get you started, here are some time tested examples which will if employed with discipline serve you well:
• Establish and enforce standardized data and policies. For example if you offer a course in CPR, it is not okay for a hurried Training Coordinator to create a new “First Aid” course because she can’t remember the name of the original course and is in hurry to get the class on the calendar and the students registered.
• Avoid workarounds. If you are not sure how to use your LMS to meet a particular need, take the time to check it out. There may be a good way. Check first with your Help Desk, vendor, and colleagues to make sure the best plan is put in place.
• Create and use a “test” environment. It’s easier to set up “dummy” users and training in your live database to try out new training initiatives and user workflows. But even if your other users never see the data, the fact remains that your reports are now tainted with irrelevant data. With only a small effort, a “mirror” site can usually be set up where you can experiment without damaging the integrity of your live data.
• Assume “all eyes”. In other words, plan your system usage with the understanding that at some point almost everyone will see at least some of the information inside. For example, you may choose to enter all part time employee names in lower case characters and full time employee names in upper case characters so you can tell them apart. But to others using the LMS this may be confusing and seem cluttered. A properly designed Learning Management System will provide flexible, logical tools to aid you in organizing your data so that with planning it is clear to all users.
• Audit your system. Periodically, take time to browse through your data to make sure the results are exactly what you expect. Run reports on your training and your people. Check on screen information and history.
• Nip it in the bud. When you do find anomalies in your data avoid the temptation to deal with them later. Chances are they will continue to grow and only be harder to find and fix. When you feel rushed, see it as an opportunity to put some standards in place first so that you can maintain a quicker pace later.

Using these techniques and others of your own will take a little more time up front. It is tempting to avoid doing them because there are so many other tasks which need your attention. But in the long run, they will actually save you time. Potentially a great deal of time because we all know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

I’m sure your elementary school teacher taught you that.

Why Content Can Make it Almost All the Way to the Learner – and Hit a Brick Wall


Let’s go back in time. Way back to the 1950’s and 60’s…. a simpler time. A time when the technology of media was basic and everything worked pretty much the same way. If you wanted to watch a television program your choices were three channels and one TV (yes, cathode ray tube) in the living room with an on/off switch and a rabbit ear antenna on the top.

Back then television was the new media; the hot cutting edge technology. And like any new technology how it worked was a mystery to the viewers. And when it didn’t work (which was often) – well that was a mystery too. But the technology was so basic that there were only two things the viewer could do to fix the TV when it didn’t work. The first thing to do was adjust that annoying rabbit ear antenna. And if that didn’t work, the next thing to do was to smack the top of the TV with your fist. 🙂

Fast forward.

Technology is a little more complex today. Viewers have myriad choices of what to watch and how to watch it – Youtube, streaming video, Skype, even old fashioned DVDs. They select from Laptop computers, cell phones, and I-pads to watch their selections. The options are literally unlimited.

And your course content is part of this large, rich mix. Somehow, through all of these choices and variables your content has to find its mark – your viewer.

In the first two installments of this series, we described the delivery of courses as working like a garden hose. The spigot gets the water started, the hose moves the water from point “A” to point “B”, and the nozzle sprays it on your lawn. Your course also has a start, middle, and end point and an interruption anywhere along the line can stop it in its tracks.

The three SCORM Content components are; where the content is stored (server), how it moves to the viewer (Internet or Intranet), and how it is viewed by the learner (computer or other device).

It may not be obvious that something is wrong when the course stream is interrupted at the beginning with the servers. But when a course doesn’t work on the viewer’s end, there can be only one obvious conclusion – no show!

But, as we have seen, there are so many technology variables at the viewer’s end that simply smacking the computer (or whatever) on the top is unlikely to solve the problem. But the show must go on. So we must take a thorough look at the show stoppers confronting our viewers so we can correct the problem. Here are the most common things that can stop SCORM Content cold at the viewer’s end:

  • If the viewer is sitting at the end of an Internet or Intranet pipeline fast enough to deliver the content, it is still important that the device he is using has the memory and processing “horsepower” needed to run it. Help Desk personnel are a good resource if you are unsure whether or not the viewer’s hardware is capable of running the content. But be aware that sometimes the learner uses more than one device. For example, he may begin the course at home and resume it on another computer in his office.
  • There are many popular brands of Internet browsers easily available. Many learners are in the habit of using more than one. For example a learner may use the Company required browser at the office and a different browser at home. Browser security settings can vary from one to another and may be the reason why a course will run for one learner but not for another.
  • Internet Security is indeed our friend, but it can be a perplexing one at times. The most common place a user comes across it is their pop-up blocker. Most users are comfortable with how to use them. But, if a learner has not been on any new websites for some time, it may have been a while since it last popped up. So, when he launches a new course, he may not notice the blocker.
  • And lastly – never under estimate the importance of learner experience and capability. Your learners are experiencing a constant barrage of new and rapidly evolving technologies. For those new to the experience, even launching a simple text only course can present a challenge. And even your seasoned veterans are challenged to keep up with constantly changing situations. The courses, devices, and technologies they used last week may very well change by next week.


So, the key to making sure your learners actually get to view the course is to understand what might possibly be blocking them. That way when it happens, you’ll recognize it. And you’ll be able to help them out.

Virtual Learning Organizations

If you expect your people to multitask, why don’t you expect your organization to multitask also? Why bind yourself to a single organization structure?

You constantly group people in many different ways: by product lines, by job functions, by geography, by projects, by job grades, and by customers for example. Your LMS should provide the same flexibility.

Use the concept of Virtual Learning Organizations (VLO) to slice and dice your training in any way that you see fit. Compare training in east with training in the west; identify problems with management training; focus on product training for the new line being introduced next quarter; and create skill requirements for members of a new project, thus enhancing the staff members’ individual development plans.

With VLOs, you are not bound to install-time decisions for extracting useful information from your LMS. Create VLOs on the fly, use them and destroy them without affecting any training activity; or create permanent VLOs for permanent and comparative reporting or skills management power.

With VLOs, specific organizational requirements can be cascaded throughout any organizational hierarchy and customized at any level.

GyrusAim, the LMS by Gyrus, provides unlimited VLOs. Within each VLO, you have an unlimited number of organization units. You have an unlimited number of organization levels so that you can make your organizations as granular or as broad as you want.

Skill LMS – A Welcome Shift for Human Resources?

The key to competitiveness today is the company’s ability to manage and develop the knowledge and skills of their people using competency management system.  If David McClelland were alive today, he would be pleased to see remnants of his motivational needs theory as a recognized function of corporate HR, Training and Education departments. A pioneer in workplace motivational thinking, McClelland once argued that competency-based assessments and tests are better than traditional IQ and personality-based tests. He believed testing for competence is the best predictor for successful job performance. Would McClelland be pleased to see corporations spending more time and money on human capital? You bet he would.

If your organization is beginning to understand that Competency Management System  is central to workforce development, then it’s time to take the steps to create the foundation that will lead to better staffing practices, targeted learning initiatives, focused individual development plans, disaster planning, improved project teams, succession planning, and every other workforce management activity from hire to retire.

If you need help getting started, contact your Gyrus representative (www.gyrus.com).  We can help.

One good article

“Defining Human Capital Management”

Individual Development Plans

A well-run individual development plan system requires sophisticated automation because not only do the needs of each employee change depending on their own career objectives, but the needs of their jobs and organizations change also.

Developing individual development plans for employees is one of those things that makes so much sense, but the details makes its implementation almost impossible.

Individual development plans take the concept that each employee has a different way to be developed. This could be because of job title, organization needs, any associated certifications or licenses, projects, and other requirements. It is difficult enough to do for a handful of employees, but seemingly impossible for hundreds or thousands of employees.

A well-run individual development plan system requires sophisticated automation because not only do the needs of each employee change depending on their own career objectives, but the needs of their jobs and organizations change also.   GyrusAim helps manage the individual development plan processes.

The alternative is to use boilerplate training which says that everyone with this job title requires the same training. Doesn't that sound so 1990ish?

mautic is open source marketing automation