Designing a Profitable Learning Experience
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Designing a Profitable Learning Experience

  Rabih Rizk | Management Consultant

  8th May, 2019

A company is not a school … and learning for the sake of learning is not an objective for most organizations. When companies invest in learning, they are usually hungry for a return on their investment. Just like when investing in marketing, research and development, or advertising, organizations hope to improve profitability when spending money on the training of their employees.

In marketing for example, spending can be justified by linking marketing activities to the increased number of new clients and higher sales. Spending money on learning however, is not so easily justified. This is why human resources professionals and training practitioners are constantly challenged to provide evidence that their budget is well invested.

This being said, our ability to calculate a tangible return on learning, will significantly increase if we become competent in ‘instructional design’. Instructional design is the process of converting learning experiences into organizational performance. The link between learning as knowledge acquisition and the resulting performance improvements can be vague and unconvincing. The ADDIE thinking process can establish this relationship more systematically. ADDIE is a framework for developing new products, and it has been adopted lately by trainers and educators to design engaging and learner-centered lessons. It is an acronym representing five phases: Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate.

In the training environment, the ADDIE process starts with analyzing employees’ performance gaps. This first phase is meant to help HR and training professionals answer questions like: “who needs training? Why do they need training? Will this performance gap be bridged with learning or would it require a different kind of intervention?”

The second phase of the ADDIE process is the design phase, and it aims at drawing a line of sight between the current and the desired performance level of an employee through their learning journey. During this phase the training professional ideally answers the following question: “what does this employee need to learn in order to achieve all his/her work objectives?” As this question indicates, the objective is not to acquire new knowledge or master a new skill; the objective is to improve performance. It is also during this phase that the training professional should identify the most suitable learning methodologies to use, knowing that different people learn differently.

A good training professional should, after the analysis and design phases of ADDIE, already have a clear sense of what to expect from the learning intervention and how to evaluate its effectiveness. Unfortunately, not too many professionals understand the importance on these two phases, and those who do, are either too busy or lack the necessary skills to implement them properly. Many training professionals focus their time and efforts almost exclusively on the development and implementation phases of ADDIE. These phases are of course very important, but what is required is a balanced focus giving all phases their fair share of the effort.

The development phase is the third phase of the process. It is during this phase that the lesson content is created and delivery vehicles decided upon. During this phase the training professional should answer questions like: “which book is relevant to read and can provide me with suitable content for this training?” or “what icebreaker shall I use in the beginning of my training?” or “what are the activities that participants would enjoy the most?” Again, a very important phase but one that can cause the learning professional to drift away from the originally stated objectives of the intervention. The trainer might be tempted to include certain pieces of information, not because they are relevant to the case at hand, but because the trainer may think they are nice even if not necessary or relevant.

Phase number 4 – the implementation – is mostly about transforming the learning blueprint developed so far into detailed instructions, guides, timelines, calendars, lesson plans, worksheets, attendance confirmation, and logistics. The most challenging aspect of this phase is figuring out how to encourage learners’ buy-in to participate in the training and engage with an open mind and a positive attitude. It is also during this phase that decisions related to the choosing of the training provider, be it internal to the company or external, are taken.

The fifth and last phase of the ADDIE process is dedicated to planning the evaluation methods of the learning experience. The training professional should find answers to this most brutal of questions: “how would I know that my learning plan worked?”

It is important to remember as we conclude this article, that all five phases of the ADDIE process are executed before the learning experience takes place. Most people think that the implementation phase IS the actual training session, and that the evaluation phase starts only after the training is conducted. This is definitely not the case and it defeats the very reason for the existence of ADDIE. All the ADDIE phases are preparatory. Surprisingly enough, if you start thinking about evaluating a training after it is done, you are unquestionably too LATE!

Wishing to become an instructional design practitioner? Please join our latest certification program endorsed by SHRM and HRCI. All details are available on the following link.

Rabih Rizk

Management Consultant

Mr. Rabih Rizk is a management consultant with Meirc Training & Consulting. He holds a bachelor of science in education and a master of science in education, both from the Lebanese University in Lebanon. In addition, Rabih is certified to deliver international training programs in leadership, organizational behavior, innovation, and experiential learning.