"The means is dialogue, the end is learning, the purpose is peace." ~ Founder Dr. Jane Vella

Posts tagged with "Less Is More"

A Dialogue Approach Transforms Corporate Training: A Spectacular Example

Global Learning Partners-certified practitioner Margaret Bean recently reflected on her years as a leader in the Learning and Development department of 7-Eleven. From her reflections, we extracted Six Tips that are helpful for all of us as we bring dialogue-based learning principles into new settings.

#1. Expand your company’s understanding of what training is.

When Margaret first arrived at 7-Eleven, training, telling, and job aids were often seen as interchangeable. While patiently and effectively designing job aids as her first assignments, she also gradually transformed the view of training from that narrow definition to a broader understanding of training as a dialogue-based, hands-on learning experience.

#2. Build communication between training designers (developers) and training facilitators (deliverers).

As is often the case in corporations, those who developed 7-Eleven training and those who delivered it were two different groups of people who rarely communicated with each other. As lead developer for operations training (which takes place in training stores all across the US and Canada), Margaret knew how critical it was for her to understand what the deliverers experienced in the field and the importance of having continual dialogue with them. This change in communication led to a robust collaboration over the years with a core group of volunteer trainers. All facilitators and their supervisors felt a new ownership, which led to consistency in training across the US and Canada, and better-trained store operators and field leaders – resulting in reduced cost and increased profitability. It also resulted in Margaret being awarded the 2014 Gold Award by the international Brandon Hall Group for Best Learning Team.

#3. Expand the design skills of everyone involved in training.

Margaret thoughtfully strengthened the design capacity of deliverers so that they 1) could offer valuable input into the design of what they were teaching (consultative voice), and 2) could more effectively adapt the training materials to unique contexts without losing the integrity of the original design. [At GLP, we’ve found that the principles to practice framework is a great way to talk with both developers and deliverers about their distinct but complementary roles.]

#4. See every training program as a living thing.

As Margaret so wisely says, “a training program is living and breathing, so it always needs to be iterated and updated.” Margaret and her team took a 2-year-old operations training program that had been on its deathbed and revitalized it. They updated it every quarter by gathering feedback and analyzing indicators of participants’ learning, their transfer of their learning into practice, and the impact of this transfer upon the company. Examples of this impact were:

  • 75% reduction in required reading in favor of hands-on practice
  • 20% decrease in participants’ time to complete training, leading to over 70% decrease in training costs
  • 7% increase in sales
  • 2.5% improvement in operators’ performance.

Rather than push to create “finished” products, Global Learning Partners encourages companies to continually gather learner feedback as well as data about the results of your training efforts. It is important to create processes to periodically update to newer versions so that your training responds to patterns of feedback and to the current context.

#5. Embrace the axiom: Less is More.

When Margaret took over the design of the operations training, the materials consisted of two huge binders that users struggled to read, and then set on shelves. Through a thoughtful and collaborative process, Margaret’s team trimmed down the materials by 75% in favor of hands-on practice and application. Both trainers and users were much more satisfied with the training, and, as we’ve seen, it was much more effective.

#6. Keep your eyes on results.

As a for-proft corporation, 7-Eleven understandably needs hard financial data to evaluate the effectiveness of their operations training efforts. Not suprising to Margaret (or others of us who specialize in a learning-centered approach), the results of this new approach were convincing: training was more efficient, and graduates showed increased performance and profitability!

These are just a few of the many tips and insights that Margaret had to share from her years bringing a dialogue-learning approach to this corporate setting.

What tips and insights would you share?

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Margaret Bean (margspiel@gmail.com) was a Senior Instructional Designer for 7-Eleven, working in the company’s corporate office in Dallas, Texas, where she was responsible for the design and content of their operations training. In 2014 she won the Brandon Hall Best Learning Team gold award for building and developing a cross-functional team to collaborate and consult in developing, implementing and continuously improving this training program. She also used to design trainings for leadership, employees, and national conferences. 

Valerie Uccellani (valerie@globallearningpartners.com) is a GLP co-owner and Managing Partner of our Consulting network, as well a Senior Consultant and Trainer with GLP.

Meg Logue (meglogue25@gmail.com) is a freelance designer and communications specialist. She has worked closely as an assistant and consultant to Valerie and GLP since 2017.

10 Tips for Effective E-Mail Communication

Mailboxes, Great Island, Narragansett, RIEmail correspondence is not as straightforward as it seems. Although it can be a helpful and effective way to communicate with colleagues and clients,  it can also be unhelpful and annoying. Below are 10 tips for effective email communications.

  1. Be clear and specific! Most of us have way too many emails and too little time in the day to read and respond to them. Keeping them short and to the point will help maximize the chance they are read (to the end of the message) and minimize the reader pressing “delete” before reading it.
  2. Be prompt and respond to important email. By responding a day or two after an email is sent shows you care about the message and the sender. Even if you are not able to attend to something right away,  telling the person you received it and when you will attend to is shows professionalism and attentiveness.
  3. Use a clear subject line to name/clarify what your email is about. Since most of us receive a huge amount of email,  we need an easy way to know whether to open an email,  where to file it and which ones need action. The subject line is a helpful tool for this.
  4. Add important directional words to the subject line when an email needs special attention. Words like “response needed” or “urgent” are helpful in knowing what is expected and by when i.e., “Client contract – confirming dates – response needed” or “Board meeting – draft agenda – response needed by Friday”.
  5. Be very careful and restrained about forwarding jokes and other non-work related material. Most people don’t appreciate this type of email and may get too much already. Keep your work email to just that:  about your work.
  6. Include one topic per email. Although you may have numerous things to ask/say,  it is best to limit your requests or important news to one per email. In this way your subject line can reflect your message and your reader will know where to file it and how to address it (at a glance).
  7. Decide carefully who should be cc-ed on email. Although you may be sending an email as part of group mailing,  you should not feel the need to hit “Reply All”. Often sending a response to the sender is enough and it helps minimize clutter for others.
  8. If you need to clarify or resolve a conflict or a misunderstanding,  pick up the phone. Although an automatic reaction,  especially if someone has misunderstood something in your email,  may be to send a quick email back,,  this is not advisable. Email is the worst type of conflict resolution and can exacerbate it.
  9. Minimize your use of BLOCK or bold to highlight words. Although some of us (especially highly visual people) love playing with visual cues,  they can be misunderstood by others (especially if don’t use visual clues).  In order to minimize sounding “loud” (often associated with BLOCK) or annoyed (often associated with bold), just use regular font styles – it’s safer.
  10. Include an email “signature”. It is helpful to have all one’s contact information clearly and easily accessible. There is nothing more frustrating than wanting to phone someone or pass on an organization’s web address,  and finding only a name in the signature.

What additional tips would you add? Add your comments below.

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