At Enspire Learning, we pride ourselves on creating learning experiences that directly impact a specific target audience, designated by each valued client. So when we design those experiences, we take a great deal of care to investigate and understand who those end-users are.
As a timely metaphor, our best learning products are like well-wrapped presents, carefully chosen for each recipient. This holiday season, we’ve created a handy shopping list of the important questions we ask ourselves when considering what “gift” to give our clients and end-users.
1. What’s the occasion?
Gifts are rarely given without cause – they are usually intended for a recipient who is celebrating an occasion: birthday, shower, Kwanzaa, retirement, etc. You pick a gift to commemorate an important occasion.
When designing e-learning, we must have a deep understanding of the learning occasion – is it on-boarding for new hires? Does the company want its employees to better understand its security policies? Is there a need for management training? Start generally and whittle the need down until it’s a precise problem to be solved. For instance, if a client specifies a need for a new-hire orientation, investigate further to understand why the product is needed now. Maybe there’s been evidence that recent hires don’t fully understand their benefit packages. Maybe a certain group at the company plans to bring on a large number of new employees and wants uniformity in their on-boarding experience. Understand the occasion and you can better understand your intended recipient.
2. What does your recipient need or want?
We’ve all received gifts that we don’t know what to do with – slippers we’ll never wear, gift cards to stores we don’t visit, bath salts that loiter on a bathroom shelf, and so on. Luckily, an unwanted present can be regifted to someone who might really appreciate it. The recipients of mismatched e-learning, however, don’t have that option. Instead, they may simply feign their interest in the message while secretly “zoning out” during the experience.
Grab and maintain learner buy-in and guarantee return on a client’s investment by ensuring you’ve nailed the “what’s in it for me” factor. Interview your client with precision. If you know who your audience members are, you can tailor your solution to meet their needs. For instance, most adult learners want self-paced, self-directed learning that they can access at any time, with “resume” functionality that allows them to leave and return to the learning experience on their own schedule. Drilling down, are the end-users for your client’s solution technologically savvy, or do they represent a full spectrum of internet and application aptitude? Where will they access the e-learning solution, and what is their assumed bandwidth capability?
And in terms of content and visual style, be sure to carefully focus your instructional strategy – the end result should meet your client’s needs while engaging the end-users’ interest. You have a responsibility to match your client’s brand and style standards, but you also want an innovative product that matches your audience. Don’t send a formal, austere package to a young, artistic recipient… and vice versa.
Finally, be wary of sending a gift that’s prescriptive, or that reflects your own preferences, rather than the recipient’s. You may be itching to try out a new development platform, but if your client’s LMS can’t handle it, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Or, to put it another way, will your sister really appreciate the gym membership you purchased for her – or will she take it as a not-so-subtle hint from you? Send gifts your clients want – not gifts you think they need.
3. What’s your budget?
Too often, fantastic gift ideas have to be abandoned due to insufficient funds. Our intentions may be great, but we all have to learn to work within the constraints of a reasonable budget, especially when we’re dealing with a client’s money.
Along those same lines, learn from your everyday practical wisdom – you wouldn’t show your loved ones photos of gifts you wished you’d had enough money to purchase, and you don’t take your kids down the candy aisle unless you’re prepared to purchase. So why show your clients capabilities that they may be unable to afford? Learn your clients’ financial limitations early, don’t distract them with bells and whistles they can’t accommodate, and design a solution that will get them the most bang for their buck.
And be creative – you may find that there are ready-made development platforms or presentation methods that may save development costs… or you may find they lead to a black hole of attempts to customize them to your client’s specific needs. Be savvy – does hand-knitting the sweater in your aunt’s favorite colors really save you money, after you factor in time and materials? And if not, does her potential happiness indicate it’s still the best option, or would she be just as pleased with that sweater on sale at the department store?
4. What’s your timeline?
Keeping track of all of your gift-giving occasions can be difficult. It helps to maintain an updated calendar that alerts you to impending holidays, birthdays, etc.
Keeping an up-to-date client calendar is mandatory. Establish a firm but flexible development schedule as early as possible in your meetings with clients. Allow ample time for client review of deliverables, factoring in the number of reviewers, potential need for legal review, vacation dates for both clients and development team members, and so on. Don’t forget to include time for adequate internal review, especially for your own quality assurance group. And perhaps most importantly, get client buy-in and approval for all projected dates, and keep them up to date as the schedule changes. Using a project tracking system is helpful, but even if you’re resource strapped, a shared calendar or cloud-hosted document platform can save the day. As with all gifts, make sure you’ve given yourself ample time to wrap your present well, double-check your address, and verify its delivery. Sending the package on time is often the most difficult hurdle.
Keep these four checklist items in mind, and you’ll go a long way toward pleasing everyone on your client list. When you see the satisfaction a well-designed and well-delivered product can create, you find that it truly is better to give than to receive.