Follow-up: It’s Not What’s Next, It’s What’s Needed

June 7, 2017

One of my first jobs in corporate learning and development was as a client trainer for 2Wire, a manufacturer of residential DSL modems. In that role I learned about the “last mile,” which has to do with getting internet content to someone’s home or business. As you might imagine there’s a great deal of infrastructure required to connect a building to the web. At some point, however, a single line has to be physically connected to a customer’s location. This is the last mile. It’s where the one-to-one connections occur so it requires significant capital investment by service providers and utilities. The last mile is also essentially of greatest interest to the customer because it’s the first and last link in a vast network that allows him/her to use the Internet for ecommerce, streaming media, etc.



In a blog post by Bluepoint Leadership this “last mile” concept was used to describe the challenges associated with the final step in training: applying what was learned. If training is successful then some kind of change – either in behavior or outcome – is the result.

Gregg Thompson wrote:

“We need to spend a lot less time and effort trying to zero in on the precise competencies, practices and models needed by our leaders and direct our energy to helping leaders apply what they already know…helping them complete the last mile!”

Citing research done by Marshall Goldsmith, he suggested that follow-up is how to solve the last mile problem.

“Think of it this way: [follow-up is] anything that is done post-workshop that stimulates and encourages the behavior change…”

To me, “follow-up” means several things:


  • Put the learning event into context
    a. use the culture and challenges of your own organization as examples or in practice scenarios
  • Extend the learning event to an on-going experience
    a. incorporate social / blended learning to leverage the strengths of online and in-person interactions
  • Reinforce the peer-to-peer connections
    a. enable relationships – virtual or otherwise – between participants by providing learning communities


What follow-up doesn’t mean is thinking about next steps as a check-the-box or a transactional exercise. In other words, the opportunity to engage and re-engage with content and colleagues can be integrated into a learning program rather than treated as an add-on or as accidental. Follow-up can be the kind of on-going and dynamic support that a learner needs to help apply what they know. In this way it becomes not only a key component of your instructional design strategy but also a functional requirement for your instructional system.


stan_portraitStan’s first experience with instructional technology occurred in 1999 when he used SMART Boards to help employees learn how to use the Microsoft Office Suite. He then became an instructional designer and systems trainer for a variety of proprietary CRM software solutions. From there, Stan worked as a Training Manager and later as a Project Manager for an early leader in online education. As his experience with online learning grew, and as his understanding of the need to connect strategy with technology evolved, Stan began to focus on the relationship between blended learning and social business. It was these insights that attracted him to Jive and Pokeshot’s SmarterPath LMS the first time he saw it in 2012. Stan’s current role with the company not only allows him to support the sales, marketing, and product development teams, but it also allows him to work directly with customers as they implement SmarterPath. Prior to joining Pokeshot in October 2016, Stan spent several years working as a freelance consultant, successfully completing learning technology projects for such clients as Right Management, National University System and the U.S. Forest Service.