September 6th, 2013 Instructional Design

hiring-picOne thing has always surprised me when doing elearning consulting projects, and it’s that nearly ever client failed to have a full-time instructional designer on their staff.

I suppose this was a good thing for my team since it meant more work for us, but I find it quite fascinating how today companies are still neglecting to bring in a true professional in this space.

The thing is, it wasn’t like these companies couldn’t afford to fill this kind of position – they were some of the biggest companies in the world.

One of the few exceptions was a project I did for a local state government – they actually had someone creating and maintaining their elearning. For the rest though, they were throwing dollars at consultants to do the work for them.

Consultants are certainly a smart option as you’re likely to get quality work out of a specialty shop. Plus, the projects that call for these firms are often too large for just a few people to handle. Ultimately though, the consultants leave, and with them so does their knowledge of the training program design, development, and implementation.

Hire Early & Benefit

Every company needs an instructional designer on their staff. I don’t mean some part-time position, or as one-of-many job responsibilities for some entry level HR Specialist. I mean a true ID that makes their living in the field and has a real passion for it.

Many of the larger companies prefer to bring in consulting firms to hammer out, and administer, new training. This is all well and good, but these same companies should also bring in a full-time instructional designer to join the team. This person should be working in the trenches with the consultants, learning everything about the program through every phase of the project.

Think about how much of an asset this individual immediately becomes to his employer. They now know the entire training program intimately from start to finish. How to edit content, where content has come from, why it exists, who the target audience is, and much more! Maintenance and quality assurance alone become much less costly to the organization because they have their own expert on-the-ground.

Cut Costs, Increase Profits

Hiring an instructional designer will help the organization maintain a high quality within their training materials, while at the same time reducing expenses from hiring outside firms for maintenance and re-work. Without a capable, knowledgeable instructional designer, the training beings to go stale – and a workforce trained on dated material does more damage than good.

If you are considering hiring an ID professional, then do it. Your bottom line will only benefit in the long-run.

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About Justin Ferriman

Justin Ferriman started LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by Fortune 500 companies, major universities, training organizations, and entrepreneurs worldwide for creating (and selling) their online courses. Justin's Homepage | Twitter


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I have given your exact talk to companies and educational organizations all over the Philadelphia area. In addition to great content we designers carry, shape, and enhance; we also have great grant writing skills and perspectives and programs for succession planning for individuals and companies.

Instructional designers, well chosen, immediately can change a company financially as well as give them the look consumers expect in today’s competitive market.

You how much it distresses me to say this, but… well done.

@ Justin,

We’ve traded emails before and I’ve read several of your entries in the past. I couldn’t agree with you more on this. There was an article posted today on Linked-In (11/18/13) (where I first saw this a few weeks ago) that said companies should eliminate the HR department. Don’t want to summarize that reading – but it stands in direct contrast with everything here. I’ve worked in big companies and as a consultant for medium-big companies and you’d be surprised how bad training is in many places. Even if you come out of college with a degree in the exact discipline (not just field, but very personalized areas of study – like having a JD in bankrupty or a BS in organic chemistry) companies nowadays forget that you didn’t learn everything in college and with colleges still following the lecture model for the most part, people didn’t get enough opportunities to apply their learning, and even with a decent internship or two, often times those programs are either all fluff – “classes” and “trips” and “q&a” sessions, or they’re just x number of hours per week of entry level admin tasks.

Organizations and leaders continually go bacl to the saying, our company is our people, but with the emphasis on short-term profits, developing cutting edge ideas & products (which means the best are teaching the rest) the ability for newbies to learn or underperformers to grow is slim. I worked for a large national retailer that was great at stealing folks from other retailers for Senior leve, managerial, director, and VP positions. But, they had no training when I came on board or clear path for entry level folks. 1/2 of the assistant buyers that where hired into the company in the time I was there left. and many more transitioned into other positions. Many had retail experience and many were coming in with business/merchandising degrees, but the complities of a corporate job was beyond what they already knew. The finally realized that it would take 1 ID a whole year to build and pilot an effective training program as opposed to the old paradigm they assumed – 1 person, working on multiple projects, could produce something substantial like that in 3 months or less.

WOuld love to hear more thoughts on this as it applies to other sectors too – pharma, medicine, medical devices, legal, IT, etc.

Avatar John L

I am so pleased to be reading this and that other are on track. I finished my master’s in Instructional Design in 2013 and now perusing more work as an Instructional Designer and supporting my worthiness to potential employers. Thank you for your support!

Avatar Victoria Gray

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