3 ways to improve your L&D needs analysis and drive organisational growth


It’s the time of the year again when Learning and Development managers plan for the year ahead. Sending a survey to gather insights about the learning needs is a common practice, but exactly how useful would these insights be? Will the data collected help L&D managers strategise learning initiatives that can drive organisational value and performance? 

The answer lies in how your questions are crafted. In the article “Is your feedback form effective?”, we explored the importance of designing purposeful questions that can solicit insightful responses. We can take the same approach for the Employee Learning Needs Surveys by being clear on: 

  1. The objectives behind the questions; and
  2. The types of questions to ask to help you achieve your objectives.

There are three areas to consider for purposeful and actionable insights from your employees. These areas can potentially save you massive amounts of money from implementing learning solutions that don’t deliver outcomes.

Different learning motivations Learning needs analysis Highspark

1. Look beyond the “What” and understand the “Why”.

“What skills do you want to learn?” is a standard question. 

A generic question like this would typically generate generic responses such as “communication skills, presentation skills, facilitation skills”.  While the question helps to identify relevant programme topics, it doesn’t offer insights into how the suggested skills:

  • are essential in enabling the learners’ to perform better at work; or
  • can support them in career progression (upwards or sideways); or
  • would help the teams or organisation excel.

Furthermore, the same responses may be given but with very different sets of motivations. 

Same-same, but different

For example, if both Sandy and Andrew indicate their interest to improve their presentation skills, without digging deeper into the “WHY” behind their responses, L&D managers may conclude that a presentation course is the solution. However, upon a closer look, Sandy and Andrew require different learning interventions to reach their desired outcome.

Sandy’s motivations and desires: 
  • Feel more confident to voice out her ideas during meetings.
  • Be perceived as competent and as a result, increase her chances of being selected for a leadership position. 
Andrew’s motivations and desires:
  • Help customers understand complex concepts for the projects he handles, so they see the value of his recommendations. 
  • Be trusted to manage bigger and more sophisticated projects.

Their learning objectives and outcomes are vastly different. Prescribing a generic presentation course to them doesn’t take into consideration their contextual needs and definitely won’t help them achieve their goals.

Here are a few follow-up questions you can include to remove ambiguity in responses: 

  • Why is this skill important to you?
  • Describe how this skill can enable you to excel at work
  • Describe the (personal or work) challenges that this skill can help you to address 

Note: The word “Describe” prompts the surveyor to elaborate their responses. This allows you to capture more nuances.


Result oriented training Learning needs analysis Highspark

2. Consider the most effective way to turn skills into results

Managers have to look beyond the process of learning to ensure that any solutions prescribed would be effective in achieving their goals. Learning is only the beginning. What gets your learners, teams, and organisation the results is the application of the skills, yet many learners struggle to apply what they’ve learnt. 

There are times when programmes are well-run and well-received but soon after the programme, learners revert to the default. This is as though the training didn’t take place at all! 

It is not the learners’ fault

One may reason that the learners weren’t committed enough to apply learnings but from our findings, most reasons are beyond the learners’ control. Two classic examples are:

Example 1: Lack of alignment


“My direct boss isn’t aligned to the best practices of effective presentations. I couldn’t convince him, and he kept revising my work. So, I gave up. If only my boss attended this course!”


Example 2: Lack of opportunities


“I haven’t had the opportunity to present my ideas for the past 2 months. Hence, I can’t practise”


There are also times when the learning solutions were well-designed but learners felt that they weren’t useful in helping them achieve their goals. Rather than tackling these obstacles after the learning initiative has concluded, you can prevent them from surfacing.


Consider including these questions in your L&D needs survey to set your learners up for success: 


What have you tried to get better at X?
What worked and didn’t work?

If the employees have attended fundamental courses in the past, you can plan programmes to reinforce their existing knowledge rather than sending them for another similar course. You can also adopt elements that are effective and avoid pitfalls.


What are some reasons/potential reasons that are stopping you from getting better at X?

You may find that employees aren’t skilled in certain areas not because they aren’t interested to learn but because they struggle to find time to do so. If this is a common challenge across teams, L&D teams can consider micro-learning or speaking to team leads to dedicate a specific amount of time in a month to learning.


What needs to be considered in order to ensure skills can be applied at work?

This allows L&D teams to set up processes and involve relevant stakeholders who are critical to the success of the learning. These insights can also help training partners take into account the organisation’s contextual requirements to customise programmes and materials.


What would be the most effective way for you to get better at X?
Give a score for the following so that they add up to 100.
    1. On-the-job coaching by an expert
    2. Mentoring from boss  
    3. Learning from peers 
    4. Teaching peers 
    5. Project-based learning 
    6. Structured classroom learning
    7. Micro-learning
    8. Others

Notes: You may list a few options for learners to choose from but always leave room for alternative suggestion(s) to unearth new possibilities.   


Ask positive questions Learning needs analysis Highspark

3. Positive framing of questions

While one of the objectives for the Learning Needs Analysis is to unearth competency gaps, we have to be careful around using words with negative connotations. “Gaps” is one such word. 

This is especially so when a survey form isn’t kept anonymous. One may hesitate to provide honest feedback to HR or L&D teams with the fear that it may affect their work appraisal. Would revealing more gaps create a perception that they are incompetent? Competent people have little to improve, isn’t it? 


To tackle these, you can:

Avoid questions such as: “What would you like to improve?”

This can make learners feel that they are lacking in something and deter them from being transparent about their gaps for fear it may affect their performance appraisal. 

Instead, use questions such as “What skills would help you excel even more at your current job?”

This is empowering as we are looking for ways to support them and help them to shine even brighter. This may allow you to uncover performance goals that aren’t on the standard list, m e.g. Productivity.  



Parting thoughts:

With these considerations, you will be able to cover both breadth and depth in your survey of learning needs. 

Most importantly, purposeful and thoughtfully crafted questions will offer you valuable insights to guide you in designing an L&D initiative that delivers results. 

After all, money spent on learning solutions that aren’t outcome-driven becomes an expense rather than an investment to the organisation. 

P.S: Yes, you might be doubling the length of your survey and having employees spend more time completing it. But if we look at the bigger picture, what’s 10 more minutes as compared to many hours of training that doesn’t work? 



Photo credits: @stories via Freepik.com

Drive organisational performance with L&D initiatives


In this newsletter, I’d like to forward some strategies advocated by notable game changers on how to keep business outcomes in sight with their learning and development initiatives. I’ve also embedded links to free and available resources that you can leverage to drive business impact to your organisation.


September Insights

Click on the Menu:

1. How mature is your learning strategy?

2. The difference between learning objectives and performance outcomes

3. Must listen L&D podcast to drive performance 
And key actionable insights

4. Free Piktochart Business Storyteller Summit



1.Learning Strategy Maturity Model

Without a strong direct connection between business strategy and learning strategy, even the best learning experiences and content won’t be able to move the needle on outcomes.

The Brandon Hall Group broke down Learning Strategy into 4 different levels, with Level 4 being the most impactful to an organisation’s performance. Which one do you think your organisation falls under?

Companies found a blended approach of  learning together with an outcome specific learning measurement model helps them move up the maturity curve.

How can Learning Strategy be outcome specific?

1. Established the desired business outcomes
2. Define the knowledge, skills, and behaviours needed to help achieve those results.
3. Evaluate the most effective composition of formal and experiential learning to achieve the results.
4. Measure change in knowledge, skills, and behaviours  after the programme.

More on https://trainingmag.com/2-keys-successful-learning-strategy/

There are a lot of nuances when it comes to the different knowledge, skills, and behaviours that a talent has to possess in order to drive performance in his or her job function. Thankfully, the Skills Framework developed by SkillsFuture contains comprehensive breakdown of these elements in a form of critical tasks an individual must perform to be considered as competent. Due to the actionable nature of these critical task statements, they can be converted into learning outcomes in  a programme versus the typical passive learning objective such as “The programme will help learners to understand XYZ”.


2. The difference between objectives and outcomes

There are different levels to learning objectives that can be written in accordance to the Bloom’s Taxonomy framework. The lower level objectives are knowledge-based that concerns how the learners understand and remember. The highest level of learning is one that is actionable. Unfortunately, many of the learning objective statements are written in a manner that  focuses on the content/knowledge rather than the application and outcome.

1. Knowledge-based learning objectives guide the content to be covered in the training.
2. Learning outcomes guide the application of the new knowledge.
3. Performance outcomes allows L&D to measure the effectiveness of the training from a business strategy perspective.

Here’s a simple table that shows the difference between these 3 components:

Learning objectives vs Performance Outcomes e1601891944949


3. My favourite L&D podcast and episodes about enabling performance with learning

Each episode by David James feels like a home run to me. Most times, it also feels like a boxing match whenever David passionately challenges the old in a no nonsense manner.

These are must listen episodes:
• Is L&D solving real problems?

• Performance focused, data-led and campaign driven L&D

• Performance Consulting

The key ideas covered in these episodes are mainly around how the L&D team should shift from being  training organisers to performance consultants. Without this shift, the L&D department will eventually be seen as irrelevant because:

• Team leads may feel that trading their team’s time for ineffective traditional workshops isn’t worthwhile. This is due to the operational disruption that comes with it.

• Self-directed employees are finding more effective learning avenues on their own outside of work.

• Learning clients may go direct to IT for learning tech solutions

• etc

These episodes offered these insights to becoming performance consultants:

1. Spend time, money, and effort on real problems rather than perceived problems

The following are not actual problems. 

  • No one is using the LMS
  • The company doesn’t have a conflict resolution training programme
  • The company’s e-learning isn’t interactive enough.

Why? These are not problems for the people whom L&Ds are seeking to engage. An individual doesn’t care about whether e-learning is interactive as long as it can help them to do their job better.


2. Contextualise the L&D solutions

The developed solutions are often divorced from its original and actual need because they are taken out of context. When learning initiatives are designed based on aggregated common needs and are standardised in the name of scalability and cost-effectiveness, the performance outcomes are compromised. The moment we try to serve everyone with a single solution, we benefit no one.

Often the solution to the performance problem isn’t a full-day workshop or a new LMS system. Suggestion: Suspend any judgment on  how the solution might look like and seek to understand the underlying contextual problem.


3. Apply a campaign approach to learning (Case study Citi)

The adoption of a learning solution is very dependent on the learning culture (or lack thereof) within the organisation. Citibank has won multiple awards for its Learning & Development Strategy and this is largely attributed to its differentiated performance-driven approach. Led by Brian Murphy, Head of Learning and Leadership Development, the company applied a campaign approach to learning and saw massive results in these areas:

  • Learning participation,
  • Learning engagement
  • Staff satisfaction levels,
  • Sustained learning by staff

“Underpinning the change was a principle that Citi’s people, in whichever part of the firm they worked, deserved better than a menu of training course”

Citi launched #BeMore, a CEO sponsored, non-HR branded, multi-channel internal marketing campaign designed to empower people to take control of their own development. It uses social learning to educate and engage people while providing a central access point for all things learning across the region. Learning the team’s priorities have moved from designing and organising traditional programmes to supporting employee-owned learning experiences. The 70:20:10 learning approach consist of:

(a) 30-day development challenge: learners to undertake 30 micro actions (one per day).

(b) Employee stories: feature employees and leaders transformation

(c) Resource Centre and user generated content

(d) Ideas Jam: World Cafe format to gather insights and feedback about where employees want to be and learning can help them get there.

(e) Development Planning: Connect employees and line managers to create an individual development plan.


You may also download the full paper on the step-by-step approach that Citi took to develop award-winning agile learning solutions here: https://702010institute.com/project/11940

Reminder: If you’re a client of our Stories That Stick or Persuasive Presentations That Sell programme and hasn’t gained access to our free 30-day storytelling mastery email course, drop me an email to request access: kaixin@highspark.co. 

4. Free access to Business Storyteller Summit by Piktochart

Speaking about 70:20:10 and informal learning, you and your teams shouldn’t miss this upcoming Storyteller Summit!

Business Storyteller Summit

This November, Picktochart will be hosting a series of fireside chat and talks featuring storytelling experts from around the world. Many of them I admire such as Nancy Duarte and Andy Raskin and I feel privileged to be included in the line-up of speakers.

I’ll be chatting about “The secret behind writing irresistibly-persuasive pitches” with Agata Krzysztofik, Head of Marketing, at Piktochart. What are the performance outcomes you may ask? Answer: Get your ideas heard, win over tough audiences, and get the “yes” from stakeholders that you deserve.

Koh Kai Xin Business Storyteller Summit Piktochart
This event is completely FREE. Click this link to reserve your spot now. 

Sign up now


August Highlights: Create a sustainable impact with training

Without consistent application, knowledge and inspiration will never amount to transformation. 

In this newsletter highlight, I’d like to share some actionable insights I’ve gained last month, which can help you gain visible transformation for your organisation (if you apply).

August’s Highlights

Click on this menu:

  1. L&D insights for the month: must read/watch
    • Learnings from Harvard Business Publishing (HBP)
    • Assurance from HBP corporate learning expert
    • Is your feedback form working?
  2. The future of learning
    • Neuroscience and learning
    • Should we revert to Offline training after Covid?
  3. Programmes to make 2021 even better!

1. L&D insights for the month and must read/watch


To save you time, we’ve hand-picked the most relevant content and summarised them for you:

a. Learnings on Virtual Learning from Harvard Business Publishing (Corporate Learning)

The best practices for learning design advocated by the  HBP corporate learning department have influenced the way our team customises training experiences and solutions. For a long time, I’ve been inspired by their thought pieces and white papers, which are backed by extensive research and data. When they organised a webinar about virtual learning last month, I knew I had to attend. We needed to know if our approach to digital and blended learning is on par with the best-in-class. 

Here are some key takeaways (extract): 

1. The learning process is split into 4 parts: 

#1 Engage 

Establish relevance and need.

How? Through online surveys, assessment, self-evaluation and relevant content. 

# 2 Discover 

Acquisition of new knowledge happens when learners are able to anticipate how to use it by formulating questions and comparing it to what they know.

How? Through different learning channels such as peer discussions, videos, podcasts, articles and the like.

# 3 Act 

Apply the learning in the work environment.

How? Through coaching and other work-based activities

#4 Integrate 

Modify behaviours according to feedback to realise work improvements. 

How? Provide access to a virtual learning platform for content, tools and connections for ongoing refinement.

2. Why do organisations choose virtual learning?

– Better learning impact

– Time and flexibility

– Engages diverse learners

– Consistency and scale

3. Spaced learning for maximum impact

Spread the learning experience over a period of time and in smaller chunks rather than a single event. We’ve covered this in a previous article. This allows learners the time to internalise the content, apply, make mistakes, take corrective actions and learn again. This iterative process leads to a much greater impact.

b. Assurance from Harvard Business Publishing (Corporate Learning) expert

Deanna Foster, the presenter of the webinar, is  Harvard Business Publishing’s Director of Global Design Center of Excellence. I had the privilege to get her feedback on some initiatives to help  learners maximise their learning potential. Some of these initiatives include a 30-day email course and the 1-month post workshop follow up. She assured our team that these are good initiatives, and she offered two ideas that we hope to implement  in the coming months:


Aug newsletter Convo
Aug newsletter Convo 2

Manager’s involvement

Old habits die hard. Applying what’s learnt daily is a deliberate effort and has to be sustained over a period of time to achieve a long-lasting impact. The suggestion given by Deanna was so simple and yet so effective.

Managers have the most influence over a  learner’s progress. Hence, they should be involved in the learning process from the start. This will allow the managers to reinforce the learnings and provide support to help their team members grow. Setting a clear learning and career goals with their managers will illustrate to the team just how invested their manager is in their success. This can be a great motivating factor for the learners  to contribute more and be more proactive in learning too.

Having managers do the same can help us gain a more objective view of the possible gaps and growth, see if there are any discrepancies and most importantly, take corrective actions. This is a level up from our usual pre-workshop survey and post-workshop survey that are made exclusive to learners.  


Peer Support

Learners have expressed how they have enjoyed group learnings as they get to exchange perspectives with their peers and feel more motivated to learn when learning is done together. Sustaining learning after the official programme is over requires a lot of self-discipline. This is largely due to the fact that learners get busy with day-to-day tasks and time is devoted to tackling the most urgent thing. As a result, the learning curve is always steep at the beginning and only flattens after consistent application. The initial momentum of applying new concepts should result in continuous application for it to become second nature.


The suggestion to have a buddy system can help team members, who work together, remind and guide each other in their journey to improvement. Having attended the same programme, they have a common lingo, which helps them collaborate better and hold each other accountable to applying what they have learnt. 

Feature effective feedback forms.005 1
c. Is your feedback form working?

We’ve improved our feedback form to serve the needs of current times: 

  • The virtual learning situation 
  • The learning needs of the future 
  • The focus on helping learners shift from knowledge to skills

If you haven’t adapted your own forms with the above considerations, you will benefit from this recent article that we have published

Examples of effective and non-effective questions included!

2. The future of training

a. Cognitive Neuroscience will influence training interventions

Over the last decade, there’s a growing number of research papers around how Cognitive Neuroscience can influence learning behaviors and shape teaching methodologies. Best-in-class training institutions are speaking more about this to increase awareness. I believe this is the future of adult education.  We can no longer settle with a look-good curriculum and focus mainly on the content of the course.  Gone  are days when the effectiveness of training is mainly measured by satisfaction scores but by tangible outcomes. 

Out of the many scientific discoveries, here’s one you can ponder:

Intentions affect attention to a learning task
Lau, Rogers, Haggard, Passasingham, 2004.

Learners are more likely to act on a learning task and perform better in assessment (a mode of application), when there is a clear alignment of what they are learning and their goals.

What this means to you:

(a) Set clear learning goals with employees before nominating them for courses.
(b) Set clear context on why the course is organised, why they are attending, and how it can help them succeed.  
(c) Give learners a choice to register or to opt-out with valid reasons based on the usefulness and their competency level.

Doing these would give learners a greater sense of purpose and motivation in learning. This significantly creates a positive vibe during the course, draws them to take charge of their own learning and be excited about it. As the organiser of the course, you reduce the need to chase learners for their submissions and you achieve better outcomes for your organisation when application happens.

b. Should we revert to offline classroom learning after Covid?


As the community cases of Covid stabilises and the safety measures are slowly easing, many of you are considering returning to offline learning. While I personally prefer physical live interaction, I have to be wary about suggesting solutions based on my personal biases without prioritising the learning outcomes. Many of my assumptions about the disadvantages of virtual learning were invalidated over the past few months. 

At this stage, I have  also questioned if we should revert to the old ways of training. I’m deliberating between the effectiveness of these two modes. Which should we choose after Covid? 

Perhaps this isn’t about which mode to choose, but about how to leverage the advantages of each modality and tweak the format, duration, activities to maximise the learning output, i.e. turn knowledge into skills.

Full offline: The Pros and the cons
Able to better focus on the course with no competing priorities, able to clear doubts  and seek feedback immediately. I think interactions with trainer and course mates will help make the experience more enjoyable.” 


Best for those who prefers: 

1. face-to-face interaction with trainer and group mates in real time to seek clarification and receive immediate direct support.

2. to time block themselves to learn without interruption.

3. the human touch, which makes the learning more enjoyable and fun.

Disadvantages: Generally, full offline 1-2 day workshops …

– can lead to information overload. Learners are not given adequate time to internalise new concepts, resulting in low information retention.

– do not give time for learners to apply learnings to different aspects of their day-to-day work, take corrective actions, and eventually master the skill.

– do not drive outcomes to the organisation due to its transactional nature.

– do not equip all learners to apply. Individuals who are more pro-active learns more, while others learn passively by waiting for their peers to complete group exercises. As such, the instructor cannot tell if everyone has applied the learnings adequately.

Ways to overcome:

+ Keep Offline training in short-burst of 3-4 hours over a few sessions so that learners have other parts of the day to attend to work duties.

+ Assign tasks or work to learners between sessions to apply their learnings. 

+ Offer coaching or mentoring to support learners on the journey to mastery.

Blended: The Pros and the cons
“Self-paced allows learning done on their  own time and group coaching allows me to learn application and comments from the Instructor and from each other. It allows time to work on application of the concepts on our own time but still share and learn from one another in the group.”


Best for those who: 

1. cannot take a big block of time off for learning due to work commitments and duties.

2. learns better at their own pace and based on their own schedule

3. are serious about applying learnings on an in-depth level to tackle the nuances they face at work. 


Disadvantages: Generally, full offline 1-2 day workshops …

– The learner has no visibility of the process of learning, practise, and application of their peers, therefore, can’t learn from it. They could only see the final output. Example: In an offline presentation programme, learners might be able to see how their peers use certain shortcuts or design hacks to arrive at the outcome.

– Requires learners to be self-directed in completing self-paced modules and complete them seriously 


Ways to overcome:

+ Set learning goals and deadlines to keep learners accountable in completing their assignments

+ Document the process using recording tools or verbally walk group members through the process during live discussions.

Consideration: If you have enough demand for the programme within your organisation, why not offer both learning modes? This way, learners get to choose the mode that best suit their learning needs, which will lead to better outcomes. 

3. Training programmes to ace 2021!

While Covid19 may be gone by then, remote meeting is here to stay. Attention span of your audience is now shorter than ever. Here are some courses to help your team crush their virtual presentations: 

Designing visual presentation for remote meetings 

Learn how to create visually engaging presentations that your audiences will understand, love, and agree with. Adapt your visuals to different virtual contexts like pitching, teaching, discussing, informing etc. It’s time to convert those cluttered text into compelling visuals to communicate more clearly and persuasively! In this course, you uncover design hacks and the S.P.I.L.L process that can help you design effective visual slides in less time. 

Here’s a sneak peek to the course: 

Full suite of courses: 

Delivering engaging online meetings

How do you engage your audience on a small screen? Especially when they don’t show their faces. Utilise public speaking techniques in the virtual context. Put audiences at the edge of their seats, get them glued to your presentation and leave no chance for them to multitask. No fancy technology tools needed. Just your voice, hands, and face. Make your presence felt over the screen!

Digital Marketing: Turn employees into digital brand advocates

Marketing budget got cut? How can you achieve the same results with limited money, resources? The piece of good news is: The best people to market your brand are your employees. 

Why you should turn your employees into brand advocates in 2021:

1. More cost effective and sustainable versus paying influencers and advertisers a hefty sum every month to gain brand visibility.

2. More authentic as employees are the ones who understand your brand intimately and represent your brand the best. 

3. Increase employees’ brand belonging and showcase company culture to attract new talents.

Best for Brand & marketing team

The Employee Advocacy (via LinkedIn) programme gives brands a blueprint to recruit, train and evangelise a core group of employees and transform them into micro-influencers.

This programme will incorporate a self- sustainable content curation and creation process where your employees are equipped with the art and science of LinkedIn content creation and curation.

Developing a virtual team culture
Working from home. You either find yourself overworking or being unproductive. The lack of human interaction shrinks morale and increases frustration. Miscommunication, misaligned expectations, misdirection. You wonder when will this end.
Learn how teams can reclaim their time, get more done while achieving more work-life-balance!
This course transforms team’s culture to perform more productively & effectively online. Uncover the structure & strategy to boost motivation and productivity of your remote teams. 
Data Storytelling

Aside from  leaving your stakeholders bored, ineffective and misguided data presentations can be costly to you and your team. Teams might embark on wrong ventures or be denied access to resources.  Change the story, change the outcome! Uncover proven steps to leverage data to develop insightful and purposeful stories that drives the best organizational decisions. Apply story structures that engage your audience and cut through the noise of data and straight at what truly matters.

Data Visualisation
Are your key messages buried in the endless amounts of facts and figures? Are your audiences overwhelmed by confusing tables, charts, and diagrams? Stop making these mistakes! Learn how to harness the power of visuals elements to clarify key messages in your data slide. You will uncover ways to leverage basic features of PowerPoint/Keynote and Excel to transform complex charts into visually compelling ones. Effective visualisation helps convey the right message to influence the right decision fast. 
Other courses
  • (Digital) Sales & Negotiation 
  • Employees into Brand Digital Advocacy 
  • Investor Pitching/Fundraising
  • Brand Strategy
  • LinkedIn Marketing
  • Social Selling 
  • Effective Leadership 
  • Facilitation (Solution-focused)
  • Critical Thinking for Problem-Solving
  • Creative Thinking
  • Lego Serious Play for Team Building and Innovation
  • Communicating and Engaging with Millennials at the Workplace
  • Mindfulness for emotional resilience and well-being

2021 will be a year of value and returns

As companies are tightening their budgets, there’s an increase pressure to link any business activities to business outcomes. As such, HR and L&D leads will have take on a more strategic approach to organising courses. There will be a shift from once-off training programme to a longer-term learning pathway that sustains learning & application. 

Need more ideas on how to ace 2021 with training programmes? Get in touch! 

Want to gain more?

Client-exclusive Solutions

We’ve rolled out a few new solutions to help learners turn knowledge into skills. Past clients are entitled to these at no additional cost. Drop us a message below – “Hi team, I’d like to gain access to the client-exclusive solutions. Can you share them with me?” and hit the orange button below.

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July Highlights: Resources to help you increase training effectiveness

“Machines need to be productive. People need to be effective.”, said by the English watchmaker.

Like many, you may have found yourself working longer hours in recent months. Doing, doing, and doing.

Producing new things such as events, initiatives, programmes, content, sure feels great. But are they  purposeful? What sets effectiveness and productivity apart is that effectiveness moves us closer to our intended goals and outcomes.

In the L&D context, to be truly effective, we have to break these misconceptions: 
#1 The longer the duration = the more one learns
#2 The more content covered in a class = the more value learners get
#3 Learning has to be done in a single session

At HighSpark Academy, we see a training programme as a means to an end. Ultimately, the programme should drive long-term value to your teams and organisation. We are constantly keeping up with L&D trends, scientific research  around learning, and refining our learning solutions to achieve the highest level of effectiveness.

In this newsletter highlight, we will share with you key insights so you can maximise the ROI of every learning initiative you champion.

July’s Highlights

Click on this menu:

  1. L&D insights of the month: must read/watch

    #1 Top four obstacles to learning & development, and how to overcome them

    #2 Three learning strategies that you should bake into your L&D programmes 

  2. How to gain higher rating for training effectiveness (Case study)
  3. Maximise your existing limited resources with these programmes
  4. Free resources – Learners exclusive
  5. Help us prioritise what new (free) resources we should build for you

1. L&D insights of the month and must read/watch


To save you time, we’ve hand-picked the most relevant content and summarised them for you:

#1 Top four obstacles to learning & development, and how to overcome them 

Managers are the most trusted source for learning inside any organisation. Learning and development leads can work closely with managers of teams to empower employees to learn effectively.

1. Time (43%)

Share scientifically-backed strategies with employees to make use of their time and learn wisely. Then lead by example.

2. Guidance (30%)
Know the difference between control and power – assign tasks, trust your  people to complete them.

3. Recognition (30%)
Spotlight the most dedicated learners in email updates.

4. Encouragement (22%)
Co-create learning plans with employees and create a timeline to prioritise developing relevant skills.

Read the full article by Degreed here: Link


#2 Three learning strategies that you should bake into your L&D plans


Findings by German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghau: If new information isn’t applied, we forget 75% of them after just six days. If your learners forget what they learnt in the workshops, wouldn’t this be a loss of time and money?

To get the most value from the learning plans you design, you can beat the forgetting curve with these strategies:

1. Activate prior knowledge: connect new information with existing ones

2. Retrieval practice: review what was learnt in a number of different ways

3. Make learning active: solve problems, create experiments

4. Make learning effortful: make the process slightly hard

5. Make learning social: learn from somebody and teach somebody


These 5 techniques will signal to the brain that what was learnt is important and useful,  thereby turning short-term memory into long-term memory.

Watch the video by Steve Griffiths here: Link

2. Same programme, different format -> highest effectiveness rating

The best way to test the effectiveness of the learning modality is to run the same programme a few times, in different formats and durations, then let the data tell the story. We have been blessed to work with some of you to experiment with different learning modalities. 

If you have yet to try approaching your programmes differently, the following case study may inspire you to try. 

In the previous newsletter, we saw that the ratings for blended learning were higher than traditional classroom training. In July, we conducted the blended learning again for the same programme, but this time, with some changes. The rating was the highest (highlighted in yellow).

Different format and duration

Blended format 1:

10 hours of content & exercises spread across 2 days

Blended 1

This flow is beneficial when…
the learners and teams are nominated by their bosses, and they have little idea why they are enrolled in the course or how it can benefit them.  Having a synchronous session (for example 1 hr) at the start would allow the L&D or team lead to set the context and paint the purpose of the programme. This will motivate participants to look at the workshop as an opportunity rather than a chore. Learning becomes more effective when learners are motivated to complete the self-paced modules and work on the assignments with their best effort.

This duration is beneficial when…
the learners or organiser would like the course to be completed as soon as possible, so they can dedicate their attention to other work at hand. And when spreading out sessions too much might make it difficult for live sessions to be scheduled.

The rating on training effectiveness was 90%, an increase of 5.8% as compared to the offline run of the same programme.
However, participants wished they had more time to complete the modules as they were juggling multiple work duties while learning.


Blended format 2:

9 hours worth of content & exercises spread across 5 days, with personalised feedback 

We ran the same programme in July. This time, we spread out the blended learning over a week. To ensure that the learners do not pack the learning to the last minute, we embedded two deadlines within the week. To ensure that they are on the right track with their assignments, and applied the concepts accurately, the trainer recorded personalised feedback after each submission. Those who requested for more guidance and clarification received them throughout the week.

Blended 2

The outcome:

Surprisingly good. We were quite uncertain at first about the new flow of events. What if learners are not motivated to learn without a proper kick-off and context setting session? Turns out, the scheduled onboarding emails and videos, and scheduled check-ins worked. The rating for this new approach is the highest of all, 95.8%, a 5.8% increase from the previous run. Still, we get some requests to stretch the learning even more. And that is what we will be experimenting next.

email course effectiveness 1


Thank you! It was more useful than I had initially expected, with very clear explanation and impactful case studies. The details of the course were also very well-thought-out, including outlining the estimated duration of the assignments, and an overview of the sub-topics within each module to give the participant a sense of the overall flow.

Learner of Designing impactful presentation, Blended Learning over 1 week

Want more insights on how to organise an effective virtual training?

webinar soft skills

3. Recommended courses that maximise your existing limited resources  

Employee advocates

The best people to market your brand are your employees. 

Advantages of turning your employees into brand advocates:

1. More cost effective and sustainable versus paying influencers and advertisers a hefty sum every month to gain brand visibility.

2. More authentic as employees are the ones who understand your brand intimately and represent your brand the best. 

3. Increase employees’ brand belonging and showcase company culture to attract new talents.


Best for Brand & marketing team

The Employee Advocacy (via LinkedIn) programme gives brands a blueprint to recruit, train and evangelise a core group of employees and transform them into micro-influencers.

This programme will incorporate a self- sustainable content curation and creation process where your employees are equipped with the art and science of LinkedIn content creation and curation. 

Developing a virtual team
Best for all teams:

Uncover the structure & strategy to boost motivation and productivity of your remote teams. Learn how teams can reclaim their time, get more done while achieving more work-life-balance!

4. Free resources – Client exclusive

We’ve been actively listening to the learners about their needs and wants, especially around how we can better support them to apply what they’ve learnt to their work.

Here are some new resources we have rolled out. And yes, they are completely free (for existing clients).  

story email course

The 30-day storytelling email course

This course was inspired by a question one of our coachees asked: ‘What are the habits I need to build to become a better storyteller?’. This 30-day course makes a good post-workshop resource in order to enhance retention and learning based on what you read in the article above.

How does this work? 

Upon sign up, every alternate day, learners will receive a bite-sized email from us. This will last for a month. And each email will contain useful resources, tips, and exercises. With spatial learning, and the other learning strategies embedded, learners transform knowledge into skills.

We’ve rolled this out to a handful of clients and this seemed to be working! 

storytelling course feedback

Learners’ spotlight

This was inspired by the question: “How can we encourage employees to be proactive in learning?” and by the ’employee of the month/year’ model.

How does this work?

For clients who work with us long-term, after each workshop, the trainer will hand pick learner(s) to spotlight. A poster will be designed featuring the learner and the best practices he/she advocates (relating to the topic of the programme that was attended). These posters will then be included in the organisation’s newsletter or online portal where peers can see.



This is to recognise dedicated learners from our workshop and inspire their peers to learn the best practices from them. This turns learners into guides, and creates a culture of learning in the organisation where individuals are motivated to upskill themselves. It is also a good way to garner interest from the right target audience to sign up for the upcoming sessions of the programme.

Learner spotlight

5. Help us prioritise what new (free) resources we should build for you

Select the top 2 options we should work on this month. Have a suggestion that is not listed? Drop me an email at kaixin@highspark.co!  

Can’t view the poll?

poll has closed

Want to gain more?

Client-exclusive Solutions

We’ve rolled out a few new solutions to help learners turn knowledge into skills. Past clients are entitled to these at no additional cost. Drop us a message below – “Hi team, I’d like to gain access to the client-exclusive solutions. Can you share them with me?” and hit the orange button below.

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June Highlights: Resources to help you emerge stronger from tough times

The climate is uncertain right now and there is an urgent need to equip teams with skills that can help them conquer the challenges ahead.

If you want to emerge stronger from the challenging times, you won’t want to miss the highlights from last month. And you should definitely consider some solutions that can help build stronger teams, get more business, and prepare for what lies ahead.

1. The best learning modality – offline or online?

Ever since the circuit breaker, we have been innovating and reinventing learning experiences to offer more value to our clients than before!

We’ve successfully run numerous soft-skills programmes online in different learning modalities – virtual, blended, self-paced, on different platforms. The responses have been great!

Is online learning more effective?

The hands on and the self pace learning really helps! It makes learning easier and we can concentrate better.

- Yan Cheng

Learner of Storytelling Blended Learning over 1 week

Sessions are fun, engaging and learners gain applicable take-aways for their respective professions.

- Charlene Lim

Learner of 4-hour virtual sesions of Data Storytelling & Visual presentation

Based on results for one of our long-term client, the ratings for blended learning (a.k.a virtual run) were higher than traditional classroom training.

Post workshop response 1

Should Blended Learning be the new normal?

It depends. Blended learning might not always work for all learners.
The same goes for classroom training. Here are two different insights gathered from two different runs for separate organisation.

stats 1

What does this mean? There is no one size that fits all. We cannot expect training to be effective with a blanket approach or cookie-cutter solution. The disruption caused by Covid-19 has open up opportunities for us to ask this essential question – “which mode of learning works best for you?”

What if L&D can offer the best learning solution to the right learners and at the same time maximise the return of investment? Is it possible? Yes it is. You can speak to us to discuss how can optimise your training and achieve cost savings.

2. The must-have skills to survive the oncoming recession

There’s more pressure for teams to contribute to the bottomline, especially the sales and marketing team. We’ve recently partner Thriving Talent, an award-winning Malaysia training provider to bring their successful online programmes to you.

New Virtual training programmes

Turn crisis into conversation

Best for sales team:

This programme will explore proven strategies & frameworks in getting sales professionals to help their customers turn crisis into opportunities. Understand the criteria of becoming a trusted authority, apply the ‘6 hot buttons that turn customers on, and uncover the 4 human brain chemicals that naturally get customers to say “YES!”.

Developing a virtual team

Best for all teams:

Uncover the structure & strategy to boost motivation and productivity of your remote teams. Learn how teams can reclaim their time, get more done while achieving more work-life-balance!

Success stories

Setia Michael 1

Programme: Sales Leaders Motivating Sales Teams

Trainer: Michael Teoh

Format: 2 Days Blended-Workshop + 3 Virtual Learning Sessions 

Learners’ profile: Group & Property Teams

The training workshop is informative and fun. I find the concepts of The Pitch, 2 Cornerstones and Digital Trust useful. Thank you for helping me to overcome my nervousness when presenting in front of the professional members.

Lim Hui Ying

SP Setia Malaysia

HighSpark is now an
Exclusive Partner of Thriving Talent 

Michael Teoh
Michael testimonial
Testimonial Schindler

3. How to win more business in times of Covid-19

How to Covid-proof your brand message and sales pitch

We did a collaboration with Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE) Singapore. In the 45-minute Kopi-chat, I addressed the following questions from the participations: 

1. Should one focus more on emotional selling during COVID days? 

2. Will giving freebies help businesses establish their brand message?

3. How can businesses attract the right target audiences in this period?

And I talked about the components one must weave into any business narrative during Covid-19 period:

(a) Relevance  (b) Risk  (c) Reward

4. How to organise a high-impact soft-skills training online

High impact training

In 90 minutes, we covered lots of learning to help L&D managers succeed:

1. Identify the most effective mode of online learning that fulfils your team’s unique L&D needs.

Explore the top 3 online learning formats and solutions that are easy to implement and will not break the bank.


2. Implement measures to ensure learning outcomes are achieved.

Uncover tips on what should be done before, during and after online learning is conducted or implemented.


3. Understand skills required to engage learners virtually and facilitate learning.(it’s not about quizzes and polls)

Learn to prepare your trainers to sustain attention, and increase engagement and impact.

Thanks for conducting this webinar! Really appreciate the effort to conduct Q&A sessions.  I think the framework that you gave during the session is also very applicable to the L&D initiatives my company is trying to implement. Love your enthusiasm and voice throughout the webinar too 🙂 



This webinar has been pretty insightful. Although I’m not from the HR nor L&D functions, I believe that such learning styles are here to stay.



We gain happiness by giving

Lately, I’ve been doing some deeeeep reflection on life. Some friends and clients I know have lost their jobs. Many are living in fear and uncertainty. “Recession is approaching”, echoed many.

In the midst of chaos and fear mongering, I also see love, compassion and kindness. I personally have not experienced any financial crisis. While I’m unsure of what lies ahead, I am certain that I will choose to give more and serve more in order to help others rise above adversities.

So the commitment from my team and me is to do our best to add more value. No selling, just serving.

In the next few months, we’ll be rolling out more initiatives to support our clients and spread joy. If you have any suggestions on how we can add value, do drop me a message at kaixin@highspark.co. 


And my call to action to you: Do a kind act today 🙂 

Ready to help your team thrive in tough times?

Client-exclusive Solutions

We’ve rolled out a few new solutions to help learners turn knowledge into skills. Past clients are entitled to these at no additional cost. Drop us a message below – “Hi team, I’d like to gain access to the client-exclusive solutions. Can you share them with me?” and hit the orange button below.

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