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Microlearning Videos, Employee Engagement and SHOTs

I’d always heard the saying, “Hindsight is 20/20.” It took me nearly 20 years of federal service to finally understand what that means.

I’d like to share my own employee engagement journey, and hope it helps other employees become more engaged.

Volunteer for Everything

Many years ago, I attended a Q&A session that our campus director held for employees wanting advice on advancing their careers. “Volunteer for everything” was the main point I took with me.

Armed with this newfound direction, I volunteered to be a facilitator of the yearly employee survey. This meant hosting four-hour-long team meetings on their survey results and coming up with the top three action plans their team could work on. I was very nervous at first, but I soon found that I had a talent for facilitation and enjoyed hosting those meetings.

I continued to volunteer for other opportunities such as with our campus’ Employee’s Association, where we ran school drives and donated the supplies we’d collected to local area schools.

Participating in these opportunities was not only rewarding and fun, but it also helped me develop a network with other professionals. This became invaluable as I advanced in my agency. My network helped me refine my resumes or coach me in preparing for job interviews.

A few years later, I volunteered to join a new team which was programming automation macros for our systems. But doing so meant I had to change my shift from swings to days. However, I felt it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

Six months later, my manager received a call asking for help from the local learning and education (L&E) department. They’d recently lost some computer-based training (CBT) programmers to new jobs and heard our team was doing programming. I again volunteered to go. Little did I know at the time that this opportunity would lead me to a love of training that I didn’t know existed and started me on the path to where I am today.

Sometimes ‘No’ Is Not a Four-Letter Word

Nearly 20 years ago, I met my wife at work. Thankfully, her answer was a “Yes!,” but for two long years, every job I applied for, the answer was “No.” I couldn’t understand it. I’d been doing training and eLearning project management for nearly 10 years. I knew I was the right person for the job and began questioning why things weren’t working out the way I knew they should.

“Patience is a virtue.” “Good things come to those who wait.” “When one door closes, another opens.” We’ve all heard these platitudes before, but it doesn’t always help when you’re going through it.

At that time, I wasn’t aware that I still needed time to truly be ready to advance to the next stage in my career. During those two years, something incredible happened. I worked on an eLearning course that had quite a few demonstrations but was largely screenshots of the steps. I realized that if these steps were not applied right away, many of them would quickly be forgotten.

At this same time, I attended an ATD (Association for Talent Development) conference session on microlearning. As I walked out, I thought for sure everyone would be staring at me with the huge lightbulb, that had to be shining as bright as the sun, hovering above my head.

Shortly after these events, I had my epiphany about creating microlearning videos and started the Self-Help Online Tutorials (SHOTs) program. No one asked me to start this program. I simply saw a need for employees to have the ability to learn new information or be refreshed, quickly and on-demand. Since then, we have trained over 30 SHOTs developers in other areas and offer over 540 microlearning videos with more being created each month.

I realized that had I been picked up for any of those jobs that I knew I was “perfect” for, I’m certain I never would have started the SHOTs program. I’ve now realized that you can’t look back at the past until you’ve lived through the present, which helps you stay focused on the future.

If you feel like your career has become stagnant or are stuck in a rut, look for those opportunities to volunteer, do something new, expand yourself and most of all, be engaged.

I welcome you to contact me for more information on the SHOTs program. Also, please leave a comment if you found this article informative, as I truly believe microlearning videos are the way of the future for training employees, just-in-time.

Interested in becoming a Featured Contributor? Email topics you’re interested in covering for GovLoop to [email protected] And to read more from our Winter 2021 Cohort, here is a full list of every Featured Contributor during this cohort.

Kelly Barrett has worked for the IRS for over 22 years, starting as a Data Entry Transcriber and working his way up to a Human Resources Education and Knowledge Management Specialist. Kelly has over 12 years of training project management experience with expertise in elearning course development and is a certified Instructional Designer (ISD) and Online Training Professional (COTP).

Seven years ago, Kelly began researching microlearning videos and how they can increase retention of training, and, using his Bachelor’s Degree in Broadcasting, he started a program called Self-Help Online Tutorials (SHOTs). He has since grown the program to an enterprisewide initiative with over 500 SHOTs videos for all 80,000+ IRS employees to view, anytime they need to.

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