Talent Tips: Training on the Go

Mobile learners appreciate good-quality content designed to save them time and that provides immediate accomplishments in small chunks.

By Roy Saunderson, President, Recognition Management Institute

Are we ready to train employees through iPods? Some organizations already do so with great success. Yet there are important principles to consider in getting mobile learning right.

In the fast-moving world we live in, we stay connected through a growing number of mobile devices we’re glued at the hip to. Now imagine having training follow you around and be available whenever you are ready to learn.

That’s what employees at Homewood Suites by Hilton (one of the two, extended stay brands of Hilton Worldwide) do. When changes were made to their food and beverage items, Dawn Koenig, vice president for Brand Performance Support, knew there had to be an easier way to get employees to learn and implement these innovations.

Whether assembling new displays for various hot and cold zones for food and beverages or simply refreshing areas with a variety of menus and displays to keep a fresh look for extended stay guests, the 10-, 15-, or 20-minute videos are just the trick.

General managers keep the iPods and loan them out library-fashion to employees to view the brand-standard videos. Skill tests are presented in Q&A quiz format with results recorded through Hilton’s proprietary Hilton University learning management system.

Unfamiliar with an iPod? Homewood Suites learning specialists send out clear and easy-to-follow instructions for using an iPod, which has won over all generations of learners. And the highly visual content allows for easy multiple language voice-over adaptation, similar to onscreen instruction for aircraft passenger safety.

The best comment Koenig has heard from employees is they feel they’re “in charge of [their] own learning.” No supervisor looking over their shoulder, and they can learn on their own time and in their own place.

David Clemons, the chief mobile officer of LearnCast.com and Achieve Labs, and Michael Kroth, associate professor of Adult/Organizational Learning and Leadership at University of Idaho–Boise Center, have some valuable pointers on mobile learning gleaned from their research and authoring of “Managing the Mobile Workforce”:

1.Create highly focused content. Faced with workload and general day-to-day distractions, instructional designers must use quality content without wasting a second of precious on-the-move time. One effective approach is the “One Mobile Minute” rule. Remember to keep the information mapping to not more than four to seven items; fewer is better. If your learner can read it, watch it, and feed it back in less than three to five minutes, you have done a great job designing your mobile learning program. You can combine several of these learning modules—each with a specific learning objective and sub-objectives—to create a 15- to 20-minute lesson, or even longer, that your workforce will use as it has time available.

2. Be mobile accessible. The iPod is just one learning device workers can use. A company needs to think through all available options learning can be provided through, including the Apple iPod, iPhone, or iPad; Motorola Droid or Xoom Tablet; Cisco Cius; and HP Touch—all will be used by mobile workers, along with their primary laptop and desktop. Set up the learning offering to include the widest, device-agnostic solution—meaning a solution that doesn’t favor any particular device. If you want to motivate every employee, create a strategy that includes everyone right from the beginning. Develop content that can be viewed on any device and that creates an environment where people love to work, want to be connected, and will continue to learn because it is mutually beneficial for the organization and the employee.

3. Make the learning stick. The “training glue” that bonds the mobile workforce with the learning content is the continued connection among peers, managers, and the company. Have managers set clear expectations face to face ahead of time and encourage learning before employees engage online. Ensure real-time feedback and discussions are encouraged through the devices and in person. Employees share personal stories, pictures, and events through social media. Why not build a mobile learning community where learning and sharing is ongoing?

Mobile learners appreciate good-quality content designed to save them time and that provides immediate accomplishments in small chunks. Keep it short, but use all the media—video, audio, exercises, simulations, games, etc.—to “show” and not just “tell” how work can be done and skills developed.

Roy Saunderson is author of “GIVING the Real Recognition Way” and president of the Recognition Management Institute, a consulting and training firm specializing in helping companies “get recognition right.” Its focus is on showing leaders how to give real recognition to create positive relationships, better workplaces, and real results. For more information, contact mailto:RoySaunderson@Rideau.com or visit http://www.RealRecognition.com.

Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training Top 100 and Emerging Training Leaders.