Welcome to the first edition of the HSA e-Xpress. We feel it's important to keep you up-to-date on what's going on in our field as well as within HSA. This issue features an article on blended solutions, tips on implementing new systems, as well as much more. We hope you enjoy our first issue. Ready? Here we go...

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Harold D. Stolovitch, Principal

No sooner do we coin a term than its obsolescence sets in. First, it was on-line learning. Then e-learning. Now the term is blended or, to be very trendy, custom-blended solutions. But hold on to your vocabularies. Even this latest expression is under attack for its multiplicity of meanings. Quick, before this term fades into the next generation, let me offer you some kind of clarification as to what's behind the concept of "custom-blended solutions" and help place it in a useful perspective.

E-learning is a derivative of e-Commerce which can be highly effective for transactional events. Want to buy a book? Go to Amazon.com. Search; get information; order; pay. Ditto for bank transactions or hotel reservations. However, when it comes to learning and workplace performance we are no longer engaged in simple transactions. We now find ourselves involved in deeper, more complex relationships. The learner/performer is not just another customer seeking to purchase, but an inquiring entity with a mission. Learners/performers are extremely variable in their entry levels, sometimes resistant to new information or ways of doing things, battered by hosts of concerns, pressured by conflicting priorities and operating with a range of motives and misunderstandings. Transactional e-learning is insufficient. We must therefore blend to meet specific needs and varying characteristics.

We blend within e-learning, drawing from an arsenal of on-line capabilities that provide text, audio and visual databases, communication opportunities to meet with other learners, expert tutors and coaches, opportunities to experience life-like simulations, and the possibility of reaching out to the world via the infinitely expanding Web. We also blend e-learning with other educational activities such as hands-on practice, group discussion meetings, facility tours, structured on-the-job training, and even traditional classroom lecture combined with real-time Q & A to enrich the learning experience.

Beyond e-learning and blended learning lie the more fundamental issues of performance. After all, why engage in any workplace learning endeavor if ultimately, it is not to improve valued individual and organizational accomplishments? Hence custom-blended performance solutions that combine various learning activities when new skills and knowledge are lacking with the broad array of other performance interventions such as clearly stated expectations, timely feedback, standards specification, well-defined policies, efficient workflow design, relevant incentive programs, logical selection systems and so many more to produce the necessary desired behaviors and valued outcomes.

So what are custom-blended solutions? In a few words: intelligent intervention combinations, seamlessly integrated to produce desired learning and performance outcomes. Here are some examples:

Computer manufacturer and service provider: In 3 months, the company is releasing a new billing system that 1000+ engineers, worldwide, must implement. It is radically different from the existing one.
Custom Blended Solution: Easily accessible, user-friendly documentation on the new system including differences from current system; communication/change management strategy stressing new system benefits for engineers, customers and company; live training of local champions to support implementation; Web-based training and performance support tools for users; on-line help; local, live support; practice database; database of examples.

International real estate and relocation company: New customer service center launch for national and international relocation - 1000 new employees in a variety of positions. Must be productive within six weeks. Projected volume of 100/month.
Custom Blended Solution: Live, group orientation; e-learning for basic job tasks; e-learning extensions - proctored system practice, live group-based instruction and print self-instruction on task variations and business and interpersonal skills; structured job observation; field trips; structured on-the-job training; peer-assisted learning; continuous diagnostic and performance support.

High-tech solutions company: Ensure that company and third-party, partner engineers on four continents apply "best practices" for optimal customer benefit and service consistency.
Custom Blended Solutions: Best practices publications; best practices Website; lab-in-a-box for local/individual, hands-on practice; chat room for engineers to pose questions to the global community and discuss problems/solutions; self-assessment and self-certification quizzes; on-line, context-sensitive glossary.

Wireless telephone company: Reduce time and cost to produce a steady stream of productive, consistently performing, new-hire customer service agents across geographically dispersed call centers.
Custom Blended Solutions: Live, semi-scripted orientation to the company and the job, supported by video presentation and games; e-learning for basic job tasks; proctored system practice with training database; on-line performance support tools; simulation lab; validated performance testing with diagnostic and prescriptive remediation loops.

The term "custom-blended solutions" may be fleeting. The underlying concept, however, endures. In the heat of today's e-world hype, custom-blended solutions may mean anything from magically mixed e-learning cocktails to richer combinations of performance-focused support systems. Caveat emptor - let the buyer beware! If your concern is improved workplace performance, look beyond superficial forms of blending. A truly custom-blended solution is one that results in achievement of your valued performance goals.

HSA provides cost-effective, custom-blended learning solutions that deliver measurable business results. Interested? For more information, visit our Website at www.hsa-lps.com or contact us toll free at (888) 834-9928 or by email at info@hsa-lps.com. The examples provided in this article are custom blended solutions HSA developed for their clients.


Gina Walker, Director Research & Product Development

Is your organization planning to implement a brand new system for its personnel? Or, is it thinking about updating many of the features of its current one? Will your department be expected to provide training and/or performance support for this initiative? If so, here is a top 10 list that should help you deal with this major undertaking:

1. Start planning now. It's never too early. Putting a plan in place gives you a measure of control over the process.

2. Team up with IT/MIS. Establish a partnership with the "techies" as soon as possible. Sell the benefits of your involvement. Show them the concrete value that you and your team can add. Make sure that you are on the circulation list for key memos/schedule updates/change requests. Be at all the key meetings.

3. Time your training development efforts carefully. Align your plan with the overall project schedule. Coordinate development of user guides and job aids to streamline efforts. Be prepared for unforeseen gaps that you know you will be required to fill in later.

4. Be prepared for delays. Stop-starts are routine so build flexibility into your approach. Have other tasks to which your team members can turn while waiting.

5. Be prepared for changes. Identify areas where you foresee the greatest changes to occur. Add revision time into your schedule to cover these anticipated occurrences.

6. Perform a task analysis to describe specifically how individuals will use the system. Share this document with key stakeholders. They often find this to be invaluable. Validate it as soon as possible with a workable version of the system.

7. Be an advocate for all learners. Know your audiences and their learning requirements. Conduct learner analyses to identify where specific groups of learners have gaps or concerns with respect to the new/radically altered system. Support them. Help to avoid their drowning in technical overload.

8. Be a minimalist in your approach to producing materials. Eliminate superfluous detail. Be strategic in your use of media. Keep it simple.

9. Create a change management strategy, particularly if you are replacing a well-entrenched system. Resistance to change is normal and must be managed. Select a group of "champion" users as advocates.

10. Extend training delivery to support new users on an ongoing basis. Transfer to the job is the real challenge. Be there to support it.

One of HSA's core competencies is developing training on new systems. Interested? For more information, visit our Website at www.hsa-lps.com or contact us toll free at (888) 834-9928 or by email at info@hsa-lps.com.

Harold Stolovitch and Erica Keeps' new book Telling Ain't Training was launched at this year's international ASTD Conference. Book sales were amazing...a sell out! Telling Ain't Training tackles the three universal and persistent questions of the profession of performance improvement - how do learners learn, why do learners learn and how do you make sure that learning sticks. It uses an interactive approach which models the basic message of the book - humans learn best through active mental engagement. The ultimate goal of the book is to allow the reader an opportunity to break through learning barriers, to separate learning myth from research-based facts and to dispel counter productive beliefs and practices that harm the instruction process.

Telling Ain't Training is now in its second printing. To purchase your own autographed copy hot off the press, visit HSA's Book Purchases.

ISPI recently ran a lead article by Harold Stolovitch and Erica Keeps in the June 2002 edition of their e-Newsletter, PerformanceXpress. "Stop Wasting Money on Training" can be accessed at http://www.performancexpress.org/0206/. HSA also conducted a "Stop Wasting Money on Training" Webinar on June 27 hosted by Interwise. If you missed it, you can access the free archived recording at http://www.interwise.com/live/viewevent.asp?eventid=985&source=ID985HSAREC.

Do you have any burning human performance technology questions? Visit the Ask Harold section of HSA's Website and ask your questions for Harold Stolovitch to answer. There have been some recent submissions that might intrigue you, like:

Would you have any advice for new consultants to the field? What skills, aptitudes and attitudes do you think are important to succeed in today's competitive marketplace?

To see the response, visit Ask Harold. To ask your own question, just click on the crystal ball above, fill out the form and submit. Until the end of August, we will enter all submissions into a drawing for an autographed copy of Harold and Erica's new book Telling Ain't Training.

So, you want to be certified as a professional performance technologist? You can now make that happen through ISPI's certification program. The certification was developed in response to a request from public and private organizations for criteria to better distinguish proficient practitioners of human performance technology. ISPI requires applicants to prove that their work accomplishments satisfy their performance improvement standards. The assessment process is a combination of attestations by internal/external clients and a review of work products by qualified peers. HSA's principals, Harold Stolovitch and Erica Keeps, have both received the designation of CPT by ISPI. Between now and May 1, 2003 you can apply to become a CPT under the grandfathering provision. After that time, you will have to follow the full certification procedure. Visit ISPI's Website at www.ispi.org and learn more about how you could become one of the first CPTs in the world.


If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact Samantha Greenhill, Publications and Communications Specialist, at sgreenhill@hsa-lps.com.


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© Copyright 2002 Harold D. Stolovitch & Erica J. Keeps