Footprints are what we leave behind. But we should start every training and performance intervention with the footprint in mind. Every Manager has an array of tools that measures her worth to her team and her organization. Sales Managers receive marketing reports that measure prospecting efforts, closing efforts, margin, etc. A Factory Manager measures productivity of their laborers, production measures per time period, shrinkage percents, accident rates, etc. A Retail Manager analyzes customer counts and order sizes. I think you get the point. Each and every one of these measurements is a footprint of the sum total of steps we take to meet a goal.
A common mistake new managers and trainers make is conducting the needs assessment (the early step of Instructional Design) from the front end of the problem. In fairness, sometimes the higher powers that be, lead (or bully) the assessment in this direction. As a Content Designer, I have had numerous requests to create a training or performance intervention based on an assumption. This is a mistake. These assumptions typically mislead the inexperienced trainer. Examples of front end assumptions are requests to create Customer Service Training, Interviewing Training, Communication Training, etc. These broad strokes often miss the problem and the footprints remain the same. If you truly want to change the footprint, you must start with it first in the design process.
We just highlighted the broad strokes. They aren’t necessarily from a parallel universe but they need to be roped in. Let’s use Customer Service Training as our example. If tasked to design Customer Service Training, 10 IDs (Instructional Designers) would come up with 10 versions of the training. Potentially all could miss the footprint. If (hopefully when) conducting a needs assessment, you start with the expected footprint, there may be 10 different approaches but they all should lead to the right outcome. As we look under the Customer Service Umbrella, we see several potential footprints. These include uneventful surveys, decreasing repeat business, decreasing margin, missed sales opportunities, challenged order size, etc. So in actuality, the training isn’t Customer Service, it’s “How to Create an Eventful Survey”, “How to Increase Repeat Business”, “How to Increase Profit Margin”, “How to Avoid Missed Sales Opportunities”. These interventions (if designed with the right design principles) should get the results you’re expecting from the training or performance intervention.
Therefore, footprints come before the step. Start the beginning with the end in mind or use the end to start the beginning. We can probably say it a half dozen ways. When designing an intervention, training or performance, to gain the greatest impact, identify the measurement your training will impact. Perform every step of the design process around these measurements. Your instructional objectives or the task analysis should, no must be heavily if not solely influenced by the expected footprint your training is to leave behind. This makes your product more potent and also helps to sell the concept to the customer and the end user.
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