By Joy Church Millard, Sr. Editor, Expertus
Editor’s Note: Welcome to the eighth interview in our “Learning Luminaries” series — where we showcase conversations with the brightest and most innovative minds in the world of training and development!
Q1: Could you tell me briefly about Edw. C. Levy Co.?
KK: Soon after our company was founded in 1918, we began working with the Ford Rouge Plant, using slag from its steel mill operations as a base for road materials. Nearly a century later, the Levy Group of Companies continues to provide building and road construction materials services, flame cutting and treatment, steel mill services, logistics and laboratory testing. We’re located in 6 countries on 5 continents — including operations in 8 U.S. states. So as you can imagine, a culture of continuous learning is essential for a company as large and diverse as ours.
Q2: What is your role?
KK: I’ve been with the company for 3 years — currently as IT Training Supervisor in Information Technology & Services (IT&S). I manage the department’s training team, which supports the IT function for all locations, worldwide.
Q3: How does your team accomplish that?
KK: We’re responsible for developing and delivering training to learners who are primarily based in the field — working in steel mill services and road construction. We also support the business staff at the main office.
Specifically, we develop training support materials, screencasts, process flows and animated videos. And occasionally, we facilitate instructor-led training. When designing and developing programs, we engage and consult with subject matter experts — most often our IT&S system business analysts, and customers across the country.
We are also responsible for our learning management systems — LevyLearn (our branded version of ExpertusONE LMS) and Lynda.com. LevyLearn primarily hosts asynchronous, proprietary elearning that supports our environmental, safety, engineering, performance improvement and human resources departments.
Q4: How is your team advancing organizational learning?
KK: Our most ambitious and effective learning initiative to-date has involved comprehensive updates of our job aids and quick reference materials that outline more than 200 business processes in our enterprise resource planning (ERP) tool. Most of the prior documents were over 10 years old — a series of dead ends. Unraveling the complexity and working with multiple stakeholders has been time-consuming. One year into the conversion process, we’re encouraged to be nearly half-way finished!
Q5: It sounds like a huge challenge. How did you rethink all of that content?
We improved it in multiple ways. Our team worked closely with our analysts to edit the entire collection of technical documents, so they are now written in consistent, task-based phrasing, and are geared toward a 5th-grade reading level. We also redesigned the layout to improve flow and comprehension, and we included margins for note-taking.
In addition, we migrated everything from Microsoft Word into Adobe InDesign to improve scalability. Then we leveraged the revised job aid content by creating scripts for short, explanatory screencasted and animated videos of chunked content. These videos offer valuable insight that would otherwise weigh-down a job aid. And we’ve done it all in-house, with a small team of three specialists (which recently expanded to four).
Q6: What kind of results are you seeing from this new approach?
Until this past year, if an employee had a question about an IT-related business process, the choices were limited:
• Call an analyst to walk through their issue,
• Find a “super user” via word-of-mouth or personal contacts, or
• Dig through a 10-year-old document, and potentially end up more confused than when they started.
Customer feedback on the new training tools has been positive. Never thought I’d get a phone call to thank me for a job aid, but that has happened! Even the IT analysts are supportive of the work we’re doing to assist and inform our mutual customers — despite some initial concerns about how this would affect their roles.
Q7: What else is on your learning transformation radar?
KK: Now that we’re getting caught-up with revising IT-driven business process documentation, we’re able to branch out with greater creativity. We’ve added Articulate Storyline to our application toolbox (in addition to our current go-to tools such as Camtasia, GoAnimate, Adobe Creative Cloud, PowerPoint, InternetJock and Audacity). We’re experimenting with choose-your-own-path interactive training videos.
Q8: When it comes to workplace learning challenges, what keeps you up at night?
KK: Not much keeps me up at night! What gets me out of bed in the morning is the joy of making complicated things simple for other people – by design. This can involve graphic design, instructional design, interaction design, copy editing, process improvement, project management and any number of other skills and applications.
A lot of variables go into making something efficient to learn! I love a challenge, and am grateful to work with a team of problem solvers, at a company that equips us to make positive changes.
Q9: Is there a learning innovation that is most exciting to you — and why?
KK: Badges! Given the amount of information people need to learn — and how quickly it changes — society is long overdue for non-college educated and rogue learners to showcase their credentials in a simple way that is also easy to verify.
The recent eLearning Guild DevLearn Conference lit a fire under me to get started with this! There are a lot of movers and shakers working to promote badges. In particular, I’ve found Daniel T. Hickey (Indiana University) and Carl Nestor (at www.BadgeSoup.com) to be influential.
We received the all-clear to begin experimenting with our performance improvement department to create badge prototypes with metadata that highlights attendance requirements and competencies assessed throughout Levy’s leadership training program. I anticipate we’ll continue to see an increase in the number of companies offering digital credentials that learners can leverage in a variety of outlets, throughout their careers. Plus, badges boost brand publicity for companies issuing the credit, so everyone wins.”