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Adapting AC Design Principles for an Online L&D Intervention

A Case Study


Presented at the 2023 Virtual ACSG Conference

on 16 March 2023 from 10:45 - 11:30


Part 1 – Business Case and L&D Strategy: SYSPRO is a software development company, providing integrated business software including finance, manufacturing and distribution operations. Given its large global footprint, a key objective of its talent management strategy is to provide critical learning and development (L&D) opportunities to its employees in a timely and professional manner. COVID-19 prompted the business to rethink the manner in which, specifically, Solutions and Sales Consultants were upskilled. As a result, SYSPRO embarked on a project to reinvent its standard face-to-face 2-day Sales Training Course into an engaging, dynamic and immersive online learning and development experience. To this end, SYSPRO was keen to harness the power of online learning platforms with L&D methodologies but in a format that allowed behavioural learning to take place. The standard training involved theory as well as practical sessions in the form of role-plays. So, the challenge for the online training was to convert this approach, which SYSPRO has found to be highly effective for training purposes, into a format where live role-players were not always available given different time zones. A project team comprising of an L&D specialist, a specialist in online L&D software development, and an assessment centre (AC) design specialist helped the business achieve this goal.


Part 2 – Content Design using adapted AC Principles: Fortunately for the project team the theoretical content for the sales course was already available. We were also fortunate in that the senior sales managers and executive team was committed to the project and provided valuable guidance to keep us on track. Early input and several project meetings helped us to fine-tune the story boards and various role-plays for inclusion in the online training platform. For the training, the delegate was asked to pursue a new lead in the food manufacturing industry. The first part of the content would be typical of what one would find in an in-basket exercise. Delegates were provided with the client’s website, some media articles, some company financials and CV’s for each prospective client they would have to interact with. Working systematically through the training theory the delegates were then asked to build their sales pitch before each meeting. To accommodate the asynchronous nature of the training the role plays were converted to fact finding exercises. This allowed the delegate time to finish each meeting in their own time. Professional actors were hired to play each client and each interaction was scripted according to the ideal scenario. At the end of the training course, delegates received a customised report based on their overall performance and recommended development tips.


Part 3 – Technical Build: The technical build started with several planning sessions to define the structure and flow of the simulation. This was critical as delegates would work in a self-directed environment and we needed to track and score their logical thought process, based on the sequence in which they chose to complete the activities. The planning sessions resulted in a set of business rules that would be built into the simulation for this purpose.

The structure and business rules for flow informed the design of prototypes for each part of the simulations. These were strenuously tested before the actual development commenced. The simulations were adjusted and modified until they worked. The next phase of the development required setting up the back end of the simulation in such a way that each question and answer could be uniquely identified and scored during the data analysis process. Several scenarios were tested to ensure that the reporting pulled through accurately.


The next phase required the development of the algorithm that would sort and link the data and results into competency sets. The algorithm was tested through several trial runs. Next, continuous development activities were identified per competency set on three different levels, that would be linked to the individual reports, based on the scores achieved by each delegate. The last phase comprised piloting the simulation and the individual reporting.


The format of our presentation will include showing delegates what the final online platform looks like, a live online demonstration of the simulations, a view of the reporting outcomes and some training metrics.


Carla Botha used her foundation in Industrial Psychology to step into the field of Learning and Development in 2006, where she worked closely with companies from the Telecommunications, Manufacturing, Banking and Financial Services Industries for 11 years. During this time, she obtained accreditation as an assessor, moderator, skills development facilitator and instructional designer. Her keen interest in business and industry led to the complete a Masters degree in Business Administration in 2017 and certification as an Orgtologist with the International Orgtology Institute. During this period, she has worked with large state-owned organisations such as the Reserve Bank of Eswatini and the Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board to develop their strategic plans. For the past 6 years, she has focused her attention on designing digital learning solutions across a range of industries. In 2021, the design of the Standard Bank Insurance Academy won the SABPP award for best strategy execution project. In her words, “The Learning and Development space is a great platform to explore new possibilities! If you think about it, L&D tends to adopt and integrate the latest technologies into its scope of practice in some way, which makes this such an exciting space to be. Most of the complex problems that companies face these days can be addressed if people know how to think in the right ways. This is a by-product of what we learn and how we learn, so there rests a great responsibility on L&D professionals to deliver on this mandate – not to teach people what to think but to help people learn how to think in the right way.”


Anne Buckett (PhD) is an Industrial Psychologist and Managing Director of Precision ACS, supporting a wide range of clients with competency-based assessment and development as part of talent attraction, retention, and management. Over the past 20 years her business has focused on supporting organisations to meet talent initiatives by using assessments to optimal value. She designs, implements, and works with assessment centres for selection and development. She has also worked with several large international consulting firms and well-established corporate clients during her career, acquiring experience across a range of specialised IOP interventions that translate into practical HR initiatives. She is a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society. In 2020 she was made an Honorary Member of the Assessment Centre Study Group of South Africa (ACSG) in recognition for her continuous contribution to the field of assessment centres in South Africa.


Nicole Engels is the Talent Executive for SYSPRO, an ERP Software company. Over the past 30 years, she has had the opportunity to develop her career in various areas of business and leadership, focusing on retail and technology. She has collaborated with various stakeholders to align global L&D, Leadership and Talent strategies, driving business success for the company and individuals’ perspective. Her passion lies in transferring current and future skills through innovative learning solutions and experiences.

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