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Meet ABC Education


ABC Education (ABCE) is a for-profit company that provides early childhood education services cities throughout the United States. They have been in operation for 45 years and have successfully expanded their program sites to more than 170 locations, positively impacting the lives of thousands of children.


Problem Summary:

In recent years, ABCE has been struggling with a serious problem: a decrease in employee retention leading to high employee turnover. Employees who leave the company report on their exit surveys that lack of motivation, low morale, and a general feeling of disengagement are the primary reasons for their departure.

The corporate-based senior leadership team has committed to improving the culture at the highest level. They also believe that middle management (primarily, the Center Directors) create the conditions that result in employee engagement or disengagement. It is Center Director's that set the tone for the organization and have the power to shape the day-to-day work environment at their program site.

The company wants their employees to feel valued, be engaged, and thrive so that they are motivated to stay with the company.  ABCE has incurred a high financial cost associated with turnover (paying out leave, hiring and training new staff, etc.), which the company seeks to reduce. 


The senior leadership team has committed to improving the culture at the highest level. They believe that managerial-level team (specifically, the Site Director team) carries the brunt of that responsibility. Center Directors create the conditions that result in employee engagement or disengagement. They set the tone for the organization and have the power to shape the day-today work environment. The senior leadership team at ABCE wants to do whatever it takes to help managers create a work environment where employees feel valued and motivated and annual retention rates increase to 90% over the next 3 years.

Performance Gaps

Interviews with executive level employees and Directors have yielded the following specific information about performance gaps:  

  • Engagement, defined by the COO as “a commitment to the mission of [the] organization,” is lacking.

  • Executive team members believe the Center Directors, who have the most contact with staff, are responsible for creating an environment where employees feel valued.  This boils down to Director's communication skills and the recognition that they give to their staff.

  • Directors receive two weeks of training in the area of center management upon hire and then are expected to fulfill their roles fully from that point forward.

  • Currently, retention rates are measured by assessing the number of referrals by employees each year.  Absenteeism also seems high, but is not tracked well.

  • A consultant has noted that poor communication, lack of employee recognition, and current staff development practices are of concern.

  • In exit interviews, staff report that the work is too stressful, ABCE does not promote good work-life balance, and they don’t feel valued.

  • There are assumptions made by the executive team that Director's know how to interact with their teams, but it has been noted that many of them seem to have low emotional IQs.

  • The executive team has helped Directors understand the need to create a better environment for their staff, but Director's admit that they lack the knowledge of how to execute this.

  • There are professional development opportunities that are offered and sought out by the most ambitious staff, however there is not an official development program in place that Directors are aware of.  

Learner Data

An Audience Analysis was conducted to discover attributes of the Director group within ABCE.  The following types of data were collected:

  • Performance data -  collected through surveys completed by 325 Directors. Survey questions are available here.

  • Affective data -  collected through interviews with 35 Directors

  • Demographic Data – collected from surveys and HR records

All data was tabulated by the Instructional Designer and is summarized below.

Categories of Data:

1.  Responsibilities

Finding: 88% of survey respondents were Center Directors.  An additional 10% were Assistant Directors. Of all respondents, 92% reported that they manage both center operations and employees.

Conclusion: With most Directors sharing similar job responsibilities, training could be targeted to closely align with the majority of the audience’s responsibilities.  

2.  Perceived Importance of Employee Engagement

Finding: 59% of Directors think employee engagement is somewhat important to the success of their team.  25% reported that employee engagement is not very important.  

Conclusion: There appears to be some understanding of the importance of engagement, but there is certainly room for growth among a set group of Directors.

3.  Confidence in Management Skills

Finding: 63% of survey respondents report feeling somewhat confident in their ability to effectively engage and motivate their team, while 5% reported that they were very confident.  92% of respondents describe their ability to effectively communicate with their team as fair to excellent. 

Conclusion: It appears that most Directors have confidence in their ability to communicate with their team, but far fewer are confident in their ability to effectively engage and motivate their team.  How-to knowledge may be lacking in this area.

4.  Current Recognition Efforts

Finding: 62% of Directors report that they occasionally recognize and reward their team members for their hard work and achievements, while 38% report rarely doing so.  

Conclusion: These findings closely parallel the findings around the perceived importance of employee engagement and likely go hand-in-hand.

5.  Attitude Toward Training (Motivation)

Finding: 82% of respondents were interested or somewhat interested in improving their skills to promote employee engagement. And 85% were certain they have not received employee engagement training.

Conclusion: There appears to be medium to high interest in building skills that promote employee engagement.

6.  Level of Education

Finding: All respondents have at least some college education.  80% have achieved at least an undergraduate degree.  

Conclusion: Education is valued and there is a good ability amongst the Director group to follow educational programs through to completion.  This also suggests that Directors have the capability of growing through structured learning experiences.

7.  Barriers to Training Participation

Finding: A large majority of respondents report a lack of time being their largest obstacle to participating in training.  15% cite lack of interest.  12% cite lack of support from their supervisor.  

Conclusion: Most participants feel there are obstacles to them participating in training.  With the support from the executive leadership team, Directors could be supported in ways that help eliminate or reduce these barriers.    

Analysis Conclusion

          Overall, performance gaps seem to be caused by deficits in knowledge and skills. These problems suggest that a multi-faceted training program may be a viable solution. Below is a description of characteristics of an ideal training program.  

         Training experiences needs to be accessible. Training events need to take little time, be easily applied, and provide relevant opportunities. Barriers, such as time to participate in trainings, need to be removed. This could mean delivering training during the work day which could cause a temporary reduction in the output of managers. This would need to be supported by the executive leadership team.  

          Training should be provided in various mediums. While the education levels of the Director group suggest that direct instruction may be a viable solution, the program needs to be constructed in a way that meets all learners needs. This includes more indirect forms of training as well as role modeling positive employee engagement and recognition from the executive leadership team to the Site Director team.  

          Training needs to be relevant. With the majority of the Director team reporting that they do not have experience in training for building employee engagement, and a percent of them  not having much interest in training, it is important that the training topics be carefully curated and targeted to the skills that will provide Directors with the most relevant, position-specific information that they can immediately use in their work.  

          A system needs to be implemented for strengthening the longevity of skills learned. Ongoing learning opportunities should be provided to reinforce and add to the learning that Directors have received. The training should be scaffolded in a way the supports ongoing growth.  

In any effective training program, there need to be measurable goals. A structure for assessing the effectiveness of training initiatives will need to be established. This could take the form of follow-up surveys, interviews, and/or observations made by the executive leadership team.  

A Sampling of Center Directors

Select each photo to learn more about the Center DIrector

Building a Solution

Learning Theory:

          The audience for this training will primarily be Center Directors. The Center Directors are spread throughout cities across the United States. Despite their distance from one another, they all seem to have similar retention challenges at their sites. For financial and programmatic reasons, it will not be possible to bring all the learners together in one space. Using a connectivism approach will make room for technology to be a major factor in the learning process and allow Center Directors to connect with and learn from their peers. 

          George Siemens is regarded as the founder of the Connectivism learning theory. According to Siemens, there are eight guiding principles to Connectivism. 

  1. Learning and knowledge rest in a diversity of opinions which can deepen understanding.

  2. Learning is a process of connecting. When we build relationships with coworkers, we open ourselves up to new skills, thoughts, and ideas we might not otherwise have access to.

  3. Learners may store information in a digital way, like in an app, social media post, video, database or forum. 

  4. The capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known. 

  5. Collaborative social interaction brings people together and forms a long-term learning environment.

  6. Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill. We must learn how to build a bridge to connect point A to point B. That bridge itself is a new learning opportunity.

  7. Accurate, up-to-date knowledge is the intent of all Connectivist Learning.

  8. Decision-making is itself a learning process. What we know today may change tomorrow. If up-to-date information is the intent of connectivism, we must accept that our knowledge will need to continuously evolve as new understandings present themselves (Siemens, 2017).

Instructional Design Model:

          The instructional design model that will be used to build this course is ADDIE. The stages of ADDIE are briefly described in the figure below.


So far in the process, an analysis has been conducted (described above), the design is being created with the identification of the learning theory and objectives. The rest of the ADDIE model will help ensure that there is a comprehensive development, implementation, and evaluation process.

Wooden Alphabets

Learning Objective #1

By examining exit interviews, Center Directors will clarify the causes of retention issues at their site and present their pertinent findings with peers.

Learning Objective #2

By the end of this training, Center Directors will develop a plan with at least two steps to regularly recognize their staff's efforts at work and present that plan to their Director.

Learning Activities

Students will be provided with a copy of their Center's exit interview survey results as well as the company as a whole. Students will have time, in advance, to work with the findings and pull out patterns that they see. Using their findings as the basis for their research, students will then conduct research on strategies aimed at helping to address the retention issue at their site. Students will then take to a new channel on Slack (#retention solutions), a platform already used for internal communications within the company. There, they will share their findings and begin to brainstorm solutions with their peers. Each Center Director will be responsible for their own post and for contributing to at least three others' posts, brainstorming solutions together. Center Directors will then develop a plan with at least 3 strategies aimed at recognizing their staff's efforts at work in an attempt being about a positive change to the retention challenges that are currently being seen across the company.

Assessment of Learning

Within ABCE, there is a managerial structure that lends itself well to assessment that is catered to each learner's needs. A Regional Director oversees a group of Center Directors within a specific region. Part of the Regional Director's role is to be in each of their centers at least once every two weeks.  As part of their learning, Center Directors will reflect on what they learned, drawing connections between their prior knowledge and their new knowledge, and be able to speak about plans that will help directly address the issue of retention at their site. They will share their plan with their Regional Director who will make observations and provide another layer of feedback about the plan's success at each program. Center Directors can work with their Regional Directors (and the Slack community) to continually assess and refine their plan. Quarterly retention reports will help define the plan's success and any need for remediation. 

Training Evaluation

At the end of the training, Center Directors will complete a survey asking them the same questions as the pre-survey as well as some questions about their experience with the training. Instructors will analyze the growth. Additionally, Regional DIrectors will be asked to reflect on the growth of the Center Directors. Finally, quarterly retention reports will show any changes to the retention problem across the organization.


Siemens, G. (2017). Connectivism. Foundations of learning and instructional design technology.

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