How the COVID Pandemic Has Broadened The Skills Gap and Increased the Need for Skills Development Training (And What To Do About It)

Back in the years and even decades before the COVID-19 pandemic dominated much of what we talk and think about, employers and learning & development experts used to talk a lot about the skills gap and how to create and provide training to help employees develop those needed skills.

And to be honest, that skill gap didn’t go away with COVID, and in fact in several ways, COVID brought with it an ever greater need to help people develop new job skills.

We talked about this a little bit in a recorded discussion with learning professional Dr. Stella Lee, COVID-19 Presents Challenge to L&D to “Step Up,” not so long ago. Go check out that discussion, because as usual, Dr. Lee’s on point and provides some great tips about all this.

In this article, we’re going to list a few ways COVID-19 has made this skills gap issue more problematic and give you some tips for creating performance interventions and training solutions to help workers develop those skills quickly, efficiently, and reliably.

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Blended Learning Basics: Using Asynchronous and Synchronous Training Activities

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Many studies have shown that blended learning experiences tend to lead to better instructional outcomes–more learning, more knowledge acquisition, more skill development, better transfer to the job, etc. For more on this, including some quotes, studies, and meta-studies about blended learning effectiveness from the US Department of Education, learning researcher Dr. Ruth Colvin Clark, and learning researcher Dr. Will Thalheimer, see our Guide to Blended Learning Strategies.

But of course, learning design professionals shouldn’t just blend willy-nilly. You should have a reason for choosing to select the different training delivery methods you use in each learning blend.

There are multiple different ways to think about how to choose the right training delivery methods for the right learning activities in your learning blend. One of them is to think of when the learners will benefit from an asynchronous learning experience and when they’ll benefit from a synchronous learning experience. (Quick note for those not used to the jargon: an “asynchronous” learning experience means the learner is completing the learning experience alone–think of something like reading a book or completing a self-paced elearning course–and a “synchronous” learning experience means the learner is completing the learning experience with an instructor and other learners–think of a traditional instructor-led classroom training session or a virtual classroom completed online).

To help give you some ideas of how to use asynchronous and synchronous learning activities in a learning blend, we checked out a great recent series of articles on blended learning and synchronous/asynchronous activities written by our good friend, the learning researcher Dr. Patti Shank. Dr. Shank wrote these five articles for eLearning Industry–you can find the first article on synchronous and asynchronous learning here and then continue to read the rest.

We’re going to give you some of the highlights on Dr. Shank’s five-article series on asynchronous and synchronous activities in blended learning programs in the article below, although of course we invite you to read all the articles.

And if you’re curious, check out some of our earlier collaborations with Dr. Shank on other important learning topics:

Now let’s learn a little more about when to best use asynchronous and synchronous learning events.

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Guide to Online Training for Electrical Transmission & Distribution

Online Training for Electrical Transmission & Distribution Guide

If you’re looking to implement online training for your electrical transmission & distribution workforce, this is the guide for you. We explain tech and terms; walk you through criteria for online training courses for T&D, learning management systems for administering your training, and online training providers; discuss ways to blend training for more effective learning; and much more.

We encourage you to download the guide, ask us any questions you may have, and of course check out our series of online training courses for the electrical transmission & distribution industry.

And a quick heads-up: we’ve got a surprise new training offering for the T&D sector coming soon, so come back in just a little while to see what the excitement is all about. It will be worth it, we promise.

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Human Performance Improvement (HPI) Basics: Gilbert’s Behavioral Engineering Model (BEM)

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Human Performance Improvement, or HPI, is the field of study dedicated to creating methods that allow us to better (1) identify workplace problems, (2) analyze their cause(s), (3) come up with interventions that will lead to meaningful performance improvements, and (4) evaluate those interventions to make sure they were successful and to check to see if they created unintended negative consequences.

HPI is both a systematic method and a systemic method for workplace performance improvement. When we say that HPI is systematic, we mean the various HPI models present a sequential, step-by-step process the HPI professional can use to work through the performance problem identification and solution process listed in brief above. There are numerous systematic HPI models for doing this, and in this article, we’re going to discuss one of those–Thomas Gilbert’s Behavior Engineering Model, also known as BEM. We’ve already discussed a few other systematic HPI models, including the ATD HPI model and the Rummler/Brache Nine Variables HPI model.

When we say that HPI is systemic, we mean it takes into account the interrelationship between different components of different systems at the workplace. Here’s how William Rothwell, Carolyn Hohne, and Stephen King put that in their book Human Performance Improvement: Building Practitioner Performance: “This open-systems phenomenon has been likened to a spider web, in which force applied to one part tends to echo, resound, and reverberate throughout the web.”

And one last point to keep in mind: the HPI method is driven by data, and the HPI practitioner should be too. HPI has its roots in engineering, and accordingly it has a built-in demand for collecting and analyzing data at all stages throughout the HPI process (instead of merely hoping, relying on hunches, or simply not thinking about it). This demand for data goes back at least to Edward Deming (download our Deming’s 14 Points of Management infographic here).

For those of you wondering, human performance improvement (HPI) is also known as human performance technology (HPT). It’s sad that we live in a world where we can’t have nice things and we have multiple names and acronyms for the same idea, but that’s the world we live in. But don’t let this confuse you–if one person is talking about HPI and another is talking about HPT, they’re talking about the same stuff! 🙂

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COVID-19 Presents a Need and Opportunity for L&D to “Step Up Their Game” — Talking with Dr. Stella Lee

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I recently caught an article our friend Dr. Stella Lee wrote about how the COVID-19 pandemic presented a need and opportunity for learning and development departments and professionals around the world–and certainly in Canada, where Dr. Lee lives, and in the US, where Vector Solutions is–to “step up their game” to help workers reskill and upskill.

There’s nothing new about L&D having an opportunity to help people reskill and upskill. That need has been going on for quite some time due to major changes in our national economies. We’ve got older workers retiring and possibly moving into consulting roles; we’ve got younger workers coming in to take their place in the workforce; we’ve got large numbers of workers who recently migrated to their new home countries; and we’ve got a lot of people who’s old job doesn’t exist or isn’t as in-demand in our modern economies who need to develop newer, more in-demand job skills.

But Dr. Lee’s right: COVID-19 did heighten this issue even more, and in that sense created an even greater opportunity and need for L&D to step in and help out. In some cases, people lost their jobs, perhaps permanently, and they need to develop new skills to step into new jobs. Likewise, in some cases people lost hours or are otherwise underemployed. In yet other cases, people have moved into different positions already but need help developing those skills (Dr. Lee tells a good story about librarians making a change like this). A LOT of us at work could use some help learning to use a lot of the new digital communication and collaboration tools that we’re using more effectively. Classroom trainers could use some help becoming better virtual trainers. And of course a lot of folks need new digital job skills for new careers.

For repeat readers/viewers here at the Convergence Training blog, you may remember earlier discussions with Dr. Lee about Hackathons and Digital Disruptions in L&D, both of which I really enjoyed. Check ’em out if they’re new to you!

And with no further ado, please enjoy our recorded discussion with Dr. Lee, below.  We wanted to publish this discussion now, but check back and we’ll begin adding some links to resources mentioned in the video and a transcript as well (busy, busy, busy!).

Many thanks to Dr. Lee, of course. Check her company out at Paradox Learning. 

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Instructional Design Basics: 3 Types of Cognitive Load & How They Affect Learning and Learning Design

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From time to time, we run an article in our Instructional Design Basics series to help you learning designers out there (whatever you call yourself…instructional designers, learning experience designers, learning engineers, etc.) better understand how people learn and/or how to design, develop, and deliver learning experiences that have a better chance of helping employees learn, acquiring essential knowledge and (most importantly) developing necessary job skills.

In this Instructional Design Basics article, we’re going to look at the issue of cognitive load. In particular, we’ll look at three different types of cognitive load–intrinsic, germane, and extraneous–so you can see what types of cognitive load you want employees to undergo during a learning experience, which ones you don’t, and how to design and deliver your learning experiences accordingly.

We’ll start with a quick intro to how people process new information and begin the experience of learning.

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Human Performance Improvement (HPI) Basics: The Rummler & Brache “Nine Variables” Model

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Vector Solutions (remember, Convergence Training is part of Vector Solutions) is dedicated to helping our customers improve their workplace performance.

Sometimes, that means we’ll help by providing training materials or products to our customers. Because sometimes, like when a new employee is hired, or is moved into a new job position, or when a process changes or a company introduces a new product, or when there’s a training requirement for compliance, training can really help.

But as helpful as training can be, sometimes it’s not the whole solution and still other times it’s not part of the solution at all. And that’s OK, because we can’t all be all things in all occasions. That’s true of people and it’s true for training as well.

And that’s where something like Human Performance Improvement, or HPI, comes in. HPI, as defined by one HPI practitioner, is “a systematic process of discovering and analyzing important human performance gaps, planning for future improvements in human performance, designing and developing cost-effective and ethically justifiable interventions to close performance gaps, implementing the interventions, and evaluating the financial and non-financial results” (Rothwell, 2000).

Although there are many different definitions of HPI, they generally have explicitly or implicitly include some of the key elements from Rothwell’s definition above. HPI is both systematic and systemic; it’s evidence-based; and it includes a consideration of many different performance interventions (not just training).

In this article, we’re going to continue our series of articles explaining key aspects and issues in HPI by talking about Geary Rummler, the Rummler-Brache Three Levels of Performance Model for HPI, the Three Needs for HPI, and the Rummler-Brache “Nine Variables” model for HPI.

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Instructional Design Basics: What Is ADDIE?

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Many people who wind up having training creation as part of their job roles have never had a full opportunity to learn about the basics of instructional design, how people learn, and how to develop training.

One of the things people in this situation sometimes don’t know if that there are processes, models, or methods that already exist that make the process of creating training more orderly, more effective, and more systematic.

One of those, and in fact the most commonly known one, is ADDIE. ADDIE is an acronym that stands for each of the steps of the model–analyze, design, develop, implement, and evaluation (or you might see it listed out as analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation). ADDIE’s not the only model for the creation of training–there are others. And ADDIE’s not without its imperfections and it’s critics.

But if you’re new to training, it’s definitely worth your time becoming aware of ADDIE. Even if it’s only your introduction to the idea that there are systematic, formulaic methods or models you can use to develop training. And even if you ultimately wind up using a different method.

But there’s also a chance that you’ll find ADDIE very helpful, that you’ll use it a lot in your job as a trainer or training developer, or that you’ll develop and use your own, somewhat-custom version of ADDIE over time.

So let’s cut the introduction at this point and explain the ADDIE instructional design and/or training development model for you below in some more detail.

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Some Key Industrial Training Topics

Industrial employers and manufacturers have their hands full in today’s business climate. And while there are a lot of challenges (and opportunities too, of course), there’s no doubt that developing a fully skilled workforce is a big challenge.

In this article, we’re going to provide a brief overview of some key times when industrial employers should deliver training to workers and some key topics to provide that training.

We invite you to share your own experiences in hiring skilled workers, providing your initial training to them during onboarding as well as throughout their career with your organization to develop those necessary skills, and of course using that training as a way to retain employees so  you won’t have to go through the expensive proposition of turning around, hiring, and onboarding new employees so frequently.

In addition to this article on industrial training topics and moments of training needs, you might also enjoy our article with Industrial Training Tips and our article on developing Training Programs for Industrial Employees.

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Free Infographic: Analzying & Solving Workplace Performance Problems (the Mager & Pipe Flow Chart)

Workplace Performance Probably Analysis Flowchart

One of the key tenants of human performance improvement, or HPI, is that there can be a variety of causes for workplace performance problems and therefore also a variety of potential solutions.

A corollary to this is that workforce training, while it CAN be a great idea, isn’t always the best or even an appropriate solution to a workplace problem.

Creating the RIGHT solution (or intervention) to a workplace performance problem, therefore, begins with correctly analyzing the cause of that problem (this is covered in a little more detail in our article on the ATD’s six-step HPI model).

There are many different methods or models you can use to analyze the cause of a workplace performance problem. At the bottom of this article, we’ve provided a free workplace performance problem analysis flow chart you can use for this. The flowchart is drawn from the famous book Analyzing Performance Problems; or, You Really Oughta Wanna by Robert F. Mager and Peter Pipe (if you’re not familiar with the flowchart, the book, or with Mager & Pipe, we encourage you to study up on all of them–start by reading our article here and then run, don’t walk, to buy and read the book).

Of course, there are other methods for analyzing workplace problems and improving performance, and we’ll being writing about some of them in the future as well (actually, this article on systems thinking for performance improvement and this article on the value of thinking slow, not fast at work are good places to start), but this is a pretty solid place to start.

Enjoy the free downloadable flowchart, let us know if you have any questions, and good luck improving the performance of workers at your workplace.

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7 Industrial Training Tips: Get Better Job Performance from Better Training

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Industrial employers want excellent performance, including efficiency and even innovation, from their work forces. And robust, well-designed industrial training programs give employers a better chance of getting just that.

In this article, we’ll share some tips for improving your industrial training program. By following these tips, you’ll help employees acquire necessary knowledge, develop necessary job skills, perform more effectively on the job, be better prepared for their next job positions with your company, help turn your company into a learning organization, and maybe even create innovations that help your company stay ahead of the competition or avoid failure.

In addition to the industrial training tips offered in this article, you might also enjoy our articles on Building Industrial Employee Training Programs and Key Industrial Training Topics and Moments of Training Need.

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