August 19, 2017

10 Questions When Choosing an eLearning Authoring Tool

With each eLearning authoring tool boasting its unique selling features, it can be tough finding one that fits your specific content creation needs. Since we all have different needs, backgrounds and proficiency with new technology, there is no universal tool.  Below are 10 questions you should ask yourself when choosing an eLearning authoring tool.

1. What level of interactivity do we want in an authoring tool?  Ensuring that a course is engaging can be more difficult than producing the content itself. Some form of interactivity is essential to ensure that learners stay focused and retain information. Adding interactivity to a course can vary in difficulty, so it’s important you choose a tool that fits with your skills and resources.

2. Do we desire video delivery features in the tool?  With decreasing attention spans, video has become one of the most popular eLearning formats. With that in mind, ensuring that the tool you choose offers at least basic video is a good idea. Otherwise, adding video to a course can require a significant amount of external resources.

3. Do we need a tool that offers development collaboration?  This really depends on your work environment. Will you be working solo or collaborating with a team? The best collaborative authoring tools will be cloud-based. If you will be collaborating intensely, real-time collaboration is an ideal feature for efficient collaboration.

4. Should our courses be mobile friendly?  If your courses will viewed outside of a classroom setting, they must be mobile-friendly! This is where you should be looking at the publishing output (Flash, HTML5, etc.). Ensure that courses can be accessed and interacted with on all major devices.

5. What is more important to us, a short learning curve or more creative options?  With most tools, you get what you give. Meaning, a complex tool will likely be capable of more impressive results than an easy tool with minimal options. The complex tool will have a much steeper learning curve, but will typically offer much more creative freedom. It’s just a matter of knowing the scope of your needs, resources and capabilities.

6. Which fits our needs better, a desktop tool or web-based tool?  While both types of tools have their pros and cons, web-based authoring tools are increasingly popular. Some advantages include universal access, no installations, automatic updates and more. The opposite is generally true for desktop software. However, there are some benefits, such as offline access, quicker response time and more control over data.

7. Will we require any analytical data on learners?  Will you be tracking learner data through your LMS or must you rely on built-in analytics? Usage data is helpful in understanding how learners engage with your course and whether its design is effective. Some tools offer built-in analytics, but it also depends on the data you require.

8. Is it compatible with our LMS or LRS?  If you are currently using an LMS or a LRS, it’s important to know if the tool is compatible. The same goes for other technology you will be using in the content creation process.

9. How does it fit into our training budget?  Simplicity tends to go hand in hand with price. Below are key points to consider when reviewing pricing plans:
·         Free trial offers
·         Price per authoring versus team pricing plans
·         Monthly storage included and cost of additional storage
·         Monthly payments or yearly contract
·         Number of perks available as add-ons
·         Flexibility of cancellation policy

10. Are there any hidden costs we may not be aware of?  Consider all the features you need relative to how much you are willing to spend. Also consider the costs of external tools that are not included in the plan you are considering buying. For instance, external branching software can cost a few hundred dollars extra per month.

You should now have a good idea of what to look for when choosing an eLearning authoring tool.

August 1, 2017

Quality Management – Where Are We Now? Survey Questions

I was reading a Leadership vs Management” report from Sweden’s LUND University that used Total Quality Management (TQM) models to arrive at their conclusions.  The latest reference in the report was 2006.  After doing an internet search, I could not find a more recent report that was not primarily Healthcare related.  As a corporate trainer during of the quality improvement (quality related posts) and team building (team related posts) booms of the late 1980s thru the 1990s, I was curious about where businesses are now related to continuous quality management programs.  (Check out Kaizen and the history of Quality Improvement processes from Creative Safety Solutions.) 

Knowing that customers expect more now than they did in the past, I wondered if the quality ideas are still in full force at USA companies and global organizations.   The best way for me to find out is to ask, right? Complete survey at 
to let me know what is going on (or not happening) in your company. The survey can take between 1 - 8 minutes depending on your answer to the provided questions. When I get at least 1000 responses, I will publish the survey results in a future post.  

July 11, 2017

Three Top Soft Skills Leaders Need Training On

 Have you ever wondered what benefit your business leadership gets from attending training workshops?  Did they not learn everything they needed in their MBA program that included finance, running a business, and strategic thinking? The answer is NO.  To stay current, good leaders are always learning and improving especially in the area of “soft skills.”

According to Paula Ketter, Editor of TD Magazine, “Leaders in the 21st century require myriad skills to be successful, and those skills are becoming more diverse every day. It is imperative that training professionals incorporate many of these soft skills into leadership programs for high potentials.”

What are the “soft skills” leaders need most?  Leadership development experts run the gambit on what they say are key skills.  Briefly listed below are the three top skills you can find on most of their lists.
  1. Communication (see related Business Insider article) – This includes more than presentation or speaking skills, which may or may not have been offered in a business degree program.  Great leaders also listen well, gather input from all levels of the organization, and are good negotiators.
  2. Self-Awareness – Whether this as defined as emotional intelligence (defined in Inc. article), behavior traits (example in Business News Daily) , or personality style (article from Fast Company); great managers understand themselves and acknowledge that others may think differently.  This knowledge allows them to: emphasize with others, develop change management plans with employee reaction in mind, plus modify their communication methods to better influence and motivate others.
  3. Trustworthiness  (see related Forbes articles on Why and How with 8 C’s) – Building trust is a key component of customer relationships, collaboration with vendors, and employee team building; so it should be in the top three.  However, trust appears on many experts list, although lower than the more easily taught process skills.  

For thoughts on other leadership challenges, check out prior posts on Five Common Leadership Challenges and CEO Challenges.  For a list of additional leadership training ideas, check out older posts Leadership Development – Report Confirms Top Three Needs and Leadership Training – Report Indicates Top Four Needs.

If you can build and follow a process around it, then it typically can be defined as hard or technical skill wheras soft skills are not easily mapped into a step-by-step process. 

If you are designing or looking to buy a leadership development program, you may also want to read the 8-page white paper by Phillips: You Can Measure the Impact and ROI for Soft Skill Programs.

May 16, 2017

Fifteen Common Design Mistakes in Creating Visuals

Since my most popular seminar and  articles are on how to create and deliver presentations, I was intrigued when Payman Taei (Founder of Visme) offered to let me share parts of his video series called "Make Information Beautiful" on my blog.

At the bottom of this post is an 10-minute episode from the series containing great tips to avoid the most common design mistakes by non-designers. The 15 mistakes are indicated below,  However you have to watch the video to get the tips for avoiding these mistakes.

1. Using words instead of visuals
2. Poor readability
3. Mismatching fonts
4. Not choosing the right colors
5. Lack of negative space
6. Place elements arbitrarily
7. Failing to create contrast
8. Not scaling properly
9. Hard-to-read text
10.Inappropriate font combinations
11.Inadequate space between lines
12.Using raster images
13.Striving for complete symmetry
14.Failing to communicate effectively
15.Not being consistent

The additional 4 mistakes mentioned in video are in images and text on Visme blog post
1. Bad kearning
2. Ignoring visual hierarchy rules
3. Copying other's work
4. Forgetting about the medium

April 25, 2017

Career Transitions: No Job Too Small

I have heard people say you need to dress for the job you want.  I have also heard others say you should not settle for a job that is not in your desired career path as it will slow you down or prevent you getting there. 

I agree with the first statement as that has worked for me in the corporate world.  I dressed for the position I wanted, and eventually got there.  Although it may have been due more to having managers with open minds who saw my accomplishments, abilities, and potential rather than seeing me in my various suits.  (Thanks to all the really great supervisors and managers I have had over the years!)

My professional issue is with the second statement above.  You never know where a job will lead you to.  Sometimes what seems insignificant can result in skills that will be useful later on.  Never think you are too good for a task or that the job is too small to fit into your greater career plan.  Each job you do prepares you for the next one.  Skills acquired can usually be applied elsewhere, even into owning your own business.

Here are six examples I can provide from personal experience where something I learned at one job directly led to being hired for another job.
1.    In my teens, I went to work for fast-food chain, where I learned to serve customers with a smile, follow a process, provide quality products, handle money, and do a little bookkeeping.
2.    Before I hit 20 and because of money experience above, I moved to working in a retail store where inventory management was eventually added to my skill set.
3.    After working in retail, I was able to get office positions in companies doing fashion wholesale or car sales, where I learned:  filing, time management, contracts, and some accounting.
4.    Primarily because of my contract and accounting experience, I was able to move to a higher paying position in a financial organization within a technology company, where I learned computers as well as got more experience in: accounting, contracts, and regulations.
5.    Later, the computer experience I gained helped me get a position in another technology company working with programmers and engineers, plus into areas of: training, quality improvement, team-building, and management.
6.    The well-rounded experience gained in the corporate world led to freelance consulting and training.

Note:  I started out babysitting in my early teens.  It did not directly lead to another job, yet I did learn a lot that I could apply to other jobs throughout my career.

April 4, 2017

Millennials in the Workforce: Learn To Use It or Expect To Lose It

A Message to Millennials book
A Message to Millennials is a book that merges Charlie Jones’ 7 Tremendous Laws of Leadership  advice with lessons on followership learned and shared by author Tracey C. Jones.  Tracey calls each of the seven lessons of success targeted at millennials a different function of followership.  Below are examples from the 2nd law of leadership and the 2nd function of followership: USE OR LOSE.

Charlie asks “Are you multiplying what you already have?”  If you are using the skills, talents, and opportunities that are present, you cannot help but gain more.  If instead you are letting things slide or blaming others for your failures, you stay the same or slide backwards.  There is no gain if you do not put in the work with a good attitude. 

Tracey asks “Do you seize the day or do you seize the excuse?” Seek opportunities to be part of something greater than yourself.  Value what you have and share your resources with others and in the organization. Remember not everything is in your control, but you can be diligent in how you handle things and the attitude you choose. 

An excellent word puzzle shared in this part of the book is 
How many words do you see in the puzzle? Why do you think you found those words?

The above is small sample of how this book makes you stop and think about doing their job. A Message to Millennials includes a hyperlink to a 10-page followership questionnaire and an interesting set of ABC’s for millennials in its conclusion.

Leadership and followership are two sides of the same coin.” - Tracey C. Jones 

For other views on millennials or this book, check out these posts: 
If you have more time and want data to help you understand the different generations in the workplace today, check out 11-page Generational Differences Chart or 14-page Understanding Generational Differences whitepaper.

March 28, 2017

Babysitting Teaches Ten Management Skills

As a teen, I was a babysitter.  Back then; this was simply a way to earn extra money.  I recently realized that a lot of what I learned babysitting (especially when working with multiple children), I also applied to working with business teams (as their leader) and with employees (as their manager). 

Below are the top 10 things I learned as a babysitter that also apply to management.

  1. A safe environment should be maintained to avoid injuries, name-calling, and bad feelings.
  2. Training is really necessary to move from a novice to a comfortable skill level on anything new to people.
  3. Good time management skills and prioritization insures important things get done before time runs out.
  4. It is best to match tasks and jobs to the experience and skills of each person in the group.
  5. Having people work as a team often gets more done with better results.
  6. You can save time if you have a more skilled person partner with a new (or younger) person to learn something new or difficult to understand.
  7. A little healthy competition does not hurt, as long as it is done for fun.
  8. Be prepared for quick problem-solving, as there may not be time to dilly-dally.
  9. Always be prepared with a back-up plan or alternate idea, just in case things do not go as planned.
  10. Explain expectations upfront and be willing to negotiate when necessary.

If you want another perspective on grown-up business applications for babysitting, check out 4 Ways Babysitting Prepared You to Kick Ass at Your Job Today.

March 7, 2017

Twenty-three Productivity Hacks Infographic

There will be days that you will not feel as productive or inspired as you would like.  On those days it can be hard to make decisions, get things done, or even get motivated to achieve small or big goals.  It is not that you are no longer interested in your goals or work; it is more that things just happen to distract or discourage you.  The most important thing to remember is that you should never give up.

Anytime you are “not feeling it” when it comes to your goals, completing taaks, or managing your time - consider the tips in this the infographic (made using the made with Visme tool) below.  It contains twenty-three productivity hacks.  If you want more details on the hacks or want to see full-size version of the infographic, you can goto the article 23 Best Productivity Hacks of the Year

23 Productivity Hacks infographic

February 21, 2017

Who will do the job?

After hearing that immigrants were encouraged to walk-off their job to show how much America needed them to fill jobs that Americans themselves supposedly refuse to do. I first asked, what makes the politicians think immigrant people can afford to not go to work?  Didn’t they choose to immigrate legally with green cards or visas for the purpose of work because they need the money to support their families? Was it not inconsiderate to ask them to give up their income for a day and/or possibly risk the loss of their job? 

If the protest requests were directed to undocumented workers (a.k.a. illegal aliens), then I would think that was absurd.  People who have come into the country without the proper paperwork would not risk promoting that in a public setting.  Even though the border patrols, fences, and paperwork checks are directed at them.  They can be deported for coming in illegally and possible employers can be fined or more for illegally hiring them without paperwork.

Then, I wondered who could fill those jobs if these people were let go?  Since they would need to hire if these employers let people who did not show up go. (Employers are legally permitted to terminate someone for not showing up for work as it can adversely affect their services - which would be the true reason the jobs would become available –not because someone was attending a protest). Back to the question – who could do the work?  Maybe the jobs could be filled by the 4.8% adult American citizens who are still unemployed, or those released from jail who want a job to turn their lives around, or where possible give jobs to those  with disabilities who want work, or people who should not be on welfare. If not the jobless adults, then some of these jobs which are already being done by some teenagers maybe could be done by more teens if they wanted a job.

Like it or not, the USA is part of the global marketplace. Saying that immigrants are taking USA jobs and possibly not paying taxes are only part of the issue. > Now people can stay in their native country and get a job as more USA jobs are going outside the country because labor is cheaper and there are fewer restrictions.  These jobs are going across the border as well outsourcing overseas (to China or India). 

Why are these American dollars going to other countries?  Could it be the unions that helped our citizens get better wages, safe environments, and fair hours have gone overboard?  Have worker unions outlived their original purpose and are now part of the problem?  Could it be the wonderful regulations that unions helped inspire have gone overboard with government control? Or has the American worker really gotten greedy when it comes to pay and benefits?  What happened to the company profits that went back into businesses to grow it and hire more workers?  How hard is it to start a business or maintain one in the USA today?  

February 9, 2017

Is the Era of Incivility Going to Destroy American Business?

Mastery Civility book

Recent rude demonstrations from the vocal minority trying to instill political unrest and doubt had me wondering how this could impact businesses.  I was looking for ways other than inconsiderate protests that block airports and streets, which kept people from getting to work or going home. To satisfy my curiosity, I did an internet search and found that there have been many experts showing a concern over how incivility affects business in the last decade.  Below are a few of the best results I found.  There were many going beyond the past 10 years as this has been quickly progressing since the 1990’s.

In 2012, an international survey of rudeness by country was conducted by the travel site Skyscanner.  Results were published by magazines Forbes, citing cultural differences, and Time blaming language barriers.  (USA = #7) A different survey was conducted by international cell phone distributor, Mobal, of both friendly and rude countries (USA = #4) to visit.

A lot of book titles also showed up for personal and professional use.  The following books were published by business experts for company managers and human resources:
The Cost of Bad Behavior  (2009) by Christine Pearson and Christine Porath

And there were various articles based on the oldest book above. 
The Price of Incivility was written by the authors and it appeared in Harvard Business Review (2013) with various statistics worthy of noting. 
- A summary article Bad Behavior Costs Businesses Billions states repercussions and warnings. 
- An informative white paper The Cost of Bad Behavior in the Workplace shows statistics and dollars.

What should be done to turn things around?  A few suggestions can be found in Entrepreneur article Good Manners Are a Career and Business Necessity and sales blog post Increasing Sales Effectiveness via Etiquette: Five Simple Principles.