Old-Fashioned Job Training Transformed in Today’s L&D Profession. Is a New Shift Coming? – Tip # 270

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Once upon a time, there were no Learning & Development departments. So where did our profession emerge from?

Vocational Ed” trainers for technical skills
Survival of the Fittest” for professionals/managers, unless lucky enough to find mentors and, with few exceptions, be born white, male, and in communities with college-bound public schools or parents paying private tuitions

So before, if you couldn’t master your job, chances are, you’d get stuck in an entry-level position or fired. Even if you’ve arrived with a master’s in engineering or business, or maybe a law degree, you still had to figure out the career-building skills on your own. No L&D seminars on communications, relationship building, negotiating conflicts, project management, budgeting, leadership, including the required compliance lecture or team-building outing.

The seeds of today’s performance development systems were taking root in the early 1960s. University psychologists were learning to “train”  pigeons and rats; technologists were learning to “train” mainframe computers to make if/then decisions.

One of those early innovators that come to my mind is Basic Systems Inc., founded initially by Charles Atkinson with a group of behavioral psychologists and entrepreneurs. They created a performance development model that galvanized thousands of organizations to set up Training/Learning & Development centers of learning. After demonstrating their model (with the help of a plastic toy for building a computer), Xerox executives quickly transformed BSI into Xerox Learning Systems. Their model became a gold standard that many Instructional Designers still use today. In brief, with examples from Professional Selling Skills II:

1. Design training by starting at the end. Don’t list topics. Instead, clarify what participants will learn to do on the job. Then analyze what knowledge/skills top performers use to achieve that result. Organize the content into a skill model with 3-10 steps that guide the learning and serve as on-the-job reminders/quality checks. PSS: After playful “how to pick a lock” experiments, the BSI/XLS team focused on sales conversations and organized hundreds of concepts/skills into 6 main steps.
2. Outline a sequence of modules – one for each step
PSS included, after testing/refinements:
Intro video/case: Difficult, successful sale and guided discussion, “Why do you think this salesperson succeeded?”
Module for each step: a “drill down” through the What/Why/How
Closing video/case: same sale but captions reviewing each skill used
3. Develop the ability to take each step with a stimulus, response, confirmation.
For each step in the skill model, PSS participants:
Analyze work-related case challenge and step in best practice skill model (stimulus);
Discriminate effective/ineffective actions (1st level response)
Practice taking steps in role-play (2nd level response);
Get feedback on skill quality (confirmation to reinforce quality or needed improvement)

Moreover, in the late 1990s/early 2000s, when most of us were trying to stuff classroom training content into online digital learning, Dr. Ray Jimenez was innovating micros for stand-alone or longer work-related eLearning. He was also strengthening case challenges by guiding participants’ ability to think through needed solutions not just memorize best practices. His work in Microlearning is now a new gold standard for online training in general and for just-in-time learning, where/when needed in the workflow.

After exploring SituationExpert.com, I believe Dr. Jimenez’s newest innovations may cause another major shift in the world of training-as profound as the creation of L&D departments for corporate success.

Organizations today face changing global markets, unexpected competitors, and evolving technologies. Think about the impact when their leaders give employees the permission and needed software to capture and share their own success strategies with colleagues:

Organizational wisdom grows geometrically
Employees gain a sense of agency and shared partnership for organizational success
Trends, needs, problems, changes are spotted early, in time for a strategic response, not catch-ups…
Managers may learn to listen to direct reports’ ideas, respecting the potential value of contributions, regardless of titles/levels…
High-performing employee “swat” teams may form around urgent challenges, creating unexpected success anywhere/anytime

So my question today: When Dr. J’s concept takes off and leading organizations call for all-hands-on-deck, how can we contribute our skills as Instructional Designers, Developers, Course Leaders, Coaches, Graphic Designers, and Digital Developers?  Any of our reservations and fears (impossible to organize, too complex, too many leaders, no quality control, etc.) may initiate a new executive suite department and new professions for us.


Tita Theodora Beal

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
“Helping Learners Learn Their Way”

Vignettes Learning Workshops
1. Developing Critical Thinking for Modern Learners
2. Microlearning for Disruptive Results
3. Instructional and Experience Design for Workflow Learning
4. The Masterful Virtual Trainer Online Workshop
5. Hyper Story-Based eLearning Design Workshop
6. Training Frontline Leaders as Learning Accelerators
7. HYBRID Remote and Hands-on Training
8. Advanced Skills in Webinars