We asked a long-term client of ours (a Senior Manager from a large Financial Services organisation) to share some insights into what she does before engaging and contracting an instructional designer. Here are some of her tips and suggestions.
“I’ve had over 20 years of experience working in and around learning projects and programs, and whilst many people focus on getting the right Facilitator to engage and delight learners, I’m a strong believer in achieving the right design first. If you design an excellent experience, then just about any decent Facilitator should be able to pick up the work and deliver an exceptional learning experience.
I have had the experience of working with some great instructional design teams (like Discover Learning Designs), some ok teams and some truly terrible practitioners! Having some idea of what you should look for is something to consider for anyone engaging with an Instructional Design partner. Here’s what I would suggest:
• Learner-Centric Focus
Find an ID who has the learner at the core of everything they do. This means that they don’t just take your brief and churn out an ‘off the shelf’ product for you. A good Instructional Designer will ask lots of questions about your business, the learner, the outcomes you are looking for, understand what success needs to look like, will challenge your thinking, will push back on you from time to time, and will ultimately provide you with a product that hits the mark and gets the results. Ask to see some work they have done before with other clients, don’t just focus on what it looks like (e.g. we can all be blind-sided by aesthetics) – rather, ask them what the client wanted to achieve and how the learners experienced the solution.
Look for a partner that is creative; that comes up with different ideas – think visually stimulating, games, interactive activities (not just PowerPoint slides and content). In our more agile and fast-paced business environments, creating different but impactful learning content is even more critical and a creative partner should be able to support you in designing a variety of engaging activities.
• Communication Skills
Ideally, your ID partner should be someone you could easily put in front of any of your stakeholders and be confident that they will have an impact. I have worked with some ID’s who could not take a proper brief with a business stakeholder and instead expect internal SME’s to develop the content for them. A good ID partner will be able to engage with your business, communicate effectively and gain valuable information that will support the learning experience.
• Learning Agility
Find a partner that continues to learn themselves. If my ID partner isn’t researching latest trends or exploring new ways to do things, then I tend to look for someone new to work with. Learning agility also helps when your ID partner might not know the industry that you operate in. Being able to adapt quickly and flex their own skills and knowledge is critical – often your projects won’t afford your ID partner the luxury of time to get ‘up to speed’ on things, so the faster they can learn about your business, your learning needs, and your learners – the better.
I could have written several headlines here (time management, attention to detail, effective cost management) – but for me, it really does come down to finding an ID partner who has a standard around quality that ensures you reliably hit project deadlines and that outputs are right the first time. This quality standard means I have peace of mind that the product I receive at the end will be one that I can be proud of and know will meet the outcomes my business needs to achieve.
My number one tip is to take your time in getting the right ID partner for yourself from the very start. Understand how they work internally, and how your relationship can work together. Try a small project and see how things go. Then build that relationship up. Most great ID’s I have worked with, I happily refer across several projects within the business. They become an extension of my team and are a trusted resource.
When you get it right, it’s a win-win for everyone.
Discover Learning Designs (DLD) and Instructional Design Australia (IDA) provides instructional design services to support workplace learning and change. With team members in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth DLD will enable your people to engage, learn and perform. Call us on 1300 528 736 or make an online enquiry.