Musings

Keeping the Conversation Going

There’s not a day that goes by where my assumptions and those of my team aren’t challenged as we work through designing learning and performance solutions for a global, multigenerational workforce in an
enterprise faced with competing internal and external business priorities.

As anyone who does any kind of design work knows, it’s not only easy, but actually quite pleasant to plan and design learning, performance support or any other strategy in a vacuum. There is no one to contradict your views or approaches, you meet your timelines, and as far as you know, everything is on track.  Without seeking input and getting those sanity checks, however, the truth is that it’s impossible to ever really hit the mark.

When I first started working in technical communications and learning, seeking input and feedback from those I was trying to support often seemed overly time consuming and a bit scary. I’m sure many of you reading this can remember some of the first direct feedback you received, especially if it turned out you were completely on the wrong path.   You would probably agree that it didn’t take long, however, to figure out that the only way we could ensure that we were designing the right support or solution, was by bringing the workforce we were designing for into the conversation earlier and keeping that conversation going.

The conversation itself doesn’t have to be terribly formal. Actually, I often find the more informal the better.  Hallway conversations, quick huddles and focusing on creating opportunities in what are often already existing practices in your workplace can work really well.  For example, if you have access to social platforms, you can create great digital spaces that allow room for a conversation to begin and grow at any time during the process or workflow.

On my side of things, we’ve recently started experimenting with a small cohort of employees that are supporting new products and solutions using an internal social platform. The primary goal of the space is not really to support active learning as it is more vehicle for feedback and input. Specifically, it allows the cohort to let us know where they might still be experiencing challenges, or more importantly, share new challenges in their workflow that we may not have otherwise known about until a much larger gap developed.  In this approach, we’re not expecting the conversation to become a permanent entity, but instead more a means of getting closer to the workforce we support, especially during time periods where things are really new, or where they are experiencing constant or significant periods of change. By taking this approach, we keep the conversation going, instead of only relying on the traditional one point in time measure (that is usually saved for the instructional design process) and is often too little too late.

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