HR branching scenario example


This HR branching scenario example is based on a one  I built for a company where line managers were being told to take over some of the ‘people functions’ that had previously been the remit of HR.  Many managers lacked confidence and a comprehensive ‘how to’ site existed to tell them the policies and the kinds of points to be aware of.

However it might be months before they’d have to actually handle some of these issues so some scenarios were designed that could sit in the same site as the policy stuff – not hidden away in the LMS – so they could get a taste for the experience.


In this case – a home visit to a member of staff with a terminal illness –  I sat with two HR business partners who had extensive experience of this kind of thing and knew, often from bitter experience, what the pitfalls were. We first identified the things a manager would have to do, then the common mistakes and their consequences, and finally the areas in which managers had expressed a lack of confidence. We came up with a story based on a case one of the HR people had dealt with and fleshed it out with some details which we could then change to anonymise the staff member.

The next step was to walk through the preparation and the interview listing the decisions one-by-one and in each case the right thing to do.  When the preparation turned out to be quite extensive we considered separating the preparation and the interview into two scenarios but decided that would lose the drama and interest, and managers in a hurry might just go straight to the interview. The interview was to highlight the consequences of not preparing correctly.

As we went through the decisions I put each one into Quandary. We took it through to a satisfactory end to the interview, which turned out to be eight steps. We then went back to each step and asked ‘What would be a wrong but reasonable-seeming decision that an inexperienced LM might take here?’  Sometimes there were two or three, sometimes only one, sometimes none. We didn’t invent choices for the sake of filling up the scenario.  There were three possible outcomes for the ‘wrong’ decisions:

  1. they would not be highlighted straight away but ‘stored’ and come back to bite the learner later in the scenario
  2. they would lead to immediate consequences, which the learner would have to deal with
  3. (in a minority of cases) they would be so serious the scenario would be halted, the learner would be told what happened as a result, and asked to start again


The Build

After a fairly intense couple of hours, Quandary produced a Word script which the HR people could check and sign off. When they’d done so, I built the scenario using some HTML/Javascript templates I’d built for the purpose. They enabled me to track decisions made, track whether ‘must-have’ decisions had been made correctly, remove choices that had already been made from screens the learner was returning to, and present the decisions made on the last screen.

The decision to build it in text only, without graphics, was based on a couple of factors. We didn’t have the time or resources to create images for every stage of the scenario – that would have needed a long and expensive photoshoot – and, more important, I didn’t want the images to distract from the story or to clash with however the learner might picture the characters.


I built five scenarios like this, which sat on the company’s HR site for six months or so. I never saw any feedback from users although I did find other learning projects asking me to build similar scenarios for them, not always appropriately. With changes in the learning structure in the company, learning stopped being built in HTML and started being built in another team so no more complex branching scenarios were built.

As an exercise in learning Articulate Storyline I created a new version branded as ‘Difficult Conversations’

 ‘Difficult Conversations’

I see this as an opportunity for any organisation to create learning around the ‘difficult conversations’ they have to manage – whether it’s customer conversations, performance appraisals, job interviews or team communications.

If you see this approach as having potential for you, contact me!


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