How to Incorporate Skill-Based Training: My Three Essential Principles

Editor’s Note: Welcome to the first of our SME Stories! Whether you’re new to hands-on learning or looking for ways to optimize training, our experts share their personal stories, experiences and insights to help you improve your team’s performance.

Insights and experiences from Katie O’Zey—Instructional Designer for 13 years and Skillable’s Professional Services Lead.

“Every mistake is an opportunity to learn something new.” I can attest to that! In fact, I owe my career to one. Just a year out of college, I applied to a mislabeled content writer position—which turned out to be a role in instructional design (ID). Luckily, the company saw my potential, I embraced the opportunity to be mentored by an incredible ID team and the rest, as they say, is history! 
Katie O'Zey, Skillable

Why explore skill-based learning?

So how does this story apply to learners or your learning programs? Are you afraid of trying skill-based training because of potential mistakes? In my experience, the best way people learn is through exploration—even trial and error. And nothing supports the skill-development journey better than hands-on learning in a real-world environment.  

That’s why I love my current role leading our Professional Services team. I get to help HR, L&D and IT organizations, just like yours, develop learning environments that:  

  • Give people a safe place to explore and practice new skills 
  • Help them learn from their successes or failures 
  • Provide an easy way to prove skill mastery 

Here’s one of my favorite examples. 

Adopting skill-based learning at scale: A case summary.

Challenge: Quickly scale skill-based product training.

A Fortune 20 cloud technology company was prepping for an industry-disrupting product launch and needed extensive, hands-on training for its sales and technical teams. Not only did they need to correctly explain the device’s innovation and use cases, but also seamlessly integrate it into their customers’ ecosystems and work together to maximize adoption. The problem was, there were not enough devices for these teams to train on.  

Solution: Provide interactive, hands-on learning environments.

That’s where our team jumped in. We replicated their device and real-life learning environment in a high-fidelity, virtual setting. So each sales rep and technical seller could test, configure and use their own version of the product—exploring as many “real-world” scenarios as they needed to develop product mastery. 

Results: Validated skills that exceeded launch goals.

The hands-on experiences were so successful that we expanded them into multi-day workshops. These intensive “virtual boot camps” rapidly built and validated their teams’ product knowledge and skills. As for the product launch, it exceeded the company’s goals in both product awareness and sales. 

So what did I learn from this experience that can help you? The success of this program laid the foundation for my Three Essential Principles for Incorporating Skill-Based Training. They haven’t failed me yet and are sure to improve your programs’ results:

Three essential principles for skills training.

#1. Enlist experts early.

Transitioning to skill-based learning can seem overwhelming without the right guidance. That’s why the most successful projects I’ve seen bring in experts early. Whether it’s assisting with job task or gap analysis, creating performance-based learning pathways or objectives mapping, when my team is involved from the start, we better understand our customers’ desired skills and outcomes—and become a true extension of their teams.

#2. Start with why, not how.

When creating a training program or series, I see many organizations ask tactical questions like these, far too soon: “What should learners know about the job/product?” or “What skills do they need to be successful?” Instead, they should first focus on desired outcomes, asking questions like:

  • “What goals do we want to achieve?”
  • “Why are we positioned to achieve them?”
  • “What is our definition of success?”
  • “Why do we need to improve certain skills now?”

Think of this process as reverse engineering your learning’s success. By defining the results you want first (the why), the skills you need to achieve them (the how) will fall into place.

#3. Practice makes perfect.

Building skills is all about embedding the right habits, and this can only happen through practice. Consider riding a bike. You can watch countless videos on how to do it. But without practicing on your bike, logging the hours to perfect your balance, timing and speed, you’ll probably spend more time falling versus riding.

Why, then, do many training programs still lack practical, hands-on practice for skill development? At Skillable, we help our customers adopt a challenge-centric methodology where teams can practice and validate skills using hands-on learning experiences. This provides a safe environment for learners to “crash” and then learn from mistakes before they’re on the job.

How can I help?

The opportunity to develop my own skills, and mentor others as I was mentored early on, has been incredibly rewarding. Especially since I can show my customers that when it comes to skills training, mistakes aren’t inherently bad; rather, they can be powerful learning tools.

Connect with Katie.

If you’d like to see how hands-on learning can accelerate your team’s job readiness or technical proficiency, I’d love to hear from you! Please send me a note. 

Connect with Katie on LinkedIn

Katie O'Zey, Skillable

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