ONBOARD TRAINING: Is it Time to Consider Blended and Continuous Learning Approaches?


Over the last few weeks we have been working with several companies in helping them move their onboarding training from legacy approaches to more blended and continuous learning programs. Considering that where there is smoke, there is usually fire, we got to thinking about why we are seeing such a trend and came to the realization that onboard training may just be the best way to really embrace new training approaches and will likely offer the most significant return to the business. Time and time again, research shows us that if we can bring employees up to speed quickly and completely, the impact to the business can be considerable.  So the topic is worthy of consideration.

Let’s start by listing some of the challenges with traditional onboard training:

  • Each individual largely goes through the same content regardless of existing knowledge and skills
  • Individuals can go through the same content regardless of the role they are being hired into
  • There can be significant time gaps between the onboard training and when the individual will actually get to apply the training
  • Content may be out of date at the time of is delivered or may be out of date by the time it is used
  • The training is all focused into the first period of time after hiring and then diminishes rapidly
  • Often the content that various stakeholders want to include in the program far exceeds the time allocated to the training
  • The traditional ILT components can be very “lecture heavy” with liberal use of PowerPoint as both the visual support to the speaker and serving as the detailed content for the participant

Now let’s look at some of the basic rules of architecting a blended and continuous learning program (using the TEBLAT™[1] methodology).

  • Break the overall content into small segments
  • Move any content that is simply about the delivery of information to a participant out of the formal learning and to the place where that individual can best access it when and where they need it
  • Thread the segments of learning together so that individuals with different needs can travel differing learning paths and thus gaining just the content that they require
  • Fragment the learning over time and include the application of the learning into the overall program
  • Learning segments should include on the job coaching, cohort learning and sharing of challenges and best practices
  • “Instructional” learning should be delivered asynchronously leaving “live time”, no matter if it is physical or virtual, for discussion, exploration and facilitation
  • Learning segments should also include master classes and “ask the experts” where learners can share experiences and gain access to subject matter experts (not to listen to presentation but to engage in rich dialogue)

 A Vision for Onboard Programs

Imagine starting a new position, perhaps with a new company, and on day one you either meet with an individual or perhaps complete an online assessment that reviews your existing level of pertinent skills, knowledge and competencies and then maps out those that you will need for success in the particular role you are moving into and perhaps even the longer term. From the assessment you are provided with an individualized Learning Journey that details the learning experiences that are required and those that you may want to consider as options to help in your success. Also, on the first day you join the internal networking platform registering for several special interest groups. The platform, looking eerily like LinkedIn, also recommends additional groups you may be interested in, and even starts connecting you with other individuals across the company that share a level of affinity with you.

Your own learning path continues as you undertake the required learning segments for week one. These include participating in a welcome webcast and then viewing a number of short orientation videos that seem full of useful information. You are also introduced to the company knowledge platform which reminds you of Wikipedia – simple to use, always on and seems to have the answers to most of your everyday needs. You also complete short online tutorials on a number of the internal systems and processes, and unfortunately there is a short test after a few of these to ensure compliance and understanding.

The learning path continues with a number of assignments and during the course of these you get to network with other folk in the organization. During the course of the first few weeks you are also invited to a number of live virtual classrooms that enable you to review and discuss some of the basics with other individual and subject matter experts. You note that sitting in a classroom or a webinar simply listening to presentations does not seem to be part of the culture of this particular organization.

You’re learning path continues with your immediate manager checking on progress and offering coaching and support. The assignments blended into your job so that the line between training and doing is not only blurred it disappears. You feel equipped for the role you have taken on, supported by peers, experts and your management, and are confident that the information you need is available to you when and wherever you may be.

If that vision was a reality in your own company, what would such on onboarding program say about the company and its culture, and how prepared would individuals be to be successful in their roles? Now think, what’s stopping that vision from being a reality; the technology exists today and people work that way everyday with tools like LinkedIn, YouTube, and SMS. There is little standing in the way of making this vision a reality aside from the change management required to let go of legacy approaches and embrace the future.

[1] 3GS’s methodology for architecting high impact blended and continuous learning programs

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Feeding the Curiosity

Passionately Curious

“I have no special talents, I am only passionately curious.”   Albert Einstein

A study by Korn Ferry, the world’s largest executive search firm, referenced in today’s WSJ asked the question what is the most important characteristic in a CEO. The answer was learning agility. The Journal asked Garry Burnison, the CEO of Korn Ferry, what exactly is learning agility. Interestingly, he stated that it “comes down to people’s willingness to grow, to learn, to have an insatiable curiosity. He went on to share the importance to an organization of innovation and a workforce that is “incredibly curious”. The article goes on to underscore the importance to an organization of having employees that are curious, can learn, can adapt and can innovate. Not really new stuff and to anyone who has been remotely involved in learning and development this will all seem like elementary logic.

It led me to think about what organizations are doing to inspire and feed their employee’s curiosity. Outside of the work place I would argue that our curiosity is actually being over-inspired and over-feed. It is all too easy to Google away and learn just about anything. We can easily lose track of time as our curiosities are fed through Facebook, LinkedIn and other social platforms. However, what do we see in the workplace? Few organizations have used technology to inspire, motivate, and turn on the curiosity of their employees. Sure they may have made their employee handbook available online but is that the limit of possibilities. I think not.

The time is overdue for organizations to think about the development of their workforce in new and different ways. The notion of training simply being delivered at a specific time, in a specific place, to a group of learners all at the same time is out of step with today’s world.

To feed the curiosity of the workforce, and to reap the undeniable rewards of a more agile, innovative, and adaptive organization, we have to re-architect, rethink, and redesign how training and development is enabled. We have to undergo the transformation from developing and delivering training events to architecting and enabling learning journeys. Learning journeys that leverage technology to offer individualized training when it is required, where it required. Technology that enables simple and effective collaboration, sharing and exploration between individuals across the organization.

It’s time to harness the power of technology, rethink corporate training, and feed the curiosity of the workforce.

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Creating Powerful Virtual Learning Experiences

Powerful LearningREGISTER

Thursday, February 5, 2015 10:00:00 AM PST – 11:00:00 AM PST

In the last five to ten years the way we live, work, and play has massively changed. Thanks to technology we now live our lives in a far more connected way in which we can communicate, collaborate, coordinate and gain access to information in ways that would have been previously unimaginable. Yet we are still to really harness the power of technology in the corporate learning world. Although there are some notable standouts, we still see eLearning and webinars that are far from the vision of highly engaging and effective learning experiences.

In this session Martyn Lewis from 3GS will explore the counter-intuitive reasons that are often responsible for less than effective virtual learning, and will share best practices and approaches for architecting powerful virtual learning experiences. He will share the formula for being able to successfully leverage technology to deliver virtual learning programs that are not only engaging but lead to superior business results over the traditional ILT classroom.

In this session you will learn:

• Why most attempts to deliver virtual learning leave a lot to be desired
• The true key to gaining learner engagement
• 7 techniques we can adopt from the broadcast media
• The 3 biggest mistakes when developing virtual learning programs
• How to effectively blend asynchronous and live virtual for powerful results
• What we can do in the virtual world that we could not do in the classroom, and how this enables highly impactful results

Participants will also be able to qualify for a giveaway (value $12,000) from 3GS of a one-day workshop where 3GS will share more of its methodology and work with a corporate learning team to apply these principles to one of their own learning programs.

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The #1 Challenge: Clinging to the walls of the classroom


For as many decades as companies have invested in training, that training has primarily been delivered in the physical classroom.  This requires recipients to put aside their usual work activities for a few days and make the trek to sit in such a classroom with a group of peers for a day or two to receive their training.

Technology has massively and unprecedentedly changed the world in which we now live, work, and play.  Encyclopedia Britannica, which was the primary source of knowledge for many since the late 18th century, ceased publication in 2010.  People now instantly network, chat and collaborate with others around the world using handheld devices.  Individuals can learn, using those same handheld devices, about almost anything through YouTube and user forums across the internet, regardless of time and place. So, why do so many people still think of the physical classroom as the way in which to deliver training, or at the very least the benchmark to which other modalities should aspire?

Let’s examine the efficacy of the classroom.  The traditional classroom forces us to batch up the training into a linear stream of information that will be passed onto recipients all at the same time, at the same rate, over a few consecutive days.  During this time, trainees don’t have the chance to reflect on new ideas or to try new approaches.  We know that most of the trainees won’t have the chance to apply anything more than a small percentage of the content within a matter of a week or two, and we also know that if they don’t, then the chance of doing so at a later date are equally small.  As well, many of the trainees, if asked at lunch on the first day of training, how the course is going, will answer that “it’s a bit slow, they have learned nothing new, and are hoping that the pace will pick up”.

The ROI from the majority of traditional classroom training is surely extremely low when we look at the total cost and time versus the actual impact on performance.  Yet, many cling to the walls of the classroom refusing to believe that technology enabled training alternatives will be effective.  When you consider this in the face of how people are living and learning in today’s technology enabled world, it seems nothing short of ludicrous.

So much can be gained by understanding the three primary reasons for this reluctance to change and by overcoming them.  These reasons are:

1. Resistance to Change

People are always resistant to change.  The FAX machine was patented before the telephone but it still took decades for faxes to replace Telex’s.  As another example, not every organization will accept signatures electronically and still insist on a FAX. We have to treat the transition out of the classroom as a significant exercise in change management.

2. Re-architecting Training

Training courses that have been designed for the classroom are exactly that.  They are optimized, and indeed compromised, for classroom delivery.  They tend to be continuous and linear streams of information delivered within the confines of time and place.  This is not the starting point for technology-enabled training. If all we do is take a program designed for the physical classroom, and try to deliver it through a technology based medium, we are almost bound to fail.  Training must be rethought, re-architected and redesigned for technology-based delivery.  It can, and indeed must, be delivered in short learning experiences; it should be integrated with application; it should enable collaboration and discussion; and it should deliver the training when and where it is required.

3. Quality of Content

The final reason we cling to the walls of the physical classroom is simply because it keeps our trainees captive.  To put it bluntly, the training is either so poor or the trainees motivation towards the training so weak, that we have to hold them captive to administer it.  Of course you may have the physical body captive but there is no guarantee that the mind is there.

We must fully embrace new technology enabled training opportunities.  As L&D professionals we are not leading the way, we are playing catch up to where the world already is.  But, we must take on responsibility for the change management, for re-architecting our learning programs, and for ensuring the relevance and quality of the training to the learner.


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The Rush to Provide Instruction Online

In this week’s Economist there is an article about the “rush to provide stand-alone instruction on line” in higher education title “Massive open online forces”.  Although the article focuses on higher education I think it is very pertinent because it is the students that live in this world that will soon be representative of our work force. Here are a few comments and thoughts (quotes shown by quotation marks) on  from the article that can be found at http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21595901-rise-online-instruction-will-upend-economics-higher-education-massive.


  • “Teaching has been constrained by technology”
  • “a student needed to be in a lecture hall to hear a professor or around a table to debate with fellow students”
  • “Innovation is eliminating those constraints”


  • “Online is replacing offline”
  • “Even those living on campus may nonetheless learn largely online, skipping lectures and only reporting for the final exam”
  • “the rush to provide stand-alone instruction online”


  • “adding students (in the old physical way) is expensive”
  • In the physical world…“lecturers can teach at most a few hundred students”
  • “The fixed cost of creating an online course is relatively high” but adding students is low


  • I have been set totally against MOOCS (massively open online courses) due to their lack of interactivity, so it is really interesting to notes now how MOOCS are usually always associated with discussion forums and the chance to interactive virtually with the lecturers


  • “An analysis of over 1,000 studies of online course results conducted by America’s Department of Education found that people who complete such courses do better on average than students in face-to-face instruction”

I strongly believe that this is the way of the of the future, and it is now a change management effort to transition everyone there rather than either a lack of technological capability or a question of “if”.


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Joint Webcast with Adobe
Thursday, March 7, 2013
10:00-11:00 a.m. PT / 1:00-2:00pm ET


Webcast Description

Unfortunately, but for good reason, individuals often associate live virtual training with technological complexity and less than compelling content. This need not be the case – in fact live virtual can provide not only an effective learning experience but can provide many other benefits to the user.

In this new world of learning, training is only one click away and does not require hours of travel and time away from the office. Among the additional benefits, over the traditional physical classroom, for these learners has been:

  • To reduce the amount of time dedicated to formal training by at least 40%
  • To move from having to be away for several days to integrating the training with your actual job in a series of short and focused live virtual classroom sessions
  • The ability to easily and continually network with peers

To provide this level of experience to your users it does take more than simply presenting PowerPoint over the web. We have to remove the barriers to effective live virtual training and provide the learner with an easy to use interface, compelling content and active engagement.

In the webinar, Martyn Lewis, Principal and Founder of 3GS and virtual learning thought leader, will share:

  • Bold new strategies for delivering the live virtual classroom
  • Delivery approaches gleaned from broadcast media
  • The integration of video, dialogue, and teamwork
  • How an ongoing learning community can augment the live virtual classroom

Attendee Bonus


We are excited to offer webinar participants a chance to win a free, 1 day, onsite workshop valued at over $8,000. The 3 Steps workshop is for L&D professionals and offers a facilitated approach that examines of number of aspects of a learning program that results in the design of a blended and continuous learning architecture. This approach can be applied across multiple learning requirements and functional areas.

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You can’t innovate at a distance – are you kidding me?

One of the big debates this morning comes from Yahoo’s decision to bring all of their employees into the office in the name of innovation. The pros and cons of telecommuting, or “working at home”, have been debated for decades, but I believe we are at a tipping point as illustrated by the amount of discussion on this topic this morning.

When considering the merits of the virtual workforce it is not a case of if this works; it’s a case of how this works. As with any major shift in cultural norms and working practices, it takes time. And it requires old habits to be broken and new habits to be formed. I could state the many benefits of adopting a more balanced approach to simply requiring people to be in the office 9 to 5 Monday to Friday, but these are largely already known. The key, though, is in learning how to work virtually, how to collaborate virtually, how to lead virtually, and indeed how to innovate virtually. It can be done.

3GS is viewed as a leader in innovative ways in which to move training out of the physical classroom and into the virtual world. This move to the virtual classroom is also seen by many as inferior to traditional classroom training But we have now shown that we can new approaches to learning can deliver superior results to the physical classroom It does, however, require behaving and thinking differently.

There are so many examples of how technology has enabled us to live our lives very differently, and virtually. I personally coach, from my home office, young adults in South Africa that are among the most innovative individuals I have ever worked with. Just ask any group of teenagers how they collaborate and innovate – oh, and you better do this by texting them as you likely won’t find them in one place for long.

I totally agree with Richard Branson that this move by Yahoo is a step backwards. More however, I think it is indicative of a lack of innovation to adopt the new approaches necessary to make this work.


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