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Do you Want to Build a Snowman?

Frosty the snowman was, indeed, a jolly, happy soul. Now I’ll admit that the corncob pipe was a good look, but they say he was made of snow and brought to life by an enchanted hat. That sounds a bit far-fetched if you ask me. But, in today’s world, the process of employee training and development might not be much different — it’s part magic and part science.

All corporate training initiatives started with a small idea about something we could make better and were brought to life with a bit of technology. Building Frosty didn’t have much of a business impact, but there was some design strategy at play. First, the children started by gathering materials into one place, carefully planning the size of each mound of snow; then, shaping one piece to form a base to build upon; followed by smaller components filling out the rest of his body; then, topped him off by accessories to accentuate certain unique features.

Lessons Learned

If these children could assemble some snow, coal, a button, a pipe, and a carrot into a best friend, then we should try to learn something from them.

Inevitably, with any learning program, there will be the occasional thumpety thump thump. Sometimes corporate training misses the mark or global warming melts your best friend. Either way, we’ve since grown from our experience and we know a little secret — one the children didn’t. Frosty didn’t have to die. We can build an environment that sustains our little dreams, but planning is critical.

What Does a Snowman Really Need?

Creating a sustainable learning environment starts with identifying a need. Like the children needed a playmate, your company has a need—some business goal or an organizational change.

If you want to deviate from the path that leads to melting, then you may want to reconsider your stopping point. Think of it: the children stopped when they got Frosty, but what if they had planned for the melt and decided to build an environment in which he could survive?

As far as training goes, no course exists in a vacuum. There is a larger learning ecosystem at play, whether or not it’s well organized (or temperature regulated). So, consider the structure and lifespan of your training as you design.

Don’t let Frosty Die

To avoid the melt, Frosty needed the same thing your learners will—a sustainable environment. In your case, the goal is to maintain knowledge, skills, and motivating factors. I suppose the stakes here aren’t life or death, but continuous education is still critical to the life of your business.

To start, you will want to map out all of your training materials — their connections and their gaps. Then draw the different pathways a new hire might take to navigate your content. Once you have that big picture outlined, then you can overlay a reinforcement schedule. Push microlearning modules or knowledge checks at regular intervals to ensure content stays top-of-mind.

It will also be important to make a list of any possible project constraints: mergers, new systems, budget, culture, timing, HEAT, scheduling, etc. If you fail to plan for obstacles, you’ll have no way of keeping someone, like a nosy traffic cop, from enjoying a nice, cold carrot for lunch.

Defining Training Objectives

Now that you have a map of your training content and understand the needs of your learners, you can make sure your learning objectives follow a logical progression. Consider each stage in the curriculum and ask yourself:

  • How can you build on previous learning objectives to create a seamless experience?
  • What obstacles might hinder the learner from retaining or applying what they know?
  • Is there a definable middle ground to the varying demographics, experience, and motivation held by your entire learner base?

All your analyzing, organizing, and planning will improve the learning experience, but you’ll want to make sure the learning objectives align with your larger goals before your topics spring to life. Yours will be more complex, but the children’s plan might have looked something like this:

  1. Build Frosty
  2. Keep Frosty Comfortable
  3. Develop Cold Storage
  4. Sustain Frosty’s New Environment

It sounds like mapping out objectives might have spared Frosty some discomfort.


Anytime you’re working on a process that demands creativity, ideas can change like the weather. Luckily, you’ve planned for obstacles and designed a stellar learning curriculum around them. Eventually, you will need to update content, but if you design a sustainable learning environment, then your training will have a much longer lifespan — your assets won’t just melt away with the coming season.