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December 2018
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TD Magazine

Removing Barriers to Learning

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Richard Stange

Title: National Learning and Development Manager

Organization: The HON Company

Location: Muscatine, Iowa

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/richardjstange

Education: Bachelor of fine arts, design and photography (University of Iowa); Certified Professional in Learning and Performance

Favorite Saying: "Is the juice worth the squeeze?"

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In his role for the HON Company, which manufactures workplace furniture, Richard Stange manages a team of event facilitators, instructional designers, and project managers. In a previous role as instructional design manager, he helped the organization develop many product and soft skills training programs, implemented a homegrown learning management system, and created YouTube training videos that reached more than 100,000 views in only 18 months. He also has completed several large performance analyses that resulted not only in behavior modification but changes in processes and other performance-based elements.

How has managing an entire learning department been different from managing just instructional design?

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The main difference is that I spend less time on process management, tasks, and the design choices needed for instructional design projects. Now, I'm focusing more on how to activate the different levers of the whole department to achieve results for the organization and our customers. For example, instead of reviewing project timelines and designs, I'm scheduling activity out for the year and working on organization-wide projects while helping to build a team of strong L&D professionals.

What inspired you to develop training videos for YouTube?

We wanted to add videos as a resource to help our customers learn about our products and how to work on them. Publishing them on YouTube was all about removing the barriers to consumption.

For example, when someone searches "how to install a chair cylinder," they're not looking in a portal or going behind different website walls. They're searching the Internet to figure it out. Yes, it would be nice to know who watched the videos and how long they watched them, but we put the priority on removing the barriers instead. I find that the best content won't do any good if your audience can't get to it.

What skills have you found most valuable during your L&D career?

For me, instructional design was a great base to learn from. But, holistically speaking, having different insights from different positions in an L&D department has been valuable. It's much easier to build a training program when you actually have an idea of what questions learners will ask and when you need breaks.

While many of us don't wake up one day and say, "I want to work in L&D when I grow up," we find ourselves migrating here. So, we owe it to ourselves to hone our skills. I advise my team to work through the department and improve their craft along the way, to learn all the different areas of the department to become a more rounded professional in this field.

About the Author
The Association for Talent Development (ATD) is a professional membership organization supporting those who develop the knowledge and skills of employees in organizations around the world. The ATD Staff, along with a worldwide network of volunteers work to empower professionals to develop talent in the workplace.
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