Summer 2021
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CTDO Magazine

Pushed to Lead

Thursday, July 15, 2021

The pandemic was the spark my team and I needed to overhaul our training management system.

“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” —Pablo Picasso

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During the past 15 years, UCHealth, in Aurora, Colorado, has transformed from a small, single hospital to more than 15 hospitals in Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming. But with that growth has come challenges.

For me, as director of IT, and my training team, we were struggling to effectively provide training resources to all our affiliations and learners.

The resources were located in many different places, such as SharePoint, wikis, and network drives. And we had so much: more than 3,000 tip sheets, large (more than 30 pages) quick-start guides, and job aids. In addition to offering face-to-face training, we had thousands of courses for pre- and post-training and other types of training inside a learning management system.

Our search functionality was inefficient for everyone and gave old course recommendations, and we had firewall issues. Then the pandemic hit.

Our learners needed access to all training. We required an enterprise solution. And I needed to successfully lead my team to deliver that—STAT.

Identifying needs and solutions

The issues with our training resources weren’t new. During the past few years, my team and I had researched many solutions, but change was slow because all decisions needed to be vetted through many committees.

The COVID-19 pandemic, in many ways, became our catalyst. Within a few short weeks, we had to change our training offerings because face-to-face courses were no longer an option. We asked ourselves: Now what?

Flexibility was key to the solution we developed. We wanted to give learners anytime, anywhere access to the training resources and based on roles. Nurses would no longer have to look at training information that is geared for medical assistants or providers.

Additionally, we knew the majority of our learners already had electronic medical record experience, so we didn’t want to duplicate their learning efforts. We likewise wanted to make the search process more efficient, decreasing the time it takes learners to find the information they need.

We needed to reduce the size and complexity of our help documents. Fifteen-minute e-learning or 26-page documents were not acceptable. Everything we offered had to be in a micro format so that when learners needed to know what time it is, we didn’t show them how to build the entire watch.

Our solutions were:

  • A digital content management system that was accessible within the electronic medical record system
  • An artificial intelligence platform that enabled us to assess learners who were joining the organization with previous electronic medical record experience

Those solutions addressed our current issues and established a pathway for our future within the organization.

Highs and lows

In every implementation, there are great joys—and we had many elements that worked well.

For example, the digital content management system enabled us to not only offer every different form of training to learners within the electronic medical record system, but it made us focus on what was important to them and instructional designers. Our coaching solution moved our former classroom and delivery trainers to a coaching role, an effort we had been striving after for years. 

We likewise established vendor, department, and affiliate partnerships that enabled us to create a learning ecosystem that provided essential information to learners and improved overall training.

However, it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. I had several moments where I wanted to sit on the floor in a dark room and rip my hair out.

Lack of unity. When the project began, I didn’t establish ground rules or incorporate change management training. Because of that, for the first few months, we were not a united front. 

The training team members each had different ideas of how to implement their part of the project, and they started designing and delivering the product before we had created standards. Throughout the project deliverables and milestones, the team pushed back on decisions that the leadership team and I were making about standards, which delayed the project in different phases.  

To begin the journey toward a united team, I reached out to team members’ supervisors. Together we designed working sessions to walk through a simulation and ask for feedback on what we could have done differently, asked for team members’ opinions, and then discuss the differing opinions.

Pushback. It was critical for us to determine the viability, accuracy, and relevance of our training resources. For this part of the process, my team and I relied on the instructional designers’ and delivery trainers’ experience and knowledge.

That may seem like an easy part of the process, but the project manager and I received pushback from the instructional designers at every phase of the process, especially when I first decided to convert all training to microlearning. The team believed that learners needed to be able to print content if they wanted to.

To address those concerns, my team and I worked with the vendor to incorporate a way for learners to print materials as desired.

Leadership and standards. I don’t recommend involving large groups to set standards on project deliverables of this size. When we involved a large group, we received many opinions. The discussions encompassed numerous meetings and hours of documenting the standards only to have the standards re-evaluated because of differing opinions. 

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To make up for lost time, we convened a small group to develop the standards. That group included two of the most outspoken team members and a small section of the leadership team. After we set the standards in draft form, we then asked the larger group to review the document, and we included comments of the reason we chose the standards. That proved to be a more efficient approach.

Engagement of multimedia team. Often during a new project, individuals can form perceptions because they lack knowledge or fear losing roles. That started to happen for us also. To alleviate any fears, we involved as many team members as possible in meetings, shared developments in large team meetings, and designed working sessions to have team members walk through simulations and redesign them based on standards.  

Group filters and folders. In our previous LMS, it was at the instructional designers’ discretion how they organized information for their learner groups. In our new digital content management system, we designed groups (role-based filters based on security templates) and folders that were more specific for what learners would need. The process took a lot of time for me and my team to work with each instructional designer and walk them through the needed changes and how to reorganize the data into each new folder. However, in the end, it made the deliverables stronger.

Delivery dates and work blockages. My team and I didn’t have the option to stop all our other work to focus on this project’s deliverables because we are responsible for training, coaching, and supporting all new hires. Anyone involved in the project had to figure out time in their schedules to complete the work.

What I learned

Leadership on a large project rollout is not an easy task. I encountered a lot of resistance based on “this is the way we have always done it before” or “if it is not broke, then don’t fix it.”

I made decisions that were not popular, and I had to learn and quickly accept that this would happen. I identified a healthy outlet for relieving my frustrations, which kept me strong and focused on the end result.

There were days and nights where I was feeling frustrated, but I learned that having individuals I could rely on to be a good listening ear helped. For this project, those individuals were the project manager and my supervisor. I needed to quickly figure out what was causing me strife and take steps to relieve that angst—not only for me but, if possible, also for my team.

Having heartfelt discussions with the team was important so that I could understand the changes I needed to make and revolutionize my training. One vendor partner shared this with me: “Dissent until agreed; once agreed, execute.” The dissent discussions during the project rollout were hard; but in the end, my team, the organization, and I are better for it.

I also learned that it is vital to have all the standards and decisions in place before holding a kickoff meeting with vendors or starting training with the team. Otherwise, you will spend a majority of your time wrestling with others through decisions.

Further, while being all inclusive is wonderful, there are times when it is necessary to work in small teams to ensure processes are in place to create consistency.

Finally, I realized that a pandemic can be bad, but in this situation, it was the boost my team, UCHealth, and I needed to make changes.

Read more from CTDO magazine: Essential talent development content for C-suite leaders.

About the Author

Kelley Williamson is the director, IT at UCHealth, a large hospital system located in Colorado. At UCHealth, Williamson has a team of 65-plus training and support members who focus not only on the Electronic Medical Record system but also on all IT training requests. At UCHealth, Williamson has been responsible for revolutionizing training, and this has included retraining of staff, movement of staff to coaching role versus delivery roles, moving of all training to a remote model, using new tools to support one source of truth and quicker onboarding while training and supporting a quickly growing healthcare organization.

Williamson has been with UCHealth for 16-plus years, and the roles that she has held have been the director, IT; HR manager; business partners and manager of learning and development. Her previous experience encompasses being a director of associate development at Expanets, manager of learning and development at RELERA, and director of sales and marketing at DLC & Associates.

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