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Will AI Help Close the Skills Gap?

Experts say the skills gap is here to stay, at least for the near future. Some employers are turning to AI to help close the gap — but where does that leave L&D?

Forty percent of HR leaders believe artificial intelligence will help fill the skills gap. That’s according to a new study by Learning House and Future Workplace, which surveyed 600 U.S. HR leaders.

More than half of those surveyed acknowledged the skills gap and more than a third believe it’s harder to fill open positions now than it was in 2017, but some critics say companies are not doing much to fix the problem. The study found that 74 percent of companies are only investing $500 per employee on learning and development.

Jeremy Walsh, senior vice president of enterprise learning solutions at Learning House, said he was shocked by the low amount of money being spent on L&D. “It’s just ridiculous to see that amount of money being spent,” he said. “I think we will start to see a shift in how much they’re willing to invest in skilling and reskilling.”

Walsh did note that while $500 was the average amount spent among all companies, the larger companies spent more — closer to an average of $1,500 per employee. Further, more than half of employers noted a lack of budget as their most significant obstacle to upskilling employees.

“It takes a lot of time and money to fix the problem,” said Dan Schawbel, research director at Future Workplace. “Companies are moving very fast, and they may believe they have other priorities right now.” Instead of investing money on reskilling current employees, Schawbel said companies would rather just outsource the jobs or invest in AI. Indeed, 40 percent seem confident in AI.

“When people see a stat like that, our immediate posture as human beings — none of us want to be replaced by a machine — is thinking, ‘Wow, 40 percent of HR people think we’re going to be replaced,’” Walsh said. “But that’s not really what it’s saying. It’s saying it’s going to help us do a better job of finding the right people for the right jobs.”

AI Efficiency

At some level, this is already happening. Walsh pointed to LinkedIn algorithms that help recruiters find people with the right skills to match them with employment opportunities.

Walsh said one reason for the 40 percent finding is that companies want to invest in AI because they know it will become more stable and usable. “They realize it’s going to change the jobs that people need to do,” he said. “And so the idea of training a bunch of people for jobs that don’t exist — that’s hard.”

Schawbel said AI is also appealing because machines can work longer hours without requiring employee benefits or compensation. “They can also increase efficiencies that will enable organizations to grow without adding additional headcount,” he said.

For example, the average wage of a Starbucks barista is almost $20,000 per year, while a robot designed to make 120 cups of coffee per hour costs $25,000. “Robots can work seven days a week, you don’t have to pay the robot overtime and there’s no employee benefits,” Schawbel said. “So even at the basic level, if robots can do things more efficiently, it saves a company money.”

While coffee making may be a fairly trainable skill, some skills are more dynamic. Google Brain, for example, is a deep learning AI research team at Google that has been focusing on using AI to build software that can design machine learning software.

Walsh said that frees up the data scientists from hours of coding to focus on developing more sophisticated models and better applications of how to use the software. “It just takes the work that they’re doing to a higher level versus kind of punching the keys, which is what a lot of data scientists end up doing right now,” Walsh said. “They’re so ingrained into building the machine that they can’t think about how the machine is being applied.”

AI is changing marketing too, as it can already send emails, schedule posts and analyze data. A Forbes article reported that this is forcing marketers to be “technology gurus with a depth of social and emotional intelligence to complement their abilities.”

Schawbel said AI is still in its infancy so it’s hard to tell what the long-term productivity and labor impact will be, but there are estimates that it could cause a 35 percent growth in productivity.

Necessity or Choice?

Schawbel noted that since companies aren’t investing enough in employee training and thus don’t have the right pool of candidates, it might be out of necessity — not choice — that they are using AI in this manner.

Walsh, on the other hand, said companies that are constantly looking toward the future are going to adopt AI regardless. “Because many believe that AI is going to play a huge part in improving efficiency and improving a company’s ability to compete and meet customer demand, they’re naturally inclined to be investing in AI anyway,” he said. But he said the compounding pressure of fewer “work-ready” candidates — people who understand the exact skills needed in today’s workforce —is probably also expediting the adoption of AI.

Schawbel said this issue comes with its own implications, such as bugs, privacy issues, complaints and, most important, a lack of training for current employees in using AI. Schawbel said this dilemma could create a different skills gap scenario, where employees that retain their jobs are not going to be able to work with AI because of a lack of training. “You have to learn how to use these tools and machines, otherwise you’re going to be irrelevant too,” Schawbel said. “There’s going to be a training cost either way.”

Walsh said everyone is trying to wrap their heads around what the jobs of the future look like and one way to get ahead is to train employees to be digitally fluent in AI and machine learning. “The more comfortable we can get people with those concepts and get them fluent with working with those types of AI bots, the better and more efficient we’re going to be,” he said.

Schawbel and Walsh agreed the skills gap isn’t going away any time soon, as jobs and skills are constantly changing and technology is speeding up.

“We’re going to see more collaboration between educators, between companies and between the government to step in and provide training options to reskill and upskill individuals, for those whose jobs are going to either be eliminated or enhanced by AI,” Walsh said.

 

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Machine learning is helping unsigned artists make Spotify pay

Usually only artists that are already quite successful can access an advance on royalties, but Swedish startup Amuse wants to help level the playing field.

In 1997, David Bowie partnered with an insurance company to create Bowie bonds – a kind of asset-backed bond that gave him (and investors) a share of the current and future royalties of his music. Bowie correctly predicted that his music would only become more popular, but he didn’t want to wait years into the future to reap the rewards.

But maneuvers like this are pretty much only open to superstars, like Bowie. For a struggling musician hoping to break into the industry, the way that it’s all set up can be a massive headache. When musicians get signed to a record label, they can get an advance on future royalties, in order to finance renting equipment or studio space, or even shooting music videos. An advance effectively functions as a loan – financed by revenue from other, successful artists – and the artist has to pay it back if and when their music starts to bring in money too. But this is only open to comparatively few artists.

Amuse, a Swedish music distribution startup founded by former Universal Music Group label heads and other industry experts, is trialling a new service that aims to let more artists access future royalties before they earn them, using machine learning to predict what those royalties could be. Here’s how it works: artists upload their tracks onto Amuse, and those tracks are distributed onto streaming platforms such as Apple Music and Spotify. Then, a team of experts at Amuse analyse where the streams are coming from, what kind of stream they are (for example, if they come from premium users), and how many streams different artists get.

A program that Amuse has developed in-house assigns each of those characteristics a value. It then calculates how much an artist could expect to make in future royalties and offers a corresponding upfront payment, called a Fast Forward Advance. An artist who has 300 followers, all of whom are from Brazil, will be offered a lower Fast Forward Advance than someone who has 5,000 followers that are spread out throughout the world or are in the country the artist comes from (so far, the bulk of the artists that use Amuse are Scandinavian, partially because Amuse is headquartered in Stockholm).

Although Amuse is also a record label with some artists signed to it, the major difference is that it’s also a free distribution service, so an artist simply has to sign up to use it (without signing to the label) in order for their data to come into Amuse’s hands and for them to be offered an advance. In order to finance the system, Amuse charges a fee between 10 to 20 percent of the payment it offers. In terms of risk, the artist only pays back the royalties that they are expected to make.

Currently, the commercial music industry works on a large scale – moving big sums of money around to advance artists, but keeping them in debt for years if they fail. Amuse envisages its tool being used for something more quotidian – a smaller artist might use it to finish filming a music video or to rent some equipment for a last minute gig, for example. The company says that the smallest advance it has given out so far is $400 dollars and the largest $100,000.

If an artist becomes more popular while using the service, then that’s factored in and they get a new offer from Amuse. “If they become more popular, then they earn back that money much quicker, and then we’re done with that transaction,” explains Diego Farias, one of the founders of Amuse. “Then, they’re eligible for a new Fast Forward advance, and then their valuation has increased.” If they don’t make the money that they were predicted to, then nothing happens – they don’t have to pay it back.

Although it’s early days, Amuse says that nearly 100 artists offered the Fast Forward Advance have so far accepted, out of roughly 400. Paul Allen, who is the head of Data and Insights at Amuse, says the Fast Forward Advance was a natural move as the company was already using similar streaming data and tools to identify artists it might be interested in. “Now, we’re just taking it one step further.”

 

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Why working into your 70s or 80s needn't be a bad thing

A later retirement age and staying in the workplace for longer will create a demand for extended careers that follow multiple paths

For more than a century, what demographers call “best-practice life expectancy” has increased at the remarkable rate of two to three years every decade. That means that a child born today in a developed country has more than a 50 per cent chance of living past 100. In fact, people aged over 100 are already the fastest growing demographic group in the world. While this is good news for individuals, there are significant implications for every aspect of society and the environment. In 2019, we will work out ways to respond to the challenges of our ageing societies.

Longevity has profound implications for our personal economics. Unless we have saved more than 25 per cent of our income through our working lives (which few of us do), it is probable that we will be working into our 70s or 80s. Yet, under the conditions of the traditional “three-stage life” (full-time education followed by full-time employment followed by full-time retirement) that will prove to be virtually impossible. Instead we will need to start living a “multistage life”, with much more time out – for sabbaticals and periods of retraining – and many more transitions from one job to another.

This new way of structuring life is already beginning to emerge. People in their 30s are taking time out to explore their options and change the way they work. Those in their 40s and 50s are seeking to build a more fluid, portfolio way of working, and some are becoming entrepreneurs. People in their 60s and 70s are being forced to engage with the idea of working for the next ten to 20 years.

However, the institutional barriers they face are significant. Corporations tend to favour graduate recruitment and are ill-equipped to hire people in mid-career. Educational institutions are strongly focused on young adults and find it hard to integrate the over-30s. And many governments still base their policies for housing and social support on the three-stage-life framework.

In the workplace, alternative ways of earning a living, particularly freelance work, are flourishing – jobs that are capable of delivering greater autonomy, which will be crucial for making a multi-stage life fulfilling. And corporations are already exploring ways to make work more flexible and to counter age stereotypes (which, in my view, have been shocking) and retain employees over the age of 60.

Traditional educational establishments are struggling with life-long learning, but online Massive Open Online Courses (Moocs) are flourishing. Today, around 78 million people are learning this way and that number is growing by 20 million every year. Organisations such as General Assembly, which runs work-related technology courses, are enabling students to learn new skills in as little as 12 weeks, opening up the possibility of many educational breaks throughout the working life.

And LinkedIn Learning, built through LinkedIn’s acquisition of the online training business Lynda, will increasingly deliver content curated to suit an individual’s working profile. Most importantly, these programmes are age-agnostic – anyone of any age can take them.

Government response has been slow, but, not surprisingly, it is currently led by Japan, where 27 per cent of the population is over 65, half is over 50 and deaths have exceeded births for more than a decade. The country is promoting a narrative that focuses on the positives rather than the negatives of longevity.

Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe has assembled and personally chaired a council of ministers, business leaders, union representatives and academics (including myself) to develop policy proposals that will enable people to flourish across the whole of their longer lives. It has called for a range of measures including significant improvements in long-term care workers’ pay and a dramatic expansion of lifelong learning to support mid-career employment and enable people to work into their 70s and 80s.

In 2019, other countries will follow Japan’s lead. And, instead of relying on technological determinism to inform us about how we should see the future, we will realise that it is demography that has the most profound impact on shaping the context in which we live.

Lynda Gratton is a professor of management practice at London Business School and co-author of The 100-Year Life

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Technology and robots will shake labour policies in Asia and the world

Developing countries must begin seriously considering how technological changes will impact labour trends.

In the 21st century, governments cannot ignore how changes in technology will affect employment and political stability. 

The automation of work – principally through robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of things (IoT), collectively known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution – will provide an unprecedented boost to productivity and profit. It will also threaten the stability of low- and mid-skilled jobs in many developing and middle-income countries. 

From labour to automation

Developing countries must begin seriously considering how technological changes will impact labour trends. Technology now looms just as large a disruptive force, if not larger, than the whims of global capital. 

China has for decades increased its global contribution to manufacturing value-added goods, now enjoying a competitive position in Apple products, household appliances, and technology. In the process, the country has made historic progress lifting its citizens out of poverty.

China has accomplished this by raising worker productivity through technology and up-skilling (improving or acquiring new skills), and higher wages have predictably followed. 

However, this trend is also compelling manufacturers to relocate some low-skill production to Southeast Asia. US-China trade disputes could exacerbate this trend. 

Relocation of manufacturing activity has been an economic boon for workers in countries like Vietnam and Indonesia. However, the race among global manufacturers to procure the cheapest labour brings no assurances of long-term growth and prosperity to any one country.

Governments in developing countries must parlay the proceeds of ephemeral labour cost advantages into infrastructure investment, industrial upgrading and worker upskilling. China has done this to better effect than many.

The growth in sophistication and commercial feasibility of robotics, IoT, and other automation technologies will impact jobs at nearly every skill level. More broadly, the fallout from technological advancement may replicate the disruptive geographic shifts in production once resulting from labour cost arbitrage.

Political blowback

After many decades of globalisation, a borderless economy has emerged in which capital and production move freely to locations with the greatest investment returns and lowest cost structures. This has prompted a pattern of global economic restructuring, generating unprecedented growth opportunities for developing countries. 

Workers have been rewarded for their personal efforts in education and skill development, while millions have been lifted from poverty. 

Given advancements in technology and the associated impact on livelihoods, it is time to consider how the next chapter of global development will play out politically. Automation will be a highly disruptive force by most economic, social, and political measures. Few countries – developed or otherwise – will escape this challenge. 

Some Western countries, including the United States, are already experiencing a populist political wave fuelled in part by the economic grievances of workers displaced from once stable, middle-class manufacturing jobs. Similar push-back may erupt in countries already embroiled in nationalist politics, including India. 

Growing populations and the automation of work will soon mix to create unemployment crises, with serious implications for domestic political stability.

As education systems flood the employment market with scores of ambitious graduates, one of the greatest challenges governments face is how to generate well-paying jobs.

Further, vulnerable workers will include not only new entrants but also experienced workers, some of whom are continuously and aggressively up-skilling in anticipation of more lucrative employment. 

In India, over 1 million people enter the working-age population every month. More than 8 million new jobs are needed each year to maintain current employment levels. 

India’s young population is becoming increasingly pessimistic about their employment prospects. Although official statistics are unreliable, as a large percentage of work occurs in the informal sector in positions such domestic workers, coolies, street vendors, and transient positions lacking contracts, indications are that India may be facing the prospect of jobless growth. 

Insufficient skill levels in much of the workforce are impeding India’s effort to accelerate growth in high-productivity jobs. Thus, the country’s large-scale manufacturers, both domestically and internationally owned, are turning to robots to ensure consistent, reliable, and efficient production. 

Urbanisation also adds to India’s employment challenge. The promise of higher-paying jobs has lured many rural workers into urban areas, but these workers are often illiterate and lack sufficient skills. This was not always a concern, as these workers could find menial factory jobs. Robots are now doing much of the low-skilled work that migrant workers were once hired to do. 

Towards a future of stable livelihoods

The lingering socio-economic imperative for many governments is to replace eliminated jobs. According to The World Economic Forum, “inequality represents the greatest societal concern associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” 

However, the WEF and others have given little useful guidance on how to address this challenge. How should the economy absorb multitudes of variously skilled workers displaced by technology? 

People aspire to economic and social mobility more than ever before, particularly as they observe wealth rising ostentatiously all around them – on the streets, in the news, and among seemingly lucky friends and acquaintances. Sadly, the aspirations of most will go unfulfilled.

One way forward is said to be through up-skilling by retraining workers to operate and maintain technology systems. However, this seems to be a paradox, as workers would be training robots to eventually take jobs held by humans. If a major driver of automation is reduction or elimination of labour costs, one cannot expect all displaced workers to enjoy stable and continuing employment opportunities.

Despite political promises about employment growth from high-tech industries and the technological transformation of primary sectors, the tension between the drive for technology-based efficiency and the loss of jobs is undeniable and may have no clear resolution. 

Societies have reacted to global economic restructuring in discouraging ways, indulging in nationalism, racism, militarism, and arbitrary economic protectionism. Populist opportunists and foul-tempered troglodytes have ridden reactionary rhetoric into positions of political power, raging against what former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon calls the “liberal postwar international order.” At the same time, left-leaning solutions such as universal basic income face significant fiscal and political headwinds. 

The 21st century will see increased disruptions to once-stable work life, due to technological progress and the continuing liberalisation of global capital and production. Early indications about how countries will respond – haphazardly and with no clear long-term strategy – are not encouraging.

January 2019

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Four 2019 Learning and Development Trends for Greater ROI

L&D spending is on the rise, with larger companies investing as much as $1,847 per learner. But are employers gaining from these spends? We share four 2019 learning and development trends to help maximize your L&D ROI.

With more and more millennials entering the workplace, the spotlight is on effective learning and development.

Research suggests that millennial workers value career development and skills acquisition as a top motivator (above compensation or rewards, in some cases). This isn’t a surprise given that they stay in a role for an average of 2–3 years, before moving on to greener pastures. As a result, employers are investing heavily in L&D programs in a bid to retain young, ambitious employees, while also hoping to boost productivity levels.

Here are the top four learning and development trends to consider for 2019:

1. Buy-Ins at Every Level

This step is often overlooked by L&D teams. In 2019, all learning and development trends point in the same direction – the function can no longer exist in a silo, with sessions and courses deployed merely as part of one’s daily schedule.

Instead, L&D has to become a holistic initiative, linked directly to the goals of your C-suite.

“Chief Learning Officers are eager to find the right solutions to equip their workforce with the skills needed for tomorrow’s economy. Companies spend millions on corporate development training programs, but many still fall short of delivering measurable behavior change,” notes Alexi Robichaux, Co-Founder & CEO at personalized coaching solutions provider, BetterUp.

To achieve the desired results and genuine ROI, it is important for L&D managers to collaborate with C-level executives, delineate specific goals/targets for the quarter, and implement solutions that are in sync with business goals.

Pro tip: Consider products like Working Voices which offer pay-per-use frameworks in-line with this 2019 learning and development trend. Employers can invest only in the modules aligned to their immediate objectives, ensuring no wasted L&D spend.

2. Virtual Learning Takes Off for Real

This, really, is the logical step forward for legacy classrooms – transition to a web-based, virtually disseminated model of learning. While virtual learning does not completely do away with the traditional ‘one coach, multiple learners’ setup, it has now moved online. Some of the immediate benefits include convenience and lower overheads: employees can access these webinars anytime, anywhere, without impacting their daily work schedules.

Beyond 2019, this learning and development trend could have extended implications such as Augmented Reality-addons, interactive layers, certifications upon session completion, and more.

“In the last few years, the digital talent shortage has widened, threatening to create a bottleneck for enterprises that are struggling to achieve their digital transformation objectives,” says Simplilearn’s CEO, Krishna Kumar. To address this, Simplilearn offers a 360-degree virtual training solution for businesses, distributing content through online platforms and then enabling hands-on application via their very own CloudLab.

Interestingly, SAP is among the early adopters, launching 'SAP Live Class' this year to enable virtual classes in real time. In 2019, this learning and development trend could take off as ‘the new normal’.

3. UX Will Matter Just as Much as Content

Learners are spoilt for choice; the same piece of information may be available on Wikipedia, Quora, Github, Medium, and many other platforms. If your L&D solution isn’t easy to access (and easy on the eyes), it risks low usage rates, leading to wasted L&D investment.

In 2019, the learning and development trend of proactively enhancing employee UX will be increasingly important. Unfortunately, legacy L&D environments still rely on multiple disparate systems: SharePoint, PPTs, Slack, company-owned URLs, and the intranet, to name a few. Learners are left disappointed and disinterested while trying to imbibe a new skill or knowledge area.

2019 needs to be the year when all of this changes. This looks increasingly possible with the rising popularity of end-to-end and fully connected ‘Learning Experience Platforms.’

4. Flash Courses to Be Retired

Flash-based e-Learning was all the rage for several years, as the most ubiquitous and well-supported interactive medium for content consumption.

However, this popular format is all set for obsolescence by 2020, reports Adobe, and L&D teams must work with this deadline in mind. “There are no hard numbers on Flash usage inside and outside the enterprise. But, security experts say there are many firms using custom-built Flash applications that will be expensive to replace after the 2020 depreciation deadline,” says Tom Spring from Threatpost.

For companies still using Flash-based training in 2019, conversion and reformatting will prove extremely necessary. Now discarding an entire library of legacy content in one fell swoop might negatively impact ROI. As the year ends, organizations must course-correct and convert existing content to compatible formats like HTML5 and use a cost-effective authoring tool to create new courses.

These four 2019 learning and development trends will have a huge impact on L&D strategies. As HR teams relook at their programs, finetuning them for the new year and refreshed ROI targets, having a more streamlined implementation-to-returns plan in place is essential. This implies a bird’s-eye view understanding of business needs, choosing engaging and enriching L&D tools, and continually reinventing the old, even as we tread new ground.

Which 2019 learning and development trends do you think will dominate L&D? Share your thoughts and join the discussion.

 

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Seven Learning And Development Trends To Adopt In 2019

It’s the time of year for human resources professionals to look back on employee performance and begin planning their training needs for 2019. To any business, human capital is its greatest asset and the biggest key to achieving business goals. How can you better prepare your teams to perform in a highly competitive environment? Through training.

Learning and technology walk hand in hand. As high-tech innovations accelerate, so does the opportunity to create better corporate training programs and delivery methods. As the president and CEO of one of the largest learning and development providers in the United States, I have learned that organizations need personalized training that incorporates cutting-edge technology, supports professional development and encourages employee engagement. More than ever, training is effectively providing skills that match the way we learn in a high-tech world. Here are seven of the top training trends you should pay attention to in 2019.

1. C-suite and HR work together better to align goals.

The biggest mistake I see that keeps an organization’s learning and development efforts from reaching their full potential is a lack of planning and commitment from the C-suite. Leaders who don’t plan exactly what they want their training to accomplish are wasting resources. In a learning culture, management and HR work together to define the values, processes and practices that employees, departments and the organization can use to increase their performance and competencies. The knowledge and skills acquired and applied by employees is shared freely in a learning culture, creating a sustainable and adaptable organization.

2. Develop competencies for future organizational goals.

To maintain the continued health of your company, management must target employees who can take over future leadership roles. For current employees, immediately begin training on leadership development, communication and problem-solving skills. If they aren’t already, HR can target job candidates with leadership potential in all their talent acquisition efforts. Management can help develop future leaders and managers as soon as new employees enter the door by providing mentors and helping them build professional networks. Improving your leadership development program helps you build teams that are agile and capable of evolving with the times.

3. Emphasize communication skills.

As organizations become more diverse and broaden their reach, company leaders see the value in developing their employees’ soft skills, such as emotional intelligence, collaboration and negotiation. In fact, more than 90% of respondents to a 2016 Deloitte survey rated soft skills a “critical priority.” They also indicated that soft skills can foster employee retention, improve leadership and build a meaningful culture.

However, there is widespread concern among recruiters that the soft skills gap is widening with the technologically savvy but soft-skill-poor Gen Z employees entering the workforce. Learning and development personnel can overcome this challenge by offering soft skills training to employees and encouraging them to refine their social skills. An introduction to soft skills training may include holding brainstorm sessions where employees list the possible uses for various soft skills or helping them role play to discover different situational outcomes.

4. Increase the gamification of training.

There is a misunderstanding about gamification and training programs in the real world. Unwitting business owners will scoff at the notion of gamification because they believe it means turning their training programs into video games. Understandably, they feel that their critical and potentially life-saving OSHA-compliance training should not be equivalent to Donkey Kong. What they don’t realize is that gamification is simply a process of building a progressive reward system into training that imitates modern video games.

Badges, points, leaderboards and community involvement incentivize the online training experience for even the most jaded learner. Learners who lack the passion and drive to participate can use these tools as a springboard until their core motivation kicks in.

5. View training as an employee benefit and bait for talent acquisition.

Training can be a key differentiator between companies competing for talent. Employees want to work for organizations that provide personal and professional development, and they consider it a deciding factor when looking for new employment or determining if they should stay with their current employer. Learning and development plays a critical role in engaging — and retaining — employees. Leverage your training as an employee incentive, and add it to your existing benefits package alongside retirement and health and wellness options.

6. Weigh learner-centric against content-oriented training.

Training in the past that focused solely on content was “one size fits all,” which made it difficult to engage with the learner. Today, we must zero in on the learner, including his or her experience, work environment, performance and technological fluency, to create a training program. Any effective training program is one developed for the individual and offers social activities to share their experiences.

As you train, think of your employees as consumers. They are used to getting 500,000 results per search on Google, YouTube automatically playing related videos based on what they’ve just watched, and Netflix suggesting content matches based on viewing pattern algorithms. For the learning consumer, training clips on your YouTube channel, a classroom training session, a MOOC (massive online open course) or a post shared on Facebook Workplace are elements that can be turned into learning content.

7. Digital and mobile content and delivery are more critical than ever.

According to a 2018 study by LinkedIn, the biggest challenge for talent development is getting employees to make time for learning. Employees would agree that they don’t have the time to take away from their primary jobs to get the training. Delivering your training on multiple platforms, such as classroom, mobile and on-demand, can help eliminate the time crunch for busy employees.

These seven learning and development trends provide a good indication of where the training industry is heading. It is about personalization, ongoing support and making the most of today's cutting-edge technologies. It also gives your employees the incentives and social interactions they need to actively engage.

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8 Top eLearning Trends For 2019

eLearning Trends For 2019: Which Form The Top 8?

Let’s look at the top eLearning trends for 2019 that will become stronger as we move forward:

1. Adaptive Learning Going To The Next Level

In my last year article on eLearning trends for 2018, I had predicted that adaptive learning will become stronger with greater adoption. It seems to head that way, as many new players are emerging. Adaptive learning, supported by confidence-based assessments and strong analytics and measurement of training effectiveness, is taking learning to the next level.

Very soon, in 2019, adaptive learning will make further strides in the eLearning marketspace. Organizations and learners will benefit as organizations ensure that there are better competition rates, and learners will enjoy the learning process as they get to see only that content that is personalized to them. Using effective assessments, learners can skip the content that they are completely confident about.

LMSs are slowly gearing up to compete with platforms that are offering adaptive learning. Hence it will be an important and interesting trend to watch out for in the coming year. My gut feeling is, adaptive learning is here to stay and the experimentation phase is over, and it will all about action in 2019.

2. Microlearning

Microlearning was a strong trend in 2018. I have seen that organizations are increasingly looking at microlearning as an important solution. It is a great method of implementing learning in small chunks that are objective driven and can be easily and quickly deployed within organizations.

Organizations that are looking to take advantage of microlearning will continue to benefit from this interesting and innovative mode of learning.

Learners benefit too as they get through the modules quickly and can repeat the learning many times as well. Retention is better, and they are less fussy about going through a boring hour-long module.

Microlearning can be implemented as videos, small games, quizzes, and infographics.

The great advantage of microlearning is that it can be implemented on any device. I feel microlearning will continue to be a strong trend in the year 2019 and beyond.

3. Artificial Intelligence And Learner Assistance

Artificial Intelligence assistance has picked up in the eLearning space. Organizations are now offering innovative solutions where bots are able to guide learners both on the learning path, as well as during the courses.

Artificial Intelligence will be used to predict learner behavior, as well as help personalize the learning. Based on the modules that were taken by learners and the difficulties or challenges faced, better personalization will be brought about. Voice-guided bots will also help learners to search for key content in modules. As I see it, organizations will be implementing newer methods of Artificial Intelligence support for their learners in both the learning process and during the moment of need. An example of this could be an intelligent chatbot that can act as support for technical queries.

Added to the mix is the use of robots for helping kids and people with special needs to learn new skills, and help them in the moment of need.

My take is that Artificial Intelligence will continue to be a very strong trend, and that it is something that will change the learning landscape in 2019 and beyond.

4. Gamification And Game-Based Learning

Gamification and game-based learning were strong trends in 2018. Organizations are increasingly looking at investing in game-based learning to empower and engage their learners better. It has been observed that gamification has improved retention rates and better application of the subject matter learned at work.

Organizations will look to implement more game-based solutions, as they see them as value adders for the organization-wide learning. Games that are well thought out, well designed and address the needs of learners engage them effectively. It has been proven through numerous implementations that games help in releasing happy hormones, such as dopamine and serotonin.

A learning organization is one that takes advantage of game-based learning.

In my opinion, game-based learning is here to stay, and will continue to be a strong trend in the year 2019 and beyond.

5. AR/VR/MR

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are both growing rapidly as important modes of implementing learning content. It has been observed that K-12 has adopted Augmented Reality in a rapid way to teach various subjects, such as Science and Math.

The great thing about Augmented Reality is that it can augment the existing content through interesting overlays of graphics and images that can pop out and thrill the learners. More than the thrill, it is the experience itself that helps learners connect to the content better.

Virtual Reality continues to grow as it is used in teaching various safety-related procedures. Organizations are now looking at Virtual Reality as an important solution, as eLearning companies use effective Instructional Design strategies to enhance the VR experience. Using a mixture of 360-degree photographs, interactions, and many more elements, VR is becoming a useful experience. Organizations are also investing in cognitive learning products that are augmented by VR especially for children and people with special needs.

Added to AR and VR is the exciting new modality called Mixed Reality or MR. Already big players are making investments in MR which combines AR and VR to a great effect.

Organizations will continue to take advantage of this interesting trend in the year 2019 and beyond.

6. Video-Based Learning

Videos are one of the hottest modes of training right now. The popularity of video-based sites like YouTube have forced organizations to adopt more videos into their training. Be it Instructor-Led Training that is interspersed with anecdotal or contextual videos, or eLearning where videos play an integral part in disseminating information, videos are here to stay.

The focus is on decreasing the load time and the size of videos using various tools. Video-based learning will continue to grow and will be an important trend to watch out for in the year 2019 and beyond.

7. Social Learning

Social learning involves collaboration between individuals at the workplace through various modes, such as forums, informal chat sessions, sharing sessions, and learning circles. Social learning has picked up in the last few years thanks to the emphasis on building a learning organization. As more collaborative tools are developed, social learning will continue to grow and leave an impact in the year 2019 and beyond.

8. Content Curation

Content curation has found a lot of support from the learning community and professionals in 2018. What will the year 2019 hold for this wonderful method of curating information and providing the learners with just-in-time information? I feel LMSs will continue to grow and offer content curation as an important method of sharing information, and provide the right experience to the learners. I see that content curation will continue to be a strong trend in the year 2019 and beyond.

Conclusion

These are the trends I foresee as preferred modes of learning in the coming years.

I would love to hear from you with suggestions on what other trends can contribute to enhancing the eLearning space during 2019.

 

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Here's how you can make agile learning methods effective

Can agile leadership development, if done in a structured way, help scale up an organization?

"I am 29 years old. I spent three years in my father’s insurance firm. It has fifteen employees and it has grown steadily over the years. I spent three years being in the back office doing odd jobs. But today my father decided to put me in Sales, something that he has personally loved doing since the ‘80s. I remember he would often step out of a long drawn negotiation with a client and then tell me how much he enjoyed the negotiation. But I don’t think I could be like him and do the same job for three decades like he has. He has been giving me management books to read in order to get me to learn the new skill, but I don’t think I can learn like that. I learn by observing and then trying it out. I am starting the new job next week, and I am looking forward to it but I do not feel prepared enough. I guess, one day, I will be taking over the firm and being in Sales is a good place to get prepared.”

The Agile Learning Method: 4Es

Although a scenario like above is not unheard of and most of us have become leaders by learning on the job or through the help of management books, today’s business operating ecosystem demands much more from leaders as traditional or conventional learning methodologies do not make the cut. Organizations need to adopt the 4Es of agile learning to develop leaders in a rapidly shifting environment. 

Education: Structured learning of the basics helps in building skills at scale. Learning the alphabet helps us to form words. We combine words to craft sentences. Reading the theory helps the learner understand the design principles of the competency being developed. Being aware of the core body of knowledge prepares a someone to join a profession. When someone says, “I am a practical person. I do not read”, you know this person is proudly flaunting his ignorance. Reading is a sign of intellectual curiosity and openness to new ideas in agile leaders. Weak signals and early trends often show up in a new book or article. An early start of a year can help an agile leader capture critical mass in the market. 

Exposure: To be able to connect the dots, it is important to have enough dots to choose from. That is just what internships are designed to do. For example, being the apprentice of a top-notch practitioner gives a young surgeon the exposure to multiple variations and scenarios where they learn from the master surgeon. The Tata Administrative Service was designed for build leaders who had broad exposure to the business across geographies, whereas short-term assignments across geographies and functions over a two-year period was the basic principle of the Global 100 program of Wipro. Apple brought a leader from Burberry when they were launching their own stores. Agile leaders are able to adapt and implement ideas from other contexts. 

Experience: Education gives the leader knowledge, learning, and a head-start. A musician will be taught the theory of music and then given exposure to multiple interpretations and possibilities as they watch several maestros interpret the same piece of music in their own unique manner. The Indian army puts its officers through various assignments during their careers. Every two to three years, they have to uproot the family and move to a new location and assignment. This helps them put their education and exposure to use. This is also the phase when having a coach can step-jump the competency of the agile leader. When a leader takes on a new role in the organization, having a coach can enable them to become productive early. Firms often spend a lot more on hiring leaders but will forget to invest in a coach who can onboard the new hire. Transition coaching is one of the most effective methods of building agility in a new hire.

Expertise: I have often seen master craftsmen practice a single line of a composition hundreds of times till they get it right. “Don’t you get bored doing the same thing over and over again?”, I have asked a famous music director. “Until I can play the notes to perfection from muscle memory I am not playing the same piece. It may all sound the same to a novice but an expert will know each quiver and tremble.” The difference of one hundredth of a second can be the difference between an Olympic gold medalist and a silver medalist. While a lot of people claim to have a passion for what they do, until they get comfortable with deliberate practice, they only have a fleeting interest – not passion. When someone says that they are passionate about something, check to see their comfort with repetition. The best cricketers are often the ones who will wake up an hour earlier than their peers to retain their extra edge. The Grand Slam winners still have a coach who will polish their craft even if the improvement will not be visible to others.

How do we learn effectively?

Add new mental models and theories: Try to explain things to others by simplifying complexity. Find examples from other fields that can help someone else experience an “aha” moment. Create something to practice what you learn.

Build time chunks to think and reflect: Most leadership development programs are ineffective because organizations do not build time and space for reflection.

Without time to reflect, it is hard to learn from failure.

Warren Buffet blocks chunks of his time every day to read, think, and reflect. He uses this time to process information from the environment, simulate, and predict and then update his own predictions before taking action. Ask if you are creating new mental models.

Become a part of a learning community: Being a part of a community of practice helps us to learn more effectively. It helps you to know what good looks like. Having a mentor can be a very powerful way to accelerate your learning. Create a group of mentors who will challenge your thinking and question your choices. They will connect you to other people you can learn from. A novice can be a great source of learning too.

Agile organizations continuously stay in touch with the outside environment and change their internal processes and workings to stay in tune. Agile leadership development, if done in a structured way, can help scale up the rest of the organization. The organization moves at the pace of the weakest link. Agility comes from everyday actions – not one-off training programs. 

December 2018

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Five ways AI will enable lifelong learning and transform the workplace

Over the last few weeks, the Labour Party has raised the prospect of a National Education Service in the UK. As well as creating fierce political debate, this has brought mainstream attention to the idea of 'cradle-to-grave' learning – continuous education and training throughout peoples’ working lives. 

It is a much-needed discussion. Beyond the political machinations, the spectre of the artificial intelligence revolution looms high in discussions on the future of work. Media column inches have been combining images of Elon Musk and The Terminator to underline, without too much subtlety, that AI is going to take our jobs and render humans superfluous. 

Beyond the tabloid hyperbole, it is important to recognise that artificial intelligence-driven automation means that the pace at which workers’ skills and knowledge will become obsolete is going to accelerate.

As a result, 'always-on' continuous learning will become increasingly critical. There is an air of serendipity in the fact that, while artificial intelligence is the root cause of this disruption, it is also the solution for navigating it. 

Here are five critical ways in which AI will provide the enabling technology to make lifelong career learning a working reality:

Powering careers by developing smart training plans

AI can already help learners and thus L&D professionals discover new training content relevant to their individual training needs.

AI is able to analyse what is available through existing online learning systems and wider sources from video platforms such as Youtube and Vimeo to online learning and teaching marketplaces such as LinkedIn Learning, and make intelligent decisions based on what will help individual learners most.

Getting to know you, getting to know all about you

AI offers improved cradle-to-grave learning because it does not approach education with a fixed mindset. As a result, it will help instil what noted educational psychiatrist Carol Dweck calls a 'growth mindset' in everybody. 

Instead of seeing employees’ current performance in digesting and internalising training and then categorising them on their perceived abilities, machine learning algorithms will begin to understand employees’ own patterns of learning and tailor future content and encouragements to how they learn best.

The countless hours spent at desks compiling course catalogues or reviewing unstructured data such as open question feedback will be freed up by AI.

The knock-on effect will be a new generation in the workforce with the confidence that they can grow and develop. This not only creates a more confident workforce but, potentially, a more productive one, an enormous potential productivity boost to the economy.

AI virtual coach 

Imagine all that personalisation and assistance described above delivered via a responsive voice assistant that learns and speaks to each employee in the most beneficial way based on their personality, interests and training needs.

Learners will soon interact with an AI assistant embedded in various elearning platforms that recognises and responds in their spoken language making proactive, tailored suggestions and autonomously offers advice, guidance and coaching.

In future, AI-powered virtual coaches will be better able to understand variation in human sounds and tone and thus able to recognise signs of frustration or excitement, enabling learning and development programmes to be even further optimised to individuals’ needs and abilities.

A universe of high quality content

This is likely the hardest element to swallow as people involved in training, but AI will also automate content creation.

We can all accept that there are limits to the amount of high quality training material we are able to produce (hence why there’s a lot of bad material out there!) AI content creation engines will analyse an instructional article and then automatically produce a new learning asset by combining the text, additional reputable sources and video clips derived from previously published content.

Through detailed analytics of user engagement and response to created content, the algorithms will also learn what works best in content creation and optimise course content at the individual user level. 

Unleashing untapped human potential

Perhaps the most critical way in which AI will enable lifelong learning is by unleashing the potential of the human L&D professionals. AI’s first significant disruption to existing practices will be to reduce the rote administrative tasks that currently dominate L&D professionals’ to-do-lists.

The countless hours spent at desks compiling course catalogues or reviewing unstructured data such as open question feedback will be freed up by AI. 

This will enable practitioners to spend more time considering the needs and skillsets of learners, the strategic training requirements of a business and developing new and creative approaches to learning for the future. Thinking creatively and strategically will become a premium and will lead to better enterprise training programmes.  

AI is anticipated to be as big a transformation to the economy and society as the industrial revolution 250 years ago. L&D professionals must expect disruption via automation, but they need to harness it and be active in helping workers be truly adaptable and equipped to upskill in step with rapid change. There has never have been a more important or inspiring time to be involved in workplace training.  

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Reskilling future workers: who’s responsible?

From switchboard operator to film projectionist, three industrial revolutions down and we’ve already seen many jobs wiped from the face of the Earth. Emerging technology is rapidly dispensing P45s, pink slips or termination letters to the next round of workers. More than half the global labour force will need to start reskilling and reinventing how they earn a living in the next five years, according to the World Economic Forum. Millions of roles will be lost, equally many more will be created.

The average person entering the workforce in 2030 will have to plan to reboot their skills eight to ten times throughout their working life

As the job landscape evolves, so does uncertainty over the expertise that will be needed. “It’s becoming increasingly difficult to predict the skills which organisations will need in the future, so reskilling has become more important,” says Lizzie Crowley, skills adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

So who’s responsible for the skills reboot? Government, individuals, industry and businesses all must play a part in a successful transition into new, yet to be developed, jobs. Our workplace ecosystem will also need to pull together to make employment function properly in the rapidly digitalised global economy.

“Future employment is one of the hottest topics of our time,” says Thomas Frey, senior futurist and executive director of the DaVinci Institute. Here’s a look at who’s accountable.

WORKERS: are employees responsible for reskilling themselves?

Individuals must acknowledge the inevitable changes that are happening. In the 21st century, the responsibility is shifting to workers, more than any other group. Personal employability will be a key driver in the future.

“We are entering a new paradigm where people are now in charge of their own employability; that’s a huge disruption,” says Jean-Marc Tassetto, ex-head of Google France and co-founder of Coorpacademy. “We used to think employers, unions or government were in charge of reskilling. It no longer works that way.”

Employment in the age of rapid automation relies heavily on continual skills development, especially as more traditional roles become augmented by new tech. “The individual has to be willing to take the first step and embrace change. If workers want to future-proof their careers, they need to evolve,” says Chris Gray, brand leader at Manpower UK.

It will be less about what people already know and more about their capacity to learn, be agile and evolve, redefining their roles in the process. Jobs will be defined by what value workers offer up and produce for a company, rather than job titles and backsides on seats.

“The new skills required to embrace these rapidly emerging technologies is creating a widespread talent shortage already,” says Mr Gray. This is where lifelong learning becomes crucial, so workers can easily adapt to subsequent waves of disruption.

“By 2030, the largest company on the internet, larger than Google, Apple and Facebook, will be an education-based company that we haven’t heard of yet. Education remains the largest online opportunity that nobody has cracked the code for yet,” says the DaVinci Institute’s Mr Frey.

EMPLOYERS: invest in reskilling initiatives or risk losing talent

Here is a dire warning for business: if you don’t invest in the right environment for lifelong learning and upskilling, employees will go elsewhere. With a bottleneck in the talent pipeline, attracting and retaining the best people will be crucial.

“We are entering an unusually creative period of human history. Those who embrace this kind of change will prosper and companies that study and embrace this fluid ‘jobscape’ will build flourishing enterprises in the years ahead,” says Mr Frey.

It doesn’t help that each new deployment of tech, each shift in business down the digitised pathway, creates a new requirement for retraining. “The accelerated pace of innovation and diffusion of technologies will constantly require new skills,” says Olga Strietska-Ilina, senior skills and employability specialist at the International Labour Organization.

Businesses will need greater foresight and to invest heavily, realising that pumping money into training today will drive a return on investment tomorrow. “Employers must prepare themselves for changes in the world of work by putting learning and development opportunities right at the heart of their organisation,” says the CIPD’s Ms Crowley.

It is certainly the time of the CLO, the chief learning officer, to shine in every organisation. “The key change is that training now becomes strategic. It’s also about the impact training will have on the overall competitiveness of an organisation, which was not the case a few years ago,” says Mr Tassetto at Coorpacademy.

GOVERNMENT: reskilling projects can future-proof the UK workforce

Those in power have a vital role to play in the coming years. Governments can set the tone for upskilling workforces and moving whole economies up the value chain. France, for example, supports learning through a personal training account, which works like healthcare provision. This entitlement allows people to upskill; language and IT courses have been the most popular. This scheme guarantees time away from work to reskill.

Governments beware: it doesn’t help that the fourth industrial revolution, with its focus on emerging technologies, has the potential to peripheralise low-skilled and unskilled work. This is where policies and law-making can really make a difference.

“There’s little evidence of any workforce planning by the UK government for future impact. There is definitely a problem with precarious contract work, where organisations transfer the risks of employment, careers and skills development away from the core and on to workers,” says Professor Adrian Madden from the University of Greenwich’s Business School.

Certainly, public funding will be crucial. Reskilling and upskilling needs sizeable investment from government, including tax breaks, co-financing with private organisations, grants and incentives, as well as a functioning system of skills recognition in the digitalised era.

“Specific training measures will have to address all this, as well as disadvantaged groups. If this does not happen, the risk is there will be a new digital divide and growing inequality. Access to newly created technology-oriented jobs largely depends on access to education and reskilling opportunities,” says the International Labour Organization’s Ms Strietska-Ilina.

INDUSTRY: sector-specific skills guidance will be essential in the future

Industry bodies, along with education establishments, also have to step up to the mark when it comes to skilling the next generation of workers. “There needs to be a combined effort to provide industry-specific guidance on the skills that will be in most demand, so workers can decide on the options that are right for them,” says Manpower UK’s Mr Gray.

In each sector of the economy and in academia, establishments and organisations should be adjusting how they teach the future workforce, so they offer up skills that are relevant to the digitalised era. The education system needs to be fit for purpose.

This will also involve reorganising systems of study and training, so they are more receptive to learning throughout life and funded accordingly. Front-loading young people with a single lifetime qualification will no longer be effective.

“The average person entering the workforce in 2030 will have to plan to reboot their skills eight to ten times throughout their working life. Reskilling needs to become super-efficient,” says Mr Frey.

“The skills that will be most in demand in the future will also be some of the hardest to train: resilience, resourcefulness and flexibility. In addition, having a solid understanding of how to better manage the encroaching demands of our online existence with skills such as distraction and tech management, relationship management, opportunity management, and just staying relevant.”

There’s a lot of work to be done.

November 2018

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The world of accountants is evolving and professionals in the field must take stock of those dynamics, or risk becoming marginalised.

  The changing world of accountants

Expectations on the profession are increasing. Growing regulations and governance, globalisation, and increased use of digital technologies together mean the world is a more complex place for the professional accountant. As a result careers can look very different from those of the past but skills remain vital to on-going development.

At the same time we are increasingly adopting more flexible career paths. We are moving from the traditional, so called ‘ladder’ path to a more dynamic path or lattice where we make career choices aligned to our personal growth agendas.

Individuals are also taking control of their own development - actively acquiring the new skills to progress rather than waiting for employer-led development opportunities.

Four dynamics of change in workplace learning

Why 'learning to learn' is the key to unlock potential

The choices of how we learn are increasing. There are more providers and more content is readily available, in more accessible and just in time formats. As learners we need to understand more about how we personally learn and what activities we can undertake to achieve the performance level that we are seeking. Making the right choices to remain successful in our careers.

"a pivotal event [for the organisation] was embracing the fact that learning was for all, no matter what your role was, your age or your length of time at Boots, understanding this brought about a brand new way of thinking about learning"

Charles Beddington, Boots, UK Building a culture to support learning 

Embracing continuous learning requires both a certain mindset and, probably, a kind of paradigm shift for many. Organisations therefore need to ensure that they foster a culture of openness to developing by embracing the learning strategy as part of the overall business strategy. 

Download the full report 

October 2018

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Workplace mental health pushed to top of agenda

Increasingly, business leaders are speaking out about how workplace mental health issues, such as anxiety, affect their lives, even when they appear to be successful and at the top of their game, responsible for decisions that affect thousands of people.

Even when his business was doing well and his family life was contented, Adam Shaw struggled with his emotional problems. “I had a lot of anxiety over the business,” he says. “I got very down and my OCD just came crashing down on me.”

To the outside world, Mr Shaw was the highly successful entrepreneur behind a multi-million-pound legal services business employing 1,000 people. But behind the confident façade was a man whose life was dominated by crippling anxiety. His mental illness became so debilitating that he tried to take his own life, but was rescued by police as he prepared to jump from a bridge in Sheffield.

“There was no way out,” he says. “I couldn’t find safety, so I rationalised with myself that it was like a terminal illness and I would be in a better place.”

Mr Shaw’s anxiety was rooted in obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), which had a profound impact on his childhood and teenage years in the 1980s and 1990s. Because of the stigma of mental illness, he felt unable to seek help and he was not diagnosed until his late-20s.

Leading from the front to tackle workplace mental health issues

The business world was shocked when António Horta-Osório, chief executive of Lloyds Bank, took leave of absence as he struggled to come to terms with anxiety and sleep deprivation caused by the enormous effort of trying to turn around the bank’s fortunes.

Following his experience, he has now introduced a leadership resilience programme for the senior team at Lloyds, aiming to help executives manage the demands of being in high-pressure roles.

As with our physical health, all of us can experience periods of mental ill health when immediate treatment is needed

Mr Horta-Osório says: “The most important change needed is one of mindset. We must move to a way of thinking that recognises that we all have mental health just as we all have physical health. As with our physical health, all of us can experience periods of mental ill health when immediate treatment is needed, or we run the risk of developing long-term conditions that will need continuing support.”

Organisations introducing programmes to help employees cope with stress

Anxiety is typically described as a feeling of unease, worry or fear. When it becomes acute, the effects can be debilitating. Some people are more vulnerable to it than others, at different periods in their lives. Anxiety is not something we can ever wholly eliminate and it can, at times, be helpful in improving our performance. But too much and it can be corrosive, on occasion leading to alcohol and drug abuse.

Companies are introducing programmes to help workers cope better with stress and anxiety. Even in industries such as finance or technology that are intensely competitive, there is increased understanding that attending to employees’ mental wellbeing may be good for profits. Approaches to health and wellbeing explicitly reference mental health, and line managers are given training on recognising and managing workplace mental health problems.

Employee assistance programmes are devoting significant resources to workplace mental health support and are often the first point of contact for employees who feel unable to speak directly with colleagues in their workplace. Mental health first aid training has also become an important resource for organisations looking to do more for employees.

Initial measures are but a first step for workplace mental health

The Bank of England has been at the forefront of the transformation in the City of London’s approach to workplace mental health. Adam Spreadbury, a senior manager at the Bank, suffered from depression and needed time off. He commends the support of his line manager at the time, who helped with his phased return to work.

Mr Spreadbury played a key role in setting up a Mental Health Network, which has fostered a culture across the Bank to encourage discussion about mental health. This includes insightful events where staff speak openly about their experiences. “They are very powerful events in helping all employees to understand that having a mental health problem is part of everyday life,” he says.

Although there has been progress, much remains to be done. Last year a workplace mental health survey for Business in the Community (BITC) revealed that 15 per cent of employees had faced demotion, disciplinary action or dismissal after admitting a mental health problem. “This is simply unacceptable,” says Louise Aston, BITC’s wellbeing director.

Mr Shaw also believes that employers must do more. He set up the Shaw Mind Foundation, a mental health charity. His ambition is to introduce mental health lessons into the schools’ curriculum and wants employers to get behind him. “Currently, the cost to business of poor mental health is enormous,” he says. “It is in their interest to make sure the next generation is better prepared and more resilient to the pressures of the modern workplace.”

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A Holistic Learning Approach for Organisations

The term “holistic” often brings to mind non-scientific therapies and alternative lifestyles featuring scented candles and self-help strategies involving chanting and meditation. (Not that there is anything wrong with any of those things.) However, from a learning perspective there are benefits to be gained from taking a holistic approach to the development and deployment of learning in organisations. We can approach holistic learning from two perspectives – educating the whole person; and a strategic design approach.

1) Holistic Learning – educating the whole person

A key proposition of Experiential Learning Theory (Kolb & Kolb) is that learning is a holistic process of adaptation. It is not just the result of cognition but involves the integrated functioning of the total person – thinking, feeling and behaving. Itaddresses and involves the learner's whole personality.

Cognitive (Thinking) – learning facts, theory, logical relations Emotional (Feeling) – playfulness, feeling connected to others, experiencing positive and negative emotions by being challenged, emotions regarding values and intellectual concepts Practical (Behaving) – turning ideas into decisions and actions, practicing skills and experimenting, learning by doing

Holistic learning encourages the use of meaningful content that relates to authentic tasks/situations to engage learners, it focuses on building knowledge and critical thinking as opposed to teaching facts/figures, and it continually encourages learners to develop and find the application of what they’ve learnt. There are different methods that can be used:

Practical Experience:  Role-playing games, independent work on tasks, simulations, working with experts, presenting their experience and expertise Acquiring Knowledge: Involving experts, sharing expertise among participants, text work, media work, analytical tasks Reflective Evaluation: Collaborative feedback, independent evaluation by participants of the experience and outcomes, facilitating skills to identify personal criteria for success, discussion

Holistic learning provides a range of learning opportunities that can be applied to create a complex and deep learning experience. When the learning objectives are aligned to the operational goals holistic learning maximises the opportunity for individual and organisational performance improvement. 

2) Holistic Learning – a strategic design approach

High-performing organisations foster a culture of continuous learning and take a much more holistic approach to learning and development. Holistic approaches to learning recognise the connectedness of mind, body and spirit. When we take a holistic approach to learning in the workplace we need to be aware of the physical, personal, social and emotional wellbeing of the learner as well as focusing on the operational objective of the learning. There are three key elements to consider in developing a holistic learning approach:

The learning context: The strategic alignment of the learning with the operational and commercial goals of the organisation The framework within which the learner receives value  The establishment of learning standards and methods of measure The link to performance management and talent development The learning environment: The infrastructure to plan, develop, deliver and evaluate learning The management of the physical space  The opportunity for social interaction and personal reflection The importance of continuous learning The learning blend: Varied content delivery Self-directed and facilitated options Clear catalogue or curriculum navigation and learning paths

Taking a holistic approach to learning is crucial in our fast changing working environment. Technology has disrupted work and learning. We need to respond to the changing requirements – and expectations – of today’s organisational learner. Flexibility, mobility and on-demand learning within a strategic delivery framework are key to ensure engagement. 

Research by Deloitte has linked on-going, holistic learning in the workplace to increased employee productivity and improved employee retention. A holistic learning approach which offers opportunities to the ‘whole person’ through a varied delivery offer empowers employees to gain the knowledge and skills they need to advance their careers within the organisation. This offers the opportunity for a different kind of self-help from that usually associated with the term holistic – self-directed learning with immediate value. Scented candle and chanting optional.

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Making L&D Relevant – Again.

Is it provocative to ask if L&D is valued in your organisation?

If value is measured in curriculum content, availability and training attendance then perhaps not. But if the question is framed around the currency of relevance and commercial impact then it becomes harder to be positive about the perceived value of L&D as a strategic partner. 

Mounting evidence tells us that L&D needs to change if it is to remain – or some may challenge become – relevant as the future of work unfolds and creates new demands on how organisations need to develop to secure their existence. In the 2017 report Driving the New Learning Organisation (Towards Maturity & CIPD) clarity of purpose is identified as a “central connecting characteristic” of a learning organisation. If we believe that this is true for organisations as a whole then it must also be true for L&D as a function. It is this lack of clarity of purpose that often creates a culture of confusion about the value of L&D evident in how senior leaders view L&D professionals within their organisations. 

The Open University Business School reported in 2017 that two-fifths of international organisations didn’t have a global strategy for learning and 42% of L&D decision makers voiced concern that leadership teams do not value learning. Some of the blame for this lack of value must sit with L&D. In order to define their clarity of purpose, L&D professionals must decide if they are merely a support function that jumps to respond to the whim of a manager or a strategic player capable in playing their part in contributing to the four critical levers of business – growth, transformation, productivity and profitability?

L&D professionals need to align their value proposition within the frame of their organisation’s currency of relevance – operational priorities and commercial imperatives. Work by the Institute for Employment Studies as far back as 2009 identified the three core skillsets for an L&D professional as business understanding, technical L&D skills and consulting or business partnering skills. Today’s L&D professional while aware of the need for their own continuous professional learning are still falling short in demonstrating their value through partnership and understanding.

If the ambition is to move from being viewed as a cost center to gaining traction as a business partner and to align to the future needs of the organisation there has to be a shift in skillset and mindset in order to deliver core and strategic L&D.

From To Through

Transacting 

Transforming

Delivering the currency of relevance

Fixed

Growth

Embracing the discomfort of uncertainty

Create

Curate

Accessing the multiverse of content

Push 

Pull

Giving learning customers choice and control

Pedagogy

Heutagogy

Facilitating self-determined learning

Owner 

Custodian

Making content easy to find and access

Knee-jerk

Insight

Learning strategy driven by data analytics

Tick-box

Bottom-line

Learning with an overt commercial measure

Educate

Enrich

Stimulating content in a vibrant environment

To move from being viewed as a cost center to a strategic partner L&D has to become enabled through a new combination of skillset, mindset and outlook changes:

Develop commercial thinking in L&D professionals - challenge the value of the learning and organisational customer experience. Challenge operational legacy – connecting what has been and is being done to new model learning. Develop an agile mindset – give permission to try. Think creatively – be active in developing non-conformist solutions. Value L&D as a strategic partner – develop a tone of voice within the Leadership and HR environment so as to be a driving partner not a functional servant. Strengthen the proposition - blended teams of L&D, OD and Talent specialists collaborating on projects aligned to the 4 critical drivers.

L&D need to be able to tell their story of worth, the rationale of why they need to have a seat around the strategic decision making table. They need to look inwards at their structure, skills and mission to ensure that they can become more relevant and be recognised as a value-add function that is able to align and deliver through the organisation’s currency of relevancy. To paraphrase Jim Collins, L&D professionals need to preserve the core of what they do while stimulating progress to secure their future.

Is it provocative to ask if L&D is valued in your organisation? 

Leave a comment to let us know what you think.

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6 Ways To Create Pull Learning Content

Recent learning trend reports tell of a move from push models of learning to a pull model. But what does that actually mean? And what do you need to do to make sure your learning pulls people in and even achieves that elusive 'viral' quality? How Is Digital Transformation Affecting L&D? The Difference Between Push And Pull Learning Content

Push and pull are terms that are very familiar to web content strategists and marketers. However, many L&D teams are only just waking up to the power of—and demand for—different types of content strategies in learning.

Pushing It

Think back a few years to conversations with people commissioning training about how learners will get to a piece of learning. Common answers would have been "we'll send an email to learners" or "line managers will tell their teams about it". If the team had thought more about the marketing strategy for their learning, perhaps they might have been a poster campaign or a message in a newsletter. These are all ways of pushing content out to people. This isn't the only way to do things.

Pull Content Is Different

Pull presumes people will come to you and, if you provide an engaging and valuable experience, they'll keep coming back. They might even want to tell others and you can achieve that elusive viral quality. But, to quote Field of Dreams, it is true with learning that "if you build it they will come."

With an increasingly web-literate audience within most organizations, people are used to hunting down information as they need it. So many people are active consumers of information and learning. Yes, that time you spent on YouTube teaching yourself to knit/to moonwalk/to wallpaper/what makes a good TV (delete where applicable) was learning – especially when you went on to practice and master said knitting or moon walking. We define our learning journeys, judge the quality of the resources, and chart our own progress towards our goals.

That doesn't mean that push strategies are pushing daisies. There will still be learning that people need to do and in a certain time and format. But if organizations fail to monopolize on learners' inherent learning habits and preferences, they're missing a huge opportunity.

How To Create Pull Learning Content

Here are 6 things you can do to make the most of modern learning and browsing habits.

1. Think Resources, Not Courses

With learners designing their own journeys, the notion of a curated course isn't always important. It can be more important to have a set of resources with which learners can fill their gaps. These resources can use the same mix of video, infographics, eLearning, etc. that comprise a traditional course. However, you might want to focus on resources people use at the point of need, including job aids such as quick-start guides and checklists.

Just because you're organizing a resource base doesn't mean you're just presenting static information. There's still plenty of space for all types of learning including diagnostics, activities, quizzes, games and even structured assessments.

2. Make It Easy To Find

If you're going to create a resource base, you need to make sure people know where it is. A platform – LMS, intranet, or otherwise – needs to give people easy and quick access to resources. Consider the value of good categorization and search functions. But remember, your audience will never get that far unless you have an awareness campaign to herald the platform's launch and then regular signposts to make sure people remember it's there.

Don't feel that you need to do all the promotional work, though: Never underestimate the power of sharing. People will want to pass on an impactful and useful resource so actively encourage this. The snowball effect of sharing and resharing is what makes something viral.

If people are going to be looking for content at the point of need, think carefully about the devices you're targeting. Will those people be likely to need that information when all they have to access it is a phone? Or over mobile broadband? Or on their own devices?

3. Keep It Granular

Recently, I wrote a blog post on microlearning. Cutting your content down into small pieces that deal with self-contained concepts is a good way to go in a pull strategy. If you're creating learning about a new sales process, you might include a refresher on features, advantages, and benefits. It might be better to break this refresher out into its own resource so it's easier to find if people go looking for that specific information.

4. Make Your Objectives Clear To The Learner

Sometimes, it's a challenge to engage people with certain topics. When learning is mandatory, it can make sense to spend the first few minutes hooking the learner emotionally before you outline the learning's full benefits. Put yourself in the mindset of someone who's searched for that content. The first thing they need is confirmation that the learning will fulfill the need that drove them there. So make sure it's clear at the start what the learner will get out of their time. We've all turned off a video or gone back to the Google results page because a creator hasn't got to the point quickly enough.

5. Consider Whether You Need Tracking Or Analytics

SCORM tracking is a staple of eLearning. It allows us to neatly track what people have completed and the newer xAPI (where available) allows us to do that in lots of fresh and interesting ways. But consider how much tracking individual learner progress matters and, if it does, what do you want to do with that information. If you want to analyze the amount of people visiting content and which content, how many resources the average person visits, how frequently, what time of day, from which devices and so on, then you're in the realm of web analytics. It's perfectly possible that you want to both track completion and compile analytics. Understanding what data you need to fulfill the learning's KPIs is very important.

6. Listen To Your Audience

Finally, seek out and listen to feedback. Run focus groups to find out what your audience want and what they need. When your learning is up and running, gather feedback to make sure it's hitting the spot. After all, a pull strategy is all about having the right information available, right away, and only the people on the ground can give you that real insight.

If you want to know more about creating effective training for your corporate learners in the digital era, download the free eBook Time To Transform: How Is Digital Transformation Affecting L&D?.

September 2018

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Jordan Peterson and the Future of Work

This is a long answer to a question on Quora about how to dismiss Jordan Peterson's ideas pithily. Having just read his book, I thought it was worth trying to answer that question to help me sort out my thinking about his work. It became longer and longer, so I thought I'd post it here as well. 

You can’t dismiss his argument pithily. To even try is to lose.

Peterson's Analysis of Modern Western Society

Peterson’s strength is in his analysis of the problem of living a good life in the modern world. There are very few people who have reached his level sophistication. In a nutshell, he captures the tensions and anxieties of what it feels like to try and live a meaningful life in a fragmenting system. He clearly illustrates how the foundations of the social fabric that inform and constitute the Western modernist project, as exemplified by its poster-child - the USA, are fragmenting and liquefying.

The basis of this is about as mainstream as it gets. Sociologists such as Zygmunt Bauman, Anthony Giddens, Ulrich Beck and Richard Sennett have been making similar arguments for decades. You see it in debates about VUCA in management literature and the paradoxical concept that change is the only constant. To try and even argue with this leaves you open to broadside attacks.

You have to accept his sophistication and accuracy in this space. You also have to realise that the way in which he has phrased and explained it is massively powerful, being clearly and elegantly articulated with a strong affective component. It explains to people why the lives they are living seem less than meaningful and comes with an emotional cannonball to the brain. Don’t even try and debate this. You will lose.

What you can debate is his solution, which is a little over-simplistic, albeit one that follows similar solutions from thinkers previously wrestling with the same space. I’ll try to explain.

Three Perspectives of Social Evolution

There are three perspectives on the social evolution of contemporary, or modern, society. Although there is no agreed upon delineation, let’s call them cyclical, utopian, pragmatic.

1: Cyclical | the idea that all societies get born, grow, peak, decay and die. Social turbulence suggests that the end of a cycle is at hand.

2: Utopian | the idea that our turbulent times are an inevitable blip on the road to social perfection

3: Pragmatic | the idea that we must deliver better coping methodologies to help us flourish in and despite this turbulence

Peterson follows the cyclical interpretation and is horrified by the utopian one. He draws from a number of cyclical thinkers - Frye (who follows Spengler), Kierkegaard and Nietzsche spring to mind. These thinkers would have it that the turbulence and grotesque excess we experience is evidence that we are in a decadent society that will soon decay, die and be reborn. The rebirth will necessarily reconnect us to our religious/spiritual roots, and return us to our true nature. For thinkers such as Vico and Kierkegaard, that was a “truer” or more authentic interpretation of Christianity. For Nietzsche, it was a return to the joyous Dionysian spirit of Ancient Greece. Peterson needs to be read as investigating what that return looks like for modern North American, or Anglo-Saxon, societies.

His horror of the utopian form draws from previous attempts to perfect Western society, notably Nazi Germany and Communist Russia in the 20th Century. Writers who believed that Western society could be made perfect include Hegel, Durkheim and Marx. Peterson regards postmodernism as an updated, possibly polluted, version of Marixism, which is trying to continue that project of social perfection through the labelling of all categories into things that are understood, have their place and can be measured and controlled. If labelling is the core of modernist thinking, relabelling lies at the core of the postmodern. What it also does is subjugate the individual to the system, so the idea and practice of living an authentic, meaningful life as determined by the self are taken away from you. You become what the system says you are. His reaction to the students in the YouTube video that made him famous illustrates his horror at this when he reacts not the labels related to LGBTQ, but the idea he should be compelled to use the labels or accede to an external authority for him to be allowed to question them.

To combat his horror of the utopian solution (and I fully agree with his fear of its event horizon), Peterson asks us to reconnect to our natural state which is, for him, determined by biology and religious-style practices. He argues that all societies were naturally patriarchal, as determined by biology (men are stronger, women need to bear children), and the order-creating element of such societies is masculine, as exemplified by a father god. The order-destroying element of such societies was naturally matriarchal, as exemplified by Eve in the Eden story. His concerns are that the feminisation (or emasculation) of modern American society is disconnecting its people from meaning, and delivering a utopian horror of forced equality, in which both genders are artificially constrained by societal labelling.

Peterson sees this utopian order, in which everything that can be possibly labelled is labelled, through a paradoxical lens - such order can only bring chaos with it. What happens if you still don’t fit? What then? Are you seen as waste or excrement, to be discarded, expelled or executed - the inevitable strange scapegoats of the modernist project pursuing an impossible end-goal, in which every individual must fit into a category of one. There is nothing more chaotic than an ordered system that needs to have 7 billion categories, so certain things that don’t fit simply have to be expelled. And here chaos lies.

Until this point, I have no argument with anything he writes. The modernist project has failed (yup, Bauman had that pegged in the 1990s) and the postmodernist project’s event horizon is non-achievable nonsense (yup, Bauman again, in the 2000s). So, there needs to be a viable alternative. For Peterson, as discussed above, it is the rebirth of a biological and religious interpretation of what it means to be human.

This is where I think he falls down, and reveals the simplistic one-dimensionality of his preferred solution in his own writings.

Complexity, Thought & Collaboration

He perceives the feminisation of modern society as the descent into postmodern utopian/chaos, positing that the female god protects what it knows by tearing apart the unknown - the “mother grizzly, all compassion to her cubs, who marks you as potential predator and tears you to pieces.” This undoubtedly occurs in postmodern debates. Question a brand new label and see those who birthed it come at you all guns blazing. Again, I have little to complain about here. I have seen it happen in academic conferences. It is neither pretty nor civilized.

But he also argues that there is a positive interpretation of the female god - in which “chaos is possibility itself, the source of ideas, the mysterious realm of gestation and birth.” This takes us to the third interpretation of the social evolution of contemporary society - the pragmatic.

The pragmatic interpretation argues that the fragmentation of society is an unexpected, but actual, consequence of the modernist project. Where it promised certainty and durability, it delivered uncertainty and impermanence. Given that it rests on assurances and promises it can’t deliver or keep, we must abandon it and pragmatically discover better ways to live within the conditions it has delivered.

For Peterson, the discovery necessarily relies on the rediscovery of biological and religious interpretations of what it means to be human, or our lost essence of humanity (at least that’s how I read him). For me, they are but two possible interpretations. There are other interpretations that we have either partially discovered or are yet to discover, which those interpretations necessarily obscure or eliminate. The feminine as the source of ideas, gestation and birth enables us to be hopeful that such ideas will emerge and encourages us to develop methodologies that might help pursue and actualise them.

Peterson’s methodology is self-authoring, which ties it directly to Kierkegaard’s concept of authenticity, the existential philosophers, and, by extension, Socrates. This awareness of self, what it means to live an examined life, is, for me, an absolutely necessary method of surviving and thriving in a fragmenting, turbulent society. It originates with Socrates, who was dealing with the disintegration of Athens and how one can live a good life in such a turbulent state.

However, self-authoring, by dint of its connection to Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, is a precursor to the end of a cycle. It presupposes the endpoint. This is where I think Peterson gets trapped and why he delivers the alt-right uncivil ugliness he supposedly abhors. He is locked into a worldview that assumes some kind of lost natural state of being that self-authoring can help us return to, rather than a better state of being that it can help us deliver.

To return to the idea of the feminine, we can examine ideas about the future of work (which are, by extension, the future of modern society). In very simple terms, we can divide the future of work discourse into three things:

1: We must solve complex problems

2: We must deliver different ways of thinking to do that

3: We must deliver better ways of collaborating to do that

The complex problem is a very complex one. We are on a journey that has no endpoint. The growth of knowledge expands the field of ignorance, so with each step towards the horizon new unknown lands appear. We know the journey has no clear destination – and yet we must persevere in the travel.

In simpler terms, the more we know the less we know, yet we must keep on travelling. Like Peterson’s work, this statement fundamentally challenges the idea that we can label everything, so why try. Let’s take pleasure in the journey rather than trying to reach an unreachable destination.

How do we think better to help us travel? Self-authoring, living an examined life, or reflective practice (for it is nothing new), is one method. There are other different kinds of thinking that might contribute - creative, critical, cognitively flexible, analytic, deductive, synthetic, divergent, convergent, etc.

As the solutions are very complex, and too much for one mind alone to solve, how do we better collaborate, and become interdependent solutions engines? We might try to deliver psychologically safer environments, be kinder, more courageous, more civil, more candid. We might need to become more aware of interpersonal clues as to who isn’t speaking when they actually have something of worth to contribute, as disabling voice closes off possibilities. Research in this space clearly shows women are better at picking up on these clues and re-enabling constructive collaboration than men.

This is where I think Peterson falls down. He doesn’t pay attention to the value of these practices in helping the modern human live a meaningful and flourishing life because his attention is too much on the biological and religious, and too much against totalitarian postmodern politicizing. He might well disagree, as he does preach civility and the necessity of critical thought. For me, though, he doesn’t perceive the value of doing that in a more feminized thinking environment, because he conflates that with the postmodern project and as being anti-human.

Ultimately, I think the only criticism of his ideas is that he has too much faith in biology and religion, and too much fear of postmodernism and totalitarianism, to deeply investigate pragmatical alternatives to living a meaningful life in the contemporary world. However, I think what he says about American society and its dominant practices most definitely needed to be said. It’s now time for people to inhabit the space he opened up, rather than taking sides against each other in its sea of troubles. That’s going to take a lot of hard work.

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Stakeholder theory: helping business do good and do well

Chief executives are a busy bunch. For most, reading unsolicited “Dear CEO” letters is not top of their to-do list. But then it’s not every day one of the world’s most influential financiers picks up his pen to write.

So what was it that BlackRock’s Larry Fink felt so compelled to say? The basic message of his landmark open letter was simple: if you want your firm to prosper, it needs a “social purpose” and it needs one fast.

Finance sector waking up to the profitability of doing good

This is groundbreaking stuff, no question. Not so much the message itself. For the best part of two decades now, management gurus and business theorists have been arguing that corporations have to focus on more than just profit maximisation.

What’s remarkable about the letter is that it was written by the head of a multinational investment management corporation. This is no environmentalist fretting about saving the world’s forests. No, this is a man in charge of managing assets worth more than $6 trillion: a titan of hard-nosed finance, in other words.

The slow awakening of the financial mainstream to sustainability issues is as welcome as it is overdue. To quote the old adage, it proves that responsible business is as much about doing well as it is doing good.

Part of the argument for taking seriously non-financial issues centres around risk. Mega-trends such as climate change and population growth present huge threats to business as usual. Think of food manufacturers in a world of increasing droughts. Or transport firms in cities paralysed by gridlock.

But, as always with finance, there’s also the scent of juicy profits in the offing. Imagine the billions of dollars awaiting the company that works out how to tap methane from livestock, a major contributor to the greenhouse gas count. Or the fortunes in store for the firm that cracks global obesity?

Shifting the focus from shareholders to stakeholders

So far, so logical. But is the business world buying it? And, even if companies are genuinely trying to embrace sustainability, how are they getting on?

The verdict on both counts is mixed. On the upside, almost every chief executive these days is conversant on the importance of responsible business. Less positive is the gap between words and action, as events like the Volkswagen emissions scandal reveal only too clearly.

Stakeholder theory means putting employees, customers, communities, suppliers and the planet at the centre of business, rather than just shareholders. And this requires a total rethink, says Charmian Love, co-founder of B Lab UK, a pro-sustainability charity.

But it’s a rethink that more and more companies are seeking to make. “Around the world, we’re seeing the purpose of business being rethought so that it operates for people and planet as well as for profit,” she says.

Take Danone. With more than 100,000 employees and a market value of almost €70 billion, the French food giant is a business stalwart. Yet that didn’t stop its North American subsidiary recently qualifying as a B Corp, a certification issued by B Lab for companies practising stakeholder theory.

Other large-scale B Corps include the Brazilian cosmetics company Natura, which now owns Body Shop, and the iconic ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s, part of Anglo-Dutch consumer conglomerate Unilever.

Moving businesses to stakeholder model not straightforward

Gaining a reputation for sustainability can help firms edge ahead with consumers. Survey after survey points to the growing importance that shoppers place on social and environmental issues.

But there are other business benefits to be had as well. Lower interest rates on loans, greater operational efficiencies and a more motivated workforce are just some of the positive outcomes cited by Danone’s chief executive Emmanuel Faber.

Of course, shifting to a model based on stakeholder theory is not without its challenges. Business strategists aren’t stupid. If the economic case for operating sustainably was so clear cut, every company would already be doing it. When the payback isn’t immediate or obvious, it’s often hard for internal change agents to get a hearing.

Like ponderous oil tankers, global corporations built on shareholder primacy often find it hard to change course

That’s where leadership comes in. Without exception, the corporations leading the sustainability charge have people on their boards who, whether for reasons of head or heart, are fully behind this new way of doing business.

Stepping out so boldly takes guts, especially for a listed company with fiduciary duties to its shareholders. The sheer size of most publicly traded companies also adds additional complexities. Like ponderous oil tankers, global corporations built on shareholder primacy often find it hard to change course.

Smaller firms ahead of the curve with stakeholder theory implementation 

For both reasons, the stakeholder theory trailblazers tend to be smaller firms under private ownership. As well as being more organisationally nimble, many are specifically founded to meet societal challenges. Unlike traditional companies, therefore, social purpose doesn’t have to be retrofitted, it’s there from the get-go.

The UK fairtrade chocolate brand Divine Chocolate provides just such an example. Established 20 years ago, the business was set up to better the lives of African farmers. Today, it pays a premium to its cocoa suppliers as well as reinvesting 2 per cent of its revenue in community projects.

Giving stakeholders a voice is critical to keeping Divine true to its mission, says Sophi Tranchell, the firm’s chief executive. As such, its board includes representatives from the Kuapa Kokoo co-operative in Ghana, which owns 44 per cent of the company and supplies the bulk of the cocoa for Divine’s chocolate bars.

“With representatives of Kuapa Kokoo on our board, we are supported and encouraged to do business differently with more long-term objectives,” says Ms Tranchell.

Let’s not kid ourselves, shareholders remain king. But the rise of stakeholder theory is eating into their rule. That’s good news for society at large. And, if Mr Fink is to be believed, it’s in shareholders’ economic interests too.

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The Methodology and Data Driving the Inc. Entrepreneurship Index

The Inc. Entrepreneurship Index takes the pulse of American entrepreneurship by sourcing traditional government data covering 60,000 households every month and big data from businesses, including real-time payroll records for more than 350,000 businesses courtesy of Paychex and capital data from Biz2Credit covering thousands of companies every quarter.

The index uses three key indicators to track the health of American small-business entrepreneurship on a quarterly basis:

Entrepreneurship rate: the percentage of U.S. adults who own their own businesses, regardless of size Access to capital: the percentage of loan applications by businesses that get approved, from sources including big banks, credit unions, and alternative lenders (Powered by Biz2Credit) Small-business job growth: the percentage growth of average employment in existing small businesses (Powered by Paychex)

In addition to the core metrics above, Inc.'s ongoing coverage will include other metrics for context, including wage growth, labor market tightness, and sources of capital.

The index will be updated and changed as more and better sources of data become available.

Founded in 2007, Biz2Credit matches entrepreneurs with credit solutions in a safe and price-transparent environment. With more than $1 billion in funding and over 150,000 small- and medium-size- business users in the U.S., it is a leading online small-business lending platform. Its patented technology works for more than 100 major banks in the U.S., credit rating agencies like Dun & Bradstreet, and major SMB service providers including Dell. Learn more about Biz2Credit by visiting biz2credit.com.

Combining innovative technology and dedicated, personal service, Paychex is a preeminent provider of human capital management solutions for payroll, HR, retirement, and insurance services. Backed by 45 years of industry expertise, Paychex serves approximately 605,000 payroll clients across more than 100 locations, paying one out of every 12 American private sector employees. Learn more about Paychex by visiting paychex.com, and stay connected on Twitter and LinkedIn.

August 2018

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Why Your Company Needs Millennials--and How to Foster a Culture to Retain Them

To attract Millennial employees and keep them engaged, leaders should establish a purpose-driven culture that prioritizes learning opportunities.

In 2016, millennials officially surpassed Gen Xers as the largest generation in the American workforce. This has come as good news for employers in the race to attract millennial talent.

 

Currently, in the first decades of their careers, millennials are the future of the global economy. It's a generation that delivers results efficiently, learns quickly, and helps organizations adapt to the digital age. That's why it's important for corporate leaders to create a culture that offers millennials what they need while engaging and maximizing their talents to achieve desired results.

Focus on Purpose

People will work hard for money, harder for a good leader, and hardest for a purpose they believe in. Companies winning the war for talent share one thing in common: they ensure that each employee is aware that the work they do every day matters. Purpose is more than just a feel-good buzzword; purpose is critical to survival and sustained growth. It is directly tied to an employee's motivation to engage deeply in his or her work. According to our research, when employees are happier at work, 85% say they take more initiative and 73% say they are better collaborators. This all impacts company results, since inspired and satisfied employees are almost three times more productive than dissatisfied employees.

And while millennials value work that gives them a sense of purpose, according to the research, this value increases across generation groups. Defining purpose is critical not just for attracting millennial talent, but retaining talent across your workforce.

 

When you create a strong sense of purpose in the workplace, employees of any generation pour energy and excitement into their work. Because positive engagement and enthusiasm are contagious, it's natural to want to be part of a team and company where that engagement is recognizable and is impacting results. Establish this critical link and yours will be the company that captures employees' hearts, minds, and talent for the long haul.

Keep Them Challenged

Because millennials grew up with social media and other digital platforms at their disposal, they are highly adaptable to the changing tech landscape. Multitasking has both limited our attention spans and rewired our brains to seek out new, innovative solutions. The millennial mindset is generally classified by a sense of urgency surrounding problem-solving that says, "There must be a better, faster, more efficient way."

As such, millennials maintain motivation by learning and developing new skills. Yet only 39% of millennials strongly agree that they've learned something new from their work in the past 30 days. It should come as no surprise, then, that this generation of workers spends an average of just two years at any given company. To engage and retain millennial employees, leaders should prioritize professional development opportunities and continually present new projects that allow their employees to use and develop their unique skill sets.

 

One of the key tenets of an accountable workforce is that employees take ownership over results. Put the skill sets of your millennial workforce to work by challenging them to find new solutions to problems--you'll be surprised by how many new ideas they come up with!

Be Flexible

Anywhere from 50% to 92% of millennials report that they would like the option to work remotely, while up to 87% want to work on their own schedules. For leaders, it's worth considering the ways in which flexible work schedules provide a stronger sense of work-life balance--a quality that can attract millennial employees to your workplace in droves, and keep them happier for longer than the two-year stint that has become the norm.

Contrary to a common misperception, millennials aren't lazy; but many do prefer to work outside the conventional expectation of a 9-to-5 shift. Millennials surveyed in a 2017 Deloitte study reported that flexible work schedules contribute to greater productivity, organizational performance, and employee engagement, as well as personal happiness, health, and wellbeing. The same study revealed that the more flexible the workplace, the less likely millennials were to leave the company.

 

To provide flexibility without losing accountability, employers must ensure that every employee feels a deep sense of personal commitment to the success of the organization. Here's how.

The Race for Talent Is On - This is How You Win

Foster a culture of clear purpose that allows for ample learning opportunities and a healthy work-life balance in order to engage and retain millennial employees. By investing in a few adjustments to your organizational culture, the payoff is clear: millennials will help scale your business and achieve your desired results

July 2018

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Discover Offers Employees Help With College Tuition

Discover recently announced its new program, The Discover College Commitment, which will help employees pay for college.

Discover employees have just received a new benefit: a free college degree. The financial services company recently announced its new program, The Discover College Commitment, enabling full-time and part-time U.S. employees (minimum 30 hours per week) to obtain a college degree by helping them pay for college.

Discover will cover full employee costs for books, fees, supplies, and tuition for the program. Workers are eligible for it beginning on the first day of employment and can complete their degrees on their own timeline.

Around 99 percent of Discover’s 16,500 employees will qualify with some potential appeal coming from its 7,000-plus U.S. call center workers: 70 percent don’t have a college degree, CBS News reported.

Workers can pick one of seven business or computer science degrees from three selected online universities. The degrees will include four business majors or a computer science, cybersecurity and organizational management emphasis through Brandman University, the University of Florida (via UF Online), or Wilmington University.

But there’s more to the benefit as it is also about Discover’s employee retention. The company said it has a two-fold motivation behind this perk: helping to recruit and retain good employees and "doing the right thing" by preparing workers for a broad spectrum of internal or external career opportunities.

To administer the program, Discover is partnering with Guild Education, an online education and tuition reimbursement platform that assists large employers with education benefits. Guild will offer coaching to Discover workers by assisting them through the application process and helping them determine a suitable degree.

If Guild sounds familiar, it might be from Walmart’s May employee education announcement. Guild is undertaking a similar role for the large retailer. This comes as offering education benefits to employees has been rising as the competition to obtain good workers is increasing.

More Companies Offering Education Benefits

In 2018, numerous companies have expanded tuition benefits. Besides Walmart, McDonald's, Taco Bell, and some hotel chains have joined the party, reported CNN. Also this year, Lowe's announced a contribution of up to $2,500 for employees to receive skilled trade education while Lyft began offering education discounts to its drivers last December.

This trend comes as a recent Harvard Business School study found that tuition assistance benefits rank high on workers’ desired benefits, surpassing child-care assistance and parental leave. Many companies offer up to $5,250 annually; anything higher can be taxed as income.

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When to Build Learning Games . . . and How to Do It Without Breaking the Bank!

The world of training is infatuated with games today. Everyone seems to have gotten the idea that games motivate learners to get more involved, to learn faster, and to retain more information – gamification, the new buzz word of learning industry.

I’ll share a secret with you – games can be good but like everything else in business, they’re not always the best solution – and you know this! In the back of your head there is something telling you to hold off, wait, this might be like the Beta Max or HD DVDs — perhaps this sizable investment ISN’T the best option.

The Learning Team here at Tortal is here to tell you to LISTEN to the little voice in your head, but only to a certain extent. Gamification is a great tool in the arsenal of corporate learning professionals and has been for some time now, like 60 years. Gamification, just like all tools, can produce brilliant results when used properly – it can also wreak havoc when wielded inappropriately. Additionally – it doesn’t have to cost you a bundle. Let us share just a few thought we have on the subject – if you don’t have a lot of time, just read the first line in each paragraph.

WHEN are Games right?

Here are three questions to ask when considering whether to use game-based elements in your training. There are more – but these will get you started.

Will the content change often?
If the answer is more than once every year or two, then building a game probably isn’t your best bet. You want to be sure the CONTENT your game is focused on will not need to be updated frequently, or you’ll spend a bundle. Gamified learning is perfect for content that will stay static for years to come of change infrequently and minimally. Interestingly enough, this applies to most formal learning assets. Who is your learner? What is the subject?
We don’t recommend throwing your new learners into a game scenario as their first experience with your company. Think about it, you just joined a company and they say – “Welcome aboard little buddy! Here’s a boating-style game to teach you about your job – go play and be successful!” It lacks personal attention and an immediate feedback loop.However, got a group of sales people you want to encourage to use a new system? A Mission Impossible game for core functions could be the ticket. Want to make your compliance training NOT SUCK – Sexual Harassment Jeopardy will at least help ease the compliance woes. Are you trying to change behavior or deliver information?
A game, in and of itself, probably won’t change behavior. Remember our brains need to encounter a similar task or situation a couple of times before forming a behavior pattern. Playing through a game once or twice won’t necessarily help you with behavior change. However, if you are trying to get learners through an educational journey – well, a game-based scenario might get them more immersed in the experience.

So if after those three questions, you’ve got some content that:

isn’t really going to change isn’t lighting the intellectual world on fire needs to go to an audience who tends to avoid boring

. . . well, you should make it into a game! Now let’s talk about how to do it without breaking the bank!

Part of that mistaken belief that gamification costs the bank is rooted in the misconception that gamification means creating elegant, complicated interactive games that look like Minecraft, flight simulators or The Sims. That is not the case. The best games are often the simplest – think Pass the Pigs or Candy Crush! Simple, engaging, fun, short, easy to learn to play, flexible for different numbers of players.

The Two Mediums

Let’s talk about the two mediums:

Live Games: Like the Pass the Pigs example above, these are games played in person. They are perfect for conferences, workshops, instructor-led, virtual instructor-led or even team initiative training interactions. These games cost you a little time in creativity at the least. You may need to buy some swag or recognition material for your learners. You don’t have to do it yourself – Google “great training games” and just wade through the first two pages. eLearning Games: They can get expensive quick – let the impact of the learning be your guide. Hey, it may make sense to build a multimillion-dollar simulation to recreate reality in a safe environment. If you’re a pilot, practicing in a simulator is a LOT LESS expensive than crashing a plane. You get the idea, so let’s eliminate those scenarios where mistakes lead to massive loss of life and money. Let’s talk about the majority of learning content out there for compliance, sales, soft skill, systems and technical training. These are great opportunities to introduce cost-effective methods of using games in your learning. Here are some tried-and-true techniques: Competitive Point Systems: You can use star ratings, level ups, point systems, leader boards and time trials to incorporate an element of competition into the learning interaction. Individual Achievement Structures: As learners journey through the curriculum they can achieve higher levels, game pieces, tokens or any number of trinkets to represent their passage through to the end of the learning. Think in terms of levels of Candy Crush or money/property/houses and hotels in Monopoly. The accumulation of these tokens along the learning path can encourage the learner to gain more, especially if there is a goal. We built a game once where the learner had to collect all the puzzle pieces to their certification simply by listening to recorded calls and answering some questions. Learner Centered Feedback: It’s an immediate feedback loop based on the learner environment encouraging the learner to think critically about their scenario and choose the correct response, or essentially, a quiz. The twist, it is LEARNER CENTERED. In a customer service space, wrong responses result in a customer getting madder and madder. In a sales space, the learner WINS deals for correct responses. In safety training, the avatar gets band aids, stitches, surgery or a funeral. These simple, unexpected, credible and relevant ways to relate the information to the actual environment with a goal in mind. Instead of scoring 80% on the quiz now you are making at least four customers happy or keeping eight employees out of the hospital. LET’S TALK ABOUT DEVELOPMENT: If you are thinking Mobile App specialized coding – well break out your wallet. However, many of these solutions can be easily developed using existing authoring tools like Storyline or Captivate. They can also be developed as WEB BASED APPS access via the browser in HTML5. It’s important to understand HOW the learners will be accessing the game. These business requirements will drive your development decision but those mentioned here are ones we’ve found handle 95% of the requests we get.

It’s Not Rocket Surgery – but It’s Easy to Get Wrong!

If you’re like many organizations, the head of the training department doesn’t ACTUALLY have a training background. We’d like to ask you this, would you let your mechanic do your taxes? Now, perhaps you have this amazing mechanic who also understands the nuances of the double entry accounting system and deferred losses. We’re pretty sure most of you just giggled (or gasped) a little in your head.

You will be amazed to know there is an entire population of us out here who studied for this life, we practice this life every day, we learn more to make what we do better and we are constantly studying how people learn in organizations and what organizations need to succeed. We’ve dedicated our lives to the science of learning and the art of design – we encourage you to seek out one of us and let us shine a light on what’s possible in your organization.

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Three Insights for Winning in the Future of Work

The Future of Work — your organization may not be ready for it, but it’s a safe bet your best employees are. And any business leader who wants to drive competitive advantage and keep top talent needs to think ahead.

To succeed, your teams need better ways to meet, share ideas and information, and get things done quickly. That takes technology change, to expand the boundaries of human potential. And it also means creating the right culture, to attract and retain the best talent.

But how can business leaders meet the expectations of their best employees, who demand that technology and culture enable a creative, productive, and satisfying work experience?

Here are three key insights taken from the preliminary results of a Cisco survey of more than 1,300 knowledge workers across nine countries.

(You can also read the full preliminary report here.)

Stamp Out ‘Place-ism’ — or Lose Top Talent

The future of work is about what we do, not where we do it. Today’s technology can make almost any place a workplace, allowing modern workers the freedom to decide how and where they contribute the most value.

That means that “place-ism,” the insistence that all employees work in the same space, will increasingly hinder success — and innovation — moving forward. In Cisco’s survey, 23 percent of knowledge workers currently have the freedom to choose where they work, but another 44 percent expect to have that choice within the next three years.

Ending place-ism also empowers more people to contribute their skills and passion, while giving organizations access to more and varied top talent. The No. 1 factor influencing productivity, agility, and job satisfaction was secure, reliable access to all of the tools and information that workers need to do their jobs, regardless of device or location. But only 33 percent of respondents have that full access today.

Fix Your Meetings

Are you frustrated by meetings? You’re not alone. In Cisco’s survey, 70 percent felt that their meetings did not result in clear outcomes or were not an excellent use of time.

And we spend too much time in those ineffective meetings: Sixty-seven percent of knowledge workers feel their workload is badly balanced between “we time” to collaborate and “me time” to think and create.

A big part of the problem? Companies aren’t good at going virtual: Only 27 percent report meetings with virtual attendees that are as effective as in-person meetings. Improving those meetings drives significant value: Efficient and effective meetings are the second most impactful factor on satisfaction, productivity and creativity.

The key is getting the most out of those meetings, no matter where participants are located. Survey respondents strongly preferred virtual meetings over in-person meetings, and meetings that included video rather than voice-only. To succeed, those virtual meetings must offer real-time access to information and insights, along with the ability to pick up the kinds of non-verbal gestures and communications once discerned only in face-to-face meetings.

The Machines Are Coming — Roll Out the Welcome Mat

Instead of taking our jobs, AI, speech recognition, and other emerging technologies are poised to play a major role in improving the lot of knowledge workers.

Among the top four individual challenges at work in Cisco’s survey, two are directly related to areas where AI and automation tools could significantly alleviate performance of rote tasks. These were time spent on administrative tasks (the number-one challenge!) and managing large amounts of data (the number-four challenge overall).

AI and automation will reduce these kinds of mundane tasks while supporting better, faster decisions. Knowledge workers are ready for them. In Cisco’s survey, 63 percent of respondents are already using or are in the process of adapting some kind of automation tools, such as those that simplify setting up meetings or filling out expense forms.

Overall, Cisco’s survey reveals that workers see a clear path to a better future, with effective meetings, better work-life balance, and highly creative collaboration. Smart business leaders will respond in kind.

June 2018

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Robots Are Our Friends -- How Artificial Intelligence Is Leveling-Up Marketing

How many times in the last year have you heard the question, “Is artificial intelligence going to take over our jobs?” For marketers, this question is just as relevant, but I’m here to tell you that robots are our marketing friends.

We are just at the start of tapping into artificial intelligence (AI) for marketing, but there are already a number of great ways that this  technology is improving our jobs, not killing them.

AI, in fact, has the potential to do the jobs we don’t want and the jobs we can’t do, and to ultimately help us do the jobs we already do, better. Here's more on each prediction:

AI is doing the jobs we don’t want to do.

The first obvious application of artificial intelligence is to automate the tasks that we humans don’t want to do -- those repetitive, low- skill tasks. AI can be easily programmed to do such work and do it faster, more cheaply and more reliably. A great example is the cataloguing of marketing data to be used for analysis.

Say, for example, that you wanted to write a unique blog article on the topic of “video marketing.” In order to figure out a unique angle for your article, you may want to catalogue all of the existing content on the topic of “video marketing” and even categorize each article by website, author and share metrics. This could be a very manual process for a human  and something that would invite human error into the process.

Where AI shines is that it can do such repetitive tasks -- but at scale. Imagine that, in the same time frame, a junior marketer could catalogue 100 “video marketing” articles while a machine could catalogue more than 1,000 articles on the same topic, along with 1,000 articles each for 100 more topics.

Such AI ability becomes particularly useful for marketers who are attempting to aggregate data about what’s happening outside of their company -- what’s being published by their competitors, customers or industry peers. There are tens of millions of pieces of content data created every minute, and if marketers want to leverage it, we need to employ machines to help.

AI is doing the jobs we can’t do.

Not only is AI automating jobs we don’t want to do, it’s also opening the doors to jobs we can’t do. Since AI has the ability to process an infinitely larger dataset than a human can, it can leverage that scale to identify marketing insights that would otherwise be lost.

Say you want to take the next step in that content-marketing data-collection project: You not only want to catalogue all of the “video marketing” content, but to catalogue all of the content being published in your industry more broadly. Ultimately, you'll want to use this catalogue to drive market-informed content campaigns of our own.

Identifying new topics emerging or types of articles that garner above-average shares can help direct new content creation to align with existing trends. A given article could have many different qualities that could lead to its success. It’s AI’s ability to tag and compare many data points that ultimately produce the marketing takeaway.

 

AI’s strength in turning a mass of data into insight truly shines in the noisiest, highest-volume channels that a marketer hopes to master. Social media, content marketing, news and PR are great places to start, but even competitors’ job postings and website changescan be great inputs for marketing campaigns if a business can manage to extract insight out of the noise.

Again, AI-based technologies have the ability to throw out the noise -- whether that means the same old promotional tweet or a website update to fix a typo. Those technologies can then focus on the signal -- like a tweet about an acquisition or a website change to alter a competitor’s pricing. In this way, AI can see both the forest and the trees in online data to surface takeaways for marketers they would not be able to find manually -- and in real-time, at that.

AI is improving the jobs we already do.

By incorporating AI into our marketing, we have the opportunity to free up that expensive, intelligent, creative resource that is a marketer to do higher value work. Instead of collecting data, marketers can analyze it. Instead of sifting through data, marketers can act on it.

By delegating work to AI-driven technologies, marketers can improve their work by creating content they know will stand out, by implementing conversion-optimization strategies observed from competitors’ sites and enabling sales using the latest competitor pricing. And that's just the start of what AI can potentially do.

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Automation Will Make Lifelong Learning a Necessary Part of Work

President Emmanuel Macron together with many Silicon Valley CEOs will kick off the VivaTech conference in Paris this week with the aim of showcasing the “good” side of technology. Our research highlights some of those benefits, especially the productivity growth and performance gains that automation and artificial intelligence can bring to the economy — and to society more broadly, if these technologies are used to tackle major issues such as fighting disease and tackling climate change. But we also note some critical challenges that need to be overcome. Foremost among them: a massive shift in the skills that we will need in the workplace in the future.

To see just how big those shifts could be, our latest research analyzed skill requirements for individual work activities in more than 800 occupations to examine the number of hours that the workforce spends on 25 core skills today. We then estimated the extent to which these skill requirements could change by 2030, as automation and artificial technologies are deployed in the workplace, and backed up our findings with a detailed survey of more than 3,000 business leaders in seven countries, who largely confirmed our quantitative findings. We grouped the 25 skills into five categories: physical and manual (which is the largest category today), basic cognitive, higher cognitive, social and emotional, and technological skills (today’s smallest category).

The findings highlight the major challenge confronting our workforces, our economies, and the well-being of our societies. Among other priorities, they show the urgency of putting in place large-scale retraining initiatives for a majority of workers who will be affected by automation — initiatives that are sorely lacking today.

Shifts in skills are not new: we have seen such a shift from physical to cognitive tasks, and more recently to digital skills. But the coming shift in workforce skills could be massive in scale. To give a sense of magnitude: more than one in three workers may need to adapt their skills’ mix by 2030, which is more than double the number who could be displaced by automation under some of our adoption scenarios — and lifelong learning of new skills will be essential for all. With the advent of AI, basic cognitive skills, such as reading and basic numeracy, will not suffice for many jobs, while demand for advanced technological skills, such as coding and programming, will rise, by 55% in 2030, according to our analysis.

The need for social and emotional skills including initiative taking and leadership will also rise sharply, by 24%, and among higher cognitive skills, creativity and complex information and problem solving will also become significantly more important. These are often seen as “soft” skills that schools and education systems in general are not set up to impart. Yet in a more automated future, when machines are capable of taking on many more rote tasks, these skills will become increasingly important — precisely because machines are still far from able to provide expertise and coaching, or manage complex relationships.

While many people fear that automation will reduce the number of jobs for humans, we note that the diffusion of AI will take time. The need for basic cognitive skills as well as physical and manual skills will not disappear. In fact, physical and manual skills will remain the largest skill category in many countries by hours worked, but with different importance across countries. In France and the United Kingdom, for example, manual skills will be overtaken by demand for social and emotional skills, while in Germany, higher cognitive skills will become preeminent. These country differences are the result of different industry mixes in each country, which in turn affect the automation potential of economies and the future skills mix. While we based our estimates on the automation potential of sectors and countries today, this could change depending on the pace and enthusiasm with which AI is adopted in companies, sectors, and countries. Already, it is clear that China is moving rapidly to become a leading AI player, and Asia as a whole is ahead of Europe in the volume of AI investment.

We see retraining (or “reskilling” as some like to call it), as the imperative of the coming decade. It is a challenge not just for companies, which are on the front lines, but also for educational institutions, industry and labor groups, philanthropists, and of course, policy makers, who will need to find new ways to incentivize investments in human capital.

For companies, these shifts are part of the larger automation challenge that will require a thorough rethink of how work is organized within firms — including what the strategic workforce needs are likely to be, and how to set about achieving them. In our research, we find some examples of companies that are focusing on retraining, either in-house — for example, Germany’s SAP — or by working with outside educational institutions, as AT&T is doing. Overall, our survey suggests that European firms are more likely to fill future staffing needs in the new automation era by focusing on retraining, while US firms are more open to new hiring. The starting point for all of this will be a mindset change, with companies seeking to measure future success by their ability to provide continuous learning options to employees.

The skill shift is not only a challenge, it is an opportunity. If companies and societies are able to equip workers with the new skills that are needed, the upside will be considerable, in terms of higher productivity growth, rising wages, and increased prosperity. M. Macron’s point about technology being a force for good will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Conversely, a failure to address these shifting skill demands could exacerbate income polarization and stoke political and social tensions. The stakes are high, but we can already see the outlines of what needs to be done — and we have a little time to work on solutions.

May 2018

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Debunking the myths of millennials at work

Teasing millennials is a national sport. Born between 1980 and 2000, these are the “lazy”, “feckless”, “snowflakes” who are struggling to buy houses and get married. They don’t even have a distinctive culture. Their peers, Generation X had grunge and metal. Before then was pop and disco. Millennial music? Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift? Hardly up there with Led Zeppelin. That’s the narrative. But is it true? Companies who want to get the most out of this cohort of fresh-faced workers need to know. 

1. JOB-HOPPING

We know the stereotype. The flighty young things want a leg up on the career ladder and will leap on to the next rung at the first chance. But is it true? A recent report by Ipsos MORI into millennials looked at the evidence. US Bureau of Labor data found no big change in behaviour in a generation. Millennials are no more likely to job hop than employees in 1983. However, there has been a big change in older generations as median tenure in the 55 to 64 age group fell from 13.6 years in 1983 to just over ten years in 2014. Although it is true millennials will stay in a job for less time than older workers, averaging 3.5 years. In the UK, millennials are staying in jobs longer than before. The Resolution Foundation found workers born in the 1980s were slightly more likely to have stayed in a job for more than five years than workers in the 1970s (47 per cent compared with 43 per cent). 

2. COMPANY BENEFITS

Although the pressures on the young are different today – rental costs are up, social media exerts a malevolent pressure to look good and screen time is through the roof – the basic things millennials want from their company are identical to older workers. The 2016 Edenred-Ipsos Barometer poll found the number-one quality of an ideal company was “rewards for everyone’s efforts”, according to 57 per cent of millennials compared with 62 per cent of workers aged 30 and over. There was similar agreement on the next most important offerings that a job must offer growth opportunities, management must care about people and working conditions must be decent. And do millennials want to work in a trendy “horizontal” management structure, where everyone is their own boss? Not really. Only 7 per cent want a less hierarchical structure, 1 per cent fewer than older workers. 

3. FINANCE

Millennials treat finance with a surprisingly old-fashioned conservatism. A survey by HSBC conducted across 11 countries, asking 12,000 people, found millennials interact with banks pretty much in the same way older generations do. For example, 37 per cent of millennials visit bank branches to manage money. This is only slightly less than their grandparents (47 per cent). Online banking is used by 67 per cent of millennials. Generation X and Baby Boomers report the same usage levels. Even their fears are similar. The major worries are personal data being leaked (56 per cent on average), credit card cloning (54 per cent) and identity theft (50 per cent), and there’s barely a percentage point of difference between the age groups. Which isn’t to say millennials are technology averse; they are twice as likely to want stuff like video conferencing with an adviser and twice as well informed about fingerprint logins for online banking. But are they a distinct banking category? Not on this evidence. 

4. WORK SHY

American lifestyle guru Martha Stewart had a good rant about millennials. “Now we are finding out that they are living with their parents,” fumes Ms Stewart. “They don’t have the initiative to go out and find a little apartment and grow a tomato plant on the terrace… The economic circumstances out there are very grim. But you have to work for it. You have to strive for it. You have to go after it.” But is she right to say that? In terms of hours worked, there is a tiny reduction in working hours. Millennials work ten minutes a day less than Generation X in the US and 13 minutes less in the UK. In Germany hours worked are the same. However, this is part of a decades’ long trend for all workers to work fewer hours. In investment banking, for example, where hours can be long and hard, millennials more than hold their own. At Goldman Sachs, which on average pays “material risk takers” $2.7 million, 75 per cent of all staff are under the age of 35. 

5. PERSONAL CHAOS

To motivate employees it helps to know a little about their lives outside work. And millennials are a tough group to crack. Some indicators point to a generation in crisis. For example, the UK housing bubble is pricing many out of home ownership and, in the capital, rental prices are ludicrous. The prevalence of dating apps such as Tinder ought to mean a hook-up culture. In fact, there’s a counter-narrative of what Vanity Fair magazine calls the “dating apocalypse”, as jaded users struggle to find anyone they actually can commit to. Marriage age is rising. Loneliness is soaring. The US General Social Survey found the number of people with zero friends has tripled since 1985. But the data is complex. A better metric is wealth. The rich get married and the poor are half as likely to. And housing is more expensive, but the interest rates of the early-1990s were horrendous. Repossessions became normal. The picture is complicated. The truth is that millennials are just as varied as any generation before them. 

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Use Gamification In The Workplace: Redefine Learning By Boosting Engagement And Collaboration

Use Gamification In The Workplace For Efficient Content Delivery And Increased Learner Interaction

New-age learners access gamified eCourses, not with an intention to win but to learn and achieve. For instance, earning badges on completing a certain level is exciting, but not the end goal. Learners thrive to gain intrinsic motivation through an internal sense of achievements that appears after successfully accomplishing a task. Game-based learning is designed effectively, to drive the optimum benefits from an eLearning strategy.

What Success Through Gamification Looks Like?

With digitization, gamification is becoming the most preferred trend in workplace learning. It captivates learners’ attention through engaging games, ensuring the delivery of memorable learning experiences. Each gamified learning asset provides different benefits based on course, strategy, motivators, and more. But, while designing or executing an existing form of games, elements help to drive success. Few of these elements are listed here:

Implementation of gaming concepts aligned with the psychology of gaming (determination, encouragement, and more). Effective strategies linked to defined objectives and training outcomes, which are directly connected to the workplace where learners apply knowledge and expertise. The inclusion of incentives, that do not focus on competition, but on achievement. The outcomes should always be that players know they have learned something new. Realistic, dynamic, and engaging tasks or scenarios that need critical decision-making and problem-solving skills. More focus on learning behaviors that highlight the customized needs of modern learners. Recognition of different ways people learn and get motivated to perform better in the workplace. Effective Design Framework Of Gamification

With optimum marketing efforts, eLearning gamification needs a plan. It is significant to think about the business objectives, target audience, and their behavioral changes. Rather than implementing scores, points, and leaderboards, gamified learning is benefited by a well-structured gamified system. Therefore, gamification framework is designed to help organizations encourage a certain behavior that accelerates engagement and collaboration. Let us present the following 6 steps in this framework:

1. Define Goals

Like any other activity, even gamification approach starts with different business objectives. Few of these goals include increasing sales, customer satisfaction, quality of innovations with reducing costs of development on new products. Each objective can differ but all that matters is the end results from the overall gamified learning program.

2. Outline The Target Behavior

The next step in this design framework is to delineate the target behavior essential to attain the business objectives. If the business goal is all about boosting customer loyalty, then different forms of behavior can drive the overall learning experience. For instance, the level of engagement that a learner requires or if a customer promotes company’s products and services, these are the forms of target behavior in this regard.

3. Define The Participants

Before designing the gamification network, it is crucial to understand the learners. There are varied elements that decide which gaming elements will best suit the tailored needs of learners. For instance, the degree of innovation in eLearning or social engagement can be of influence.

4. Devise Different Activity Loops

The next step following that of defining business goals, target behavior, and knowing the target audience is to drive learner engagement. To get learners into a gamified program is one thing and to keep them engaged for long is another. Therefore, engagement loops are designed to motivate learners to access more courses and reflect the same type of behavior time and again. There are 3 stages in this loop—first, there needs to be motivation to depict the desired behavior, then the action in accordance with that behavior followed by an instant feedback.

5. Add The Fun Element

It is important to ensure that gamified eCourses are complete fun and exciting. Therefore, rewards and scores are given to the learners to grab the same level of engagement till the course is completed. For many of the learners, collaboration and competition are the important emotions that make them continue playing.

6. Game Elements

Lastly, different gaming components, including badges, avatars, achievements, virtual goods, leaderboards, and more are added to these eLearning courses. By choosing among these elements, a coherent and interactive experience is created.

The Final Word

The above-discussed gamification framework holds the capability to gamify eLearning courses in today’s digital learning environments. Fun is also a must-have! So, it has become significant to gamify the courses to incorporate strategies that engage learners in multi-faceted ways and reinforce the overall learning experience.

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5 Trends Shaping The Future Of Work

For many businesses across the world, there’s no doubt that technology is the biggest driving factor in how their workplace of the future will be defined. While there has already been a large shift in how businesses utilise technology, others are migrating more slowly from the traditional model.

With that being said, it’s important to know the kinds of workplace trends that have become established as well as those that are developing. Having an insight into the future of work couldn’t be more important in today’s rapidly changing world. This is especially true when you consider the possibility that your competitors may already have edge over your business.

To help you stay up-to-date on today’s workplace trends as well as those that are soon to come, we’ve highlighted some essential points for you to take away. Read on to find out more about the future of work or visit our Workplace blog page and take a look at some of our other articles.

The power of AI and automation

It’s inevitable that future workplaces will embrace AI and automation to the point where they will be almost entirely self-sufficient. For businesses, this presents a huge opportunity to maximise profits and efficiency by reducing the human workforce.

The most obvious example of this can be seen in how driverless vehicle have the potential to make a huge profit for companies that catch on quickly. Without the need to have humans drive, sleep, take breaks and holidays, AI driven vehicles could work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

However, we’re not quite there yet, but the first businesses to truly capitalise on this developing trend will see their operations expand rapidly. This is unchartered territory and has the ability to change the way we live and work in the same way the industrial revolution did.

Technology and the digital workplace transformation

While AI and automation are certainly a form of technology, they’re in a league of their own. The workplace of the future will need to embrace a wide range of technological advancements in order to keep ahead of the competition.

Real-time analytical tools are giving businesses the ability to quickly respond to changes in the market and develop new strategies at a moment’s notice. In addition to this, the internet of things, cloud platforms, robotics, and other technological advancements produce a kind of synergy that maximises efficiency and drives growth.

There’s no doubt that many companies across the world have already switched to the digital workplace and many others are currently in the transformational stage. This is an inevitability for any company that wishes to be considered a leader in its field, so ensuring your business undergoes this transformation should be made a priority.

Millennials are becoming a larger part of the workforce

The millennials have landed and they’re here to stay. According to a study by PwC, millennials already form 25% of the workforce and are set to account for 50% by the year 2020. Clearly, this kind of shift brings an enormous amount of opportunity for businesses and creates a real need to innovate in order to meet the demands that the future of work will bring.

Thankfully, this predicted workplace trend won’t require a huge amount of effort to fulfill, as new employees will simply become available to work. The real test comes in how business will manage to transform their workplaces in order to reap the benefits that this technologically savvy generation will bring.

HR is shifting to digital

Yes, more millennial employees are going to become available to work in the future, but digital tools can make the hiring, training, and performance management processes far easier. HR software is already available and will surely improve over the coming years to the point where it will be indispensable for your company. Your HR managers should have a firm commitment in doing more than just utilising digital, they need to be working towards fulfilling a digital transformation.

Adjusting to the future of work

The future of work isn’t something that will simply come and then remain. Your company is going to have to be constantly monitoring the technological landscape in order to catch the latest developments. Unlike the days of old, technology can now be implemented quickly into your operations without much disruption.

But, as the future of work will undoubtedly become more technology focused, businesses will have to think about where employees are going to fit into all this.

If your company hasn’t started to embrace these workplace trends, then you need to begin to soon. Failing to adjust to the future of work is going to come back to bite you in the end.

Are you thinking about beginning your digital transformation? To learn how Saxons can help you utilise technology you’re missing out on, please visit the IT Solutions page. Alternatively, you can get in touch with a member of our team by contacting us now.

April 2018

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VR As Immersive Learning Technology

How Immersive Learning And Virtual Reality Are Intertwined

Immersive technology is the technology that fades the line between the real and the simulated world by creating a virtual environment to communicate information. Immersive technology enables mixed reality.

Immersive learning is a completely new buzzword, which uses computer-based technologies to create a productively engaging simulating environment for learning. Learners learn as they 'do', tracking their progress through assessments. Learners learn by performing the task with the freedom to fail and face bad consequences. The learner has to apply logical thinking to solve problems, like a pilot learns how to fly and also deal with a mind storming decision that can be harmful if performed in the real word for the first time—but these events in mixed reality will not be as bad.

Immersive technology and simulation-based learning have been adopted by educators, mostly where the skills needed are of a challenging nature—for example, military field operations, medical surgeries or procedures, or corporate training. Immersive technology enhances learning in terms of productive engagement, learning speed, improved retention, and hands-on experience. Immersive technologies feature gesture recognition, brain-computer interaction, and speech reorganization.

Why Use Immersive Learning?

It has been observed that learners learn easily and better when 'doing'. Immersive learning gives learners a sense of reality to perform the task effectively.

Immersive learning uses technologies to optimize the learning process. It provides learners with a high-quality learning experience, 100% attention rate, better retention rate, and 360° interactivity.

What Is Virtual Reality?

Virtual Reality is computer-based technology which can be used to create simulations using sensors and AI. VR creates a 3D simulation of the real world using certain devices. Instead of merely sitting and observing things, learners get the opportunity to interact with the virtual world and get immersed in this Virtual Reality.

Why Use VR As Immersive Technology?

Here are some reasons to use Virtual Reality for immersive learning.

1. Visualization

Visuals are the best way to grasp difficult concepts and make a boring lesson interesting. It is proven that presenting something visually helps us understand and remember. For example, if a learner has to learn how to perform a surgical operation, VR can really help them understand by allowing them to view and perform the operation without putting anyone’s life in danger.

2. Productive Engagement

VR helps to create productive engagement where the user is self-motivated to take the training. VR equals exciting, innovative, and effective engagement.

3. Improve The Quality Of Training

Another advantage of VR is that the user will be gaining hands-on experience, which is only possible by actually doing and not just by observing. When there is a need to simulate a dangerous and expensive situation, VR is the ideal solution for eLearning. Learners can practice and test their knowledge with no physical barrier.

4. Create Interest

VR provides 360° interactivity, which creates strong interest. VR can help to create an enriching experience which is not possible to experience in real life. Using VR technology increases learners’ interest in taking the training.

5. Low Risk

Learners have very little room to make mistakes in a hazardous environment. By using VR, we can recreate the same environment. Learners can now master dangerous tasks in a safe and controlled environment.

6. Low Cost

VR is considered affordable since it simulates training which can be addressed to a larger audience in the workplace. Training, at all times, needs to be held in a physical environment, similar to all employees. Therefore, learners are able to complete the remote training using a VR headset.

7. Hands-On Experience

VR offers an opportunity to test new assumptions and techniques to boost productivity. Learners can gain the valuable experience they need to perform the task in the real world by performing the task rather than only observing.

8. Right To Fail Safely

VR technology allows learners to fail and make mistakes without serious consequences. In this way, the learner experiences the consequences of their wrong decision—something that is not possible in real world.

Conclusion

The possibilities of using VR as immersive learning technology in various fields are endless. VR can be a major success if used for immersive learning since, like we discussed, Virtual Reality creates immersion in learning.

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5 Ways Technology Helps Your Employee Retention Strategy

As millennials become a larger part of today’s workforce, companies have to adapt and innovate in the way they use technology. Employee retention is vital for helping companies grow as it allows the very best talent to develop their skills and thrive.

Losing great employees is something that can silently sneak up on your company and a big exodus can cause real damage. Not only will you have wasted a huge amount of company resources in training and development, but finding new talent isn’t always so easy.

If you’ve been trying to find employee retention strategies that incorporate the latest technology trends, Saxons has the answer. We’ve highlighted 5 retention strategies that truly make a difference in the modern workplace and will help to keep your employees happy. Read on to find out more or visit our Leadership page for more of our leadership related blogs.

Set job expectations for applicants  

The last thing a new employee wants to step into is a company culture they didn’t expect to find. And, as companies, the last thing wanted is for a new hire to leave before they can fulfill their potential.

Thanks to career portals and social media outreach technology, job seekers can easily learn more about their career development options and your company’s culture. This can be a huge sell for potential employees if you properly direct them to information that’s relevant to their ambitions and paints an accurate picture of their ideal job.

Flexible hours and working remotely

Who doesn’t like working out of the office or changing their working hours when life demands it, right? Well, it’s a good question and technology now allows employees to work flexibly from anywhere they need to – it’s fair to say that the days of the traditional 9-5 office job are well and truly behind us.

However, that doesn’t mean you ignore your employees once they’re out of the office. It’s critical that commutation and collaboration remain a big part of everyday life at your company. The last thing you want is for your employees to not feel like they’re part of the team or that their input isn’t valued.

But, it’s not just about keeping your local employees happy and satisfied with flexible working schedules. Modern technology has opened up a huge remote worker talent pool for companies to explore. It’s this kind of innovative approach that can really diversify your workplace and further boost collaboration among co-workers at your company.

Career development through eLearning initiatives

Nobody looks forward to the prospect of a dead-end job that simply isn’t going to go anywhere. One of the best employee retention strategies is simply helping your workers get to where they want to be. Lack of career development is a sure way to drive your employees away and waste your valuable company resources.

So, help your employees by establishing eLearning initiatives, creating innovative digital courses, and having readily accessible digital libraries. This shows that your company cares about the ambitions of your employees and wants to see them fulfil their every potential.

With that being said, this kind of eLearning approach does require for employees to have their career path laid out clearly. Otherwise, you may find that your employee retention strategies fall apart if career development begins to stagnate at your company.

Simple communication networks

Technology has made it easier than ever for your employees to stay connected, securely access company data, share work, and much more at any time of the day. This kind of freedom really aids employee retention as your staff will feel trusted in how they personally approach their workload.

Creating a strong communications network allows your company to easily build teams and encourages collaboration across every department. Again, these are all vital ingredients for increasing job satisfaction and productivity among your employees.

Thankfully, there are lots of innovative tools to make use of if you aren’t already. Slack and Microsoft Teams are helping to redefine how employees communicate and teams manage projects. Additionally, Dropbox and Google Docs make transferring files secure and instantaneous. All you have to do is make the right choice for your company and most importantly, your employees.

Innovative technology improves productivity and wellness

Stress is something that can creep into any workplace and technology has the keys to help reduce this. Perhaps, your employees need reminders for deadlines, automatic updates sent to them, ongoing online training or the ability to easily reschedule meetings?

Thankfully, the right technology can easily provide your employees with the tools they need to feel less stressed and more confident. There’s only so long a person can be under stress before it effects their productivity and impacts their health. No matter what, don’t lose sight of your employees’ wellness when developing your employee retention strategies.

Are you interested in modernising your workplace with the technology needed for your employee retention strategies to work? To learn more, please visit the IT Solutions pagenow. Alternatively, you can speak to a member of our team about any of the employee retention strategies you’ve read here by contacting us now.

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5 Things We Learned About Creating a Successful Workplace Diversity Program

Companies today spend millions of dollars on workplace diversity programs and outreach, often with little to show for it. Research has found that most workplace diversity programs fail to produce meaningful diversity and inclusion, and some have actually increased biasamong individual employees. In STEM fields, both the private and public sectors continue to struggle with recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce. As of 2017, nearly 75% of those in computing and mathematical fields were men and fewer than 15% were black or Hispanic.

We kept this in mind when creating our own workplace diversity program. Three of us (Brinkworth, Aponte, and Young) work at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), a large, federally funded institute that focuses on producing research and supporting scholars in the atmospheric and earth sciences. Like many technical workplaces, UCAR, which has approximately 1400 employees, has struggled to recruit and retain women and people of color. But UCAR very strongly believes that diversity, equity, and inclusion are fundamental to producing our best science.

In 2015, UCAR appointed Brinkworth as the Director for Diversity, Education, and Outreach (DEO), (later called the Chief Diversity Officer), and was tasked with making UCAR more diverse and inclusive. Shortly after that, a small group of employee researchers led by Young asked about the lack of spaces within the organization to discuss diversity-related topics — a critical issue for employee development and retention. Brinkworth worked with these employees to co-create a diversity training program called UNEION, which stands for UCAR|NCAR Equity and Inclusion.

UNEION is now a routinely offered, four-part course that covers topics related to power and privilege, gender, and race, and includes a three-hour bystander intervention training. The goal of the program is twofold: first, to train participants on how to build inclusive teams, facilitate diversity-related conversations within their divisions, and identify other practices that can promote a positive workplace culture; second, the program serves as a community for those interested in fostering equity and offers a venue for action. More than 80 employees have completed UNEION, and 10 have participated as organizers or “lead learners.” We’ve found that UNEION has increased collaboration among participants, helped research labs create more inclusive environments, and made employees more actively engaged in diversity-related issues throughout the organization.

 

More About UNEION

While we still meet resistance from employees who do not understand how diversity and inclusion are related to their job in a scientific organization, this resistance is becoming less common as we continue to engage in change management and make the case for inclusivity across UCAR. After three years of iterating, evaluating, and improving UNEION, we’ve learned five key practices for how to implement a successful workplace diversity program:

Focus on intervention, not just bias reduction

Many workplace diversity programs have focused only on bias reduction. Studies have shown that when employers require bias reduction training, hostilities can actually increase. In voluntary programs such as UNEION, research suggests that those who elect to participate already see themselves as “pro-diversity.” That’s why we move beyond attempting to reduce bias and toward putting inclusion into action.

We learned that the majority of UNEION participants were already aware of societal biases and workplace barriers that women, people of color, and other marginalized groups face. Because research suggests having high levels of awareness before training can lead to more engagement in diversity-related programs, UNEION focuses on 1) equipping participants to intervene when they see bias or harassment unfolding, and 2) training people on how to talk to others about organizational diversity.

UNEION leaders dedicate one session to in-depth bystander intervention training, so people know how to step in when they observe instances of bias and discrimination. The training begins with a demonstration of different intervention techniques, with lead learners role-playing a scenario (based on real instances that had been reported at UCAR), asking the participants for interventions, then acting those suggestions out. For example, in one prompt, the group is asked to respond to a situation where a white researcher tells an Asian colleague that they “work well together because… well, you’re white in my book!” Participants then separate into small groups to review the scenarios, devise a strategy to intervene, and act it out in front of others.

Participants consistently report this session as the most impactful, having boosted their confidence to intervene appropriately with peers, supervisors, and upper management. Follow-up surveys have found that 80% of past participants reported they did intervene in inappropriate workplace situations after receiving this training.

While UNEION does include readings and activities designed to challenge participants’ views of workplace inclusion, the goal is to put those ideas into action. At each session, lead learners introduce community resources for improving diversity and inclusion. For example, participants not only discussed why systemic racial inequalities and sexism can lead to fewer women and people of color in STEM, but also how to improve UCAR’s student outreach programs and local organizations that could support those efforts.

Alongside these pieces, UCAR has made significant structural efforts to be a more inclusive organization, including undertaking a comprehensive workplace culture study, developing a diversity, equity, and inclusion strategic plan, expanding an outreach and mentoring program for underrepresented students, revamping hiring procedures, and reviewing policies to ensure they are equitable for all. These efforts have significantly shifted the conversation about diversity and inclusion at UCAR. An optional full-day retreat in November 2017 attracted more than 10% of UCAR’s staff and approximately 85% of our senior leadership to discuss future diversity and inclusion efforts and strategic planning.

  Invite non-managers to foster communication across the organization

Many workplace diversity trainings tend to target only managers. Because previous research shows there are benefits to recruiting diverse groups in terms of race and gender for trainings, UNEION lead learners also emphasize recruiting from all levels of the organization, including non-technical and clerical staff. Research has also shown that inviting non-managers to diversity and inclusion workshops can help organizations better identify points of conflict and possible resolutions. Approximately one-third of past participants have been research staff, and two-thirds have been administrative employees (many of whom have scientific training but are working in program or education-related roles). Over 40% of UNEION participants are in management roles. And over half of past participants we surveyed said they formed collaborations with people in different research areas or departments from their cohort.

At a recent Diversity Action Summit at UCAR, over 140 employees convened to collectively identify UCAR’s unique challenges and opportunities for diversity and inclusion, as well as develop responsive strategies and short-term action steps to create a more inclusive environment in each laboratory and workgroup. We followed up on these plans with customized workshops for each lab, program, and department to help them identify priority areas in order to see positive cultural change.

Keep the focus on workplace issues, not personal ones

Personal issues and career paths are inevitably intertwined. The lack of diversity and inclusion in workplaces can also be due to personal decisions or other non-workplace factors. For example, research from the Center for Talent Innovation shows that more women than men have to pause their careers to take care of children or aging parents. People of color and LGBT individuals also face additional challenges, both in and out of the workplace, to advancing their technical careers.

So initially, UNEION embraced the overlap between work and home and included readings and discussions related to topics such as childhood socialization and parenting. However, feedback from those sessions indicated that participants wanted the focus to be on workplace issues and inclusion at all levels of the organization. We also saw research suggesting that diversity training be solely focused on business issues.

The session was reworked to acknowledge external challenges that can impact work performance, advancement, and career choice, while keeping the conversation away from the explicitly personal, such as parenting choices. This kept the issues grounded in the context of work, an important feature of successful diversity programs, while maintaining a forum for people to discuss the ways in which personal identity can affect one’s experience in the organization.

Keep the conversation going to stay accountable

Research shows that the most successful workplace diversity programs are those with higher levels of continued engagement and accountability, such as task forces, diversity managers, and mentoring programs. So, during and after the course, lead learners began holding one-on-one meetings, workshops, and town halls, and encouraging participation in diversity-related outreach programs. Lead learners also promote a cohort mentality among participants by encouraging collaboration and informal information sharing.

Many past participants have ongoing relationships with UNEION leaders and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at UCAR. Nearly 90% of those surveyed who completed UNEION have incorporated diversity and inclusion into their team building activities, outreach efforts, and recruitment and retention plans. And we’ve found that many people get introduced to UNEION and other diversity-related programs at UCAR through UNEION alumni.

Be flexible, in both content and delivery

There is no one-size fits all curriculum for workplace diversity programs. Each organization and even each group of participants will have different needs, so facilitators should be flexible in their content, delivery, and structure.

UNEION is now designed so only the introduction has set content. The remaining sessions are developed by the lead learners based on pre-workshop surveys that provide information about the interests, challenges, and biases of participants. This means readings and activities vary greatly by cohort based on the needs of the group. For example, in one cohort, many people raised questions about so-called “reverse racism” in the pre-course survey, a concept not previously addressed in the course. The flexible structure allowed lead learners to change the content to specifically address “reverse racism,” which resulted in a 23% decrease in the number of people in that cohort who felt “reverse racism” was an issue at UCAR.

Each cohort brings new challenges and learning opportunities. Although we strive to both expand our course offerings and keep previous cohorts engaged, as a small office with resource constraints, we have to make compromises. We want to respect the time of our lead learners, who participate in UNEION in addition to their normal workplace responsibilities. Besides being the “right thing to do,” we know that building a more diverse and inclusive community of researchers, educators, and support staff will help UCAR produce more creative and innovative scientific outcomes.

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How Great Leaders Use Humor to Create Emotionally Safe, Fun Cultures

Today's work environment is nothing to joke about. Eighteen percent of American adults suffer from some form of mental illness such as anxiety or depression, and the impact is significant on an organizational bottom line. More than 16 million U.S. adults had at least one major depressive episode in 2016.

Globally, the annual productivity cost of depression and anxiety disorders was $1 trillion in 2017. Sixty-two percent of business leaders surveyed in the U.S. and Canada believe depression to be "prevalent" in their workforces.

This requires leaders to have more empathy than ever before. Organizations must be committed to creating emotionally safe, trust-based work environments, where employees won't be functioning in a continued state of heightened anxiety and stress. 

One of the most effective ways to accomplish this is to strategically leverage humor. Matt Kazam, a Las Vegas headliner and CEO of They Laugh, You Win, saystop-level executives must fully embrace the significant organizational benefits of humor. 

"The most effective leaders use humor to spark people's enthusiasm, deliver an honest message in a good-natured way, boost productivity, put people at ease, bring teams together, and see the light side of a situation," says Kazam.

"From wellness to mental health, humor provides a sense of community among employees and management," he says. "This is more than just planning and holding fun events. It is understanding how humor relates to human behavior, and it creates a more positive and productive work environment."  

Cultural icons such as Zappos, Virgin, and Southwest Airlines have mastered these concepts. Here are a few ways all leaders can implement a humor strategy:

Create Connection Throughout the Company. 

It all starts from the top. "When the CEO and high-level executives start using humor in their messaging and actions, they not only find deeper connections with their employees, but it will also trickle down and spread throughout the company." 

At my first company, Information Experts, we had a Good Times Committee (GTC) to plan fun events. Our committee took a lot of creative liberties, so we never knew what to expect. This became engrained in our culture. I believe that making fun a specific budgetary line item demonstrated:

I didn't take everything so seriously I recognized the need for employees to release stress and bond over something other than work I wasn't any different than they were I was committed to creating an environment where they loved to work, and I wanted them to play a key role in shaping that environment

Celebrate Achievements, Milestones, and Years in Review.

Humor as part of storytelling is a great way to elevate an achievement, work anniversary, or even a personal celebration. Personal employee stories are great examples. 

At one of our annual parties, our creative team presented a slide show that displayed the top 10 reasons people missed work. Excuses ranged from "my horse kicked me in the face" to "a ghost locked me in my hotel." 

Whenever an employee announced they were expecting a child, we held a baby shower in which I read Goodnight Moon to the company. Imagine 25 to 30 adults in your conference room intently listening to, "In the great green room, there was a telephone, and a red balloon.... "

Spark Creativity and Conversation.

When employees trade war stories over life events or stages, their company positions are irrelevant. Whether you are the CEO or a billable resource, everyone can relate to the sheer terror of someone's 16-year-old kid getting a driver's license. Humor around this topic can bridge any organizational divide. 

One of the most fun activities at our company was the White Elephant Gift Exchange. There were virtually no limitations to gift selection. The gifts that our employees presented, and subsequently stole from one another, were outrageous.

Diffuse Difficulty. 

Business provides a fair share of setbacks, disappointments, misunderstandings, pressure, and stress. Humor is the healthiest and safest way to help the entire organization collectively move through a situation. It lets employees know they are not alone in anything they are experiencing. 

Select Good New Hires. 

In your hiring process, it's essential to ask the right questions that will help you hire for cultural fit. Especially if you do have a high-pressure environment, it's important to hire people who don't take life too seriously. 

These are just a few ways an intentional humor strategy will keep leaders connected to their most important asset -- their people -- and create a culture that will attract and retain top talent for years to come.

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Creating a strong ‘office’ culture for remote workers

Andy Josuweit is the Austin, TX-based CEO you’re more likely to catch in a coffee shop than a corner office. The founder of Student Loan Hero, a solution for managing and repaying student loans, works remotely. And so do the 70 employees of his six-year-old company.

Josuweit graduated from college in 2009 during the recession and was unable to find work. Instead of heading down the classic cubicle-bound 9-to-5 career path, he found himself off to an internship in Africa, then Asia, to chase his entrepreneurial pursuits on a budget, followed by South America for an accelerator. “[Remote work] is all I know,” says Josuweit.

To keep everyone on the same page, Josuweit advises, “You really have to overemphasize the importance of communication. You need to figure out how you can create a safe environment to communicate and how you can allow for constructive confrontation and have healthy debates.”

He feels like this needs to be a priority because remote work diminishes access to nonverbal communication and provides limited opportunities to build rapport and trust with colleagues. “You don’t have the opportunities to sit down to lunch together or go out for happy hour with people.”

While Student Loan Hero does do two annual retreats to get their employees face-to-face, they’ve found an easy daily workaround for body language by using emojis and gifs “to share how we’re feeling on a deeper level.”

Jacy Cruz, who joined the company four months ago as their Customer Experience Manager, says sometimes she feels like she doesn’t use enough emojis. Cruz, who’d lobbied hard at her last company for more flexibility around working from home, did have some concern about going fully remote, “Because I’m shy and I thought that it was going to be even more difficult for people to get to know me.”

Fortunately, Student Loan Hero has several initiatives in place to foster connectedness. They have two all-company meetings each week. The Monday meeting is more business focused, but the Friday afternoon meeting is more laidback and functions as a “happy hour.” Colleagues can chat about their wins from the week and their plans for the weekend, just like they would on a Friday afternoon in the office.

Come see where we do our best work. Visit us.

Cruz also has her first Slack Donut bot chat coming up. The bot will do the work of pairing her with someone at random within her company for a 15 to 20-minute chat. Cruz likes this setup because she’s “not naturally inclined to reach out to people” she’s not working with directly.

But her favorite community building effort is the “Learning Rewards” program. The company has a pre-approved list of books they recommend employees read. Employees are encouraged to block out at least one hour on their calendar during the workweek to read and are rewarded with $15 for each hour they spend reading. “I love it because they recognize it’s a small amount of money for them to pay for their employees to do two things: One is to immediately begin applying whatever they’re learning to their jobs, but the second thing, that I think is actually more important, is to develop this habit, this thirst for learning.” Cruz continues, “And so many people are burnt out at work, what’s their incentive to go out and learn things unless it’s about trying to find a new job and get paid more.”

And what Student Loan Hero is doing is working. Shaun Moten, the HR Coordinator at Student Loan Hero who helps develop and manage employee culture, says, “Up until December of last year, we had a non-existent turnover rate. Then present day, we’ve had three employees to leave the company, so it’s still ridiculously low to have been around since 2012.”

Moten assists new hires in establishing a daily routine and conducts “stay interviews” to unearth and address any employee grievances early. For her, Student Loan Hero is “HR heaven.”

Josuweit, the CEO, predicts a more remote workforce will become the norm. “We’re going to see this demand in the workplace to create more work-life balance, or work-life integration. And I think remote work is somewhat inevitable. I think it’s kind of like fighting gravity.” But that doesn’t mean the future of work is without issue, says Josuweit. “It comes with its own unique challenges.” But for him and the entire team at Student Loan Hero, the extra effort is worth the reward.

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New Report Explores The Forces Affecting The Future Of Work

The last few years have seen a wide range of reports from governments, think tanks, consultancies and academics exploring how the future of work might look.  Many of these have revolved around the impact technology, and especially AI, might have on how (and indeed whether) we work.

The latest effort, from Bain's Macro Trends Group, takes a slightly broader view and examines not just the technological landscape but also demographic and economic forces.

The report highlights how the workforce in much of the world is an ageing one, and the baby boom premium we've enjoyed since the 1970s is petering out.  This slow down in labor force growth will have a detrimental effect upon economic growth, with subsequent impact upon areas such as rising healthcare costs and other factors associated with an ageing population.

Drawn to technology

It's perhaps not surprising therefore that in a world of increasing talent shortages, companies are turning to technology to fill the gap.  The authors believe this will have a significant impact on productivity, with growth of around 30% compared to 2015 levels.

It's here that I feel they go a bit awry, as they take the well trodden path of predicting significant job losses of approximately 25% of current jobs. This figure is largely based upon the (imo) discredited work of Oxford researchers Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne, which conflated the automation of parts of a job with the likely automation of all of it.

As with similar reports, they make no mention of the new jobs that will almost certainly be created as we develop new processes on top of these new technologies.  Indeed, the likes of Erik Brynjolfsson have recently likened AI to electricity in the sense that it's a base technology whose real impact will only come when new processes and business models are built on top of it.  It's a theory that goes some way to explaining the flagging productivity growth throughout the western world.

I touched on some analyses of what these potential new jobs might be in a previous post, and whilst it's clearly uncertain what some of those jobs might be, what is almost certain is that new work will emerge.  Sadly that isn't reflected in the Bain work, although I agree with them that more needs to be done by both employers and society as a whole to adapt to the changing skills requirements they face.

Indeed, this was the topic of a recent post based upon new research from the U.K. Government looking at the adaptability of the workforce.  It highlights significant challenges for society to tackle, with corporate investment in education falling and the portion of society most at risk from automation largely excluded from current training opportunities.

What it means for businesses

Despite not really touching on how businesses can help the adaptability of the labor market, they do nonetheless conclude with eight implications of the various changes identified in the report that they believe managers should take notice of:

Be wary of following market momentum—volatility will increase. Leadership teams can prepare for a more turbulent business climate by making resilience a higher strategic priority than it has been in recent years. Middle-class markets are likely to erode.Consumer goods and services businesses will need to carefully stake out their ground across the socioeconomic spectrum because the landscape is likely to change midway through the coming decade as investments in automation begin to decline. Expect an interest rate speed bump. The demand for capital to support automation in the next decade, combined with shifting demographics, could temporarily tip some economies into supply-constrained growth and cause a rise in interest rates. Business leaders and investors thinking of taking a wait-and-see approach may find there will be very little time to react. Automation could fuel a 10- to 15-year boom followed by a bust.  Bain expects investment in new automation technologies starting in the next decade to follow the same pattern as all major capital investment waves. The early part of this investment wave will create major opportunities for businesses and investors. Highly skilled, high-income labor will grow increasingly scarce. As competition grows for scarce talent, leading companies will invest more to attract, grow and retain scarcer high-end talent and ensure that their workforce is as productive as possible. Baby boomer spending growth will peak in the 2020s before tapering. Over the next decade, businesses and investors need to be mindful of the potential flattening of demand growth toward the end of the decade, in combination with other risk factors that could start to emerge from other parts of the macroeconomic landscape. More government in more places is likely. For businesses and active investors, stronger regulation or antitrust enforcement may make it more difficult to gain scale and force limited diversification. In particular, large-scale tech businesses will face continued scrutiny due to their size and competitive power despite the significant value they have created for consumers. Intergenerational conflicts will potentially rise, drawing in businesses. For businesses and investors, government transfers to better support one group or another may signal rising or falling spending patterns and business opportunities. By contrast, a shift in the balance of transfers to working-age households may diminish opportunities for senior-focused goods and services. Businesses, management teams and even shareholders may be drawn into the conversation about government transfers as they grapple with existing pension obligations, the scarcity of highly skilled workers, social pressure to address job losses and declining incomes among mid- to low-skilled workers.

A recent analysis by the MIT Tech Review highlighted the sheer variety of predictions on the 'future of work', and whilst they don't appear to be converging on a common future, they are all predicting significant change afoot.  Time will tell how big that change is and how effectively society adapts to it.  For now though, the report from Bain is further grist for the mill.

March 2018

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How Leading Tech Companies Use Learning & Development to Engage Employees

Companies with high employee engagement reap a number of valuable benefits: productivity and innovation flourish, employee retention and loyalty grow. One key way that companies can drive employee engagement and differentiate themselves in a competitive job market is through their Learning & Development (L&D) programs.

Millennials now comprise the largest segment of the American workforce, and a recent study shows that they rank training and development as the #1 most valuable benefit employers can provide. Leading tech companies today understand this and are creating new learning initiatives to drive employee engagement and job satisfaction. Pandora calls these programs their “B2E” (Business to Employees) initiatives. Salesforce, the thought leader behind Customer Success, has named them “Employee Success”

Here’s how five big names in tech use innovative Learning & Development programs to make sure employees are engaged at work, and how startups and mid-sized companies can borrow from their playbooks.

SALESFORCE: Innovative, Customized Learning Journeys

 

Salesforce customizes Learning & Development to the individual employee to increase productivity and engagement. Dan Darcy, SVP Productivity, runs enablement at Salesforce and describes his job as Customer Success for internal employees.

For Salesforce, Customer Success is all about putting customers first. It means actively working to increase customer happiness, engagement, productivity, retention and ultimate success. For Dan and his team, Employee Success comes first.

“My goal is to establish the best sales training program in the industry; and then roll out this framework for training across all Salesforce departments,” Dan says enthusiastically. Dan’s team polled employees and discovered that Salesforce employees wanted personalized learning opportunities that they could do at their own pace.

To deliver, Dan’s team is adapting Salesforce’s homegrown Trailheadinteractive customer learning platform for in-house employee training. Sales Account Executives still start their careers with face-to-face Salesforce Academy training at headquarters. Trailhead builds off this foundation by flipping the classroom model. Employees and managers design one-on-one learning journeys to meet each individual employee’s unique personal development needs and goals. With Trailhead, Salesforce is leveraging new training technology to increase both Customer Success and Employee Success.

YELP: Retaining Young Talent through Learning & Development

 

James Balagot, Head of Learning & Development at Yelp, uses L&D to increase engagement and retention. Yelp hires and trains hundreds of young account executives each year who quickly get pursued by other companies. As a former Yelp account executive himself, James understands that providing young professionals with valuable learning programs, a positive culture and meaningful advancement opportunities is the best defense against attrition.

Yelp’s strong commitment to promoting from within is the foundation for the company’s L&D efforts. To keep engagement and retention high, Yelp executives actively mentor young employees and tell managers that employee development is their key priority. James surveys employees regularly to assess their job satisfaction and engagement. Employee participation in L&D programming is optional but the message is clear. Yelp wants employees to succeed and provides daily opportunities for learning. At Yelp everyday can be a school day so employees can continually grow and advance their careers.

PANDORA: A Clear Focus on Manager Training

 

Pandora is another company that recognizes that mentorship and manager-employee relationships are key to employee job satisfaction. “The #1 reason why employees leave is because of poor relationships with their managers” states Matt Morgan, Pandora’s VP, Employee Experience and Development. His team carefully tracks two key employee engagement survey metrics to measure the strength of employee-manager relationships:

1) My manager really cares about me as a person

2) I would recommend my manager to others

Teaching new managers to coach, support, and manage their people effectively is Pandora’s primary L&D goal.

Matt’s team creates all its own B2E content and training tools for new managers in house to reflect Pandora’s values and culture. While the courses are required, Pandora makes all its manager training available online and on-demand, and makes sure each session takes less than 15 minutes to complete. Pandora successfully focuses their L&D initiatives on manager training to increase employee engagement and retention.

ADOBE: Online Leadership Training Drives Global Productivity

 

Adobe’s uses L&D to develop leaders. “At Adobe, when we talk about leadership, it’s leadership at all levels from our newest college grads to our senior leadership,” says Angela Szymusiak, Senior Talent Development partner. Three years ago, Adobe’s senior executive team identified five key leadership capabilities to cultivate in all employees:

1) Lead with Emotional Intelligence

2) Identify and hire top talent

3) Scale the business and drive growth

4) Innovate and drive change

5) Role model the Adobe Check-in approach by delivering meaningful, timely feedback

Adobe’s Global Talent Development team designed Adobe’s innovative Leading@Adobe curriculum to accomplish these goals across Adobe’s vast organization of +14,000 employees, in 40 countries and 70 locations.

Because of Adobe’s size, the Global Talent Development team relied on technology, Adobe’s web conferencing platform, Adobe Connect and on-demand resources to deliver scalable leadership programming. The company now offers a curated on-demand suite of leadership development e-learning tools globally. Moreover, Adobe gets the content right — its 60 minute virtual Adobe Connect labs consistently receive net promoter scores above 90% (eg: I would recommend this experience to my colleague).

Adobe has also reimagined its performance management model. It has replaced its annual performance review process with an innovative frequent feedback loop approach called Check-In. Check-Ins have been embraced throughout the company and are credited with improving communications, employee satisfaction and productivity.

FACEBOOK: Culture Is The Key for a Rapidly Expanding Workforce

 

“Facebook’s key Learning & Development objectives are to promote respect and foster a culture of continual learning,” says Mike Welsh, Learning & Development Partner and People Engineer at Facebook. The company’s approach to L&D was designed to appeal to its talented millennial workers who are hungry for autonomy, feedback, learning, and advancement. Facebook employees want personalized experiences so the company offers many avenues for individual learning through on-demand classes and career flexibility. At Facebook, most of the learning happens organically within functional departments and is peer-to-peer and employee-driven.

What Facebook’s L&D team is most known for are its innovative Manager, Leadership and Positive Culture development programs. For example, Facebook’s Engage Coaching Program provides new managers with one-on-one sessions with an executive coach to help them develop effective people management skills.

Facebook’s FLiP (Facebook Leadership in Practice) program also receives rave reviews. The FLiP program goes deep into leadership best practices, case studies, team-building and coaching circle exercises where rising leaders receive feedback and coaching from their peers and Facebook executive team members.

Finally, Facebook’s nationally recognized Managing Unconscious Bias program trains employees to acknowledge bias in the workplace and build productive working relationships with co-workers. Facebook successfully uses L&D to create a culture that puts people first, and fosters employee engagement, collaborative relationships and continual learning.

COINBASE: A Forward Thinking Startup

 

Some believe that L&D is a perk only big companies can offer. Three year old Coinbase, creator of the first bitcoin wallet, is proving that theory wrong.

Coinbase, a Series C company with just over 100 employees, is already using L&D to ensure high employee engagement. According to Nathalie McGrath, Director of People, Coinbase has created meaningful L&D offerings without a big budget and proprietary programs. To date, Coinbase has adopted Facebook’s coaching circles model, implemented Code School on Fridays and is exploring partnerships with Udemy in order to offer employees a variety of valuable on-demand courses. Coinbase’s goal is to empower employees and promote employee learning and continual personal development even when the company is in startup mode.

Five Affordable Ways to Launch L&D Initiatives

While large tech companies may have the money to invest in best-in-class, proprietary L&D programs, many of their best practices don’t require significant resources and budget. Here are five tips that companies of any size can implement quickly to bring L&D to their organizations without breaking the bank.

1) Promote in-house mentorship and coaching. Get informal mentorship meet- ups, coaching circles, and peer-to-peer learning off the ground.

2) Make on-line education an employee benefit. EdTech companies like Udemy, Udacity, Lynda.com and Coursera all offer a variety of affordable, turnkey B2B subscriptions for employee on-line learning.

3) Regularly track employee engagement and job satisfaction. Measure results and solicit feedback. Design and test new L&D initiatives. Strive to constantly improve these metrics.

4) Train new managers to lead, manage and give frequent feedback. Employees are more engaged and productive when their bosses are good people managers.

5) Treat employees like customers. Make employee engagement, success and advancement a key business priority. Leverage L&D programs to demonstrate your company’s commitment to its employees.

Learning & Development Will Drive Engagement, Retention and Productivity

“Employee engagement is the one key metric that business leaders can influence quickly to improve business productivity,” stated Jack Welch early this year. Salesforce, Pandora, Yelp, Adobe, Facebook and Coinbase have all demonstrated how Learning & Development programs can be used to increase employee engagement. True star employee performers care far more about learning and personal development than free lunches, gym discounts and ping pong. Earn their loyalty and increase their productivity and job satisfaction by bringing meaningful learning & development opportunities to your organization.

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Saddle Up: 7 Trends Coming in 2018

When we wrote last January about the trends coming for 2017, we thought colleges and universities would have a full-to-overflowing plate of challenges. That was true, but at the same time we could not have predicted the amount of turbulence and change that has affected higher education over the past 12 months.

As we look at the landscape in 2018, here are seven major trends college leaders should prepare for. Spoiler alert: it’s tough out there.

1. Eroding support for higher ed. In the past 12 months, we saw increasing evidence that higher education is no longer sitting on a pedestal and that college may not be viewed as necessary to get ahead in modern society. Polls have found gaps among men, rural Americans and Republicans in belief that a college education is worth the price, and policy makers have begun to emphasize vocational education and apprenticeships over traditional college pathways.

Research also finds that students and parents don’t value the label of the “liberal arts,” although they do prize a broad-based education that prepares college graduates for success in a changing world. Nevertheless, data continue to show that college graduates have substantially better career outcomes than those without a degree.

Conservative dissatisfaction with higher ed has resulted in criticism of everything from free speech to the kinds of academic programs offered, and we saw this anger on display in both the tax reform bill and proposed higher ed legislation. And despite the March for Science, decision makers in Washington continue to introduce policy that seems to disregard or undermine scientific evidence.

What’s ahead: Increasing attacks from a variety of sources -- some unexpected -- on cost, student debt, tenure, free expression, research topics, political makeup and whether colleges offer degree programs and skills that employers require.

What to do: Be clear about the value your institution provides to students, alumni, employers and the region. Translate jargon into language, data and concrete examples that demonstrate relevance and value. We wrote this last year, and will underscore it again: higher education as a sector needs an honest reassessment of the public compact and should take the warning signs about its status very seriously.

2. Challenges to the business model. Higher education is in the midst of a shakeout, fueled by changing demographic trends along with rising costs, lackluster job markets and questions about whether students are prepared effectively for the work force. The past year saw a wave of closures and mergers, and rising discount rates led a number of institutions to engage in tuition resets -- although experts question whether this will have the desired effect. On the basis of unfavorable federal policies, Moody’s downgraded the outlook of the sector from “stable” to “negative.” And Harvard University professor Clayton Christensen went viral with a prediction that half of all colleges will be bankrupt in 10 to 15 years.

Colleges and universities have turned to graduate programs, international students and dual enrollment as cash cows, but various academics and policy analysts have raised questions about the value of some of these programs, and international student enrollment appears to be declining in response to hostile federal immigration policies. Even business schools and law schools are facing market threats. One interesting trend has been novel partnerships, such as Purdue University-Kaplan, Ohio State University-Apple, or Arizona State University and the Mayo Clinic. The Hechinger Report has noted the growing trend of colleges banding together to save on costs.

What’s ahead: More financial pressures as enrollment growth slows or declines in traditional markets, increasing closures and consolidations, and questions from board members about innovation and digital offerings.

What to do: Use market research to understand what distinguishes your institution and drives student choice. Pursue new and diverse student populations, but be sure you have the campus supports to retain them and help them succeed. Partner with businesses, nonprofits and other institutions to create savings and new opportunities.

3. Violent activism and balancing free speech, safety and climate. The violence at the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., was a sobering moment for us all. Grieving over the ugliness on display shifted into planning for groups that are intent on staging hateful conflicts on campuses across the country. Even where students and faculty members are well prepared for dissent and debate, outside agitators often arrive with plans to inflame. Campuses are wrestling with how to balance deeply held views about the importance of free expression with the need to keep their communities safe from physical harm.

What’s ahead: Controversial speakers and hate groups will continue to target campuses for events and rallies. Expect high theater, with demands followed by threats of legal action and press releases about how the university is shutting down free speech.

What to do: Review your policies to make sure you have a plan for room rentals, event sponsorship, access to campus by protesters and media representatives, heckler policies, and reasonable limitations on protest. Educate people about your policies and enforce them consistently. Have regular conversations on your campus about protest and speech before an incident occurs. Work continuously to improve campus climate, whether or not your institution is targeted for fliers and other forms of hateful speech.

4. #MeToo movement in the academy. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and lawsuits from the accused may have created a backlash against policies that tried to strengthen campus response to sexual misconduct. But let’s not forget the Office of Civil Rights’ Dear Colleague letter and the outspoken support of leaders like Senator Kirsten Gillibrand were fueled by activists who had been assaulted and felt the response was, at best, inadequate. Federal policy aside, those who have experienced sexual assault and sexual harassment are fed up. The wave of reports and takedowns of powerful leaders -- including some well-respected faculty members -- has been breathtaking.

What’s ahead: More allegations from students and faculty members about sexual misconduct, some of it stretching back years; more complaints from LGBTQ, international and other vulnerable student populations; and a corresponding backlash from those who perceive a rush to judgment.

What to do: Be proactive. If you haven’t already, survey your population to understand the frequency and nature of sexual misconduct. Review policies and programs to ensure they are working to protect the dignity and safety of complainants and provide fairness to all parties. Look to other institutions for a growing list of best practices and effective interventions.

5. Student safety in Greek life and athletics. Two college institutions have come under the microscope with a new level of intensity in recent months. Calls to end fraternities have followed a number of high-profile student deaths in hazing incidents -- a record number, according to Dillard University President Walter Kimbrough. In the meantime, campuses continue to suspend Greek life activities in the wake of incidents.

College athletics has been caught up in the #MeToo moment, with the highest-profile case involving criminal assault charges against the U.S.A. Gymnastics team doctor who was employed at Michigan State University. Campuses also face broader concerns over athlete safety. Research and lawsuits about the dangers of concussions have affected not only college football but also sports like women’s lacrosse.

What’s ahead: Parents will demand new safety measures to protect students. In both Greek life and athletics, new deaths and injuries will lead to heightened scrutiny and tougher sanctions, both by colleges and through legislation. As the cost of compliance and lawsuits rises, institutions may re-evaluate participation.

What to do: Scrutinize your safety practices and policies. College and university leaders must host frank dialogues about campus values and safety that lead to stronger oversight and institutional support for real change, not platitudes.

6. Reckoning with the racist past. In recent months, many college communities have done the hard work to confront their institutions’ ties to slavery and racism. This year Harvard University hosted a major public conference, Princeton University launched an in-depth research project, Yale University renamed its Calhoun College and Colby College renamed the president’s house to honor a former janitor. In the wake of Charlottesville and as national racial tensions heighten, campuses across the country are re-evaluating whether to remove Confederate monuments or retain them with added historical context.

What’s ahead: Expect more and broadening concern about historical practices, names and markers. With rising white supremacist activity, Confederate-era monuments and other symbols will continue to be campus lightning rods.

What to do: Take steps to understand your institution’s past and the significance of campus symbols, buildings and program names. Higher education is distinctly suited to this work. Consider representative steering committees, faculty expertise and early student engagement. Review existing naming and statuary policies, and establish clear guiding principles for future decision making.

7. Presidents as public thought leaders. Many of us look back fondly on the days of towering public intellectuals like Robert Maynard Hutchins, Father Theodore Hesburgh, Vartan Gregorian, Derek Bok, Chuck Vest and others. In the last decade or more, higher education leaders have appeared reluctant to speak out on issues, perhaps out of concern for angering important stakeholders. But here’s one upside of the turbulence in the past 18 months: the environment has unleashed a new set of highly visible college leaders who know how to use the bully pulpit, and their voices, to advance their principles and institutions.

Some who came from the political arena, such as Janet Napolitano, Mitch Daniels and Margaret Spellings, are savvy about the power of a well-placed op-ed. Others -- including Ángel Cabrera, Ronald J. Daniels, L. Rafael Reif and Robert Zimmer -- have tackled an important issue, sometimes enriched by their personal stories. And a growing number of college leaders know how to leverage the power of social media.

What’s ahead: The number of topics important to higher education and worthy of thoughtful commentary will only grow. Fortunately, an explosion of digital media channels will provide leaders with many good avenues to express their ideas. Social media further extends the reach of worthy and interesting commentary.

What to do: Identify topics that are compelling and advance the priorities and mission of the institution. Assemble key ideas, data and examples -- and when a moment of news makes the topic relevant, act quickly to provide relevant commentary. Colleges and universities have an obligation -- and an opportunity -- to foster informed debate and model what civil discourse looks like in 2018. Presidents can avoid political land mines if they stay closely connected to mission, avoid partisan rhetoric and pretest draft language with key alumni, board members and other trusted advisers.

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A Starter Kit for Instructional Designers

A 2016 report funded by the Gates Foundation found that in the U.S. alone, there are 13,000 instructional designers. Yet, when I graduated from college in 2008, I didn’t know this field existed. Surely a lot has changed!

Instructional design is experiencing a renaissance. As online course platforms proliferate, institutions of all shapes and sizes realize that they’ll need to translate content into digital forms. Designing online learning experiences is essential to training employees, mobilizing customers, serving students, building marketing channels, and sustaining business models.

The field has deep roots in distance education, human computer interaction, and visual design. But I’ve come to believe that contemporary instructional design sits at the intersection of three core disciplines: learning science, human-centered design, and digital marketing. It requires a deep respect for the pedagogical practices that teachers have honed for decades, balanced with fluency in today’s digital tools.

Most people with “instructional design” in their job title are involved in converting “traditional” written curriculum or in-person teaching into an online course. But they can also be creating learning apps, museum exhibits, or the latest educational toy. My classmates from Stanford’s Learning Design and Technology master’s program have gone on to design for big brands like Airbnb and Google as well as edtech upstarts including the African Leadership University, General Assembly, Osmo and Udacity.

Over the last few years, we’ve traded resources, articles and work samples as we try to build our own starter kit for this fast-moving field. Below are some of the lessons and resources that I wish I knew of when I first went on the job market—a combination of the academic texts you read in school along with practical tools that have been essential to practicing instructional design in the real world. This is not a complete or evergreen list, but hopefully it’s a helpful start.

Lesson 1: Start with a deep understanding of your learners.

No matter what type of learning experience you’re building, it’s always smart to start getting to know the people you’re designing for. To conduct learner research it’s helpful to combine practices from design thinking with those of participatory research or teacher action research that educators have been practicing for many years.

I typically start by developing an Empathy Guide like the one put together by the Stanford d.school or reviewing the free book by Giff Constable, “Talking to Humans” to structure productive conversations. After conducting observations and interviews with target learners, I synthesize my findings into learner archetypes.

Then, I test instructional concepts and product ideas by building rough prototypes that I put in front of learners to get their feedback quickly. The d.school has a great Prototyping Dashboard you can use to organize the hypotheses. If you’re looking for a crash course in the entire design thinking process, you can check out the free courseoffered by IDEO.org or the free resources from IDEO’s Teacher’s Guild.

Lesson 2: Ground yourself in the fundamentals of learning science.

Teachers have spent decades learning how to reliably help students master new skills, debunk misconceptions, and connect their prior knowledge to new concepts. To be a good instructional designer, you should steep yourself in the research on learning and teaching. The best and most digestible books I’ve found are “The ABCS of How We Learn,” a 2016 book by Daniel Schwartz and “How People Learn,” the 1999 foundational text edited by John Bransford, Ann Brown, and Rodney Cocking. If you’re looking for a crash course in digital education specifically, recordings from Stanford’s lecture series on Education’s Digital Future are all available for free online.

Lesson 3: Determine the “powerful ideas” you want to teach and build your curriculum using backwards design.

To get serious about education technology, you have to read Seymour Papert. His “Mindstorms: Children, Computer and Powerful Ideas” is a classic that is critical to helping you realize that all the ideas about edtech that we think are so unprecedented have actually been mulled over for decades. Pay particular attention to his chapter on “powerful ideas” where he describes how essential it is to find the enduring, transformative concepts that you want to teach and put those at the forefront of your design approach.

Once you’ve read Papert, use the Understanding By Design Framework to structure your curriculum. This approach helps you clarify your target outcomes and how you’ll collect “evidence of learning.” This curriculum design approach is used by teachers who work in traditional classrooms, but holds up just as well in the digital realm.

Lesson 4: Go study other great teachers and other great learning experiences.

Before becoming too beholden to the particular features (or limitations) of a technology platform, try to think bigger and more creatively about how you can meet the needs of your learners. One of the best ways to do this is to seek out inspiration from other learning designers. For example, look at the examples of host educationthat Airbnb puts together. Look at the altMBA program that Seth Godin runs using Slack. Watch how Angela Duckworth delivers messages to camera. Check out the beautiful animations produced by Amnesty International or the interactive lessons produced on Oppia. And look at examples of tangible rather than screen-based technologies that have been produced by groups like Paulo Blikstein’s Transformative Learning Technologies Lab.

Rather than limiting yourself to looking at educational resources produced by schools or universities, find examples of instructional materials from other sectors to get ideas. The field is so new that there are no definitive ways to do it “right” and lots of approaches are worth learning from.

Lesson 5. Get a lay of the technological landscape, but don’t let your LMS hold you hostage.

If you’re going to be an instructional designer who specializes in online courses, you should get familiar with your platform options and be prepared to speak to the pros and cons of each. Start with the “big four” that most people have heard of: Coursera, Udacity, Udemy, and EdX. Check out the list of global MOOC platforms curated by Class Central, but realize there are entirely different ecosystems of platforms that specialize in corporate training or adaptive learning. Then also read some critical perspectives from the likes of Digital Pedagogy Lab or the MIT Media Lab.

No current online education platform is perfect, but focus on being able to speak to the distinctions between them and make a recommendation based on the learning goals. You don’t need to master all of the options, but it’s helpful to keep a pulse on the major players. Perhaps more importantly, design content and learning experiences that are “platform agnostic,” meaning that you can easily transport them to another platform. Finally, check out the blogs of online learning pioneers like Connie Malmud who have been chronicling the field for many years and who has helpfully compiled a glossary of common terms.

  Lesson 6. Don’t try to migrate an in-person experience into an online format.

One of the biggest mistakes people who are new to instructional design make is trying to replicate or simply migrate an offline experience onto an online platform. Instead, the better approach is to think about what the technology can do uniquely well and then design your experience to leverage those affordances. Allan Collins and Richard Halverson’s book, “Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology,” is a useful place to start, along with the perspectives and research of Mitch Resnick and the late Edith Ackermann of the MIT Media Lab.

Lesson 7: If you build it, they won’t come. Understand the fundamentals of digital marketing.

People will not automatically show up for your online course—unless you’re working for a big-name institution like Y Combinator or Harvard University. As online courses have proliferated, the market for students has also fragmented. To be an effective instructional designer, you also arguably need to know the basics of digital marketing and how to write compelling copy to get someone to click through, enroll in, and persist in your course.

One useful post on strategies to drive enrollment and sales of an online course was produced by the founders of Groove. Udemy has also created a great toolkit to help online course instructors market their learning experience. These strategies might seem distasteful to people whose primary focus is learning outcomes, but the reality is that if you don’t attract the right population of students to your courses (even if they’re free), all of your hard work and pedagogical design is moot.

Lesson 8: Collect student feedback. Iterate. Share what you learned.

Finally, perhaps one of the most important lessons is to get out from behind your computer and actually go meet the learners who experience your courses, apps or experiences. Set up Skype calls to interview them. Pore through the feedback they submit on surveys.

Some of their input will inevitably sting—especially when you’ve spent months building a course and someone only watches two videos before leaving a scathing review. But listen for the underlying pain points. Synthesize your feedback carefully and make changes, but avoid designing by committee. Finally, share your data, your lessons, and your failures with the broader learning design community when possible.

The field is fast-moving but still has a lot to figure out. The more creative pioneers we have who are pushing the boundaries of how to design compelling, thoughtful learning experiences in new formats, the better.

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Training Instructors to Use Tech Tools

Many people have a negative view of training, which can be evident if you search for #ihatetraining on Twitter. Training can be especially challenging when it comes to teaching faculty members to use new digital technologies and tools. However, conducting and/or receiving training can be a positive experience. Training that focuses on several integral strategies can lead to effective and efficient outcomes for all individuals involved.  

Instructional designers and faculty members who provide professional development, peer support, and/or administrative representatives to instructors  should be aware of these strategies when conducting trainings on technologies and online and classroom teaching practices. Here are six effective training strategies that you should consider:

1. Build Relationships 

Training should offer the opportunity to apply new knowledge directly into daily practice. In order to best achieve this, the importance of faculty-trainer relationship should be addressed first. Building a professional relationship allows the trainer to understand the faculty member’s baseline of knowledge, learning style, and comfort level with technology. It also fosters open communication and could lead to possible opportunities for collaboration.

Some initial strategies for building a relationship with faculty are:

Have a positive attitude about instructional design. Display energy and confidence during interactions. Enthusiasm and zeal are inviting traits. Utilize probing questions. For example, “How is your semester going?” Ground yourself in customer service (superior communication, compassion, patience, self-control, etc.) Utilize positive reinforcement to increase retention and desire to continue learning technology applications.

2. Stay Informed

Research is an important aspect of training. Researching latest trends in higher education, instructional design, and eLearning can serve as a catalyst for training development in place of a needs assessment. Often times, faculty are unable to articulate what they need to know because they don’t know what exists.  

3. Practice What You Preach

Trainers should have an “inside scoop” on what is involved with teaching courses prior to training. It is essential for trainers to have first-hand knowledge of the entire process of building a course: designing, developing, implementing, and assessing learning outcomes.  

If a trainer has not taught in higher education, then it is beneficial to co-teach a module or a course with a faculty member. Co-teaching offers a full-spectrum view of course facilitation from beginning to end, which will offer first-hand experience on the intricacies involved with online courses from the faculty’s perspective. Co-teaching can also serve as another aspect in relationship-building.

4. Meet Them Where They Are

Faculty bring a plethora of history to any learning experience, and effective trainers properly leverage those experiences to heighten professional development. However, it is important to keep in mind that faculty have numerous facets to their job, and teaching is a small part.

Some faculty may not be as familiar with technology tools as one would assume. Therefore, it is important for trainers to differentiate their training levels: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. For example, if faculty members are only familiar with discussion boards in their LMS, then the initial job of the trainer is to teach them how to create amazing and engaging discussion board before exploring more complex instructional design components.

Another suggestion is to provide mock simulations, so faculty can test out new tools/strategies before implementing them in their courses.  

5. Bridge the Gaps

Trainers have the opportunity to view courses across several departments. This exposure can offer a unique opportunity for trainers to serve as a bridge between faculty members. Often times, faculty yearn to collaborate across departments, but they are not aware of what other faculty are doing.  

Trainers have the ability to bridge the silo gap between departments by sharing strategies and research with all faculty members. This also has a potential to strengthen the trainer-faculty relationship as it can lead to a personal connection on top of the professional relationship already established.  

6. Be a Leader

Effective trainers proactively support faculty and allow faculty to share experiences with one another. One way to establish this is by creating an online faculty learning community within the institution.  An open source platform that provides job aids, quick tips, and course development tools is an effective approach. Trainers and faculty should be able to post things to increase collaborative opportunities.  

After trainings have concluded, faculty have mastered the tools, and the learning community is established, it is imperative for trainers to stay available. There will always be a software update or random technological glitch to get in the way and when those moments occur, faculty will need the support of the trainer. Also, faculty will always benefit from ongoing training and follow-up re-teaching of content. 

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Life Hacking With Behavioral Science

 Many of us are in the deliberate search for better, easier, faster, more effective ways of getting things done.  We look for optimization in all sorts of pursuits; fitness, cooking, business travel, finances, technology, and so on. The explosive business of Apps is, in great part, driven by our desire to optimize how we manage our lives. Some might say we are in search of the best and greatest “life hack.” What is a life hack, you ask?  Wikipedia provides this succinct summary:

Life hacking refers to any productivity trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method to increase productivity and efficiency, in all walks of life; in other words, anything that solves an everyday problem of a person in a clever or non-obvious way….Coined in the 1980s in hacker culture, the term became popularized in the blogosphere and is primarily used by computer experts who suffer from information overload or those with a playful curiosity in the ways they can accelerate their workflow in ways other than programming.* If you explore the term “life hacking” on the internet, you will find that it covers a lot of ground. There are blogs, e-books, articles and entire websites dedicated to life hacking.  Not surprisingly, these sources vary a great deal in content and quality.  From them, you might gather information ranging from the fastest way to peel a banana (it models what chimpanzees do, in case you’re wondering) to tips on boosting your confidence and learning foreign languages at maximum speeds. You can learn how to decrease your anxiety, get the most out of meditation and make Barista quality coffee from your own home.  And, as is generally the case with online sources, it’s a buyer beware world.  Some of them are important behavioral practices that can genuinely enhance our lives, and others will make you wish you’d invested your time elsewhere. Like most, I have interests in maximizing performance for personal reasons but it is also an important aspect of my career as a behavior-based business consultant. 

One of my favorite aspects of the job is helping the best organizations get even better. Rarely do our clients call us to fix something “broken.” Certainly, behavioral science is a powerful and proven approach to mitigating problem behavior at the individual and organizational level. However, it is also an optimization mechanism, capable of producing the highest levels of creativity, quality, productivity and efficiency in what might already be high performance. It gives you the framework to target and systematically improve behaviors that are significant to you.  So, when it comes to managing the behavior of self and others, even just a basic understanding of behavioral science can be the ultimate life hack.  An understanding of a few core principles from behavioral science will help you separate the wheat from the chaff in the jumble of life hacks and personal improvement strategies out there while giving you the tools to build your own for your many ventures. The behavioral science tools and principles that can help you increase your productivity, creativity and expedite learning and fluency are many.  The creative and effective use of reinforcement alone is one of the most powerful life hacks I can think of.  To assess or develop your own behavior-influencing life hacks, consider this starter set of tools and concepts:

Shaping: This might be the most obvious source for a life hack and it is one of the most powerful and efficient ways to learn. Adopting a new skill-especially a complex one such as learning a new language- can have its share of frustrations. We might feel like achieving fluency is distant and the road there too difficult. Often we give up on our goal because it took too much effort to reach the target. This is where shaping comes in. It’s defined by breaking down a skill into achievable and reinforceable baby steps and systematically teaching (or learning) each one. This allows the learner to progress and build a solid foundation on the skill. It also allows them to contact plenty of reinforcement along the way which keeps them fully engaged and motivated to learn. You want your employees to use that complicated new accounting software? Learn how to separate and reinforce those baby steps and shape their behavior. You want to learn how to play an instrument? Learn how to shape your own behavior. Behavioral Cusps: These consist of identifying behaviors or skill sets that once learned will accelerate exponential growth into completely different learning areas. One good example of a cusp might be learning how to read. Once that skill is acquired, a person’s ability to develop in other diverse areas grows exponentially. Now they can read and learn about history, natural science, current events, etc… I see this as a particularly powerful and efficient way to help a new employee transition into their role; identify and then teach the most critical skills that once learned, will expedite growth in other areas that are important to their function. In essence, you could map out and lead them from one cusp to another- expanding the branches of their learning tree and truly maximizing the value they bring to themselves and your organization. PIC/NIC Analysis®: This proprietary troubleshooting tool can help you figure out why people make certain choices. It’s a great way to get into somebody else’s shoes and figure out what variables might be motivating them. If your objective is to change behavior, it’s important to know with precision what the influencing variables are that you need to change. Minimizing Response Cost: This is all about strategically decreasing the amount of effort for the desired behavior to occur. If you want the performer to engage in a certain behavior, it’s much more effective to decrease the amount of effort they need to invest in doing what you want them to do.   Although easily derived from behavioral literature, I first learned this hack from reading Ernest Hemingway’s tips on avoiding writer’s block (and yes…I used his tip to write this blog).  To quote him directly; 

“The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day … you will never be stuck.”

Hemingway decreased the amount of effort for getting into the flow of writing by always leaving a partially full page to begin with the next day. Although I use this for my writing, an understanding of behavior has helped me generalize this approach to several other tasks. For example, I get my workout clothes and equipment sorted, next to my bed and ready to put on for those much too early 5:30am workouts. If I need to get up and start a search for my workout clothes, fitness tracker and water bottle, I may end up slapping that snooze button instead. That additional effort might be too much to sustain the desired behavior. The point is to never start on a blank page. Set yourself up with a head start and increase the likelihood you will engage in the desired behavior. Think of behavioral interventions (including life hacks) as recipes for improvement. Behavioral principles are the ingredients that will produce the optimization you are looking for in your own as well as other people’s behavior. A solid understanding of a few behavioral principles will give you the ingredients to build your own recipes for behavior change. These days it’s easy to be overwhelmed with the limitless amount of information pitching us different approaches to improving our physical and mental health, relationships, and management styles, to name a few.  It’s a challenge to choose the most effective method in the face of so many options. Before we undergo medical treatment most of us expect for the methodology to have been tested through the rigor of the scientific method.  The above tools and concepts are derived from the systematic study and application of behavioral principles supported by over a century of research. When investing in a life hack intended to influence your behavior and that of others, why wouldn’t you rely on scientifically proven tools and principles to lead your way? You may also want to check out The 46 Most Brilliant Life Hacks Every Human Being Needs to Make Life Easier.

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6 Characteristics of education of the future and how credentials will change

The Commonwealth Bank Jobs and Skills of the Future Report I wrote recently dug into how work and jobs are changing and what skills will be required. These shifts in work mean it is crystal clear that education must also change.

Below is an excerpt from the report giving a snapshot of some of the shifts needed in education: 

Education of the Future

Looking further into the future of education, we may see a radical restructuring of how we learn, not just in schools and universities, but through our entire life. Classrooms will continue to exist, enhanced through the use of a wide range of new tools, technologies and methodologies. Education will also become an ongoing part of everyone’s lives, and embedded into our employment, helping us improve our skills and capabilities while we work.

Characteristics

Pervasive accessibility
Learning will be always available to everyone at all times, at work, home and everywhere spend time

Personalised journeys
Everyone learns differently. Algorithms will uncover our preferences so all learning is designed for the individual.

Real world relevance
Education will prepare us for the real world by focusing on understanding how knowledge will be applied and the emotional and relationship skills required

Immersive experience
Virtual reality and other tools will allow us to experience lifelike situations and practice in simulations before we need to apply our skills in real life

Augmented teachers
Teachers will remain central to education, but they will be augmented by technology to draw on the best tools available

Peer learning
Education will shift to learning from experts to learning with people who are like you, learning together as the world changes

Credentials

Formal degrees and diplomas will continue to be important in the future, however will be less necessary. Algorithms are increasingly able to analyse data about your work and study to indicate your capabilities in a work environment, often better than a formal academic qualification can.

Some employers are identifying high-potential candidates with software that assesses how specialists in a field have contributed to their profession and how their peers view them.

Rather than multi-year degrees, we will often get recognition for shorter learning journeys. Massively Online Open Courses (MOOCs) are offering ‘nano-degrees’ that show competence in a specific domain.

We may move to a world in which employers look more to the information they can gather about individuals’ knowledge, work and attitudes than to their official certificates.

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This Is How Generation Z Will Bypass College

School originated to train obedient factory workers but hasn't evolved much since then.

Coursera and the University of Phoenix paved the way for people to digitally learn from a distance. Next, traditional and leading colleges began offering online courses--sometimes for free. Then institutions allowed degrees to be completed online, for example, Georgia Institute of Technology partnered with Udacity and AT&T to offer the first online Master of Science in Computer Science from an accredited university that students can earn exclusively online for a fraction of the normal cost.

But are these education changes too little too late for Generation Z who has their sights on more innovative and agile education alternatives? 

7 Ways Generation Z Will Replace a College Education


1. MissionU

MissionU is a one-year college-alternative program that has no upfront costs. MissionU only gets paid once students earn at least $50,000, then students pay back 15 percent of their income for the first three years.

Each MissionU major is designed to prepare students for specific, high growth fields. Their highly specialized curriculums are developed with industry experts to give students the skills and experience they need to succeed in the workplace of tomorrow. MissionU was founded by Adam Braun, the entrepreneur who also founded the nonprofit, Pencils of Promise, that has built over 400 schools across the world.

2. Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS)

CAPS is reimagining learning. According to the CAPS website...

"The Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) programs are nationally recognized, innovative high school programs. Students fast forward into their future and are fully immersed in a professional culture, solving real world problems, using industry standard tools and are mentored by actual employers, all while receiving high school and college credit. CAPS is an example of how business, community and public education can partner to produce personalized learning experiences that educate the workforce of tomorrow, especially in high skill, high demand jobs."

Programs like CAPS are really compelling for Generation Z who is really interested in making a strong and relevant connection between what they are learning and how it will apply to their future.

UnitedHealth Group (UHG) is a company benefiting from their involvement in CAPS programs. Pat Keran, senior director of innovation at UnitedHealth Group, said, "These kids are talking about careers at a young age and we want to expose them to potential ones at UHG. We realized that the technology skills that our college students had were developed young. As we dug a little deeper, we realized that high school students would be equally as competent. So if we are going to get the same output in the end, why not get on the radar even sooner?"

The experience Generation Z derives from participating in a CAPS program is so strong that many are considering forgoing college.

3. Thiel Fellowship

The Thiel Fellowship is intended for students under the age of 23 and offers them a total of $100,000 over two years, as well as guidance and other resources, to drop out of school and pursue other work.

Recently the Wall Street Journal reported some impressive results of this "build new things instead of sitting in a classroom" effort: "64 Thiel Fellows have started 67 for-profit ventures, raised $55.4 million in angel and venture funding, published two books, created 30 apps, and 135 full-time jobs." The Thiel Fellowship was founded by PayPal cofounder, Peter Thiel.

4. UnCollege

UnCollege aims to change the notion that going to college is the only path to success. UnCollege encourages Generation Z to get out the classroom and into the real world where they learn through experimentation, coaching, and mentors. UnCollege replaces the typical freshman year with a real world experience and is a fraction of the cost of one year at college.

Participants spend ten weeks living abroad; another ten weeks attending workshops, networking, and building a portfolio that will impress future employers while living in San Francisco; and then twelve weeks involved in an internship putting their newly developed skills to use.

Dale Stephens is the founder and ironically a recipient of the Thiel Fellowship.

Travel, learn, and intern is a college-alternative formula Generation Z can get behind.

5. altMBA

The altMBA is an online leadership and management workshop. Founded in 2015 by bestselling author Seth Godin, the altMBA uses digital tools like Slack, WordPress, and Zoom to engage more than 100 students in an intense four-week process.

Each session of the workshop is led by a cadre of coaches, who engage with students in individual and group work. During the workshop, each student publishes the results of the 13 assigned projects on the public altMBA site. The program is synchronous, with regular deadlines, group discussions, and face-to-face video calls. The tuition for the program is $3,850.

When Generation Z is at an age to consider an MBA, the altMBA or other options like The $100 MBA will be more prevalent and appealing to this cost conscious and digital-first generation.

6. WeWork

WeWork, the office-sharing giant, is launching a private elementary school for "conscious entrepreneurship" inside a New York City WeWork next fall.

In the pilot program, Generation Z students will spend one day a week on a farm outside of the city for hands-on experience. The rest of the time they will spend in Manhattan, where they'll get lessons in business from both employees and entrepreneur-customers of WeWork. The founders hope the school will encourage kids to become "disruptive" as young as possible.

7. Mishmash 

Generation Z will leverage their online resourcefulness to uncover the right learning platforms to level-up their know-how and skill sets. Resources like General Assembly, Lynda.com, Udemy, Udacity, Coursera, and YouTube are already giving Generation Z the learning edge to leapfrog college.

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The Leadership Development Trends in 2018

We've been hearing a lot over the years about the "war for talent," "talent retention" and "talent management" as being the most critical issues for companies, and these problems don't seem to be going away. In fact, as global economies continue to evolve and grow, and processes and procedures become more and more automated, who and how we hire is even more important. Corporations, globally, are desperate for educated, solidly skilled and well-trained employees.

The problem is not all talent comes prepared with all the necessary skills to be successful. 

According to a study done by LinkedIn, 27 percent of North American businesses are going to spend more on internal learning programs in 2017. Specifically, the research showed that the subjects both small and large companies most want to focus on are 1) management and leadership skills, 2) technical skills and 3) career development.

Here's my take on what is most required, wanted and useful for companies today:

Management and Leadership Skills

Top management must continue to learn to inspire, motivate and empower their leadership teams. Listening to what's needed "on the ground," maybe even spending more time there, will give leaders the information they need to direct the company's mission. Spending time developing for the first time, or revisiting the firm's culture and values, allows leaders to standardize policies, systems, and best practices - particularly globally. And most importantly, communication is vital. The messages leadership sends virtually and in person are essential to creating a positive and productive atmosphere.

A leader doesn't have to be dynamic and charming--just highly communicative and transparent.

Understanding diversity, especially generations, culture, and gender will be a top priority in 2018. How do diverse cultures perceive leadership? Who's job is it to make decisions? How will the up and coming workforce relate to hierarchy, organizational structure, etc.? What kind of work lives do they see for themselves? And then there's gender. What types of organizations support more gender balance? How do we encourage more women to go for the top (if that's what they want)?

Technical Skills

With rapid advancements in digitalization, technical skills will, while still relevant, take a back seat to "soft skills." That means knowing "soft skills" (which I think are hard) will be even more critical for frontline managers and those new to management. Studies have shown that 47 percent of managers don't receive any training when they take a new leadership role. This lack of training can be especially detrimental to technical teams because now one of their leading techies just got promoted to management and suddenly their job shifts from expert to leading experts. If communication and delegation skills aren't in place, there could be a real lack of knowledge transfer.

Technical skills are still necessary today. A firm may need to invest in more extensive and specialized training to remain competitive in sourcing talent.Assessing an employee's abilities in critical thinking, analytical skills and the state of their technical experience is crucial to know what talent you can leverage and what training needs to be done. 

Career Development

A staggering 93 percent of managers feel they need training on how to coach their employees. Giving advice, mentoring, and delivering feedback are all routine aspects to management, but more and more direct reports need to take responsibility for solving problems, taking steps to action, and managing their own careers. Gone are the days of traditional career paths and step-by-step advancement. If a manager acts as a good coach, they not only take the pressure off of themselves to provide all the answers, avoid constant back and forth, they also empower their team to set and achieve their own goals - those that matter most to them.

My favorite model to use for coaching is the G.R.O.W. Model. Managers can easily learn and adapt this to their daily interactions with direct reports. The secret to coaching is to ask questions and reframe. As opposed to answering and solving. Marshall Goldsmith's book, Coaching for Leadership, is an excellent resource for coach training. Also, the book I'm coming out with this year - The New Global Manager- will give practical advice and share the best methods how to manage across diverse personalities, globally. Also on Twitter an excellent resource for understanding what managers and employees go through in the career development process is https://twitter.com/askamanager.

With the continuing need for superb talent, trained employees and excellent managers, learning programs need funding, strong attention to detail and expert instructional designers. The programs I have developed and run for organizations like SAP, LinkedIn, SpaceX, and SMA Solar are all focused on strong communication and interaction--the people skills we need both locally and globally.

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The Seven Essential Leadership Capacities That Help You Shape the Future

In my previous article I introduced Otto Scharmer's Theory U and how it can help both individuals and groups develop the ability to sense and shape the future. Now I'd like to take you on a journey through the U to help you develop seven essential leadership capacities as well as share some practices from my own experience with this process.

To begin, it helps to imagine the U as a map, starting from the top left as you begin your journey of transformation. Moving down the left side of the U requires individuals and groups to open up and handle the resistance of habitual thought, emotion, and will, that keeps us stuck in the past; moving up the right side requires the integration of thinking, feeling, and will in the context of learning by doing and turning vision into reality.

  1. Holding the space of listening

The foundational capacity of the U is listening. It involves suspending your voice of judgment and keeping an open mind as you listen to others, to your own inklings, and to what is emerging from the collective."Transform the fields of conversation from downloading and debate to dialogue and collective creativity."

2. Observing

"Observe, observe, observe," as Brian Arthur advised. Journey into unfamiliar territory - a new city, a contemporary art gallery, and into nature, to open up your senses.

3. Sensing

As you listen and observe, be mindful of your senses. Opening up to future possibilities requires the tuning of an open mind, an open heart, and an open will to break from past conditioning. Scharmer says, "With an open mind we can suspend old habits of thought. With an open heart we can empathize, see a situation through the eyes of someone else. With an open will we can let go and let [the new] come."

4. Presencing.

Presencing --the capacity to connect to the deepest source of self and will --takes us to the bottom of the U. Here we "retreat and reflect, allowing inner knowing to emerge." What wants to emerge here? and how does that relate to the journey forward?" What new story for the future is emerging, and how can we let go of a past that no longer serve us?

5. Crystallizing

As we move up the right side of the U we begin crystallizing vision and intent At this stage we are open to letting in aha moments of insight that lead us to an emerging reality.

6. Prototyping

The prototyping phase integrates head, heart and hand to help us translate insight to concrete form. Scharmer tells a story in his book Theory U from the film "The Legend of Bagger Vance;" When helping a golfer who has lost his swing, the master coach in the novel and film advises, "Seek it with your hands-- don't think about it, feel it. The wisdom in your hands is greater than the wisdom of your head will ever be." Sketch your ideas, role play, or build models out of clay and other low-tech media to make thoughts visible, and get feedback from others.

7. Performing

Violinist Miha Pogacnik once said that he couldn't simply play his violin in Chartres cathedral; he had to "play" the entire space, what he called the "macro violin," in order to do justice to both the space and the music. Scharmer says organizations also need to perform at this macro level: "they need to convene the right sets of players (frontline people who are connected through the same value chain) and to engage a social technology that allows a multi-stakeholder gathering to shift from debating to co-creating the new."

Theory U is an invitation to step into the future.

 "The future shows up first in our feelings and through our hands, not in our abstract analysis,"says Scharmer. I find it helpful to follow his advice to attend to the crack--the openings, the challenges, and the disruptions where you feel the past ending, and the future wanting to begin. To take a deeper dive into Theory U, explore the free resources at the Presencing Institute. 

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What Kind of Leader Do You Need to Be to Create Change and Shape the Future?

Have you ever wondered why we are stuck in so many quagmires as we attempt to make major change in business, organizations and even society itself? We might find an explanation from Einstein through his well-known observation that we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them, but how do we do that?

Otto Scharmer, senior lecturer at MIT, argues in his book,Theory U: Leading from the Future as it Emerges (2nd edition 2016) that we not only require a new way of thinking, we need a new consciousness as well. He asserts "the cause of our collective failure is that we are blind to the deeper dimension of leadership and transformational change. This 'blind spot' exists not only in our collective leadership but also in our everyday social interactions." We are blind to what Scharmer calls the "source dimension" from which effective leadership and social action come into being. He points out, "we know a great deal about what leaders do, and how they do it, but we know very little about the inner place, the source from which they operate."

 "Successful leadership depends on the quality of attention and intention that the leader brings to any situation. Two leaders in the same circumstances doing the same thing can bring about completely different outcomes, depending on the inner place from which each operates." --Otto Scharmer

Theory U speaks to me because it is both a framework for creativity, and a roadmap for transformational leadership. I am also fascinated by how Theory U came into being via interviews with business leaders on accessing deep states of awareness and attention. Brian Arthur, the founding head of the economics group at the Santa Fe Institute, and Visiting Researcher in the Intelligent Systems Lab at PARC (formerly Xerox Parc) illuminating insights have formed the basis for Theory U.

According to Arthur there are two fundamentally different sources of cognition. One is the application of existing frameworks (downloading) and the other is accessing one's inner knowing: "All true innovation in science, business, and society is based on the latter, not on 'downloading.'"

Accessing your inner knowing is based on three movements of perception which sound very much like the practices of a Zen artist, and if you examine how the most successful creative people work in any domain, you will see that they follow this pattern:

The U process in three movements

The first movement is to "observe, observe, observe." Arthur says we need to stop downloading and start listening. It means to abandon our habitual ways of operating and immerse ourselves in the places of most potential for the situation we are dealing with. "The real power comes from recognizing patterns that are forming and fitting with them."

The second movement is to "retreat and reflect: allow the inner knowing to emerge." This requires going to the inner place of stillness where inner knowing comes to the surface. We listen to everything we learned while "observing," and we attend to what wants to emerge. "In a sense, there is no decision making, he says, "what to do becomes obvious. you can't rush it. Much of it depends on where you're coming from and who you are as a person. This has a lot of implications for management...what counts is where you're coming from inside yourself."

The third movement is about "acting in an instant." Prototype the new in order to explore the future by doing, to "create a little landing strip of the future that allows for hands-on testing and experimentation."

Scharmer calls this whole process the U process, because it can be depicted and understood as a U-shaped journey. "Presencing;" (a blend of the words "presence" and "sensing") is central to the journey. Presencing is about accessing inner knowing and bringing into presence, into the present, your highest potential and the future that is seeking to emerge.

Presencing signifies a heightened state of attention that allows individuals and groups to shift the inner place from which they function. "When that shift happens, people begin to operate from a real future possibility that is seeking to emerge." Being able to facilitate that shift is, according to Scharmer, the essence of leadership today. 

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The Next Era of Human|Machine Partnerships

Dell Technologies partnered with Institute for the Future to explore the emerging technologies shaping the future of the human experience over the next decade, and the specific impacts and implications they will have on society and work. To execute this, IFTF relied on its decades-long study on the future of work and technology, in-depth interviews with key stakeholders, and the opinions and ideas generated during an all-day facilitated workshop with a diverse set of experts from across the globe.

At its inception, very few people anticipated the pace at which the internet would spread across the world, or the impact it would have in remaking business and culture. And yet, as journalist Oliver Burkeman wrote in 2009, “Without most of us quite noticing when it happened, the web went from being a strange new curiosity to a background condition of everyday life.”

Today’s emerging technologies also feel like strange, new curiosities. Artificial Intelligence (AI), augmented and virtual reality, home robots, and cloud computing, to name only a few of the sophisticated technologies in development today, are capturing the imaginations of many. The advanced capabilities of today’s emerging technologies are driving many academics, entrepreneurs, and enterprises to envision futures in which their impacts on society will be nothing short of transformative. At a recent expert workshop hosted by Dell Technologies and the Institute for the Future (IFTF), participants suggested that the technologies in play over the next decade have the potential to “solve some of the intractable problems that humanity has faced for so long,” offer the opportunity to “increase productivity [such that] all our basics needs [are taken care of],” and fundamentally reframe “notions of what it means to be a person.”

With this in mind, Institute for the Future set out with 20 experts to explore how various social and technological drivers will influence the next decade and, specifically, how emerging technologies will recast our society and the way we conduct business by the year 2030. As a result, this new outlook report concludes that, over the next decade, emerging technologies will underpin the formation of new human-machine partnerships that make the most of their respective complementary strengths. These partnerships will enhance daily activities around the coordination of resources and in-the-moment learning, which will reset expectations for work and require corporate structures to adapt to the expanding capabilities of human-machine teams.

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Dyson ‘fighting a losing battle on skills’ despite rapid growth

Sir James Dyson has warned his company is “fighting a losing battle” to tackle Britain’s shortage of science and technology skills after revealing the training school it started had already received 850 applications for 50 places on this year's course. 

Students at the Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology learn by working alongside the company’s engineers, receive a degree from the University of Warwick and earn a salary but don’t have to pay tuition fees.  

But the entrepreneur told The Daily Telegraph: “The Government has consistently downgraded the importance of design and technology in schools, which is a great shame. And fewer and fewer girls are taking design and technology. So we’re fighting a losing battle there I’m afraid.”

Sir James’s foundation also provides schools with “engineering boxes” including tools and components to help teach children about technology.

He added: “We’ve done what we can in schools and our university is only relatively small, but we hope that idea will catch on and that girls and boys can see engineering, science, software, artificial intelligence, robotics, battery development, are really interesting things to do – and, by the way, a very wealthy thing to do.”

Sir James was speaking as Dyson revealed another year of rapid growth. Revenues soared 40pc to £3.5bn in 2017, with 73pc of the growth coming from Asia. The company's earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation were up 27pc to £801m.

The entrepreneur, who has spoke out in favour of Brexit, said the UK needed to seize opportunities in fast-growing economies in the Far East and other areas outside Europe.

He said: “Europe has very strict legislation and rules about products. Each country has different plugs, different languages, different marketing. It’s a very difficult market compared with the United States or China, which are very big markets but have a single language and less restrictive rules.”

Dyson’s revenues were boosted by rising sales of Dyson’s Supersonic hairdryer, which sells for £300 in the UK, and its pollution-tackling air purifiers.

The company has increased the size of its UK workforce by 2.5 times in the last five years to 4,600. It plans to open a new site this year at Hullavington Airfield, down the road from its headquarters in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, which will house engineers working on its plan to launch an electric car.

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Smart upskilling in the reskilling revolution

The skills needed in the workplace are changing continuously, pushing the need for innovation, adaptation and flexibility. To meet these challenges, organisations need to have a robust strategy for 'smart upskilling'. It is not enough to rely on recruiting people with the right skills ­ – competition for top talent is intense.

Instead, HR and learning and development professionals are facing a ‘reskilling revolution’ according to a January 2018 report on the future of jobs, by the World Economic Forum In collaboration with The Boston Consulting Group1.

The report’s authors suggest a new way forward – harnessing the disruptive technology that is changing the workplace to underpin a data-driven approach to lifelong learning and smart upskilling. The fear is that, as with previous industrial revolutions and the advent of computing, some employees will be left behind and become redundant.

Indeed, US Bureau of Labour Statistics projections predict that the US labour market will see the loss of 1.4m redundant jobs by 2026, set against the creation of 12.4m new jobs

Culture of continuous learning

The latest approach to smart upskilling does not simply focus on the role-specific expertise of individuals. It gives equal weight to soft skills such as language and communication skills. These skills can form the basis for transitioning individuals into multiple roles, including ones not yet invented.

When employees have the soft skills needed to communicate well with each other – and that includes having good understanding of cultural differences as well as foreign language skills – they may be deployed into many different positions internationally.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) report concedes that it is important to bake into any job transition strategy the requirements of both individual employees and company management.

Plans to create a flexible and adaptable workforce must include recognition that individuals will only consider viable job transition options – they will not for example, want to move to a role where the remuneration is significantly less than they are used to.

Job transition pathways

The report sets out a model strategy for examining and defining ‘good fit’ job transition opportunities for a number of selected jobs across various job families, such as office and administrative and production job families.

So, for example, Inspectors, Testers, Sorters, Samplers and Weighers, whose jobs may well see automation, could be transitioned into Quality Control Analysts job roles. Secretaries and Administrative Assistants might become Meeting, Convention and Event Planners.

Indeed, “translating reskilling into viable and desirable jobs will require new thinking around workforce planning. As redeploying workers across jobs will become the norm, there will also be a need for agile social protection and insurance mechanisms that avoid destabilising income while prioritising rapid workforce re-integration.”1

In essence this means that L&D professionals can learn much from the World Economic Forum’s suggested approach to job transition pathways. Thinking beyond current roles will be essential. It is not simply about identifying a target new role, but also carrying out a skills gap analysis and retraining the employee.

It is best viewed within the context of lifelong learning, where smart upskilling is a continuous process. Learning and development professionals have a role to play in fostering a culture of continuous learning.

There must be an expectation that employees will take some responsibility for self-directed learning, particularly when it comes to the soft skills such as negotiation, communication and language skills that are needed to succeed in any role.

Much of this learning is most effective when employees access it on the job, at the point of need, when they feel they need to brush up their skills for a specific purpose. However, it is also important to get line manager buy-in to allowing employees enough time to spend on self-development.

Because, in the long run, boosting individuals’ mobility and employability will be key to the success of the organisation.

Reference

1 ‘Insight Report Towards a Reskilling Revolution A Future of Jobs for All’ January 2018

World Economic Forum In collaboration with The Boston Consulting Group.  https://www.weforum.org/reports/towards-a-reskilling-revolution

February 2018

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How Generation Z Is Finally Making LinkedIn Younger

LinkedIn rolled out the red carpet for Millennials years ago, only to have them largely stay away from the business- and career-focused social media platform in favor of other sites that have the "fun factor." 

It's no secret that LinkedIn's core active user base is dominated by Gen X and Baby Boomers. However, LinkedIn may finally be attracting a younger user base, and it's not with Millennials after all.

Generation Z seems poised to fill the gap left by Millennials on the platform.

Early signs have shown that Gen Zs may have stronger entrepreneurial aspirations and be more focused on making money than previous generations. Gen Z's entrepreneurs are making their presence felt on LinkedIn. 

For the first time ever, I've noticed teenagers and early 20 somethings not only being active on LinkedIn but using the platform to build their brand. 

Canadian 20 Under 20 Entrepreneur award winner and LinkedIn Youth Editor Manu Goswami has racked up an impressive 63,000 followers on the site. 

"There is a massive white space in LinkedIn right now. There is an opportunity for students and young professionals to build their brand on the platform and get disproportionate influence in a very short period of time," said Goswami.

Here are four ways certain Gen Zers are using LinkedIn to get ahead in their careers:

1) Stand out in an internship.

Twenty-one-year-old Natalie Riso used the platform to grab the attention of the company she was interning with. She used LinkedIn's blogging platform, Pulse, to draw attention for both herself and her company. She was told by the CEO at the time that her content was driving a greater ROI from LinkedIn than their paid advertising efforts on the platform.

After a few more posts went viral, she quickly reached almost a quarter of a million followers and became a two-time winner of LinkedIn's Top Voice award. Since then her brand on the platform has really taken off - and all before she graduated from college!  

"I have been able to connect with so many companies and people that have led to collaboration opportunities, speaking engagements and consulting opportunities," added Riso.

2) Connect with influencers.

Last week, I got to sit down over lunch with the 18-year-old entrepreneur and founder of eTasked, Jacob Handley. 

Already in the second year of his company, Handley told me how he has been using LinkedIn to connect with and do business with powerful influencers who have enabled him to get the funding his company needs to grow.

"I have connected with powerful angel investors from First Round, to Angel VC billionaires in San Francisco," said Handley.

I asked Jacob about how he's been able to connect with high-profile people on LinkedIn, "I've found people on LinkedIn are amazingly receptive if you are genuine in your communications. Never send automated messages. Focus on making connections one at a time on LinkedIn. For me, it's been the quality of my connections that have made the difference."  

3) Start conversations that lead somewhere.

LinkedIn has a multitude of ways to start a conversation with an audience. You can share memes and infographics, share your opinion in status updates, write blogs on Pulse, create on- platform videos, and more. Manu Goswami believes it is the opportunity to share his content with a business audience that has made the biggest difference for him: 

"LinkedIn has given me an outlet to share my thoughts with other professionals. With my #UNCONVENTIONAL series (which has over 12.4M views since its inception), I have been able to interview notable leaders like Mark Cuban, Lewis Howes, Jay Shetty, and Justin Stirling. Moreover, the narratives and ideas I shared on LinkedIn also sparked the attention of event organizers who began asking me to come out and speak at schools, festivals, and events."

4) Host a LinkedIn Local event.

It all started with a hashtag: #LinkedInLocal. These events are uniting users of the platform in person and connecting humans. The popularity of LinkedIn Local has taken off globally and Manu Goswami has helped lead the charge. 

"I've organized LinkedIn meetups in almost every continent in the world and as a co-founder of LinkedIn Local, I've helped set up the infrastructure for over 100 meetups that will be happening this year. These events were sparked by my desire to meet my community," Said Goswami.

While it is safe to say that LinkedIn won't be stealing users from Snapchat just quite yet. It is apparent that LinkedIn is finally getting younger. Have you noticed?

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The Definitive Guide to Working With the Millennial Species

Millennials are a humanoid form presently perplexing the professional world. Never before has such an incomprehensible and downright mysterious breed had the propensity to darken hiring mangers’ moods the world over.

Oddly, literally no one is writing about Millennials. So in the absence of anyarticles anywhere discussing these creatures and their deeply idiosyncratic traits, here are some basic tips on how to work with the Millennial. Good luck and Godspeed.

To hire the Millennial, travel to their natural habitat

Millennials cannot be found on the street or hanging out with their friends, nor can you find them pounding the pavement to deliver their resumes to you… So how do you hire them? You need to go to where they are: you can find them in the Snapchat, the Tinder, or the Instagram, where many of them will comfortably Twitter away entire days.

Favorite a Millennial’s tweet on how Bodak Yellow is a banger, and you have a real chance of hiring them. Do not try to understand what any of this means. In short, the Millennial will prefer to work for people who share their values and interests, so do your research.

To retain the Millennial, pay them with “experiences”

Studies show that the Millennial species wants to be involved in high impact work and make a difference, and that experiences are way more important than things. So ask a Millennial to do the hardest, most stressful work then give them a yearly subscription to a rock climbing gym. They will brag about it to their friends as if you’ve given them actual gold.

To make the Millennial think you’re cool, use trial and error

No one really knows how the Millennial mind works, and no one has thought to ask. Your best bet here is to try a bunch of stuff and then double down on what you see working. Here are some phrases to get you started:

On fleek, as in: “Did you see Beyonce’s new Insta last night? Her Givenchy dress was on fleek!”

For that matter, praise Beyonce all day. Don’t hold back either: suggest she should be the world’s president or queen. You’ll get unanimous agreement, no matter how unfounded your statements are. Rihanna can work here too, but avoid Drake.

Avoid any attempt at humor. Not enough studies have been done to understand how humor operates in the Millennial culture, and chances are if you don’t say it with a meme, it won’t land. Don’t take that chance.

Preface all your sentence fragments with the utterance “hashtag.” As in, “hashtag drama,” or “hashtag STFU.” Do not try to understand. Hashtag it’s complicated.

To win their loyalty, offer the Millennial avocado toast, pumpkin spice lattes, and effusive, undeserved praise

In the Millennial culture, these are sacred gifts that will endear you to them eternally. Also a Millennial will need constant positive feedback on their work (in Millennial language, this is called simply “feedback).

To get along with them, never joke about “microaggressions”

Keep in mind that millennials grew up in a world where it was implied to them that everyone was equally deserving of respect. In the Millennial religion, the “microaggression” is the ultimate transgression of this laughable yet pervasive dogma. Avoid talking about it when you can, and when a Millennial brings it up, simply nod gravely and say it’s a serious issue. Do not take any steps to understand, just know that this is the way of the world.

To get rid of them, ask them to “reverse mentor” you

Reverse mentoring is exactly like regular mentoring, except that you add the “reverse” to remind the Millennials of their place. See, in olden times it was the more experienced people who mentored the young, and even though no one wants to hear your irrelevant tips for how to operate in a world you no longer understand, calling it “reverse mentoring” will allow you to keep some semblance of dignity.

Appeasing these Millennial creatures is a necessary struggle, for they hold the keys to unravelling the Great Mystery of Social Media Marketing and pretty much all other enigmas of the Modern World.

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Responding to changing expectations of future talent at BP

Julia Harvie-Liddel, global head of resourcing at BP, outlines how you can respond to the changing expectations of future talent.

Millennials, or Generation Y, now account for more than 15% of the total global workforce, and by 2025, this will rise to 75%.

Recruiters’ mindsets have had to shift to take into account that millennials are no longer just the graduates of today, but are increasingly moving into the experienced hires bracket. We are also starting to see the first cohort of Centennials, or Generation Z, graduating from university, who are digital natives, and this is again forcing mindsets to shift further still. 

Recruitment strategies have had to adapt, taking into account what these new generations want, with digital technology having arguably the biggest impact. As candidates increasingly come to expect convenience and mobile experiences, it is fair to say that digital has changed recruitment forever. 

The impact of digital innovation on recruitment 

The rise of digital technology has forced companies to take a more personalised approach to recruitment.

Digital has made it possible to target audiences much more precisely with talent communications content. This is a great advantage, as it ensures that your content is seen by the right people and allows recruiters to create much more relevant, bespoke content.

We’ve seen some really innovative examples of personalised talent communications, such as McDonalds promoting their own employee advocacy stories via Snapchat.

Beyond social platforms, companies are also using new and emerging consumer technologies, such as Virtual Reality (VR) in their recruitment processes to attract applications. For example, the British Army is using VR headsets at graduate recruitment events  to show a much higher level of realism and excite prospects.

The enduring value of face-to-face interaction

However, despite technology making it easier for students to interact with employers digitally, having face-time with prospective employers is still highly valued by students, and recruitment events are still one of the key platforms for this.

Even leading tech companies like Google hold open days and face-to-face recruitment sessions for potential employees, and every application they receive is reviewed by a member of staff.

But it’s not a case of one versus the other – it’s more about taking the learnings from our digital strategies, and applying them to physical events. To be successful, in-person recruitment events need to be personalised to the audience, and give them something back in return for their participation. 

Attracting female talent into engineering

Let me give an example from my own experience at BP. As a company operating in a traditionally male-dominated industry, one of our challenges is to engage more female graduates so that they apply to work with us. It’s a long-term challenge, but it’s something we’re firmly committed to overcoming.

Following research by High Fliers, which showed that female students are less confident than their male counterparts, we decided to run a series of networking events, offering personal brand workshops to female undergraduates, to help them find the confidence they need to pursue their chosen career.

Each participant receives a professionally taken LinkedIn headshot, which they can upload to their online profiles, as a thank you for taking part.

We’ve found these events to be valuable for us, as they allow us to engage with female talent at an early stage, but also equally valuable for the students themselves, as they have the opportunity to meet new people, develop their networking skills, and leave with advice that will help them in their future careers, wherever they may end up working. 

Despite the shifting demographic, face-to-face engagement and the chance to learn something new will be valuable to any job seeker, no matter what generation they’re from.

What does the future hold?

With the demands of talent continually evolving, recruitment is undergoing an exciting period of change. How do companies keep up with this shift and plan for the future? 

The first thing I would recommend is to review your current hiring practices.Instead of a telephone interview, consider video interviews to enable face-to-face discussion.

Other technologies such as VR, artificial intelligence and gamification are increasingly being used at various stages of the recruitment process, and I expect this trend to continue. 

New digital recruitment platforms and apps are also being brought out every day, so in order to keep up, think about attending industry conferences, reading relevant recruitment magazines, and discussing developments with your peers.

You can also ask for feedback from applicants, which allows you to tailor your recruitment process to the target talent, who can tell you directly about their preferred means of interacting with recruiters.

Staying on top of technology trends in recruitment will be increasingly important with “Generation Z” now entering the workforce – a group who have never experienced life without digital devices.

For this tech-savvy generation, growing up with the internet means they will be more sceptical of information they see online, so companies will need to find ways of reaching them in an authentic way – I see employee advocacy playing an even stronger role as we look to recruit the next generation of graduates.  

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The Future of Work is Here — Here’s How Your Organization Needs to Change

New standards around workplace collaboration will require leaders to shift how they think about organizing their workforces.

The convergence of technological advancements and generational shifts are rapidly transforming the way people work.

From mobile and machine learning to analytics and automation, different technologies are taking over the workplace and drastically altering the capability requirements of the existing workforce. At the same time, the composition of the workforce is evolving: networks of contractors, partnerships and freelance contributors are intermingling with traditional full-time employees. Making this shift even more interesting are the digital automation tools that are further changing what work is done.

Traditional organizational structures from decades ago are ill-suited for how work actually gets done today and will be done in the future. This is because work is no longer a function of command-and-control hierarchical structures. Rather, most work today, regardless of your formal structure, is getting done in organic networks.

Though empowering, the digital age is confusing. As a result, employees have counterproductively adopted an assortment of different tools out of necessity for collaboration. If organizations leave employees on their own to answer the complex questions posed by the digital age, then not only can business performance suffer, but also talent will likely flee.

Collaboration Required

Doing nothing isn’t an option. The best talent won’t stay long where collaboration is weak. Leaders must evaluate how the company interacts with potential talent, current employees and the work itself to create a new environment where workers intentionally collaborate. Collaboration is a mix of virtual and physical participation and cooperation for a common overarching cause. Accordingly, as digital solutions drive an increase in employee and customer expectations, being intentionally collaborative is critical to aligning how work gets done across technologies, people and boundaries. When leaders are asked if their people collaborate, they usually answer “yes,” but if you ask if they are intentional in creating or fostering collaboration, they will usually respond “sometimes” or “no,” leaving their companies’ collaboration efforts to be inconsistent and largely left to chance.

Research published in 2017 by professional services firm Deloitte on how to create an organization where talent wants to be has found that meaningful work, supportive management, a positive work environment, growth opportunities and trust in leadership are key ingredients, while cross-organization collaboration and communication tie it together to make the organization “simply irresistible.”

What do the new ways of effective collaboration look like in practice?

Consider the story of one of our clients, an international bank with more than 100,000 employees. Unifying its global workforce had grown difficult. However, the bank’s new collaborative system is proving to be an impactful tool because it gives employees the ability to opt-in to forums and groups they want to be part of, rather than being on the receiving end of email distribution with irrelevant information for many employees. Leading collaboration tools are designed to create network-based groups that reduce the perceived distance between employees and foster collaboration. Moreover, these tools extend collaboration beyond the borders of the organization to include customers, suppliers and partners. Thus, having a collaboration platform provides a differentiated way of connecting and working across workforce generations, geographies and levels.

Another recent example is a large technology company working to define what collaboration means for its employees, what the right tools to use are and how to deploy them in the most effective manner. In its initial attempts to foster collaboration across its various sources of talent, the company placed an emphasis on geographic proximity. However, merely providing an area for the different types of workers to physically come together didn’t have an immediate business impact because the company was thinking about it more from a communications perspective rather than a collaboration perspective focused on fostering new ways of working. Workers who collaborate have figured out how to cross geographies, silos, hierarchies and cultures to create more innovative and effective work.

Aside from deploying a new collaboration tool or creating a geographic collaboration zone, what other tangible actions can an organization take to improve their talent through an intentionally collaborative culture?

Below are just a few of the multiple minimum viable changes that can help generate momentum:

Start staff meetings with a “collaboration moment” with employees sharing unique ways they are collaborating across silos, hierarchies, geographies and even with customers. Establish a Collaboration Center of Excellence to help employees use collaboration zones, collaboration tools and work collaboratively across organizational boundaries. Conduct an Organization Network Analysis, known as an ONA, to understand who, how and why certain people are connecting to generate more impactful work.

Doing Nothing Isn’t an Option

The future of work has arrived, and companies can’t afford to ignore it. Substantial changes in workplace technology, workforce demographics and worker preferences have drastically altered how talent is sourced, operates and is managed. Work across business and talent ecosystems is becoming increasingly complex and requires collaboration to be intentional not incidental. Not only do the majority of employees want to work for digitally enabled organizations, but also they perceive working for less digitally mature organizations as potentially harmful to their careers. By cultivating more effective collaboration, companies can fundamentally alter the way they work to find new ways to solve complex business problems, innovate and improve the overall employee experience.

Erica Volini is the U.S. human capital leader for Deloitte Consulting LLP. Garth Andrus is a human capital leader in Deloitte Digital and Deloitte Consulting LLP.

January 2018

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What Would Aliens Think About How We Work?

Looking at how we work from an outsider's perspective, even if that is from an alien's point of view, can open our eyes to flaws in our established views and systems

Can you imagine if an alien came to earth to observe humans? What would they think about how we live? They might be surprised at our technology, fascination with social media and reality TV, or perhaps how much we cheer for our favorite sport teams. There's no doubt that humans and all our societal quirks would be fascinating to aliens.

But what about how and why we work? The alien might be surprised that we don't live very long. And with the short 70-80 years that we have on earth, on average, we spend a large majority of that time working. The aliens might be ok with that part, but they could be surprised that many humans spend so much of their time working for managers who don't appreciate them and organizations who don't treat them very well.

Sometimes it takes a fresh set of eyes, even if they belong to an alien, to see how things really are. We can get so used to our work situations, even if they are less than ideal, that we forget that there can be a better way to work. A look in the thesaurus can also help show us what our work habits are really like. Synonyms for employee are servant, cog, or slave; manager is also used as slavedriver, boss, or zookeeper; and work synonyms are daily grind or struggle. Put that all together and we are all cogs working for a slavedriver going about our daily drudgery.

Why does it matter what a hypothetical alien thinks of how we work? It all comes down to a fresh perspective and changing how we think about things. After decades of the same situations being drilled into our minds, the way we think about work, employees, and managers is a little backwards. Now is the time to take charge and redefine what these words mean inside your company. But how do you go about changing things that have been cemented in our minds for so long? Try these three ideas:

1.     Lead by example. It can be overwhelming for an employee to try to make such a big change in an organization, but managers and executives can lead the way. The best way to change the mindset of an organization isn't to put out a memo, but to lead by example. If you want to redefine what a manager is, start by being that kind of manager. Be open with employees, offer good feedback, and make yourself available. As you follow your own definition, your actions will likely spread to others.

2.     Be positive. One of the reasons so many people don't enjoy their jobs is because many workplaces have become breeding grounds for negativity. It's easy to complain about difficult co-workers, customers, or assignments. Instead, try to find the positive. It may be hard at first, but doing so will change your attitude about work, which can spread throughout the organization. Soon, even simple everyday tasks can be viewed positively instead of being a drudgery.

3.     Change the mission. Much of how an organization operates comes from its mission, goals, and culture. By changing or adjusting the mission of a company, the way managers and employees think about themselves and their work can also change. Many companies have had success in this area by putting together a group of employees from all areas and levels to reevaluate how the company is performing and treating its employees. With a variety of feedback, the company can see how it needs to adjust its mission to change the definition of work and ensure happier employees.

Looking at how we work from an outsider's perspective, even if that is from an alien's point of view, can open our eyes to flaws in our established views and systems. Take a minute to step back, re-evaluate, and redefine work at your organization.

To learn more why we need to change how we think about work, watch this video.

December 2017

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What Jobs Will Emerge In The Future Of Work?

The last year or so has seen tremendous growth in doomsday like predictions of the impact technology will have on employment. A raft of studies have been released, most of which take great relish in declaring how many jobs will be lost as a result of technology, and particularly automated technology. Such studies have many flaws, but possibly their largest is they succumb to the 'lump of labor' fallacy, which assumes that there are a fixed number of jobs, and therefore once they are lost they are lost for good.

Of course, we all know that isn’t the case, and throughout human history, technology has created as many, and often times more, jobs than it has destroyed. So what are some of the new jobs that might emerge thanks to technological developments? That was the question posed by Cognizant recently in a new paper that examined 21 new jobs that they believe will be created in the next ten years.

The report attempted to find jobs that both don’t exist today and that might employ large numbers of people. It breaks each job down according to their ‘tech-centricity’ and displays each role in the form of a job description, thus outlining the kind of tasks they believe such people will perform.

The 21 roles, which include ‘personal data broker’ and ‘genomic portfolio director’, span a range of sectors and departments, but they each share three things that Cognizant believe will be crucial to the future of work in the machine age:

1. Coaching - there will be a strong focus on helping people to get better at certain things.

2. Caring - health and wellbeing will be increasingly important in the future as health systems struggle to cope to changing social, economic and technological trends.

3. Connecting - the future will increasingly be a partnership, whether between man and machine, traditional and shadow IT or physical and virtual. Being able to bridge these worlds will be key.

"These 3C’s speak to a universal truth – that no matter how technological our age becomes, ultimately we, as humans, want the human touch. We want technology to help us, as a tool, but we don’t want technology for technology’s sake," the report says.

Cognizant are firmly and unashamedly in the optimist (or more accurately realist) camp, and the authors book What To Do When Machines Do Everything is one that I’ve covered on this blog in the past. As such, theirs is an outlook that is one I largely agree with. Technology will undoubtedly disrupt a great many jobs in the coming years, but all the evidence to date suggests that it will create just as many, if not more. The problem is that those that are lost are very known and familiar to us, whereas new roles are unfamiliar and unknown, therefore they seem less tangible.

It remains to be seen whether the 21 specific roles outlined in the report will come into fruition, and whilst they are indeed interesting, I think it’s a mistake to get too bogged down with specific positions. Instead, the message to take away from the paper that the 4th industrial revolution will bring a great many benefits to society, not only in the services technology will provide us, but in the new roles that will emerge off the back of the change.

The challenge now is to ensure that the population has the tools and capabilities to learn throughout their life so that they can re-skill sufficiently to take advantage of the new jobs that emerge. 

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Unleashing Your Company's Greatest Assets

Companies say that their greatest assets are their people. Often, this is not reflected in the way decision-making is structured. Here's how you can change that and grow exponentially.

While many businesses have realized the inherent benefits of hiring military veterans, not the least of which is a "can do" mentality, fewer have incorporated the actual strategies employed by the military to increase efficiency, morale and results.

One company that has is the San Francisco startup Rhumbix whose app modernizes large construction projects by successfully bridging the gap between the office and workers in the field. Launched by U.S. Navy vets Zach Scheel and Drew DeWalt, both of whom are also grads of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, the Rhumbix platform was not only inspired by military technology but the company incorporates many of the organizational elements the two entrepreneurs took from their time in the Navy. 

"The idea for Rhumbix hit us like a ton of bricks over beers in a remote area of Chile when Drew and I were overseeing separate construction projects," says Rhumbix CEO Scheel. "We were both frustrated by a lack of productivity and began analyzing the tools we used in the military."

Improving Productivity, Military Style

They remembered a geo-location tool used for tracking "friendly" forces called "Blue Force Tracking" and realized the impact it could have on construction sites to better gauge "tool time" and understand how to improve productivity. "That opened up the door to us thinking about how the construction industry could better adapt to new technologies and improve their operations," said Scheel. "We went to work as soon as we got back to the States and Rhumbix was born."

But it wasn't just the military-inspired tech that drove Scheel and DeWalt, whose company has seen more than $20M in funding to date. They looked to the military organizational model to improve productivity. "We leaned heavily on the way General Stanley McChrystal changed the way the military operated in fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq," said COO DeWalt. "We had the best training, technology and weapons. And while we were winning the firefights we were still losing the war."

Unleashing A Company's Greatest Assets

To address this, General McChrystal moved from an organizational mindset where efficiency was the goal to one that favored adaptability and inclusion. "I remember reading about the key to his command and it stuck with me," said Scheel. "It was about changing the thinkers into doers and the doers into thinkers so everybody became both. This led to faster and better decisions that took rapidly changing conditions and the experience of the troops into account.  As our platform is about diminishing the divide between management and workers in the field, it made sense that our company ran the same way."

Many companies rely on a traditional model in which time-sensitive and critical information is kept behind closed doors and accessed only by the decision-makers. So while organizations may say that their greatest asset is their people, it's often not reflected in the way decision-making is structured.

"Our strategy, based on the military model, is to turn the traditional decision-making process on its head," said DeWalt. "We give those who are most exposed to changing conditions the responsibility and authority to make key decisions. It doesn't mean we've given up control. Just like it doesn't mean an Army Private is telling a General how to do his job.  But it does mean our decisions are better informed and our employees are more engaged."

Empower Your Team to Respond to Rapidly Changing Conditions

Another military operational value that many companies can benefit from is maximizing data. Investing heavily in business intelligence tools and databases may provide information but how that data is utilized can determine a good or bad investment. According to General McChrystal, "More data does not equal more predictability," and Scheel agrees. "We move our data throughout our company. Even if an employee is receiving information that may not seem applicable to their role, when we meet as a team, which is often, having everyone on the same page in terms of information allows us to move much more quickly towards decisions."

The pace of change in business today requires nimble, adaptable teams that can respond to rapidly changing conditions. Having the right technology, skills and resources is critical, but it's not the whole picture. Companies must evaluate their behaviors and organizational structures and ask whether they are getting the results we want at every level of the organization. Those to take the time to do so will be rewarded with massive opportunities for increased value and productivity.

 

 

October 2017

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Learning Organization Profile

This 25-question survey is used to determine if your company is on the correct path for becoming a Learning Organization.

Instructions: Below is a list of statements. Read each one carefully, and then decide the extent to which it actually applies to your organization by using the scale below: 

4 = applies fully 3 = applies to a great extent 2 = applies to a moderate extent 1 = applies to little or no extent 

Be honest with your answers as the goal is to identify where your organization is presently at so that you can make improvements.

Learning Dynamics: Individual, Group or Team, and Organization

1_______ We are encouraged and expected to manage our own learning and development.

2_______ People avoid distorting information and blocking communication channels, using such skills as active listening and effective feedback.

3_______ Individuals are trained and coached in learning how to learn.

4_______ Teams and individuals use the action learning process. (That is, they learn from careful reflection on problem situations, and then apply their new knowledge to future actions.)

5_______ People are able to think and act with a comprehensive, systems approach.

Organization Transformation: Vision, Culture, Strategy, and Structure

6_______ Top-level managers support the vision of a learning organization.

7_______ There is a climate that supports and recognizes the importance of learning.

8_______ We learn from failures as well as successes.

9_______ Learning opportunities are incorporated into operations and programs.

10_______ The organization is streamlined--with few management levels--to maximize communication and learning across all levels. 

People Empowerment: Employee, Manager, Customer, and Community 

11_______ We strive to develop an empowered workforce able to learn and perform.

12_______ Authority is decentralized and delegated.

13_______ Managers take on the roles of coaching, mentoring, and facilitating learning.

14_______ We actively share information with our customers to obtain their ideas to learn and improve services and products.

15_______ We participate in joint learning events with supplies, community groups, professional associations, and academic institutions. 

Knowledge Management: Acquisition, Creation, Storage and Retrieval, and Transfer and Use

16_______ People monitor trends outside our organization by looking at what others do--for example, by benchmarking best practices, attending conferences, and examining published research.

17_______ People are trained in the skills of creative thinking and experimentation.

18_______ We often create demonstration projects to test new ways of developing a product or delivering a service.

19_______ Systems and structures exist to ensure that important knowledge is coded, stored, and made available to those who need and can use it.

20_______ We continue to develop new strategies and mechanisms for sharing learning throughout the organization. 

Technology Application: Information Systems, Technology-Based Learning, and EPSS (Electronic Performance Support Systems)

21_______ Effective and efficient computer-based information systems help our organizational learning.

22_______ People have ready access to the information superhighway--for example, through local area networks, the Internet, ASTD Online, and so on.

23_______ Learning facilities such as training and conference rooms incorporate electronic multimedia support.

24_______ We support just-in-time learning with a system that integrates high-technology learning systems, coaching, and actual work into a seamless process.

25_______ Electronic Performance Support Systems (EPSS) enable us to learn and do our work better. 

_______ Total (Maximum Score 100)

Scoring

81 - 100: Congratulations! You are well on your way to becoming a learning organization!

61 - 80: Keep on moving! Your organization has a solid learning foundation. 

40 - 60: A good beginning. Your organization has gathered some important building blocks to become a learning organization. 

Below 40: Watch out! Time to make drastic changes if you want to survive in a rapidly changing world.

Content was really clear 448 Content hit the target 361 Thanks for the learning boost! 361

The learning organization: principles, theory and practice

The learning organization. Just what constitutes a ‘learning organization is a matter of some debate. We explore some of the themes that have emerged in the literature and the contributions of key thinkers like Donald Schon and Peter Senge. Is it anything more than rhetoric? Can it be realized?

Many consultants and organizations have recognized the commercial significance of organizational learning – and the notion of the ‘learning organization’ has been a central orienting point in this. Writers have sought to identify templates, or ideal forms, ‘which real organizations could attempt to emulate’ (Easterby-Smith and Araujo 1999: 2). In this sense the learning organization is an ideal, ‘towards which organizations have to evolve in order to be able to respond to the various pressures [they face] (Finger and Brand 1999: 136). It is characterized by a recognition that ‘individual and collective learning are key’ (op. cit.).

Two important things result from this. First, while there has been a lot of talk about learning organizations it is very difficult to identify real-life examples. This might be because the vision is ‘too ideal’ or because it isn’t relevant to the requirements and dynamics of organizations. Second, the focus on creating a template and upon the need to present it in a form that is commercially attractive to the consultants and writers has led to a significant under-powering of the theoretical framework for the learning organization. Here there is a distinct contrast with the study of organizational learning.

Although theorists of learning organizations have often drawn on ideas from organizational learning, there has been little traffic in the reverse direction. Moreover, since the central concerns have been somewhat different, the two literatures have developed along divergent tracks. The literature on organizational learning has concentrated on the detached collection and analysis of the processes involved in individual and collective learning inside organizations; whereas the learning organizations literature has an action orientation, and is geared toward using specific diagnostic and evaluative methodological tools which can help to identify, promote and evaluate the quality of learning processes inside organizations. (Easterby-Smith and Araujo 1999: 2; see also Tsang 1997).

We could argue that organizational learning is the ‘activity and the process by which organizations eventually reach the ideal of a learning organization’ (Finger and Brand 1999: 136).

On this page we examine the path-breaking work of Donald Schon on firms as learning systems and then go on to explore Peter Senge’s deeply influential treatment of the learning organization (and it’s focus on systemic thinking and dialogue). We finish with a brief exploration of the contribution of social capital to the functioning of organizations.

The learning society and the knowledge economy

The emergence of the idea of the ‘learning organization’ is wrapped up with notions such as ‘the learning society’. Perhaps the defining contribution here was made by Donald Schon. He provided a theoretical framework linking the experience of living in a situation of an increasing change with the need for learning.

The loss of the stable state means that our society and all of its institutions are in continuous processes of transformation. We cannot expect new stable states that will endure for our own lifetimes.

We must learn to understand, guide, influence and manage these transformations. We must make the capacity for undertaking them integral to ourselves and to our institutions.

We must, in other words, become adept at learning. We must become able not only to transform our institutions, in response to changing situations and requirements; we must invent and develop institutions which are ‘learning systems’, that is to say, systems capable of bringing about their own continuing transformation. (Schon 1973: 28)

One of Schon’s great innovations was to explore the extent to which companies, social movements and governments were learning systems – and how those systems could be enhanced. He suggests that the movement toward learning systems is, of necessity, ‘a groping and inductive process for which there is no adequate theoretical basis’ (ibid.: 57). The business firm, Donald Schon argued, was a striking example of a learning system. He charted how firms moved from being organized around products toward integration around ‘business systems’ (ibid.: 64). He made the case that many companies no longer have a stable base in the technologies of particular products or the systems build around them. Crucially Donald Schon then went on with Chris Argyris to develop a number of important concepts with regard to organizational learning. Of particular importance for later developments was their interest in feedback and single- and double-loop learning. 

Subsequently, we have seen very significant changes in the nature and organization of production and services. Companies, organizations and governments have to operate in a global environment that has altered its character in significant ways.

Productivity and competitiveness are, by and large, a function of knowledge generation and information processing: firms and territories are organized in networks of production, management and distribution; the core economic activities are global – that is they have the capacity to work as a unit in real time, or chosen time, on a planetary scale. (Castells 2001: 52)

A failure to attend to the learning of groups and individuals in the organization spells disaster in this context. As Leadbeater (2000: 70) has argued, companies need to invest not just in new machinery to make production more efficient, but in the flow of know-how that will sustain their business. Organizations need to be good at knowledge generation, appropriation and exploitation.

The learning organization

It was in this context that Peter Senge (1990) began to explore ‘The art and practice of the learning organization’. Over 750,000 copies of The Fifth Discipline (1990) were sold in the decade following its publication – and it is probably this book that has been the most significant factor in popularising the notion of the learning organization. However, as Sandra Kerka remarked in 1995 ‘there is not… a consensus on the definition of a learning organization’. Indeed, little has changed since. Garvin (2000: 9) recently observed that a clear definition of the learning organization has proved to be elusive.

Exhibit 1: Three definitions of a learning organization

Learning organizations [are] organizations where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole together. (Senge 1990: 3)

The Learning Company is a vision of what might be possible. It is not brought about simply by training individuals; it can only happen as a result of learning at the whole organization level. A Learning Company is an organization that facilitates the learning of all its members and continuously transforms itself. (Pedler et. al. 1991: 1)

Learning organizations are characterized by total employee involvement in a process of collaboratively conducted, collectively accountable change directed towards shared values or principles. (Watkins and Marsick 1992: 118)

We can see much that is shared in these definitions – and some contrasts. To start with the last first: some writers (such as Pedler et. al.) appear to approach learning organizations as something that are initiated and developed by senior management – they involve a top-down, managerial imposed, vision (Hughes and Tight 1998: 183). This can be contrasted with more ‘bottom-up’ or democratic approaches such as that hinted at by Watkins and Marsick (1992; 1993). Some writers have looked to the learning company, but most have proceeded on the assumption that any type of organization can be a learning organization. A further crucial distinction has been reproduced from the use of theories from organizational learning. This is the distinction made between technical and social variants (Easterby-Smith and Araujo 1999: 8). The technical variant has looked to interventions based on measure such as the ‘learning curve’ (in which historical data on production costs is plotted against the cumulative output of a particular product) (op. cit.). There is a tendency in such approaches to focus on outcomes rather than the processes of learning. The social view of the learning organization looks to interaction and process – and it is this orientation that has come to dominate the popular literature.

According to Sandra Kerka (1995) most conceptualizations of the learning organizations seem to work on the assumption that ‘learning is valuable, continuous, and most effective when shared and that every experience is an opportunity to learn’ (Kerka 1995). The following characteristics appear in some form in the more popular conceptions. Learning organizations:

Provide continuous learning opportunities.

Use learning to reach their goals.

Link individual performance with organizational performance.

Foster inquiry and dialogue, making it safe for people to share openly and take risks.

Embrace creative tension as a source of energy and renewal.

Are continuously aware of and interact with their environment. (Kerka 1995)

As Kerka (1995) goes onto comment, the five disciplines that Peter Senge goes on to identify (personal mastery, mental models, shared vision, team learning and systems thinking) are the keys to achieving this sort of organization. Here, rather than focus too strongly on the five disciplines (these can be followed up in our review of Senge and the learning organization) we want to comment briefly on his use of systemic thinking and his interest in ‘dialogue’ (and the virtues it exhibits). These two elements in many respects mark out his contribution.

Systems theory and the learning organization

Systemic thinking is the conceptual cornerstone (‘The Fifth Discipline’) of Peter Senge’s approach. It is the discipline that integrates the others, fusing them into a coherent body of theory and practice (1990: 12). Systems theory’s ability to comprehend and address the whole, and to examine the interrelationship between the parts provides, for Peter Senge, both the incentive and the means to integrate the disciplines. Three things need noting here. First, systems theory looks to connections and to the whole. In this respect it allows people to look beyond the immediate context and to appreciate the impact of their actions upon others (and vice versa). To this extent it holds the possibility of achieving a more holistic understanding. Second, while the building blocks of systems theory are relatively simple, they can build into a rather more sophisticated model than are current in many organizations. Senge argues that one of the key problems with much that is written about, and done in the name of management, is that rather simplistic frameworks are applied to what are complex systems. When we add these two points together it is possible to move beyond a focus on the parts, to begin to see the whole, and to appreciate organization as a dynamic process. Thus, the argument runs, a better appreciation of systems will lead to more appropriate action. Third, systemic thinking, according to Senge, allows us to realize the significance of feedback mechanisms in organizations. He concludes:

The systems viewpoint is generally oriented toward the long-term view. That’s why delays and feedback loops are so important. In the short term, you can often ignore them; they’re inconsequential. They only come back to haunt you in the long term. (Senge1990: 92)

While other writers may lay stress on systems theory, in Senge’s hands it sharpens the model – and does provide some integration of the ‘disciplines’ he identifies.

Dialogue and the learning organization

Peter Senge also places an emphasis on dialogue in organizations – especially with regard to the discipline of team learning. Dialogue (or conversation) as Gadamer has argued is is a process of two people understanding each other. As such it is inherently risky and involves questioning our beliefs and assumptions.

Thus it is a characteristic of every true conversation that each opens himself to the other person, truly accepts his point of view as worthy of consideration and gets inside the other to such an extent that he understands not a particular individual, but what he says. The thing that has to be grasped is the objective rightness or otherwise of his opinion, so that they can agree with each other on a subject. (Gadamer 1979: 347)

The concern is not to ‘win the argument’, but to advance understanding and human well being. Agreement cannot be imposed, but rests on common conviction (Habermas 1984: 285-287). As a social relationship it entails certain virtues and emotions.

It is easy to see why proponents of the learning organization would place a strong emphasis upon dialogue. As Peter Senge has argued, for example, team learning entails the capacity of members of a team to suspend assumptions and enter into a genuine “thinking together”’ (1990: 10). Dialogue is also necessary to other disciplines e.g. building a shared vision and developing mental models. However, there are significant risks in dialogue to the organization. One factor in the appeal of Senge’s view of dialogue (which was based upon the work of David Bohmand associates) was the promise that it could increase and enrich corporate activity. It could do this, in part, through the exploration and questioning of ‘inherent, predetermined purposes and goals’ (Bohm et. al. 1991). There is a clear parallel here with Argyris and Schön’s work on double-loop learning, but interestingly one of Bohm’s associates has subsequently suggested that their view was too optimistic: ‘dialogue is very subversive’ (Factor 1994).

Some problems and issues

In our discussion of Senge and the learning organizationwe point to some particular problems associated with his conceptualization. These include a failure to fully appreciate and incorporate the imperatives that animate modern organizations; the relative sophistication of the thinking he requires of managers (and whether many in practice they are up to it); and questions around his treatment of organizational politics. It is certainly difficult to find real-life examples of learning organizations (Kerka 1995). There has also been a lack of critical analysis of the theoretical framework.

Based on their study of attempts to reform the Swiss Postal Service, Matthias Finger and Silvia B?rgin Brand (1999) provide us with a useful listing of more important shortcomings of the learning organization concept. They conclude that it is not possible to transform a bureaucratic organization by learning initiatives alone. They believe that by referring to the notion of the learning organization it was possible to make change less threatening and more acceptable to participants. ‘However, individual and collective learning which has undoubtedly taken place has not really been connected to organizational change and transformation’ (ibid.: 146). Part of the issue, they suggest, is to do with the concept of the learning organization itself. They argue the following points. The concept of the learning organization:

Focuses mainly on the cultural dimension, and does not adequately take into account the other dimensions of an organization. To transform an organization it is necessary to attend to structures and the organization of work as well as the culture and processes. ‘Focussing exclusively on training activities in order to foster learning… favours this purely cultural bias’ (ibid.: 146).

Favours individual and collective learning processes at all levels of the organization, but does not connect them properly to the organization’s strategic objectives. Popular models of organizational learning (such as Dixon 1994) assume such a link. It is, therefore, imperative, ‘that the link between individual and collective learning and the organization’s strategic objectives is made’ (ibid.: 147). This shortcoming, Finger and Brand argue, makes a case for some form of measurement of organizational learning – so that it is possible to assess the extent to which such learning contributes or not towards strategic objectives.

Remains rather vague. The exact functions of organizational learning need to be more clearly defined.

In our view, organizational learning is just a means in order to achieve strategic objectives. But creating a learning organization is also a goal, since the ability permanently and collectively to learn is a necessary precondition for thriving in the new context. Therefore, the capacity of an organization to learn, that is, to function like a learning organization, needs to be made more concrete and institutionalized, so that the management of such learning can be made more effective. (ibid.: 147)

Finally, Finger and Brand conclude, that there is a need to develop ‘a true management system of an organization’s evolving learning capacity’ (op. cit.). This, they suggest, can be achieved through defining indicators of learning (individual and collective) and by connecting them to other indicators.

Conclusion

It could be argued that the notion of the learning organization provides managers and others with a picture of how things could be within an organization. Along the way, writers like Peter Senge introduce a number of interesting dimensions that could be personally developmental, and that could increase organizational effectiveness – especially where the enterprise is firmly rooted in the ‘knowledge economy. However, as we have seen, there are a number of shortcomings to the model – it is theoretically underpowered and there is some question as to whether the vision can be realized within the sorts of dynamics that exist within and between organizations in a globalized capitalist economy. It might well be that ‘the concept is being oversold as a near-universal remedy for a wide variety of organizational problems’ (Kuchinke 1995 quoted in Kerka 1995).

There have been various attempts by writers to move ‘beyond’ the learning organization. (The cynics among us might conclude that there is a great deal of money in it for the writers who can popularise the next ‘big thing’ in management and organizational development). Thus, we find guides and texts on ‘the developing organization’ (Gilley and Maybunich 2000), ‘the accelerating organization (Maira and Scott-Morgan 1996), and ‘the ever-changing organization’ (Pieters and Young 1999). Peter Senge, with various associates, has continued to produce workbooks and extensions of his analysis to particular fields such as schooling (1994; 1999; 2000).

In one of the more interesting developments there has been an attempt to take the already substantial literature on trust in organizations (Edmondson and Moingeon 1999: 173) and to link it to developments in thinking around social capital (especially via the work of political theorists like Robert Putnam) (see Cohen and Prusak 2001). We could also link this with discussions within informal education and lifelong learning concerning the educative power of organizations and groups (and hence the link to organizational learning) (see the material on association elsewhere on these pages). Here the argument is that social capital makes an organization more than a collection of individuals. (Social capital can be seen as consisting of ‘the stock of active connections among people: the trust, mutual understanding, and shared values and behaviours that bind the members of human networks and communities and make cooperative action possible’, Cohen and Prusak 2001: 4). Social capital draws people into groups.

This kind of connection supports collaboration, commitment, ready access to knowledge and talent, and coherent organizational behaviour. This description of social capital suggests appropriate organizational investments – namely, giving people space and time to connect, demonstrating trust, effectively communicating aims and beliefs, and offering equitable opportunities and rewards that invite genuine participation, not mere presence. (Cohen and Prusak 2001: 4)

In this formulation we can see many of the themes that run through the approach to the learning organization that writers like Watkins and Marsick (1993) take. The significant thing about the use of the notion of social capital is the extent to which it then becomes possible to tap into some interesting research methodologies and some helpful theoretical frameworks.

Quite where we go from here is a matter for some debate. It could be that the notion of the ‘learning organization’ has had its ‘fifteen minutes of fame’. However, there does seem to be life in the notion yet. It offers an alternative to a more technicist framework, and holds within it a number of important possibilities for organizations seeking to sustain themselves and to grow.

Further reading and references

Easterby-Smith, M., Burgoyne, J. and Araujo, L. (eds.) (1999) Organizational Learning and the Learning Organization, London: Sage. 247 + viii pages. A collection with a good overview and some very helpful individual papers. The opening section provides reviews and critiques, the second, a series of evaluations of practice.

Schön, D. A. (1973) Beyond the Stable State. Public and private learning in a changing society, Harmondsworth: Penguin. 236 pages. A very influential book (following Schön’s 1970 Reith Lectures) arguing that ‘change’ is a fundamental feature of modern life and that it is necessary to develop social systems that can learn and adapt. Schön develops many of the themes that were to be such a significant part of his collaboration with Chris Argyris and his exploration of reflective practice.

Senge, P. M. (1990) The Fifth Discipline. The art and practice of the learning organization, London: Random House. 424 + viii pages. A seminal and highly readable book in which Senge sets out the five ‘competent technologies’ that build and sustain learning organizations. His emphasis on systems thinking as the fifth, and cornerstone discipline allows him to develop a more holistic appreciation of organization (and the lives of people associated with them).

References

Argyris, C., & Schön, D. (1978) Organisational learning: A theory of action perspective, Reading, Mass: Addison Wesley.

Argyris, C. and Schön, D. (1996) Organisational learning II: Theory, method and practice, Reading, Mass: Addison Wesley.

Bohm, D., Factor, D. and Garrett, P. (1991) ‘Dialogue – a proposal’, the informal education archives.

Bolman, L. G. and Deal, T. E. (1997) Reframing Organizations. Artistry, choice and leadership 2e, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 450 pages.

Castells, M. (2001) ‘Information technology and global capitalism’ in W. Hutton and A. Giddens (eds.) On the Edge. Living with global capitalism, London: Vintage.

Cohen, D. and Prusak, L. (2001) In Good Company. How social capital makes organizations work, Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Dixon, N. (1994) The Organizational Learning Cycle. How we can learn collectively, London: McGraw-Hill.

Easterby-Smith, M. and Araujo, L. ‘Current debates and opportunities’ in M. Easterby-Smith, L. Araujo and J. Burgoyne (eds.) Organizational Learning and the Learning Organization, London: Sage.

Edmondson, A. and Moingeon, B. (1999) ‘Learning, trust and organizational change’ in M. Easterby-Smith, L. Araujo and J. Burgoyne (eds.) Organizational Learning and the Learning Organization, London: Sage.

Factor, D. (1994) On Facilitation and Purpose, http://www.muc.de/~heuvel/dialogue/facilitation_purpose.html

Finger, M. and Brand, S. B. (1999) ‘The concept of the “learning organization” applied to the transformation of the public sector’ in M. Easterby-Smith, L. Araujo and J. Burgoyne (eds.) Organizational Learning and the Learning Organization, London: Sage.

Gadamer, H-G. (1979) Truth and Method, London: Sheed and Ward.

Garvin, D. A. (2000) Learning in Action. A guide to putting the learning organization to work, Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press.

Gilley, J. W. and Maybunich, A. (2000) Beyond the Learning Organization. Creating a culture of continuous growth and development through state-of-the-art human resource practices, Cambridge, Mass.: Perseus Books.

Habermas, J. (1984) The Theory of Communicative Action Volume 1, Cambridge: Polity Press.

Hayes, R. H., Wheelwright, S. and Clark, K. B. (1988) Dynamic Manufacturing: Creating the learning organization, New York: Free Press. 429 pages.

Hughes, C. and Tight, M. (1998) The myth of the learning society’ in S. Ranson (ed.) Inside the Learning Society, London: Cassell.

Kerka, S. (1995) ‘The learning organization: myths and realities’ Eric Clearinghouse, http://www.cete.org/acve/docgen.asp?tbl=archive&ID=A028.

Leadbeater, C, (2000) Living on Thin Air, London: Penguin.

Malhotra, Y. (1996) ’Organizational Learning and Learning Organizations: An Overview’ http://www.brint.com/papers/orglrng.htm

Maira, A. and Scott-Morgan, P. B. (1996) The Accelerating Organization: Embracing the human face of change, McGraw-Hill.

Marquandt, M. and Reynolds, A. (1993) The Global Learning Organization, Irwin Professional Publishing.

Marquardt, M. J. (1996) Building the Learning Organization, New York: McGraw-Hill.

Van Maurik, J. (2001) Writers on Leadership, London: Penguin.

Pedler, M., Burgoyne, J. and Boydell, T. (1991, 1996) The Learning Company. A strategy for sustainable development, London: McGraw-Hill.

Pieters, G. W. and Young, D. W. (1999) The Ever-Changing Organization: Creating the capacity for continuous change, learning and improvement, St Lucie.

Senge, P. et. al. (1994) The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook: Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization

Senge, P., Kleiner, A., Roberts, C., Ross, R., Roth, G. and Smith, B. (1999) The Dance of Change: The Challenges of Sustaining Momentum in Learning Organizations, New York: Doubleday/Currency).

Senge, P., Cambron-McCabe, N. Lucas, T., Smith, B., Dutton, J. and Kleiner, A. (2000) Schools That Learn. A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents, and Everyone Who Cares About Education, New York: Doubleday/Currency

Sugarman, B. (1996) ‘Learning, Working, Managing, Sharing: The New Paradigm of the “Learning Organization”’, Lesley College, http://www.lesley.edu/journals/jppp/2/sugarman.html

Sugarman, B. (1996) ‘The learning organization and organizational learning: New Roles for Workers, Managers, Trainers and Consultants’, Lesley College, http://www.lesley.edu/faculty/sugarman/loandtd.htm

Tsang, E. (1997) ‘Organizational learning and the learning organization: a dichotomy between descriptive and prescriptive research’, Human Relations, 50(1): 57-70.

Watkins, K. and Marsick, V. (eds.) (1993) Sculpting the Learning Organization. Lessons in the art and science of systematic change, San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass.

Watkins, K. and Marsick, V. (1992) ‘Building the learning organization: a new role for human resource developers’, Studies in Continuing Education 14(2): 115-29.

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What You Can Learn From the Success of the Sharing Economy

Be efficient, trustworthy, innovative and community-centric.

The sharing economy, or collaborative consumption, has quickly overtaken many business sectors. Most people have, or know someone who has, tried Airbnb, Uber, Etsy or another share-based business. To be successful in the sharing economy, your brand must be efficient, trustworthy, innovative and community-centric. 

These principles aren’t just indicative of successful share-based businesses; they also play an important part of any successful entrepreneur.

Always strive for better efficiencies.

The most obvious example of the sharing economy using increased efficiencies to dominate a market is Uber. Uber entered the commuting sector in 2009 and focused on improving the inefficiencies that existed with taxi cabs.

Taxis have a limited inventory of cabs, so Uber developed a way for any qualified person to sign up as an Uber driver, aiming to eliminate inventory deficits. Uber also created an intuitive and data-based pricing model to solve issues with outdated taxi fare estimates. Uber continues to use technology to make it easier to pay, hail a ride and increase the overall user experience. By focusing on being more efficient, Uber has built one of the most recognizable brands in the transportation industry.

While you might not be running a disruptive business like Uber, you can still look for inefficiencies in your business or industry. One common problem with a lot of entrepreneurs is an inefficient use of technology. There is a technological solution for almost every day-to-day operation. However, many entrepreneurs struggle to invest in technology because they fear the upfront cost. Keep in mind, spending a few thousand dollars on a new technology to increase your total output or cut down your lead time can save you much more money over the life of your company.

If you operate a brick-and-mortar store or office, you can increase employee efficiency by improving the workplace environment. Work can be exhausting mentally and physically, so simple tweaks like rearranging the office for improved air-flow can make your employees more productive and improve their health and satisfaction.

Trust is key.

For the sharing economy to work, trust must be established between the buyer and seller. This can be extremely difficult because most sharing-based businesses simply facilitate the transaction and do not control the inventory or seller.

Take Airbnb for example. They have a network of rental properties throughout the world that are all controlled by individual homeowners or renters. This no-inventory model serves as a marketplace for managing all elements of the transaction between supplier and purchaser. To accomplish this, Airbnb must establish trust in the platform that will also be transferred to each supplier.

Fortunately, most entrepreneurs manage their product or service directly and don’t have to transfer trust from their brand to individual suppliers. This makes it easier for you to build and maintain a trusting relationship with your customers. The first step to building trust is to understand your customers. Spend time collecting information about your current clientele so you can mold your communication to speak directly to that consumer profile. You can also improve trust with customers through marketing and advertising. If you’re bootstrapped, there are several affordable ways to use digital marketing to increase consumer trust.

Trust isn’t just administered from business to customer, you must also work to develop trust with your employees. Great entrepreneurs are leaders in the workplace. They are willing to get their hands dirty and coach their team. A title or job description isn’t enough to warrant trust from your employees; you must earn it through hard work. 

Don’t be afraid to innovate.

Innovation is an important characteristic of successful companies in the sharing economy, but it is also a critical part of traditional businesses. In fact, many companies use innovation as the framework for their brand identity -- think Apple.

Not all innovation requires a brand new idea. In fact, you can use resources and knowledge from other industries to innovate within your sector.

For instance, Ofo is a Chinese bike-sharing startup trying to innovate the way people commute in big cities. By using a mobile app, consumers can locate, unlock and ride available bikes anytime. The business model isn’t much different from Airbnb or Uber, and using bikes to commute in the city isn’t unique. However, its ease, affordability and convenience make this idea noteworthy.

Innovation keeps your company relevant in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. You’d be hard-pressed to find many successful companies that don’t innovate. Even local restaurants are working on new recipes for their menu.

As an entrepreneur, you must not be afraid to try and fail. Look for blue oceans with minimal competition that you can enter and control. Think of solutions to relevant problems in your industry, look at your product from different vantage points, and think outside the box to find opportunities to grow your product. Innovation requires versatility and risk. Don’t be afraid of it.

Build an active community.

If there is one element you take away from successful businesses in the sharing economy, a thriving community should be it. The share-based business model is built around dissemination and scalability, which isn’t possible without an active community. They created a platform and marketplace that is designed to recruit, vet, satisfy and retain a community of suppliers and buyers. They are successful at community development because they use due diligence, a communication feedback loop, marketing and data-based strategic decisions.

As an entrepreneur, you should focus on building an active and stable community of customers and leads. Obsess over customer satisfaction and retention. It’s estimated that acquiring new customers can cost upwards of five times that of retaining an existing customer. Customer retention will increase the customer lifetime value, which will result in more revenue and increased business.

One of the easiest ways for entrepreneurs to build a community is through active engagement online. Use platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat to grow and interact with your community. Remember, the communication shouldn’t be one direction. Encourage questions and handle customer issues when they arise. If you can convince customers to invest themselves into your brand, you’ll develop an active and thriving community.

Trust can help you get users into the door; an active community is what keeps them coming back.

The sharing economy is a thriving ecosystem that affects us as entrepreneurs and customers. The most successful sharing-based businesses have focused a lot of their efforts on improving efficiencies, building trust, growing their community and innovating. These four basic principles should be at the top of your priorities list as an entrepreneur.

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Building the Next-Gen Organization

Building a change-resilient and future-friendly organization is all about the right skills, right leadership and a culture thats conducive to change.

Change is the only constant, and this has never been truer than today, where businesses need to constantly reinvent the wheel to stay relevant for the present and future. Accordingly, the very “Future of Work” is taking a 360 degrees turn, and HR practitioners and business managers are forced to imbibe this new work paradigm. This significant shift is inviting a lot of talk about about the evolution of work and what it means for masses. Some experts have gone so far as to condemning automation and artificial intelligence as socio-economic destructors. Here is an objective look at the Future of Work, as it plays out for both employees and employers. 

The Construct of the Future Organization

On a broad level, a new order of work will emerge based on the following five courses of change: 

A truly connected world: The rise of connected devices and emerging technologies like the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Data & Analytics has enabled seamless connectivity at the workplace, breaking barriers like never before. Truly connected is giving rise to new work expectations and norms. 
  Social organization and reintegration: Emerging technologies are disrupting work norms, about 38-40 million skilled workers and 90-95 million low-skilled workers may be affected by automation. There is a notion that this will lead to the revision of key organizational roles, leading to imbalance. 
  Collaboration: Communication and collaboration will be two sides of the coin in taking organizations to greater heights in this complex environment. 
  More inclusive global talent: As a result of technology-infiltration, the nature of talent itself is changing. Consider the case of Topcoder.com, a talent platform revolving around the gig economy, today there are thousands of technologists, 5 years ago there were less than three thousand. The gig economy is here to stay, and future organizations must learn how to leverage this unique talent pool. 
  Employer-employee relationships: Relationships are no longer binary, they are highly dynamic. Going forward we will see a mix of various work-models- traditional, outsourcing, free agents, alliances and partnerships, talent platforms, volunteers etc.  A Changing Talent Landscape

In line with the above changes, the definition of work itself is undergoing a transformation. Work of tomorrow is moving away from ”leading the workforce” to “leading the work” itself. As a result, the talent landscape is moving from jobs to tasks, from collective to dispersed,  from relationship-based to virtual, from self-contained to associative, from rigid structures to malleable fluid structures, from permanent to impermanent, and from collective to very individualized. All of this can be summarized in a holistic shift- from traditional to imaginative. And to fit talent into this imaginative work concept, HR too must imagine the unimaginable. This starts with gearing up for the transformation- building a change-resilient organization. 

Making the right skills available at the right places will be extremely crucial going ahead, so as to control machine-outcomes on-time and accurately.  

An opportunity in the making: How to build resilience

As technology is evolving there also lie immense opportunities for organizations, only if they are ready to embrace change. Yet, most organizations struggle. The following elements need to be relooked at and revamped to make this possible. 

Build the right skills: The right skill-sets or competencies are what will help bridge the gap between today and tomorrow. This starts with understanding the challenge at hand, and by leveraging available technologies and tools like data and analytics. The right futuristic skills will ensure that we are more connected than ever before, and know our problems better. We have many more resources than before- data, access to people, etc. we must only harness these to create multiple avenues of driving business. For this, HR must work with business and develop a data-oriented objective approach to building talent capability. The key question should be, “How to harness digital skills?”
  Cultivate a conducive organizational culture: Building a change-conducive organizational culture involves thinking about talent differently. Analyse where the issues are and where talent is rare, rather than just hiring adhoc. Building resilience is all about giving talent the freedom, the leeway to experiment and to outperform without hiccups. Many organizations taste success with failures because it welcomes more learning, more opportunities to do something different. Building such an open and transparent culture is not easy, HR leaders must proactively enable talent to flow in line with their aspirations. A great culture often helps fulfill a business need, while establishing a connect with the right talent. 
  Lead by example: The CEO of CISCO once famously said, “The organizations of the future have only two leaders- CEO and CIO/CTO, everything else will be contingent”. Organizations must build leadership capability to deal with demanding business. Leadership roles are changing, they are not so much about the job description, but the problem at hand. Leadership roles are no longer “here and now”, they are highly future-oriented i.e. roles 3-5-10 years from now. Vision for the future and long-term planning are being looked upon in new light. It is important to assess people on their ability to deliver excellent results in the long run. This may require HR to create a “training JD” rather than a “role JD”, which outlines how to get “there”. From the org-perspective this should be an ongoing investment.


The future of work thus lies in creative intelligence, social intelligence, and ability to leverage digital. 

Worries about machines overtaking man in the workplace abound, but the fact remains that the future of work will comprise a shared model, where man and machine work together.

Ultimately, people are at the core of organizational success. After civilization, this is the fourth Industrial Revolution, and in every revolution, new jobs have been created. Worries abound that robots will take away our jobs, but the reality is that we still need someone to guide those robots. This calls for a new outlook, employees are used to thinking in terms of process and workflow, i.e. how things will be designed. The future need is to think of “flow of work to the right places”. What will make a real difference is not just letting work happen, but directing it correctly. And that is where the right human intelligence remain irreplaceable. 

(This article has been curated from the session conducted at the Singapore Human Capital Summit 2017)

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Can machine learning help overcome human failures?

A lot of HR technological tools today are incorporating machine learning to help, support and empower humans at their workplaces. Here is a glimpse of a few ideas shared at the People Matters and Microsoft India roundtable on the same subject.

There has been a lot of hullabaloo over artificial intelligence and how it would change the world in the course of the next few years. People Matters and Microsoft India organized a roundtable which discussed key ideas on artificial intelligence and how it is impacting workplaces today. This article attempts to capture some of those key ideas and present to you in a simplified format.

Artificial intelligence is actually at a very nascent stage

Despite all the discussions that have been undertaken in many of the public spheres, there is still a lot of confusion about what exactly can artificial intelligence do for you. First, for any system to become intelligent, it will capture data, analyze it, learn from the frequent interactions with the user, and then intelligently respond to the situation. The end of the goal is for the machine or the software to take decisions without human intervention. This leads to automation in processes. 

An example, which was discussed during the roundtable, revolved around automating the process of reading hundreds of resume and shortlisting candidates dependent on an algorithm which ensured that only the best fit for the job was selected.

Is Machine Learning only restricted to the domain of HR

Machine Learning is constantly evolving and very differently across industries. To understand why something like this is possible, one needs to understand that the evolution of any technology, and especially something like artificial intelligence, the evolution is completely dependent on the use cases. The use cases determine the data that is captured, the algorithm which is developed to organize the data, and finally, the purpose for which the analysis of the data is put to use.

In one of the instances, Sanjoe Jose, co-founder, and CEO of Talview, during the roundtable gave an example of how an algorithm which determines the survival of the patient, referred as ‘survival analysis’ was adapted to create a similar algorithm which determines the time it would require for a position to get filled in the organization.

AI and L&D

Similarly, artificial intelligence is being used in the domain of learning and development, and which is not just restricted to skilling talent, but also managing and guiding talent within the organization. Consider, that most of these technologies are cloud-based, what is they further enable the employee to chart his own career path in the organization. The software would let him know of all the training and resources available to him to develop the requisite skill, which will help him fill his desired role in the future.

During the roundtables, it was extremely well demonstrated in the case of a recently onboarded employee who is looking for resources which would enable him to carry out a task. Organizations today understand that employees do not just learn on the job by default, but they also look forward to ‘learning’ on the job. 

In larger setups, individual attention and mentorship not always available and which is why for many large organizations it makes sense that a 24/7 chat bot communicates with the new joinee and enable him to perform on his job. 

The process is actually quite simple: once the data at the organizational level is collected and organized, it can simply be grouped dependent on the algorithm deployed. Further, when the chatbot receives a query, it is translated into the language that the computer understands, the query is processed and the solution is made available, this solution is then presented to the person who asked the query, in the language that the person understands.

For example: A person who wishes to organize an office offsite but does not know how to go about it, would simply type in the chat and ask for help. The chatbot would then give it a list of videos or articles which his colleagues or peers would have accessed in the past, and also the ratings and comments they had for that particular resource. Similarly, it could also connect that person with somebody who has conducted successful offsites and they could connect with one another over chat or on call, enabling the transfer of knowledge within the organization.

We need more data scientists

Sandeep Jayaprasad Alur, the Director Partner Technology Engagements, Microsoft India gave the answer to this question, when he revealed to the audience during the roundtable, that tech giants like Microsoft have been working on developing cloud-based artificial intelligence based platforms since the last decade, and have only recently unveiled the technological platform, because it is only very recently that organizations have had access to humongous data that they have today.

The infrastructure which consists of the cloud computing, algorithms and the abundance of data is today readily available to organizations, but what is lacking today are the people who would take these technologies to the next level, and by people, it specifically meant the data scientists. He defined them as people who knew much more about statistics than a programmer, and much more programming than a statistician.

Using Machine Learning for engagement with candidates

A major challenge that the recruiters face today is responding to the hundreds of applications which organizations receive. The recruiter finds it difficult to effectively engage with all of them. The challenges start with analyzing the data in the resume, to engaging with candidates on an individual level, arranging for assessments tests and interviews, lacking data inputs which would enable the organization to make the best decision.

Today, all of the above is being taken care of technology which are an integration of data capturing, analysis of the same within the domain of the algorithm deployed, mapping the skills to the job roles, and uses a user-friendly interface (chatbots are most popular) to respond to candidates, and hence leading to effectively managing hiring.

From baby steps to shaping the future of tomorrow

During the roundtable, a question was posed to one of the speakers, that what most of what they show that technologies exhibit is actually extremely advanced. To which the speaker answered that they have the algorithms but what technology would lack on initial installation is the organizational data. But because the algorithms learn from interactions with the user, it would acquire the required data both at an individual and organizational in no time, and hence would then accomplish all the complex tasks (the example of a person wanting help with organizing an office off-site), very easily.

Hence, to summarize it is too soon for us is to completely imagine the altered employee experience of tomorrow. But what we do know for certain is that our employee experience at workplace will never be the same again.

Finally, can machine learning help overcome human failures

In most cases, the algorithms actually predict the probability of the desired outcome happening. Which means if the software tells the recruiter that of the hundreds of resumes received by the organization, only five are the best fit for the job, then that means that is the most likely outcome that it has arrived at. Most algorithms are predictive models which boast of a certain level of accuracy, but because machines do not err, in the sense that it won’t skip any of the resumes because it felt tired; machine learning to large extent would enable humans to perform to the best of their abilities.

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Future of performance management system

Organizations such as Adobe, Accenture, Microsoft and Delloite have adopted new ways of assessing to enhance individual and organizational performance.

Performance Management System has undergone a lot of changes in the recent past to effectively translate effort to performance. The old ways of assessing performance have proven to be costly and ineffective. Bell curve alias relative comparison has been observed to be time consuming and often detrimental to performance. Organizations such as Adobe, Accenture, Microsoft and Delloite have adopted new ways of assessing to enhance individual and organizational performance. 

Recent Changes 

Key modifications in the performance management system include 

Rating team members on managers’ own future actions with respect to the team members is also practiced by few organizations. This solves the problem of idiosyncratic rater affect with managers rating employees on their own feelings / intentions rather than rating employees’ skills inconsistently.
  Goal setting no longer being an annual exercise but goals being reviewed quarterly/periodically.
  More frequent meetings between managers and employees for setting expectations clearly, sharing feedback and coaching on developmental goals. At least end of the project or quarterly feedback is recommended though the meetings could be more frequent than this. 
  Rating employees on absolute performance rather than using bell curve.
  Results so far 

Though the results are awaited largely, few organizations have already started reporting the benefits they are experiencing. Adobe has reported a drop in voluntary attrition rate by 30% and an increase in involuntary attrition rate by 50%. Inorder to facilitate more frequent feedback and development conversations, Adobe has introduced a system namely “Check-in” as per which managers should have atleast quarterly discussions with their team members. More frequent communication has honed the leadership and communication skills of managers. Infact, 78% of employees perceived their managers to be open to feedback from them. Adobe has also witnessed promotion of a culture of ownership where employees want to participate in the success story of the organization. GE has discovered that the new performance management system has promoted trust between managers and employees – a key characteristic of high performing teams. The new system involves a mobile app called as PD@GE to define near term goals. Summaries of frequent conversations, named “touchpoints” can be captured in the app. GE has also witnessed better results by the use of the new system in the pilot project they have run. Encouraged by organizations such as Adobe and GE, Deloitte has also revamped its performance management system to clearly see, recognize and fuel performance. One of the most important actions taken by Deloitte is to request its managers to evaluate their future intentions with team members rather than rating them on their skills. The new feedback structureincludes questions such as “Given what I know of this person’s performance, I would always want him or her on my team”. This enables managers to take judgment solely on their available knowledge of the team member. While results are still awaited, Deloitte is working towards creating not just a simple but also a rich view of employees’ performance to increase the transparency of the system.  

As per a survey conducted by CEB 43% of organizations are either planning to introduce or open to consideration of new performance management system (n = 296) across the globe while the vast majority of 51% organizations have no plans to do so. Organizations which are planning to introduce are awaiting results from their pilot study while other organizations are awaiting results from organizations which have already implemented the changes. 

Way Forward

With greater focus on continuous feedback & development and absolute performance, we are moving towards a more progressive way of assessing performance. In this changing scenario few practices have become more important and need to be relooked / redesigned for successful implementation of the new approach. These include:

Honing feedback giving skills of managers - This has become more important than ever since this is the cornerstone of a culture of continuous feedback.  The feedback needs to be constructive and future oriented else employees will feel burdened with overdose of feedback. Organizations not only need to provide periodic behavioral training to their managers but also assess them on how they are faring on this skill. Organizations need to provide individual guidance to managers in case they are struggling to be positive in their approach. Leaders need to take initiative and set right examples for others to follow. 

Facilitating real time feedback – The more data points there are on the performance of employees the lesser the subjectivity in assessing the performance. Organizations should use mobile friendly tools which facilitate providing continuous multi-rater real time feedback to employees. 360 degree feedback helps employees understand how they are perceived in the organization. Organizations should empower employees to initiate feedback. This will build a culture of ownership amongst employees. 

The tool should not just provide data but also insights on development areas and track progress on them. Use of Big Data could narrow the gap between an organization’s top and bottom performers by analyzing their daily activities, finding patterns and highlighting the difference in their approach. This will help managers to have more effective development conversation with employees. This will also enable HR to track the quality and frequency of conversations between manager and employees. 

Continuous recognition – Continuous feedback also calls for continuous recognition. It has been researched that employees are best motivated when they receive immediate rewards / recognition for their achievements. Coupling continuous feedback with year-end rewards / recognition is not a very effective way of motivating employees. Thus organizations need to redesign their recognition program to support the new performance management system. 

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Email and Calendar Data Are Helping Firms Understand How Employees Work

Using data science to predict how people in companies are changing may sound futuristic. As we wrote recently, change management remains one of the few areas largely untouched by the data-driven revolution. But while we may never convert change management into a “hard science,” some firms are already benefiting from the potential that these data-driven techniques offer.

One of the key enablers is the analysis of email traffic and calendar metadata. This tells us a lot about who is talking to whom, in what departments, what meetings are happening, about what, and for how long. These sorts of analyses are helping EY, where some of us work, by working with Microsoft Workplace Analytics to help clients to predict the likelihood of retaining key talent following an acquisition and to develop strategies to maximize retention. Using email and calendar data, we can identify patterns around who is engaging with whom, which parts of the organization are under stress, and which individuals are most active in reaching across company boundaries.

Understandably, there may be privacy concerns about examining an individual’s email or calendar, even in a work context. However, you can also get powerful insights using anonymous metadata, where the individual names and specific content are removed. It’s possible to analyze the metadata for content themes and frequency of contact between departments, and to correlate this data with more traditional indicators of process effectiveness, cycle time, right-first-time, and so on. What this gives us is hard data on how processes fail in the organization. We no longer need to rely on anecdotes or employee surveys — instead, we can pinpoint precisely where the breakdowns are occurring just by examining data on day-to-day workflows. We can say precisely what behavior change is needed to make a new process work, and then monitor improvement in real time.

An early example comes from an organization restructure we have been working on. These sorts of projects are usually motivated by a desire to improve strategy execution and reduce costs. Traditionally, only the financial element was measurable, which could easily drive decision-making. For one EY client, we are using data science to make organizational design decisions that accelerate strategy goals. The client wanted to increase collaboration across units, for example, between sales and product development. We used an analysis of anonymized email and calendar data to predict what impact the number of direct reports a manager had on the ability of specific teams to collaborate. That helped us to optimize work design to achieve the result the client wanted.

The potential of these techniques is to change the way managers interact with employees. Today, most managers are doing their best to engage and motivate employees. However, we have to wait for “formal triggers” before we can respond, such as an employee survey or a one-on-one with a manager. Analyzing activity in email traffic might allow us to intervene much faster and find out whether what we are doing actually works. This can become a sort of “real-time employee sentiment analysis” that would transform the quality of insight managers have at their disposal.

Let’s take the example of the recent executive order in the United States that imposed a travel ban on seven mostly Muslim countries. This was a major concern for many technology companies that have a large number of employees on H1-B visas, both from the countries involved and from their neighbors in Asia and the Middle East. If companies were using an artificial intelligence solution that provided real-time insight, they would be able to monitor the level of concern in the organization, perhaps even anticipate the sorts of concerns that employees were having. Many employers set up dialogue sessions with employees to answer questions and attend to their concerns. The only evidence we have on the impact of these sessions was anecdotal. With a “real-time employee sentiment” system, we’d be able to say precisely and respond accordingly, and measure the impact of those responses.

We will always need professional change managers to interpret this data and to design the right sorts of ways to work with employees during transformation or external emergencies, such as the travel ban. What these data science tools can do is make our responses faster and more targeted and tell us what worked in a faster, more reliable, and less invasive way than was previously achievable. In the organization restructuring referenced above, it took only three weeks to analyze a year’s worth of behavioral data to be included in the design of the future processes and structure. In the past, we would have relied on invasive techniques, such as interviews and employee surveys, that not only take up time but also introduce all kinds of bias. Our advice for the change manager of the future is to make data your friend; never reorganize without it.

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The Most Effective Way to Lead Generation Z

Here is the leadership style that resonates best with Generation Z and three steps to execute it effectively.

Generation Z fact-checking their teachers and parents in real-time on their smartphone represents a clear shift in authority.

Because information is disseminated so widely in today's age of information, Generation Z doesn't consider parents or teachers as the authority, but, rather, they view the Internet as the authority.

Having access to an Internet-enabled supercomputer in the palm of their hand for most their life has caused Generation Z to problem-solve much differently than previous generations. They have become extremely resourceful and efficient at using the web to find and/or crowd-source the answers they need.

Generation Z will turn to Google, YouTube, or Alexa first for answers instead of their future managers. Therefore managers must adjust their approach and serve as a guide where they coach Generation Z through their self-directed learning, mistakes, and successes.

The most effective way to lead Generation Z is by coaching.

Why Coaching is the Best Leadership Style for Generation Z

Coaching is the leadership style that resonates best with Generation Z. Generation Z were raised in organized activities where they were consistently surrounded by coaches. They view coaching as the necessary supplement to their DIY work mentality.

Coaching prompts introspection where Generation Z must turn inward to discover the right answer. This self-reflection and self-evaluation process allows Generation Z to become more productive and dependent because they can apply their self-discovered solutions to similar situations they encounter in the future.

Coaching is also effective because it creates greater buy-in since the Generation Z employee is arriving at the solution either individually or collectively with the coach.

How to Lead Generation Z with Coaching

The most effective coaching happens when leaders prioritize curiosity over instruction. Resist the urge to give advice and instead give in to asking more questions. Be curious and follow these three steps to coach Generation Z to their full potential.

1. Be Timely

The closer coaching happens to the activity or learning, the better. Impact and transformation diminish as time grows between the coaching opportunity and the act of coaching. To ensure the best results, enable timely coaching by leveraging tools like Slack, 15Five, Loop, or by increasing the cadence of the coaching sessions.

AT&T recently ended their mid-year and end-of-year review processes in favor of equipping managers with Loop so that they can provide employees with more timely coaching. The elimination of the formal review process has enabled AT&T managers more time and freedom to coach employees.

2. Be Inquisitive

Asking questions is what makes coaching so transformational. But asking the right questions that elicit the appropriate self-evaluation is not easy and takes practice.

Michael Bungay Stanier, author of The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever, has identified a list of powerful coaching questions. Next time you are coaching Generation Z, use these sequential questions to elicit responses and spur growth.

What's on your mind? And what else? What's the real challenge here for you? How can I help you? What was most useful or valuable here for you?

If you're at a loss of what to ask as a coach, use the simple phrase, "Tell me more."

3. Be Brief

Stanier believes effective coaching can be done in ten minutes or less. Brief interactions are important to Generation Z. In fact, 67 percent of Generation Z is comfortable with having their manager check in with them but only for five minutes or less.

Tackling one specific topic or challenge instead of covering multiple topics or projects will help keep the coaching sessions brief. Set a timer, have a walking or standing meeting, or schedule only ten minutes for the coaching conversation.

Practice these three coaching steps with your Generation Z workforce and be rewarded with a more engaged, developed, and loyal team.

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Challenges And Benefits Of Learning Management Systems

Learn about the benefits of Learning Management Systems and how to define whether your business needs one. Find the roles existing in the learning course development process as well as the comparison of 3 popular and efficient Learning Management Systems. Challenges And Benefits Of Learning Management Systems: Does Your Business Need An LMS?

Try to imagine today’s world without eLearning. Without multiple online courses, mobile apps (Udemy, Duolingo), business training programs, university educational software solutions. Possible, but rather difficult. Corporations, having to keep up with the times, have started to actively use Learning Management Systems taking into account all specific business needs and peculiarities. There are a plenty of LMSs out there that allow to build your own courses by using pre-built content templates, extensions, features, and inserting media. In this article we will be speaking about the challenges and benefits of Learning Management Systems (LMSs); we will also examine whether your company needs one.

4 Top Benefits Of Learning Management Systems 1. Reduce Expenses On Training.

Organizations can reduce cost on hiring and paying wages to instructors, training facilities, and educational courses payment. For example, many companies want their employees to acquire necessary skills and knowledge, as well as direct them through the course or career ladder. They have to pay for language courses in the first case, and provide trainers with fees in the second. Thus, with a single Learning Management System it is possible to reduce these expenses.

2. Make Course Access Location-Independent.

Anytime, anywhere. Learning Management Systems allow employees to complete courses / programs using their PCs, tablets, or smartphones (if there is mobile learning made) from any place, even while being in another country. Simple access with no limits on location and device use is always a great thing.

3. Customize Courses / Training Programs.

Learning Management Systems generally ensure customization of your courses / programs to the needs of your company. You can build in-house courses using tools and features of the chosen LMS. For example, a corporate program that includes material (video, texts, tasks, short quizzes, etc.), a test after each stage, and a final exam. You can set up time for each quiz, see how many times it was passed by each user, and the results of each completion, track progress, and define whether required skills or/and knowledge were acquired. Creating a tailored solution is a good opportunity to enhance educational process and overall performance as well.

4. Build Efficient Educational Environments.

Why not to integrate a single Learning Management System for all situations? A separate course aimed for gaining required knowledge for new employees, a training program to check job progress, acquire new skills, and define the best workers, a course for learning Chinese, a course teaching to “deal with” complicated equipment and computer programs and systems, and so on. It may seem a bit difficult at first glance, but modern Learning Management Systems provide pre-built templates for content, many extensions, simple solutions for inserting audio, video, images, tests and exams, and other efficient opportunities to create and customize courses. Most Learning Management Systems offer convenient tools that allow to create custom courses and thus implement educational, teaching, and management processes in the organization.

3 Roles To Perform In Course Development 1. Administrator.

They customize the eLearning solution to the needs and requirements of a certain organization, and manage the educational process by adding users, user groups, etc. Also an administrator creates a library of courses, making connections between a certain course and user group (for example, courses for sales managers will be shown for them only within a company).

2. Trainee.

They pass the course program including studying required materials, completing tasks, taking tests and exams.

3. Trainer.

They create training courses: Content that can include lectures, text, audio, and video materials, and develop evaluation systems involving tests, quizzes, exams, their order and evaluation surveys as well. Thus, the teacher tracks user progress, analyzes results, and fills the course with content.

Does Your Company Really Need To Implement An eLearning Solution? 

You may want to answer the following questions to find out:

Do you already have courses prepared? Do you have someone in charge (instructors, teachers, etc.) of training at your company? Do you need to track employee results and progress? Do you need to have a training program to quickly and efficiently onboard employees? Do you often hire new employees? Do you have specific skills your employees have to acquire? Do you have employees in multiple locations? Do you charge a fee for courses? Do you offer external training to customers? Do you offer and report certification training to motivate learners? Do you handle hundreds of registrations per some learning event? Do you have a learning strategy and program to educate employees?

If you have at least 5 answers “Yes”, you are ready to integrate learning courses or another eLearning software solution.

So, now you can proceed to the choice of a Learning Management System to build a tailored course or program. There are a lot of options, and to choose the right one isn’t so simple. Here we will compare 3 of the most popular Learning Management Systems; iSpring, Moodle, and Totara. They suit for training and educating, and they all provide large opportunities to customize a solution to your organization’s necessities.

What’s important, all of these Learning Management Systems are SCORM compliant. You can learn more about benefits and principles of the standard here: Building eLearning Software: Why Choose The SCORM Standard?

Learning Management Systems provide not only basic features like blended learning, SCORM compliance, asynchronous learning, and skills tracking, but also a lot of advanced features such as mobile learning, certification management, and gamification (used primarily for motivation), as well as social learning (except iSpring).

Also, when building an eLearning solution, ensure it will have high level of scalability, user-friendly interface, and simple reporting, as lack of these features is one of the most common reasons Learning Management System users want to switch off their own.

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Why 'ghosting' is becoming a problem in the job world

Speaking up for yourself if a hiring company "ghosts" you is important says Jane Ashen Turkewitz.

Jane Ashen Turkewitz has been a recruiter in the advertising and tech industry for more than 15 years and has become increasingly appalled at how rude hiring companies can be to prospective employees after interviewing them.

Turkewitz now runs her own recruiting firm, .comRecruiting.com, in part because of the level of insensitivity she saw. "I was sick of it all. I thought that we needed to do it all in a more empathetic way," she told Business Insider.

Case in point: she recently wrote a post on LinkedIn that has gone viral. In it, she dared to suggest that if a hiring company "ghosts" you after putting you through multiple interviews, you should speak up for yourself and let them know it's not ok.

By "ghosting" she means that:

1. You've already done multiple interviews and perhaps completed sample tasks for them; 

2. They were previously responding to your emails;

3. You've sent multiple polite emails or made multiple phone calls for about a month after your last interview, and no one has responded to any of them.

4. You've given up on the job and are ready to move on.

Make yourself feel better ... or not?

If you are feeling dejected about such a situation (and really, who wouldn't be?), sending such an email won't help you get the job. But it might make you feel better, "and that's a valid reason right there," Turkewitz says.

The email should be polite but firm. Here's her suggested text:

I hope one day, if you are in my shoes, interviewing for a new, exciting job, that you are not treated in such an unkind manner. Wishing you and yours continued success as I find success elsewhere."

"I would like to thank you for the opportunity to interview for the role of X. I was surprised, after my 7 rounds of interviews, to not hear anything regardless of my attempts to stay engaged.

Due to the lack of response, it's a fair assumption that you have decided to move in another direction. While I am disappointed, I certainly respect if someone more qualified entered the picture.

That said, isn't it common courtesy to let a candidate know where he stands in the process, even if it's a difficult conversation? A rejection is disappointing but 'ghosting' shows a lack of leadership and empathy.

I hope one day, if you are in my shoes, interviewing for a new, exciting job, that you are not treated in such an unkind manner. Wishing you and yours continued success as I find success elsewhere."

This post with her sample email has been shared over 165,000 times on LinkedIn, liked by over 1,100 and received nearly 200 comments, which confirms to Turkewitz what she's seen in her own career: that "ghosting happens a lot," she says.

Turkewitz says she's been surprised by the comments. Many people didn't agree with her that they should speak up in this way.

"I definitely think ghosting is poor etiquette, but I would be cautious about sending a passive aggressive response. I think it's best to chalk it up to a loss (or possibly a gain) and move on," one person responded.

But Turkewitz believes that if you're ready to kiss the job off anyway, speaking up is ok and might do the next person some good.

"If it were me and somebody wrote me a note like that, I would be mortified. I wouldn’t be angered as if someone burned a bridge. I would be thinking, 'They met with 3 or more people and nobody got back to them? That’s a problem. Something is broken here,'" she said.

Turkewitz does caution not to be quite so firm if the company never responds after a single interview. While that's still rude of them, in her opinion, it is also very, very common. 

She suggests a note more like this: "I would like to thank for opportunity the interview. I’m assuming you are moving forward in another direction."

September 2017

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These Are The Biggest Skills That New Graduates Lack

Plenty of newly minted members of the workforce think they’re well prepared for success. Hiring managers aren’t convinced.

Managers and employees don’t always see eye to eye. Fast Company uncovered a wide gap in the way each group thinks about business culture and their radically different ideas about work-life balance.

But there’s another disconnect brewing, and this one is between managers and the newest members of the workforce: college graduates. A new report from PayScale, a provider of on-demand compensation data and software, in partnership with Future Workplace, an executive development firm, reveals that while 87% of recent graduates feel well prepared to hit the ground running after earning their diplomas, only half of hiring managers agree with them.

This isn’t totally surprising, as Fast Company reported that the class of 2016 is overwhelmingly optimistic about their prospects for getting a job within their field of study. Unfortunately, recent studies reveal that underemployment was the reality for more than half (51%) of those who graduated in the past two years.

The report, titled “Leveling Up: How to Win In the Skills Economy,” takes a deep dive into the so-called skills gap and illuminates the skills managers are looking for that many college graduates are either deficient in or don’t have at all. The report also reveals which skills bring in the biggest paychecks and get the employee a promotion. It also found which are the best ones to leave off a resume.

Some of the skills hiring managers find lacking or absent are unexpected. Critical thinking, problem solving, attention to detail, and writing proficiency top the list of skills managers find missing from job seekers’ personal tool kits. On the flip side, managers didn’t find graduates wanting for know-how in search engine optimization marketing, foreign languages, and coding.

THE SKILLS HIRING MANAGERS FOUND LACKING

Overall, hiring managers found soft skills such as communication, leadership, ownership, and teamwork were missing in this new crop of workers. The following chart shows the percentage of hiring managers who reported the lack of specific skills.

“Graduates need strong communication and problem-solving skills if they want to interview well and succeed in the workplace, because effective writing, speaking, and critical thinking enables you to accomplish business goals and get ahead,” Dan Schawbel, research director at Future Workplace, said in a statement. “No working day will be complete without writing an email or tackling a new challenge, so the sooner you develop these skills, the more employable you will become,” Schawbel adds.

It’s important to note here that age matters in this report. Fifty-five percent of managers who are millennials themselves believed graduates are prepared to enter the workforce versus 47% of gen Xers and 48% of boomers.

Katie Bardaro, vice president of Data Analytics at PayScale, tells Fast Company this may be due to the fact that managers from older generations are likely more versed in these skills and thus have higher expectations for them then managers from younger generations.

Bardaro notes that since this is the first time the study was run, there isn’t any comparison data to previous generations of college graduates. “We can say that the increase in dependence on technology and the recent Great Recession has widened the skills gap,” she says. These two factors have worked together to make employers pickier and make it harder for students and their schools to have the ability to learn and teach new technologies. “It takes time to build a curriculum and obtain an expert who can teach and disseminate that information to students, and the technologies are just changing too rapidly,” Bardaro says.

Bardaro doesn’t think the focus on STEM careers could actually be preventing job seekers from taking the type of coursework that would boost their writing and public speaking skills. Instead, she points to changing technology and its effect on communication. “Younger people defer to a quick text or Snapchat rather than a phone conversation or letter,” she notes.

She also points out that many STEM programs still require a general English course and schoolwork often requires presentations, but there is potentially less education around these skills then there has been in the past.

MOST SOUGHT AFTER SKILLS (AND WHAT TO LEAVE OFF YOUR RESUME)

The skills that are getting workers the biggest pay bumps are emerging in the STEM field. Overall, the programming language Scala is the skill that will get you the biggest pay boost (a 22.2% increase in earnings), followed by Cisco UCCE/IPCC (enterprise communications software) at 21.1%, and Go programming language at 20%. This makes sense, as technology jobs are in the greatest demand and command some of the highest salaries across industries.

But the most common skills held by workers at the executive level are also hard skills such as business and IT management. At the director level, donor relations is most common, but software development and senior financial management come in second and third.

As for what is best left off the resume, the report reveals that “foundational skills” should get the heave-ho. Those are the ones most frequently cited as skills by employees within each industry represented. For example, a job seeker looking for employment in tech shouldn’t list their experience in data entry, WordPress, or even system repair. The reason, the report notes, is that placing these among the top skills on a resume could translate to placement in a much lower-level job, earning significantly less than a peer with more high-level skills

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Beat the Machines with these 10 Employability Skills for the Future!

Experts are predicting that automation will make its way to the general workforce as early as 2020. With robotics and AI progressing by leaps and bounds within the last decade, we really can’t deny that this might be the future that’s awaiting all of us. In the coming decades, machines will be doing most specialized and manual work; while we humans will need to adapt and move on to new careers.

We came up with this list so that we can start working on them today. You really won’t be that surprised that some of the skills to be mentioned have already been part of our repertoire for quite some time. Nonetheless, you might also be astonished at how much the development of these skills was taken for granted for so long, even though these competencies will eventually define how we will work in the future.

There will also be new skills that hinge on the advances in technology. These competencies weren’t even around a decade ago; but will be ever-defining skills to be competitive in the future workforce. With these in mind, there is now a definite need to polish these competencies and deepen our understanding of how our careers depend on them.

Without further ado, here’s the list of what we believe will be the top ten employability skills for the future workforce:

Top 10 Employability Skills for the Future Workforce

1. Creativity

One of the biggest predictions is that the future global economy will be made up mostly of creative output. Industries that have a ‘human touch’ such as advertising, arts, design, music, and publishing will be left mostly untouched by automation. Come to think of it, even we humans have a hard time comprehending what makes things ‘beautiful’ and ‘compelling’, machines are a very long way from it.

Humanity’s use of innovation and imagination in developing creative solutions just cannot be replicated. Creativity is one of the keys to human survival and dominance – and for a good reason. It has allowed us to improve our quality of life and push the envelope in going beyond what was always assumed as ‘humanly impossible.’

Creative thinking is one of the professional skills that will be most sought-after by future employers. As one of the integral skills for employment, it would be a good idea for us to start honing our creativity even more as early as now.

2. Complex Problem Solving

Another skill in our list of employability skills of the future involves finding creative solutions through problem-solving. Solving problems can actually be done by automation; and in some cases, machines might even prove to be better than us humans. Machines are most effective in problem-solving scenarios that involve choosing preset actions dictated by standard procedures.

However (and that is a big however), most problems don’t fall under any pre-set configurations or procedures. Most problems involve complex scenarios that bring about more elaborate consequences – all of which cannot be defined by parameters of 1s and 0s or any mathematical algorithms. Oftentimes, problems have no rational answers at all!

Now, this is where humans have a big advantage over the automatons. We have the ability to perceive different unstated factors and considerations when solving problems. Things like empathy, interpersonal sensitivity, ethics, and morality are some examples of implied elements of decision-making that only we humans can discern.

Being keen and sensitive to these factors will make complex problem solving one of the most sought-after employability skills for the future workforce.

3. Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is the ability to identify problems, gather information, and make sense of data to find viable solutions. The most important factor though is the ability to recognize implicit assumptions and identify significance of certain details on the issue. The human advantage is the ability to perceive how “everything” is connected with each other. To add, critical thinking also demands awareness that details shouldn’t be taken at face value.

Gauging priorities, gathering information, and interpreting data can be easily done through automation. Nevertheless, critical thinking is still part of this list for human employability skills of the future. This is due to the fact that making sense of all the complex relationships, interrelated propositions, and implicit assumptions when facing issues allow us to better prioritize and interpret information and use them to come up with the best solution to a presented problem.

4. Virtual Collaboration

Advances in technology have allowed people across the globe to work together through remote virtual teams. This has then opened the workplace to more diversity – being able to work with different people from divergent cultures, across different time zones and geographical areas.

Of course, face-to-face interaction will still be the top choice in workplace communication. Nevertheless, we really can’t blame organizations wanting to employ the best workers on the planet – while looking for the most efficient and cost-effective way to make the remote workforce system work.

Virtual collaboration is one of the employee skills that we need to adopt as early as now. Aside from the usual tools and processes, soft skills in the workplace are also needed for this. Skills for employees of virtual teams include, but are not limited to, collaboration, cross-cultural sensitivity, and adaptability to a multi-cultural environment.

5. Social Intelligence

Here’s another one of these future skills employers want – social intelligence. Also generally known as ‘People Skills,’ social intelligence pertains to the way we are able to go about complex social relationships. Simply put, it is our aptness to associate with other people.

People skills are also closely linked to emotional intelligence – which is the recognition of our own and other people’s emotions and handling them appropriately. Social intelligence is definitely one of the skills you need for a job in the future because it will absolutely be needed for interaction with clients, customers, and peers; especially when most interactions will already happen online.

6. New Media Literacy

Today’s definition of computer-literacy is obsolete. Gone are the days when the ability to operate the computer and use office-related applications are the only skills needed for a successful career. Literacy to new media is definitely one of the more important employability skills for the future.

The use of different digital media is slowly becoming the standard of ‘computer literacy.’ These new media include, but are not limited to, blogging, social media, online publications, digital games, and virtual reality, just to name a few.

Skills for the future workforce would somehow merit leveraging these so that employees can conveniently transact with customers or each other on the aforementioned platforms.

7. Lifelong Learning

Employment skills for the future require one to be a lifelong learner. This kind of an educational mindset means that a person becomes a self-directed learner, able to operate without set agendas or curriculums – just an attitude to learn what is or will be needed.

Personal and professional development and anticipation of skills for the future will be one of the defining skills of the future workforce. Commitment to lifelong learning also brings about other competencies and attitudes like having a growth mindset, iterative thinking, and viewing mistakes as learning opportunities – and these are some employability skills for the future.

8. User Experience (UX) Mindset

It is said that most of the customer-service related jobs will be automated within the next few years. Just imagine there wouldn’t be anyone to talk to over the phone, or even personally, about concerns and issues. Every transaction would go through pre-recorded, automated responses.

What would be missed is the total customer / user experience. And this is why there would be a high demand for people with user experience mindsets, especially designers. The future will require products or processes to be specifically designed so that the end user would be more satisfied with quality and usability at the onset rather than having to go through the entire customer service process.

9. Design Thinking

Another one of the cutting-edge employability skills of the future is design. Design thinking takes a different approach when analyzing situations and solving problems. Aside from the usual, structured, problem solving and analytical approaches, design thinking draws more on ‘business soft skills’ rather than the technical ones.

For example, aside from using approaches in engineering or software programming, design thinking also utilizes creativity, systemic reasoning, and intuition in developing creative solutions.

10. Responsible Digital Citizenship

In a world where the boundaries between the virtual and the physical world are blurred, responsible digital citizenship is another one of those must-have employability skills for the future. Responsible digital citizenship means using online resources responsibly.

For example, a responsible digital citizen can distinguish between fake and real information found on the web. In addition, a responsible netizen has genuine concern for other users and would know how to handle malicious websites, fake news, malevolent beings and trolls in the online sphere.

With laws changing due to the ever-increasing influence of the internet, there will come a time when a person’s digital footprint will also be a substantial component of hiring and employability.

Why is this future employment skills list so important today?

The next few years will be the most crucial in ensuring that we still get to retain our livelihood come the next few decades. This is why as early as now, we need to equip ourselves with the top employability skills for the future – future skills that will keep us competitive in a very high-tech workforce.

We hope that this employability skills list was able to help you figure out what new skills you need to learn and what other competencies you need to work on. With automation threatening human jobs – the ones that we currently have – we always need to upgrade ourselves and develop the skills that are desperately needed for the future workforce.

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Not just nice to have: nature in the workplace makes employees happier and healthier

Bringing nature into the workplace can help reduce stress and increase creativity and focus, research shows.

Some researchers suggest humans have an innate need to be connected with nature. This is called biophilia. But as housing density, commute times, and office hours increase, we are spending less and less time in natural environments.

Workplace stress costs American businesses up to US$190 billion every year in healthcare costs alone. This is why bringing nature into the office can have such a big impact on employee wellbeing.

Incorporating nature into the workplace can take many different forms including living green walls, indoor trees and planter boxes. Even views of nature on television screens or art can positively impact mood and wellbeing.

Your environment has a huge impact on mood

Just being able to see nature has been shown to increase both self-esteem and mood, particularly among younger people.

Attention restoration theory suggests that looking at nature can cause the brain to shift into a different mode of processing. Researchers studied brain scans of people who were randomly assigned to look at pictures of a green meadow or a concrete roof for 40 seconds. Even this brief glimpse of nature was enough to shift the brain into a more relaxed mode.

Researchers also got the participants to do a task that measured their attention. The ones who had seen the picture of the meadow performed significantly better than the others, making less mistakes and getting less distracted.

Several other experiments and studies that included sounds of running water and forest smells also show that exposure to nature not only improved subjective measures of stress, but also physiological factors like heart rates and blood pressure.

Nature and the workplace

Researchers in America looked at the connection between environment and employee sickness. They found that 10% of employee absences could be explained by office design that did not include views of nature or sufficient daylight.

Another study from the United Kingdom found that bringing plants into workplace not only increased productivity by 15%, but also increased concentration and workplace satisfaction.

But even where there aren’t windows onto nature, and it isn’t possible to bring in plants, some of the same effects can be achieved. Simulated views of nature, using high definition televisions, have also been shown to create positive effects, such as lowering heart rates and blood pressure.

But it’s not just the sights and sounds of nature that are beneficial. It’s also good to create spaces where employees can go to take time out, such as indoor gardens. These spaces provide opportunities for restoration, privacy and retreat from noise.

The importance of well designed spaces such as these for employees appears particularly relevant with the rise of open-plan workplaces where employees may have little respite from noise and distraction.

When I started my working life, the only plants in the office were the occasional dusty, limp palm. In recent years, it seems as if every new office, cafe and public building has a green wall. The research shows this is not just another office design fad. There is a business case for bringing nature into the office, in terms of reduced costs and increased employee wellbeing and happiness.

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How to Develop the Future Employee

It used to be that being an employee was a fairly well-defined process: people joined a company and stayed with that organization for their entire career, working their way up the ladder and building a nice retirement package. However, that career path is fast becoming the exception rather than the norm, as the idea of what it means to be an employee is constantly changing. Today’s employee often forgoes the traditional contract between a single organization and has more freedom to change their career. Employees can be full time, part time, or contractors and often move between organizations multiple times during their careers. It all boils down to the fact that an employee is a member of the team who contributes on a daily basis to the success of the organization, and to whom the organization also contributes to their success.

The changing mindset for the future employee is an area where many organizations struggle because it throws out most of the traditional ideas about how to hire, train, and promote employees. Although every organization must make its own decision about how to operate in regards to employees, the most important trait is to have an ever-evolving mindset, according to John Sigmon, chief human resources officer at AARP. One of the biggest obstacles for organizations is how much time, effort, and training to put into an employee that could leave the company and go work for a competitor in just a few years. In theory, that training and knowledge would eventually go to help another organization. But the flip side also remains–what happens if a company doesn’t put in very much training or development and the employee ends up staying with the organization? It could come back to hurt the company if employees aren’t well developed. It is often to a company’s best interest to develop their employees to showcase their trust in them. That way, no matter where employees go or what their next career steps are, they can always be ambassadors for your organization.

An employee’s worth is often based on how much they contribute to the company, but the new wave of thinking highlights that organizations must also contribute back to employees. This happens through more than just a paycheck and basic benefits, but through career development and building marketability and strong skills. Developing strong employees helps the organization and the industry as a whole, no matter if the employee is a long-term full-time employee or a contractor who will move on to a new project in a few months.

Today’s employees want to develop and continually challenge themselves, which is one of the reason they move between organizations faster than employees have in the past. Many organizations have found that their employees are hungry for ways to build their careers, not only to plan for the future but also to find new ways they can contribute in their current position. AARP runs a series for employees about “Building Your Presence” that brings in experts from around the country to train on various topics and answer development questions. The program has been incredibly well received by employees and provides them the opportunity to push themselves and gain more skills. And although AARP knows that not all of those employees will work at AARP for their entire careers, it is the price the company pays to build its employees and turn them into the best people they can possibly be.

Addressing the modern employee definitely takes a changed mindset, which can be a challenge for some organizations. While employees can act as a catalyst by making their voices heard, true cultural change must come from the top with management leading by example and embracing all kinds of employees.

As the future of work evolves, we’ll likely see more changes in what it means to be an employee, especially in regard to customization and flexibility. However, organizations should continue to change alongside their employees and develop them into well-rounded people who can contribute to the company’s success every day.

This article was taken from an interview on the Future of Work Podcast with John Sigmon. You can listen to the full episode here.

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We need to talk about employability, not employment

To measure this key graduate outcome, we must better understand what it is, what it is not and what it could be, argues Johnny Rich.

In the very first paragraph of its Green Paper on English higher education, the government declares an intention to “provide greater focus on graduate employability”. Yet this rhetoric is not matched with any proposals to assess, let alone enhance, employability.

Take, for example, the issue of metrics. Having failed to introduce differential tuition fees in 2012, the government’s plan B is to allow fee rises for universities that offer “excellent” teaching, as assessed in the teaching excellence framework. This will be judged using “common metrics”, but none of the three proposed so far relates to employability. Sure, there is the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey, which records the proportion of graduates in employment six months after graduation, but this is a measure of employment, not employability. The words must not be confused. In a recession, for example, employment can crash, but employability may rise as people need to compete harder for available work.

Employability is that set of attributes that makes a graduate worth employing: how well a student’s learning matches with what the labour market needs. It is the number one outcome that, in increasing proportions, prospective students expect to get from higher education. It is also integral to the cost to the public purse of student loans that are never repaid.

In a paper that I have written for the Higher Education Policy Institute, “Employability: degrees of value”, published this week, I suggest ways to create a metric of employability for the TEF. Key to this is agreeing a common definition that cuts through the Babel-like babble that currently prevents students from recognising the attributes they need to acquire, academics from supporting their development and employers from identifying the graduates who meet their needs.

My definition comprises three elements. The first is knowledge, the teaching of which is higher education’s speciality. The second is more controversial. I have provocatively called it “social capital”, but I accept that that is too narrow a term to cover a huge range of attitudes and behaviours – not to mention attributes such as class, gender, age, ethnicity, accent and appearance – that, rightly or wrongly, make a person attractive to employers. But it at least highlights the inherent advantage that some universities can gain in this area through their selection processes – and the deep implications that this has for access policies.

The third element is skills. Higher education has a better record than many realise in developing students’ hard (job-specific) and soft (transferable) skills. This is evidenced, apart from anything else, by the fact that employers stubbornly pay higher wages to graduates even though the supply has been rising steadily for decades. Different courses develop students’ skill sets differently. But that’s no bad thing. Not all careers require every skill in equal and superlative abundance. Having a distinctive skill set can aid employability, helping graduates and employers achieve a better match with each other. My proposed metric for employability focuses on a scoring mechanism for the diverse skill sets that different courses can develop.

Above all else, it is the raising of students’ self-awareness about employability that develops it. Therefore, being more transparent about employability as a clear, simple and deliberate goal of a degree course will help. Since it is a form of personal development, helping students to understand the various ways they have benefited should be a welcome feature of any course, whatever the students’ initial reasons for studying it.

In particular, being more upfront about employability could ease the scandal of students undertaking certain degrees based on course titles that suggest they will lead to particular careers, but where there are simply not enough jobs in those sectors to go around. Putting students “at the heart of the system”, as the last government phrased it, creates a supply of courses based on the demand of students, not of employers. Meanwhile, some labour market sectors have gaping skills shortages.

Raising awareness helps academics to engage with employability, too. It is a topic many are uneasy with at best, seeing it as an instrumentalist intrusion on the pursuit of understanding. Having a simple and common language to describe employability will help them better embed the development of the relevant skills, attitudes and behaviours into their programme design without forcing anyone to change their course content.

In the UK, the Higher Education Academy has already been leading a programme of embedding employability into the curriculum. Meanwhile, Push (the not-for-profit organisation I run) has created some innovative initiatives to build students’ enthusiasm and engagement with what employers will want from them.

But the sector needs to do more to overcome students’ tendency to see a degree merely as a career passport – a proxy for employability – and connect them, instead, with the thing itself: the real value that they will be able to offer to an employer. Dry though the word sounds, employability, at its heart, is about having a rewarding future. And that is something we neglect at our peril.

Johnny Rich is chief executive of Push, an organisation that supports students’ choices and skills. He is also a director of the Higher Education Academy.

 

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Learning Analytics and the Value of Understanding L&D Metrics

When learning & development organizations successfully prove that they aren’t merely cost centers—that they reliably and verifiably deliver positive results to the bottom line of the enterprise—they inevitably gain stature and influence with business leaders. By establishing a solid metrics and measurement program, underpinned by a learning analytics process, learning leaders gain access to the evidence that illustrate their team's everyday impact.

Analytics turns learning metrics and measurement into insights that enable informed decisions and actions. Learning insights may include process efficiency, alignment of employee skills to business needs, and the impact of learning on key organizational metrics like staff turnover and leadership development capabilities. When analytics are leveraged effectively, they can influence not just how courses are designed or how the L&D function is staffed, but also larger decisions such as hiring and competency development.

The benefits of structured and consistent development and communication of learning analytics may extend to all levels of the organization.

 

When learning experiences are constantly being reevaluated for effectiveness via analytics, a few things tend to happen. Learners are more likely to be engaged when they receive the right level of training, which in turn spikes knowledge transfer and application. Learners are also more likely to enjoy a supportive and motivating work environment, as learning analytics can help diagnose non-learning issues that impact performance.

L&D organizations have much to gain from investing in L&D analytics, including identifying and addressing obstacles to learning effectiveness. Basing recommendations and budget requests on learning analytics adds a degree of professionalism and credibility to a business unit that is often at a loss for hard numbers. It also enables learning leaders to prioritize effort and make changes to better align with business goals and optimize the organization’s function.

Business stakeholders benefit from analyzing L&D metrics by being able to see where their investment of time and budget goes. They can see how the learning organization is addressing and impacting operational efficiency, learning effectiveness, employee performance, and ultimately business results.

Choosing the Metrics to Analyze

When we talk about metrics and measurement, we’re typically referring to gathering data on three areas: efficiency, effectiveness, and outcome.

Efficiency is generally thought of as learning-centric metrics—number of learners, hours of training, cost to produce content, etc. Efficiency measures can be useful as supplemental data and are of interest to internal L&D staff. Their value to business stakeholders is limited, though.

Effectiveness metrics are evaluations-focused—Levels 1–3 on the Kirkpatrick scale—and include things like learner satisfaction, quality of deliverables, knowledge acquisition, and performance impact. Some of these things are more valuable than others when it comes to proving business impact, but effectiveness measurement is the area where both L&D and business stakeholders share common ground. Unfortunately, too many metrics and measurement initiatives don’t go beyond effectiveness to the third category…

Outcome metrics are ultimately what really matter. Outcome looks at bottom-line results, such as revenue and cost reductions generated by the learning initiative. To the extent that efficiency and effectiveness metrics matter, they provide validation and explanation for the outcome.

Potential Pushback to Analytics

Some learning professionals are hesitant to initiate a learning analytics practice for two reasons: the perception that they must address everything at once, and concern that leadership will use the insights in a penalizing way.

Systems thinking and optimizing ongoing operations are two keys to success. Systems thinking helps escape the L&D-only mindset and into the perspective of the business. Systems thinking informs the questions to ask, your stakeholders, data to gather, accountability to provide and use data, the technology platform, standards, definitions, and reporting that drives use.

One of the first steps should be to review the current state. What metrics are you gathering, if any, and are you using them to inform decisions? If a metric is not informing a decision, there’s no need to keep gathering it. If it is, optimize the specific data and learn how to turn it into insights that inform decisions that matter to L&D and the larger organization. Over time, add more metrics, always keeping in mind the decisions they inform.

There will be metrics that you actively manage and metrics that you monitor. What’s the difference? You manage metrics that need optimization and other adjustments. There are other metrics that may already be optimized, so they just need monitoring. Further, determine target thresholds for the monitored metrics that will trigger an “alarm” for active management.

For learning professionals who lack experience with L&D analytics, there are many resources available, starting with the Center for Talent Reporting. Critical thinking, the ability to think like a stakeholder, and the ability to ask good questions are key when proving the business value of learning.

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Global Trends in L&D Analytics

All functions in today’s organizations face tremendous challenges to show value. As a result, the Learning & Development community is responding with changes in its approach to measurement, evaluation, metrics, and analytics.

Much has changed since the global recession. Budgets are tight, accountability is everywhere, and business results are expected routinely. All functions in an organization, including Learning & Development, face tremendous challenges to show value. The good news is that the Learning & Development community is responding with changes in their approach to evaluation. Here are seven metrics trends that are occurring globally and particularly in the U.S.

1. There is increased focus on the impact and return on investment (ROI) of major programs.

Although this trend has been evolving for years, the movement has been significant in the last five years—it is being driven by the recession itself. In 2008, many companies found themselves to be bloated, bureaucratic, and inefficient, and they began to trim their organizations during the recession, even if they were still financially strong. Senior executives and the chief financial officer are vowing to make sure their organizations are efficient, responsive, lean, and mean. This is causing major projects to be pushed to the impact and ROI analysis, showing a connection to the business and the financial ROI, the ultimate measure of success. In some cases, an ROI forecast is required before the program is designed, developed, or implemented.

Top executives crave impact and ROI data. A major study, supported by ASTD, showed that the No. 1 measure desired by CEOs from Learning & Development is business impact (“Measuring for Success: What CEOs Really Think About Learning Investments” by Jack J. Phillips and Patricia Pulliam Phillips; ASTD, 2010). With input from 96 Fortune 500 CEOs, this study revealed that the No. 2 measure is ROI. At the same time, these executives indicated that the current level of measurement is far from where they want it. Only 8 percent said that they see the business impact now, while 96 percent wanted to see it. For ROI, 4 percent see it now, and 74 percent want to see it in the future.

An important target for this level of analysis and accountability is soft skills, where it is more difficult for an executive to see the value. When the programs are important and expensive, executives especially want to see the value. In a study of 232 Global Leadership Development directors, 88 percent said there was an emphasis on ROI, and the No. 1 reason was the pressure for cost and efficiency (“Measuring Leadership Development: Quantify Your Program’s Impact and ROI on Organizational Performance” by Jack J. Phillips, Patricia Pulliam Phillips, and Rebecca L. Ray; McGraw Hill, 2012). This same study revealed that for leadership development, 34 percent of programs are measured at Level 3, Application; 21 percent measured at Level 4, Business Impact; and 11 percent at Level 5, ROI. These are the most ambitious numbers we’ve seen from leadership development.

2. The budget for measurement, evaluation, metrics, and analytics (MEMA) is increasing.

The Learning community has underinvested in measurement, evaluation, and metrics. Consequently, during the recession, many Learning leaders were not able to show the value of major programs and projects. Routine accountability at the level of evaluation sought by executives did not exist. Most organizations without a comprehensive approach to MEMA were spending approximately 1 percent of the budget on tools. Proactive Learning leaders are justifying additional expenditures by showing the value of current projects. Learning leaders are using the results to move to a best practice of 5 percent of the Learning budget to be spent on metrics and evaluation.

3. Responsibility for MEMA rests with all the team.

This trend has been shifting for some time, but it accelerated during the recession. Two decades ago, there was a move to centralize evaluation and have a core group of people with that responsibility. Although this appeared to be efficient, it often was ineffective. Every other member of the team— the designers, developers, facilitators, participants, and even managers of participants—would indicate that measurement and evaluation was not their responsibility, claiming the evaluation team should be doing this. Proactive Learning leaders have recognized that evaluation is everyone’s responsibility, and sharing the responsibility makes it much more effective. It reduces the resistance and keeps everyone accountable. Often, it is more efficient in terms of resources, because they all have their full-time job with part-time evaluation. Still, in large organizations, a small core group is available for very technical issues.

4. Finance, Accounting, and the CFO are more involved in L&D.

This trend has both good news and bad news, but is probably obvious to most Learning & Development functions. You don’t have to look far to see increased involvement of the Finance and Accounting departments, not only for Learning & Development but for other functions, as well. The CEO is pressuring the CFO to use the concept of ROI, which originally was developed to show the return on investing in capital expenditures (buildings, tools, and equipment). The concept now has moved to non-capital areas such as Human Resources, Marketing, Technology, and Quality. This has brought the CFO into the process as he or she implements ROI into these areas. According to Gartner research, many chief human resource officers (CHROs) are reporting to the CFO. Since most Learning & Development functions report to the CHRO, this brings the CFO into the reporting chain of command for some Learning functions. Proactive CLOs are stepping up to this challenge, making sure they have CEO- and CFO-friendly data, bringing Finance and Accounting into the process, and pursuing them as a colleague, not as an enemy.

5. Learning leaders are more proactive with impact/ ROI analysis.

Before the recession, many learning leaders would wait for the request to pursue a more rigorous analysis, particularly ROI. Unfortunately, the recession showed that approach to be disastrous. When the Learning & Development function is asked for this ultimate level of accountability and nothing has been put in place, it’s often too late. This places the Learning team on the defensive, with a short time line, and on the top executive agenda—not a good place to be. Proactive leaders learned their lesson and they are not waiting for the request. They are building capacity and experimenting with impact and ROI. They want to be driving the process, not reacting to it. They want to set the agenda, time line, and pace.

6. There are still barriers to impact/ROI use.

Although the concept of connecting learning to impact is all traceable to the early 1950s, and the use of ROI traces to the 1970s, the concept still does not enjoy the widespread use executives prefer. Some significant barriers must be overcome. Proactive Learning leaders are minimizing, diffusing, demystifying, removing, or going around those barriers. Here are the top five:

            Fear of results. As you can imagine, any program owner is nervous when someone is conducting an ROI study on his or her program and it’s negative. How will it affect me or my program, or my performance? Will it be discontinued, diminished, or not respected? While these thoughts are common, proactive leaders are managing the process. They use ROI as a tool for process improvement, not performance evaluation for the team.

            The perceived complexity of ROI use. Some proponents of ROI have created this fear by trying to develop complicated formulas. In reality, ROI is a ratio first encountered in fourth-grade mathematics.

            Perceived cost of an ROI study. Some think ROI costs too much, and they don’t have a budget or the time. In reality, costs are small. For a major program, the total cost of an ROI study is usually less than 1 percent of the program cost. It rarely goes over 5 percent, and that’s when a particular program is inexpensive. Proactive Learning leaders learn to manage this cost by building internal capability.

            They don’t know how to do it. This was a good defense 20 years ago, but not any more. Impact/ROI evaluation is now a part of the preparation for Learning & Development and Human Resource Development degree programs. ROI certification is offered globally, with more than 7,000 individuals having participated in the ROI certification offered by the ROI Institute.

            The client hasn’t asked for it. As mentioned in trend #5, this is a disaster. Proactive Learning leaders are reminding the team that we want to be in control of this issue.

7. Impact/ROI evaluations have many uses. Proactive Learning leaders are pursuing a more comprehensive measurement and evaluation system, linking Learning & Development to the business in credible ways and occasionally developing ROI studies for major programs. This proactive evaluation generates many great uses:

            Increase funding. Since the recession, this is the No. 1 reason for pursuing this issue.

            Satisfy executives in a request for accountability. Before the recession, the No. 1 reason for exploring impact and ROI was to meet a particular request from an executive group.

            Improve programs. This is the preferred reason for using impact and ROI and is the No. 1 reason advocated by the ROI Institute.

            Increase support. A key target for communicating results is participants’ managers. Showing the results at the impact level essentially ties the learning to the key performance indicators (KPIs) of these managers. That’s what’s needed for them to provide the level of support needed to make learning a useful process.

            Build business partnerships. To be effective, partnerships drive programs, funding, and new initiatives and make the process work smoothly. When executives see that L&D is making a contribution, they are more willing to be a viable business partner. Proactive Learning leaders are translating the business contribution of L&D to a successful business partnership.

            Improve client relationships. The ultimate client—the person who funds the program—has a much better image of learning and involvement when he or she sees learning as a valuable business contributor.

            Earn a seat at the table. For more than a decade, we have heard the comment that the Learning & Development leader (i.e., the CLO) should be involved in decision-making at appropriate high-level meetings. When a business contribution is clearly there, it’s much easier to earn and keep a seat at the table.

An expert on accountability, measurement, and evaluation, Dr. Jack J. Phillips provides consulting services for Fortune 500 companies and major global organizations. Dr. Phillips is chairman of the ROI Institute, Inc.; the author or editor of more than 50 books; and creator of the ROI Methodology, a process that provides bottom-line figures and accountability for all types of learning, performance improvement, Human Resources, technology, and public policy programs. For more information, call 205.678.8101 or e-mail jack@roiinstitute.net.

Patti P. Phillips, Ph.D., is president and CEO of the ROI Institute, Inc. She earned her doctoral degree in International Development and her Master’s Degree in Public and Private Management. While working for a large electric utility, she played an integral part in establishing Marketing University, a learning environment that supported the needs of new sales and marketing representatives. An accountability, measurement, and evaluation expert, Dr. Phillips is also the author and co-author of several books, including “The Bottom Line on ROI” (CEP Press, 2002), which won the 2003 ISPI Award of Excellence.

July 2017

Content was really clear 437 Content hit the target 366 Thanks for the learning boost! 369

3 Reasons Millennials Don't Get Promoted

Fix these, and you'll climb fast.

You don't get promoted for attendance. You get promoted for impact.

There is a huge misconception around how promotions work in our economy. For the most part, people assume that promotions are the result of time. The more time you spend at a company, the more likely you are to get promoted.

As my mother used to say about practicing the piano, "I don't care if you practice for ten minutes or ten hours, as long as you get it right."

Any boss, manager, or decision-maker does not base their decisions off whether to promote you or increase your pay based on how long you've been at the company. That might be a variable in the pie, but it's absolutely not the defining factor.

Instead, here's what they look for:

1. How often do you move the needle--and by how much?

Promotions really aren't pay increases. They are the "green light" for you to take on more responsibility. More responsibility (as many seem to interpret it) does not mean that you get to boss people around. More responsibility means that when things go wrong, you're the one at fault--and responsible for fixing it.

Receiving a promotion is like getting called up from the minor leagues to the major leagues. If you don't perform, you're gone. If you cost the team a win, you're gone. Promotions are based on results.

Which means, if you want a promotion, all you really have to do is show your value. Every company has measures for success. How much do you impact those measures? And I don't mean, "I was in the room when it happened." You didn't actually do anything. I mean, did you put the deal together? Did you land the client? Did you own a huge portion of the project? Did you succeed?

People who move the needle and help the team reach those measures for success, faster and more effectively, get promoted.

2. In achieving your measures for success, what was your attitude?

Contrary to popular belief, being good at what you do is only half the equation. The other half is how you do what you do, and how you make others feel in the process.

Do you lift others up, and help them perform at a higher standard? Or do you tear others down, and negatively impact the morale of the team?

The way you reach your achievements is a huge indicator that decides your fate at any given company. A company is a team, and one bad apple (no matter how talented) can ruin the overall performance.

3. Will you abuse your leadership privileges once you have them?

And finally, no real leader of a company wants to promote someone to any sort of leadership position that they think will misunderstand or abuse their newfound status.

Being a leader has very little to do with the title you wear, and everything to do with the way you walk your walk. People don't follow talkers, or false promisers, or big dreamers who lack followthrough. They follow shovelers, brick layers, those who aren't afraid to get their hands dirty and show how it's done--by doing it.

If your aura is that of an entitled employee who feels they deserve a "seat at the table," you will never get promoted. At least, not to the level you desire. Leaders don't want more egos seated around them. They want the opposite. They want doers, grinders, strategists, people who make an impact and understand that in order to effectively lead with instructions, you have to first live by those very instructions yourself.

It's astounding how many people expect to be promoted or given more opportunities simply because they've "been there for a long time."

I have never had that mentality, at any job or on any team I have ever played on. I have always believed in earning your way, and proving your worth through actions and results--and I have climbed every ladder extremely fast.

Stop judging your value based on how many hours or months or years you've spent at a job. Instead, ask yourself how you can start moving the needle the same amount as the very person whose position you want to have, yourself.

"I don't care if it takes you ten minutes or ten hours, just get it right."

 

Content was really clear 430 Content hit the target 354 Thanks for the learning boost! 351

To Grow Your Business, You've Got to Know Your People

If you expect the best out of employees, you'd better take a real interest in who they are.

Engaged, enthusiastic, and loyal employees are pivotal drivers of growth and health in any organization. The key to creating such workers in your business is as simple and cost-free as it is overlooked. It comes in the form of giving them what they want, need, and deserve more than anything else: to be known.

Yes, known. And not in some esoteric sense. Known in the way that all people want to be known, by friends and family. Who they are. Where they come from. What makes them tick. How their life is going.

When employees feel anonymous in the eyes of their managers, they simply cannot love their work, no matter how much money they make or how wonderful their jobs seem to be. But when they are known, they work harder, promote the company enthusiastically, recruit other good people to the organization, and make greater sacrifices for customers. All of which is more effective than any PR or marketing campaign will ever be.

Consider the practical approach a top executive at one of America's largest, most successful companies takes to ensure that his organization hires managers who will be actively interested in the lives of the people they lead. When he interviews managerial candidates, he asks about the largest number of direct reports they've led. Assuming he wants to understand their potential span of control, the interviewees often proudly explain that they've bossed 15 or 20 people. The executive then asks them to list those employees by name. If they hesitate and make excuses for not remembering, they're on thin ice.

Next, the executive chooses one of the people from the list and says to the interviewee, "OK, let's take Harriet. Tell me what was going on in Harriet's life while you were managing her." If the interviewee stammers and provides some generic answer, that thin ice breaks. In this executive's company, knowing employees is an inviolable requirement for all managers.

I got a hard-hitting reminder about how rare it is that managers truly care about their workers after I'd spent a few days with a pro football team at its preseason training camp. I was shocked by the relatively dour attitude of the players, who I thought would be giddy with joy given that they make so much money playing a child's game for only part of the year--then I figured out why they weren't.

The team had just traded for a famous, wildly talented, but troubled young player. So I asked the coach, "Are you going to have this guy over to dinner to get to know him and find out about his challenges and what makes him tick?" The coach, a very nice person, looked at me like I was a little crazy and said, "Pat, this isn't college or high school. It's professional football. We don't do that. This is a job." No wonder so many pro athletes are miserable, and so destructive off the field.

When leaders throughout an organization take an active, genuine interest in the people they manage, when they invest real time to understand employees at a fundamental level, they create a climate for greater morale, loyalty, and, yes, growth. If you doubt this, talk to someone at Southwest Airlines, Chick-fil-A, or the San Antonio Spurs. But don't ask one of the executives; ask an employee. You'll be told that the boss, and probably the boss's boss, knows about his or her passion for cycling or talent in woodworking or child with diabetes.

What exactly is the ROI of this? All the MBAs on Wall Street couldn't justify it on a spreadsheet. But that doesn't stop the best companies from doing it anyway.

June 2017

Content was really clear 444 Content hit the target 361 Thanks for the learning boost! 362

Who is going to disrupt education?

We, the Learning Gypsies, were recently part of a really cool event called The Creative Summit, in Skelleftea, Sweden. Yes, we didn’t know where it was on a map either, but we will never forget it now.

The event, brilliantly organized by Peter Mandalh (@PeterMandalh ) and his team, was focused on the theme “the Future of Work” and we had the privilege of sharing the stage with some of the leading thinkers about this fundamental topic: @congbo , @mikearauz, @Joeli_Brearley, @LydNicholas , @alisoncoward ,@disruptandlearn @jeremycdalton and @alexanderneuman , who did an incredible job intervening our three kids during a panel that helped redefined what it means to be successful.

It was really strange to have just 3 hours between sundown and sunrise, (something to experience in a lifetime) but the 2 days we spent in lapland was one of the best parts of this trip.

We learned a lot about the future from all the sessions we saw during the day: about Robots and A.I, new Organizational Models, the Skills of the Future, a fairer future with no discrimination against pregnant women, the wonders and possibilities of VR and AR, and about how improving collaboration might give us a chance at a better future at work.

Our approach to the question of the future was framed from our experience during our research about the future of education.

There is no video of the talk, and you might find some bits on twitter, but considering all the people who have requested the transcript, we decided to post it on medium.

(We would like to hear your reactions and get some feedback, so please let us know by writing a comment when you are done)

I’m Iñaki and I’m Hazel. We have a hypothesis about the future of work we are dying to share with you, but before we do that, we would like to tell you a little story.

Almost a year ago we left our life, our friends and the hype of Brooklyn, New York to research the future of Education around the world.

Our 3 kids, my mom and the two of us have been traveling from country to country for over 11 months looking for the answer to one question: how should kids learn in a world where everything will change?

CHANGE

A world where they might not need to learn to drive, where a lot of the current work will be automated… a world where cryptocracy might be the new black, food will be harmless and immortality might be a thing we need to pre-order.

STORY

And as we all know, with changes come surprises.

What we thought was going to be easy, was more difficult. And some of the challenges we anticipated, turned out to be easier.

We thought it was going to be harder for the kids to move around, city to city, from one continent to another. After visiting 42 cities in 11 months they keep on surprising us with their incredible flexibility and adaptability.

We thought it was going to be easier to take the kids to world class Museums, but they wouldn’t have it. After two museums in Sao Paulo they told us: if you want me to walk all day looking at old things I can’t touch, at least tell me what we are doing ahead of time.

To tell you the truth it’s been us the adults that have struggled the most.

Taking on the responsibility of homeschooling the kids has been more challenging than expected, keeping our full time jobs with the unexpected and chaotic nomadic life has been a test. Finding good wifi, the impossibility of a having a routine or finding moments of intimacy with Hazel have been some of the hardest things for us.

But in a project focus on understanding the future of education, the hardest aspect by far is how difficult it is to predict the future.

FUTURE

For us humans at least it is. We pretty much suck at it.

Look at the last 10 years alone. Experts predicting election results, the emergence of the sharing economy and the impact of Facebook, the iPhone or Netflix.

And we think that it is because we walk into the future backwards, with our sight on the past. Which forces us to see a future just like today but slightly different.

I think a great example are flying cars! we imagined flying highways with traffic lights.

When we keep our eyes on the past, we can’t imagine a completely new future. And that’s the challenge we face when we talk about the future of education, or the future of work!

HYPOTHESIS BASED ON SETTING IKER

Our son Iker, now 6, will be 9 in 2020, 14 in 2025, and 24 in 2035 , ready to go into the workforce. Which I hope will prove to be wrong too.

Yes, we think that the world of 2035 is unpredictable, and that the skills Iker will need to be successful are impossible to imagine with any reliable degree of certainty.

If we want to talk about a certain future we should then talk about behaviors. Because humans have been really consistent with our behaviors for the last 4,000 years.

We need love and appreciation. We crave respect and power, but we are also capable of showing incredible compassion and empathy. We learn these concepts from the media, our friends, at schools and churches, but mostly from the environment closest to us; our parents.

Remember at the beginning we said we had a hypothesis about the work in the future? Well, it is our believe that the future of work will be impacted, not by new technology or a new type of organization, but rather, by a much stronger force, the behavior kids see in their parents, and the relationship those parents have with their work.

OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH WORK

I grew up watching my father work 70 hours per week for 45 years. And he worked for only two companies in his entire life.

By the time I started my first professional job at 24 years of age, my values and expectations had already been defined: Loyalty, and hard work from my father. And care and sacrifice from my mother.

Through our research we have found that much like Iñaki everyone’s biggest influence is their parents. Funny thing is we are the least equipped to deal with such powerful responsibility. Their relationship with work will be determined by the way they see we relate to work. That is the strongest model they have.

To our 11 year old, whom you will meet in the next panel, a great part of her relationship with work was determined by our crazy workaholic lives during the first 6 years of her life. While she saw creativity (we both were creative directors in advertising) she also saw her parents working many nights and weekends, pitching campaigns and complaining constantly about clients.

OUR RENEWED PURPOSE

After having lost our path and even worse our purpose, we both shifted careers to education, where, with its imperfections, at least we have a clear purpose of helping people find their unlimited potential by inspiring them to fall in love with learning again. Hopefully now our kids are developing a new relationship with work. One about purpose, commitment and appreciation.

EXERCISE

There is a piece of paper on your chair. Please take 3 minutes to write the answer to this question:

What is the one thing in my relationship with work I need to get rid of?

Keep the piece of paper

NOT SKILLS BUT RELATIONSHIPS

We talked this morning about skills and organizations. But we think that we should also talk about relationships; not only with people but with ideas and institutions, such as work.

We, parents, guardians or anybody who has a young person in their life, construct the building blocks of those relationships for our kids. What is to love. To be happy, to be a citizen, to make a living, and to be a professional.

The idea of work will be disrupted or reinforced by the behaviors our kids, see at home every day and night. And that will define the future.

WE HAVE A DREAM

We have a dream, a big dream, we dream to help improve the future of society by empowering parents and children to develop a good relationship with themselves, their community, and ultimately with their jobs. A relationship that asks questions instead of giving answers, one that continuously learns and is never done, one that questions assumptions. One that can make any company in the world the best place to work!

To achieve that dream, we need your help

We need you to reflect on what model we are building for our kids and take the first step in changing the future by doing a little experiment we have created.

Exercise:

Explore the one damaging thing you have in relationship to work you learned from watching your parents work. It can be working in the home or at a job.

Write only one thing per paper. For example, wait I can’t give you an example, my mother is sitting right here, so Iñaki it is all you to give a few examples ;)

I grew up watching my father putting work before family. So also put work before family for many years.

You will have 5 minutes to write it, just one, and then turn your paper into an airplane. Once you are done, put it up.

We, the Learning Gypsies, were recently part of a really cool event called The Creative Summit, in Skelleftea, Sweden. Yes, we didn’t know where it was on a map either, but we will never forget it now.

The event, brilliantly organized by Peter Mandalh (@PeterMandalh ) and his team, was focused on the theme “the Future of Work” and we had the privilege of sharing the stage with some of the leading thinkers about this fundamental topic: @congbo , @mikearauz, @Joeli_Brearley, @LydNicholas , @alisoncoward ,@disruptandlearn @jeremycdalton and @alexanderneuman , who did an incredible job intervening our three kids during a panel that helped redefined what it means to be successful.

It was really strange to have just 3 hours between sundown and sunrise, (something to experience in a lifetime) but the 2 days we spent in lapland was one of the best parts of this trip.

The kids during their panel about the future of work.

We learned a lot about the future from all the sessions we saw during the day: about Robots and A.I, new Organizational Models, the Skills of the Future, a fairer future with no discrimination against pregnant women, the wonders and possibilities of VR and AR, and about how improving collaboration might give us a chance at a better future at work.

Our approach to the question of the future was framed from our experience during our research about the future of education.

There is no video of the talk, and you might find some bits on twitter, but considering all the people who have requested the transcript, we decided to post it on medium.

(We would like to hear your reactions and get some feedback, so please let us know by writing a comment when you are done)

I’m Iñaki and I’m Hazel. We have a hypothesis about the future of work we are dying to share with you, but before we do that, we would like to tell you a little story.

Almost a year ago we left our life, our friends and the hype of Brooklyn, New York to research the future of Education around the world.

Our 3 kids, my mom and the two of us have been traveling from country to country for over 11 months looking for the answer to one question: how should kids learn in a world where everything will change?

CHANGE

A world where they might not need to learn to drive, where a lot of the current work will be automated… a world where cryptocracy might be the new black, food will be harmless and immortality might be a thing we need to pre-order.

STORY

And as we all know, with changes come surprises.

What we thought was going to be easy, was more difficult. And some of the challenges we anticipated, turned out to be easier.

We thought it was going to be harder for the kids to move around, city to city, from one continent to another. After visiting 42 cities in 11 months they keep on surprising us with their incredible flexibility and adaptability.

We thought it was going to be easier to take the kids to world class Museums, but they wouldn’t have it. After two museums in Sao Paulo they told us: if you want me to walk all day looking at old things I can’t touch, at least tell me what we are doing ahead of time.

To tell you the truth it’s been us the adults that have struggled the most.

Taking on the responsibility of homeschooling the kids has been more challenging than expected, keeping our full time jobs with the unexpected and chaotic nomadic life has been a test. Finding good wifi, the impossibility of a having a routine or finding moments of intimacy with Hazel have been some of the hardest things for us.

But in a project focus on understanding the future of education, the hardest aspect by far is how difficult it is to predict the future.

FUTURE

For us humans at least it is. We pretty much suck at it.

Look at the last 10 years alone. Experts predicting election results, the emergence of the sharing economy and the impact of Facebook, the iPhone or Netflix.

And we think that it is because we walk into the future backwards, with our sight on the past. Which forces us to see a future just like today but slightly different.

I think a great example are flying cars! we imagined flying highways with traffic lights.

When we keep our eyes on the past, we can’t imagine a completely new future. And that’s the challenge we face when we talk about the future of education, or the future of work!

HYPOTHESIS BASED ON SETTING IKER

Our son Iker, now 6, will be 9 in 2020, 14 in 2025, and 24 in 2035 , ready to go into the workforce. Which I hope will prove to be wrong too.

Yes, we think that the world of 2035 is unpredictable, and that the skills Iker will need to be successful are impossible to imagine with any reliable degree of certainty.

If we want to talk about a certain future we should then talk about behaviors. Because humans have been really consistent with our behaviors for the last 4,000 years.

We need love and appreciation. We crave respect and power, but we are also capable of showing incredible compassion and empathy. We learn these concepts from the media, our friends, at schools and churches, but mostly from the environment closest to us; our parents.

Remember at the beginning we said we had a hypothesis about the work in the future? Well, it is our believe that the future of work will be impacted, not by new technology or a new type of organization, but rather, by a much stronger force, the behavior kids see in their parents, and the relationship those parents have with their work.

OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH WORK

I grew up watching my father work 70 hours per week for 45 years. And he worked for only two companies in his entire life.

By the time I started my first professional job at 24 years of age, my values and expectations had already been defined: Loyalty, and hard work from my father. And care and sacrifice from my mother.

Through our research we have found that much like Iñaki everyone’s biggest influence is their parents. Funny thing is we are the least equipped to deal with such powerful responsibility. Their relationship with work will be determined by the way they see we relate to work. That is the strongest model they have.

To our 11 year old, whom you will meet in the next panel, a great part of her relationship with work was determined by our crazy workaholic lives during the first 6 years of her life. While she saw creativity (we both were creative directors in advertising) she also saw her parents working many nights and weekends, pitching campaigns and complaining constantly about clients.

OUR RENEWED PURPOSE

After having lost our path and even worse our purpose, we both shifted careers to education, where, with its imperfections, at least we have a clear purpose of helping people find their unlimited potential by inspiring them to fall in love with learning again. Hopefully now our kids are developing a new relationship with work. One about purpose, commitment and appreciation.

EXERCISE

There is a piece of paper on your chair. Please take 3 minutes to write the answer to this question:

What is the one thing in my relationship with work I need to get rid of?

Keep the piece of paper

NOT SKILLS BUT RELATIONSHIPS

We talked this morning about skills and organizations. But we think that we should also talk about relationships; not only with people but with ideas and institutions, such as work.

We, parents, guardians or anybody who has a young person in their life, construct the building blocks of those relationships for our kids. What is to love. To be happy, to be a citizen, to make a living, and to be a professional.

The idea of work will be disrupted or reinforced by the behaviors our kids, see at home every day and night. And that will define the future.

WE HAVE A DREAM

We have a dream, a big dream, we dream to help improve the future of society by empowering parents and children to develop a good relationship with themselves, their community, and ultimately with their jobs. A relationship that asks questions instead of giving answers, one that continuously learns and is never done, one that questions assumptions. One that can make any company in the world the best place to work!

To achieve that dream, we need your help

We need you to reflect on what model we are building for our kids and take the first step in changing the future by doing a little experiment we have created.

Exercise:

Explore the one damaging thing you have in relationship to work you learned from watching your parents work. It can be working in the home or at a job.

Write only one thing per paper. For example, wait I can’t give you an example, my mother is sitting right here, so Iñaki it is all you to give a few examples ;)

I grew up watching my father putting work before family. So also put work before family for many years.

You will have 5 minutes to write it, just one, and then turn your paper into an airplane. Once you are done, put it up.

Content was really clear 451 Content hit the target 360 Thanks for the learning boost! 374

Can a different framework of value enable greater trust in business?

Defining the journey towards more effective measurement and reporting of valueThe world is changing at a rapid rate; business is fast becoming enabled with new technology which will mean faster and lower cost delivery of quality services.

This has led to a world of hyper connectivity, characterised by machine learning, autonomous vehicles and business transactions that are verified through the use of blockchain technology. But business is not only facing new technological enablers. Recently, we have seen radical shifts throughout politics and society.

Whilst all this is playing out, it is clear that we will need to invent new regulatory and ethical regimes. Current governance methods are already outdated and is not providing the assurance business and society needs. One of the key changes that we have detected is that intangible drivers make up a much larger percentage of organisational value. The current accounting standards do not support this trend.
 
It is against this backdrop that we, along with Cambridge University have undertaken an extensive study on how accounting and reporting could look in the 21st Century. Our findings indicate that investors and other stakeholders find little value in the way that companies report today.

We are proposing a long term value (LTV) model as a new way for companies to communicate their long term value-creating potential and are launching a major collaboration of leading academics, businesses leaders and institutional Investors to develop a roadmap for action.

This website provides access to our point of view and an accompanying white paper. These will form the basis of a series of pilots in 2017. We want to emphasise that this is a call to action as well as a potential way forward and we are delighted that so many investors, think-tanks and business leaders are actively engaging on this. In our capacity as a professional services organisation, we will be the catalyst to collaborate in tackling this challenge.

Understanding the challenge

Accounting as we know it has remained broadly unchanged from its conception in the 15th century by Italian mathematician Luca Pacioli.

In 1971, the first accounting standard was issued by the newly formed Accounting Standards Steering Committee. From 1971 to 1979, the principles of modern corporate reporting were established. During this time, manufacturing was at the heart of global economies and in 1975, physical and financially accountable assets were still the primary balance sheet constituents.

However, we are now witnessing the fourth industrial revolution — characterised by hyperconnectivity, data-informed decision-making, and automation — which is disrupting and reshaping entire industries. Additionally, globalisation, externalities such as climate change and calls for inclusive capitalism are leading to new operating challenges and requirements.

In view of the fact that the operating context and the business models organisations use have changed significantly in the last decade, we now need to question whether accounting principles and practices defined 100 years ago are still fit for purpose today.

Current approaches

No framework currently exists for Boards to consistently measure, manage and communicate the value they create across stakeholder groups over the long term and relate this value to investors and other stakeholders in a compelling way.

This plethora of activity is creating confusion at the Board level and is frustrating investors:

Companies — Multiple CEO-led fora are growing in influence and momentum as they look to build long term value but lack the metrics to operationalise it; Investors — mobilising around long term value and capital allocation but currently there are few commonly accepted investment grade metrics; Regulators and Accounting Standard Setters — showing interest but slow to respond with new accounting methods and standards; Influencing organisations — highly active in driving the call for more comprehensive corporate disclosure but most not addressing the complete picture; Professional Services — increasingly prominent around this agenda and positioning with key influencing organisations. There is innovation in measurement frameworks but these tend to have a bias towards sustainability.

These all represent important initiatives in their own right and the leadership shown across stakeholders is encouraging. However, without a unifying language of long term value to bind these stakeholders together there is a risk of further fragmentation and complexity across the investment chain.

Attributes of a new framework

We have held discussions with business leaders, academics, employees and investors, and made significant investment in understanding what attributes of a new reporting framework are required for 21st century companies.

In summary, a new framework must pass the following six tests:

1. The new way of reporting should be clear about context;
2. It must be material to stakeholders;
3. It is critical that the organisation describes its purpose in a meaningful process;
4. To be trusted it must be assured;
5. It should provide a more complete view of value; and
6. It must to simple to understand.

Defining the LTV model

We used the six tests identified to develop and propose a new model for reporting – the long term value (LTV) model. Our intention is to develop an approach to reporting long term value which:

focuses on identifying and communicating how organisations create value in the long term for all of their material stakeholders; aligns this with the organisation’s context and purpose, ensuring that the organisation is both realistic in its aspirations and trustworthy in its communications; reduces the regulatory burden of reporting by providing a structure that communicates the essence of the organisation without resorting to massive reports or regulations; utilises and provides assurance over new data sources to present a new view of the way the organisation creates value across multiple stakeholders; and builds on recent developments (most notably new concepts in reporting intangibles, strategic assets and integrated reporting).

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Nobody Cares How Hard You Work

Will we ever decouple perceived effort and long hours with our rewards system?

As you sink into the couch, or slide onto the barstool, at the end of an exhausting workday, it’s hard not to experience the warm glow of self-congratulation. After all, you put in the hours, cranked through the to-do list; you invested the effort, and got things done. Surely you’re entitled to a little smugness?

Sorry, but at the risk of ruining that martini: maybe not. We chronically confuse the feeling of effort with the reality of results—and for anyone working in a creative field, that means the constant risk of frittering time and energy on busywork, instead of the work that counts.

Psychologists have long noticed what’s sometimes been called the “labor illusion:” when it comes to judging other people’s work, we might say we’re focused only on whether they did the job quickly and well—but really we want to feel they wore themselves out for us.

The behavioral economist Dan Ariely tells the story of a locksmith, who, as he got better at his work, started getting fewer tips, and more complaints about his prices. Each job took him so little time or effort that customers felt cheated—even though, pretty obviously, being super-fast is an asset in a locksmith, not a fault.

Each job took him so little time or effort that customers felt cheated.

In 2011, a study [pdf link] by the Harvard Business School researchers Ryan Buell and Michael Norton found that people using a flight-search website actually preferred to wait longer for search results—provided they could watch a detailed progress display to see the site “working hard” to canvas each airline’s database.

This would be no more than an intriguing quirk of consumer behavior—if it weren’t for the fact that we apply the same twisted standards to ourselves. Call it the “Effort Trap:” it’s dangerously easy to feel as though a 10-hour day spent plowing through your inbox, or catching up on calls, was much more worthwhile than two hours spent in deep concentration on hard thinking, followed by a leisurely afternoon off. Yet any writer, designer or web developer will tell you it’s the two focused hours that pay most—both in terms of money and fulfillment. (In Mason Currey’s 2013 book Daily Rituals, a compendium of artists’ and authors’ work routines, almost nobody reports spending more than four or five hours a day on their primary creative tasks.) Indeed, meaningful work doesn’t always lead to exhaustion at all: a few hours of absorption in it can be actively energizing—so if you’re judging your output by your tiredness, you’re sure to be misled.

If you’re judging your output by your tiredness, you’re sure to be misled.

It’s doubly hard to avoid the Effort Trap because our culture so strongly reinforces its deceptive message: Hard work is ultimately what matters. From childhood, parents and teachers drum into us the moral virtue of effort, and the importance of “doing your best”. Numerous approaches to productivity—even the best ones, like David Allen’s Getting Things Done—encourage a “cross-it-off-the-list” mindset: They’re so preoccupied with clarifying and keeping track of your to-dos, you forget to ask if they’re the right tasks to begin with.

And too many workplaces still subtly communicate to employees the idea that intense effort, usually in the form of long hours, is the best route to a promotion. In fact, though, if you can do your job brilliantly and still leave at 3 p.m. each day, a really good boss shouldn’t object. And by the same token, you shouldn’t cite all the effort you put in when making your case for a raise. Why should a results-focused boss even care?

You shouldn’t cite all the effort you put in when making your case for a raise.

In America and northern Europe, the roots of the Effort Trap may well lie in the “Protestant work ethic,” the old Calvinist idea that being a hard worker was evidence that you’d been pre-selected for Heaven. To reach creativity heaven, though, you’ll need a different approach—one that prioritizes doing the right things, not just lots of things.

The well-known advice to do the most important tasks first in the day is probably still the best; that way, even if you do lapse into busywork, you won’t be wasting your best energies on it. And if your work situation permits it, experiment with radically limiting your working hours: The added constraint tends to push the most vital work to center-stage. You could set electronic reminders through the day, as a prompt to ask if you need to change your focus.

But above all, remember that tiring yourself out—or scheduling every minute of your day with work—isn’t a reliable indicator of a day well spent. Or to put it more cheerfully: The path to creative fulfillment might take a lot less effort than you think.

How about you?

Have you ever had a job that rewarded results over hours logged?

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How to Effectively Harness Behavioral Economics to Drive Employee Performance and Engagement

How to Effectively Harness Behavioral Economics to Drive Employee Performance and Engagement

 

The Incentive Research Foundation’s (IRF) Using Behavioral Economics Insights in Incentives, Rewards, and Recognition presents new insights—and challenges long held assumptions—on what makes employees work their hardest.

Offering practical takeaways to apply immediately in incentives, rewards, and recognition (IRR) programs, the IRF’s report highlights proven behavioral economics approaches that make sense of—and capitalize upon—the powerful role of emotions in employee performance.

Emerging in recent years as a discipline in its own right, behavioral economics has long been overshadowed by the more readily accepted traditional economics which suggests, among other things, that:

            People tend to act rationally and in their own best interests when making decisions

            Money is the most effective motivator of employees

However, because behavioral economics recognizes that 70% of human decision-making is emotional—as opposed to rational—it proves to be a more useful tool than traditional economics in helping employers understand what actually motivates employees, why some incentives are more effective than others, and how they can strategically apply these principles to their own businesses.

Studies indicate that typically only about one-third of employees care about their work. But companies that incorporate proven techniques from behavioral economics into employee motivation programs and other aspects of their business models have a competitive edge and enjoy higher levels of productivity, engagement, and retention among employees than those relying solely on traditional monetary incentives. In most cases, an understanding of the person being incentivized and an appropriate experiential or merchandise reward will result in a far more memorable and impactful reward than cash.

How do IRR professionals decide which rewards to use and how exactly to use them? It’s hardly a surprise that factors like an employee’s age, income, and family status all play into how strong an impact a particular reward has on that particular employee. For a truly effective incentive campaign, IRR professionals should also give careful consideration to these subtle, though perhaps seemingly inconsequential variables:

            Ease of selection:  Is the incentive system user-friendly for the employees being rewarded? Do employees need to make multiple decisions or fill out multiple forms? Are there too many rewards to choose from? Are there enough?

            Reward type: e.g., experience, merchandise, or monetary

            Motivation type: e.g., internal vs. external; cooperative vs. competitive

              How can the reward be made most meaningful for and therefore most effective at motivating this particular employee? Who does the recognizing? Does the recognition seem to come from an HR representative, an executive level manager, direct supervisor, or the rest of the team?             How frequently should rewards be given? What time of year is best to recognize employees? Does it depend on the type of reward? Should the employee know about the reward in advance or should it be a surprise?

            Desired impact: What are the long-term goals of the IRR program? How will these be tracked? How can employers and IRR professionals work together to achieve these goals?

The IRR community might be astounded by some of the IRF’s findings, many of which are downright counterintuitive. However, the study also sheds light on how to best use these findings and proposes numerous ways to successfully apply these insights in the constantly evolving workplace.

Top Recommendations

Here are the top recommendations, and the rationale behind them, from Using Behavioral Economics Insights in Incentives, Rewards, and Recognition:

Ease of Selection

            Incentive programs should focus on using nudges (subtle incentive tools/practices) to make the reward system user-friendly and to maximize the program’s emotional impact. Emotionally compelling rewards hit the mind harder, are remembered longer, produce quantifiably better results from employees, and influence the internal brand the most.

Reward Type

            Employers need to move beyond programs that rely solely on monetary rewards. For large rewards in particular, experience-type programs involving travel tend to generate warm memories and appeal to more than two-thirds of an IRF survey’s respondents over the cash equivalents.

            IRR programs should offer material items and formal recognition more frequently while using intense experiential rewards more sparingly. Experiential rewards (e.g., a tropical getaway or box seats at a premiere sporting event) and material rewards such as plaques each have their own unique value as reward types and should be used in strategic combination to complement each other. One type tends to deliver more intense happiness, while the other serves as a more permanent reminder of appreciation.

Motivation Type

            Reward a top performing team as opposed to using a system in which members of a team all compete against each other for a single reward. In today’s workplace, cooperative incentives are more effective and valuable than competitive incentives. Emotional pressures cause people to do things they don’t really want to do; but it doesn’t cause them to do those things well.

            Don’t underestimate the value of rewards that reinforce internal motivation. Intrinsic rewards increase the recipient’s self-esteem by establishing or affirming a sense of purpose, fueling a desire to live up to expectations of peers and social norms, or helping the recipient master new skills. Intrinsic rewards create a long-lasting desire to perform well. For instance, simply celebrating reward-earners publicly by listing their names has measurable, favorable effects on productivity.

 

Personalization

            Employers need to depart from a generic, one-size-fits-all model and incorporate creativity and personalization (based upon what matters to the individual and his or her peer group) into rewards. For instance, a “working vacation”—toiling, for a fee, at a family farm, bakery, vineyard, brewery, or in another romanticized trade—is an increasingly popular example of a reward that incorporates both intrinsic and extrinsic elements. These “vacations” which include mentoring by experts and impart a new specialized skill upon participants are often a far more appealing choice to individuals who might get restless and bored on a beach vacation.

            Who does the recognizing and how personalized or public that recognition is can have an impact on the employee’s emotional response and ultimately the employee’s productivity. One employee may value and appreciate public recognition while another might respond more favorably to private acknowledgement from an esteemed colleague.

Timing

            Surprise the employee with the reward after the goal has been achieved to avoid the entitlement effect and make it more meaningful. A reward that is explicitly promised in advance to an employee if he or she achieves a particular goal loses its impact much more quickly than a reward received unexpectedly by the same employee in recognition of reaching said goal.

            Use hyperbolic discounting to determine the optimal distribution of bonuses. Hyperbolic discounting refers to humans’ tendency to prefer smaller payoffs now over larger payoffs later. In other words, individuals tend to disregard the future when it requires sacrifice in the present. IRR professionals can make the most of this nearly universal phenomenon, by offering initiatives with titles such as “fast start" which accelerate payouts of incentives in the first few months of the program, making the incentives more tangible and generating more early excitement about the incentive opportunity.

Desired Impact

            Implementing emotionally meaningful incentives in IRR programs has benefits that extend beyond just improving employee productivity. The more valued a company’s employees feel, the better the internal brand impression. Internal brand impression will be talked-up on social media and thereby attract the most talented employees. Eventually, high-performing employees turn into brand ambassadors who extoll the company’s virtues to non-employees—including current and potential customers, vendors, and media.

            Ideally, every incentive and reward program will align to purpose and meaning in some way. If employees believe in the company and its purpose, freely invest in the company, trust their leaders, and develop caring relationships with the people they work with, then the employer becomes an asset in the employees’ ledgers that they will instinctively protect. In this situation the employee feels like an owner as opposed to a renter and will act accordingly.

            Rewards programs that prove you truly care about your employees are the most effective ones. This last insight from the paper ironically draws upon a principle of traditional economics—nothing ventured, nothing gained. Many of these recommended practices for designing a rewards system based on behavioral economics require employers to actually care about their people—something that can’t be faked. Pulling off emotionally meaningful rewards, in other words, may require a cultural change and a mind-set change on the part of the board, executives, managers, and superiors.

 

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6 Onboarding Tips to Keep Employees From Quitting

Good companies hire employees and take the time to train and guide them in the hopes that they will stay at the company and become long-term assets. Unfortunately, that’s where most companies stop. Some don’t even have a process of onboarding or training at all.

Growing employee loyalty starts with the onboarding process. You need to make sure new hires feel welcomed, important and engaged so that they don’t quit after the first couple of months. Follow these six onboarding tips to make your way from “average” or “good” to “great.”

1. Start on the right foot during pre-boarding.

Most companies forget that onboarding starts before even the offer letter. Employees get a feel for a company’s culture from the start of the recruitment process. Your recruitment team sets the tone for positive office culture even before applicants become employees.

To ensure a good first impression, train your recruitment and HR department on how to properly interact with applicants. Anyone interacting with prospective hires should keep all interactions friendly and professional (even if the candidates do not).

Once employees sign on the dotted line, make sure to give clear instructions on what they can expect on their first day, including when they should arrive, what they need to bring (and wear!), and whom they will be meeting with upon arrival. These guidelines will help them feel more at ease and ready for their first day.

2. Plan your new hire’s first days.

First days of work are for introductions, orientations, completing information forms and adjusting to the new role. Giving your new hires a full workload immediately will make it harder for them to adjust, and it may set them up for failure. The first few days should be welcoming, and new hires should be given work at a healthy but reasonable pace as they settle in.

Observe a few employee onboarding rules and strategies to ensure that employee orientations are effective. Focus on the content that affects them, such as benefits, opportunities for promotion, pay, and rules and policies. Don’t forget to make sure you have a desk or cubicle set up for your new hire, complete with working computer and a company email address.

3. Assign a company ambassador.

People, especially new hires, are greatly influenced by their coworkers. On the first day, assign someone to show the new hire around the office to help them feel more welcomed and also give them a person to whom they can ask questions.

The company ambassador should be someone who knows the ropes and is friendly and patient. If new hires feel like the person they are shadowing is unapproachable, it will be difficult for them to ask questions.

Consider assigning them a buddy or mentor from the team they are joining, if that’s a different person than the company ambassador. This person should be skilled at training new employees and emulate the company culture and ideal performance.

4. Communicate consistently.

It’s not enough to have a great onboarding process for the first few days. Employees need open communication, beyond the initial start period and in several forms. Here are some tips:

Ensure that your employees know that their manager and/or HR department is always available if they have problems in the workplace. Teams should also hold regular meetings to discuss project progress, with a bit of chitchat in between. Remember that communication is a two-way street. When giving feedback to your new hires, encourage them to ask questions and give feedback about the company as well.

5. Continue wooing your employees.

During pre-boarding, you wowed your applicants with a compensation plan, growth opportunities or work perks. During the first few months, you maintained a friendly atmosphere and open communication. However, just because your employees have been working for you for a while doesn’t mean you should stop wooing them.

Continue giving your employees a glimpse of what they can gain if they stay at the company through a performance review process and an employee engagement or recognition program.

6. Keep an eye out for “quitting” behaviors.

Employees don’t quit suddenly. They typically exhibit signs that they’re losing interest in their work for months. Sometimes, managers don’t see it coming, because the employees are still doing well. However, onboarding shouldn’t just focus on how productive employees are but also on how engaged they are.

Maybe your employee used to go the extra mile but now does the bare minimum. Maybe your employee who used to speak up in company meetings has become a wallflower. Then there’s the classic sign of the employee who now bolts out of the office at 5 p.m., when he or she used to be the first to stay late and help. Once an employee starts acting like he or she doesn’t care about the job and the company, it’s time to have a face-to-face meeting to confront these issues head-on.

Most companies view onboarding in a very narrow sense, which is why most employees become disengaged as time goes by. Onboarding isn’t just about the first few days of work – it starts at the recruitment phase and goes on each day, in the form of employee engagement and recognition. Onboarding does not only mean taking steps to ensure that the employee fits in and feels appreciated in the company. It also means taking steps to maintain or improve your company's image so that your employees are happy with their workload, management and the company itself.

(Christy Hopkins, PHR, is a writer at Fit Small Business and a human resources consultant for 30 small business clients across the United States. Her areas of expertise include recruiting, performance management, organizational change and implementing HR systems.)

 

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Data and Analytics 101: Tips for Success in Corporate Training

Analytics, predictive analytics, diagnostics, data, big data and data mining are all terms used frequently in corporate training. But what do they mean, and what do training professionals need to know? Here are some definitions and tips for success.

Data, Analytics and their Uses

In training, analytics is the process of measuring an individual, system or organization’s performance. Training diagnostics is the process of examining and evaluating training and organizational performance through assessments, analysis and data collection. Big data refers to large, complex data sets that are difficult to analyze using traditional methods but that can reveal important patterns and relationships that inform decision-making.

Data mining and predictive analytics “are a collection of mathematical and computing techniques that can reveal new insights in data,” according to an email from Jeff Deal and Gerhard Pilcher, authors of “Mining Your Own Business: A Primer for Executives on Understanding and Employing Data Mining and Predictive Analytics.”

Data mining organizes data into patterns and relationships, and predictive analytics uses the data to make predictions about the future. Thanks to technology, artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly used in this process through machine learning, which automates the process of analyzing data and making predictions. The people working with the computer, then, ensure the right questions are asked and, according to Peter Clark, co-founder of Qlearsite, use their experience to interpret what the AI tells them: “The combination of a human’s ability to ask good, relevant questions and an intelligent machine capable of searching within big data for a statistical answer is extremely powerful.”

Deal and Pilcher say that analytics can recommend new training and measure its effectiveness, suggest changes to existing training to improve outcomes, and measure the relationships “between training and employee retention” and “between training and employee satisfaction.” Data science, Clark summarizes, “will prove the ‘return on investment’ of learning … in short, [ensuring] the learning and development function delivers more value to the organization.”

James Densmore, director of data science at Degreed, elaborates, writing in an email that “Data Science is key to making the learning experience more personalized and more social.” Using “search and recommendation algorithms,” employees can learn the skills they need using the modality or modalities they prefer. Data can also help connect learners to their peers to learn from and collaborate with each other.

To reap the benefits of data and analytics in training, here are some tips.

1. Use relevant data.

“Just because it’s interesting doesn’t mean it’s valuable,” Densmore says of the data available to training professionals. Understand your business needs, and then define actionable metrics that will enable you to develop training to meet those needs. “Usually,” say Deal and Pilcher, “an effective baseline measure naturally emerges that becomes an effective tool for measuring ROI.”

Qlearsite uses natural language processing to convert written text into “analyzable scores on themes and sentiment.” Up to 80 percent of a business’ “people data” consists of communications, survey responses, performance reviews, assessments and other written text, according to Clark. It’s important to capture that information in a usable way.

2. Leverage technology wisely.

Algorithms “learn” from the data that you provide them with, and “algorithms are only as good as the data you train them with,” Densmore says. When using machine learning or other technology-enabled analytic techniques, evaluate your data and “tailor it to specific domains and use cases.”

3. Curate content thoughtfully.

There’s a large amount of content on the internet that learners can use effectively to improve their performance. Training professionals can help ensure that they access the right content at the right time using content curation. Densmore cautions that L&D organizations should classify content into interrelated topics rather than using a hierarchy, which doesn’t take the interconnectedness of topics into account.

Ask learners what they want to learn, determine what skills they need to learn based on their role, “look at the content they’ve been consuming” and then use all that data in your machine learning system to recommend relevant content.

4. Don’t oversimplify.

Clark says that “simple correlation of two metrics can create false signals.” For example, participants in one training program may have higher scores than participants in another, but does that mean the first program is better? It might be; on the other hand, the people taking that program may be more skilled than participants in the other program. Statistical factoring can alleviate this problem, and automation can help L&D professionals without a mathematics background complete that factoring more easily.

5. Communicate results.

Make sure the conclusions drawn from data are communicated to L&D managers. They need to know “what content is making the biggest difference, gaps in learning vs. industry trends and emerging technologies,” according to Densmore. That way, they can plan programs and resources strategically.

Data and analytics are powerful tools in corporate training, but only if they’re used strategically. Use these tips, and make your data work for you and your employees.

 

 

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Translating the Neuroscience of Behavioral Economics into Employee Engagement

It typically takes ten years for science breakthroughs to influence real world applications.  The Incentive Research Foundation’s paper Using Behavioral Economics Insights in Incentives, Rewards, and Recognition: The Neuroscience aims to expedite this process. Offering practical C-suite takeaways, the IRF’s report describes some of the unifying behavioral economic principles connecting the powerful role of emotions in employee performance. 

As productive employees are more readily recognized as playing a vital role in maintaining a profitable business in today’s competitive marketplace, effective businesses now require a systematic, strategic use of motivation and recognition in practice. Incentive, Rewards, and Recognition (IRR) professionals help all business types design and implement motivation programs to improve productivity, performance, morale, and retention with their employees and channel partners.

Behavioral Economics
Behavioral economics proves to be a more useful tool than traditional economics in helping employers understand what actually motivates employees, because it recognizes the majority of human decision-making is emotional as opposed to rational. It integrates social, cognitive, and emotional factors to more fully explain human decision-making biases and challenges long-held traditional economics assumptions such as:

People tend to act rationally and in their own best interests when making decisions and Money is the most effective motivator of all employees

Behavioral economics helps explain why some incentives are more effective than others and how they can strategically apply these principles to their own businesses. 

Neuroeconomics
Neuroeconomics provides an additional powerful layer of proof by exploring the biologic underpinning of decision-making. In many ways behavioral economics and neuroeconomics are like a tag team trying to wrestle neoclassical economics out of the ring for its failure to accurately capture how real human beings think and make decisions. 

Technological advances allowing researchers to probe the brain in unprecedented detail are powering an explosion in neuroeconomics research. For instance, brain-imaging technologies now allow us to see which brain areas are active during economic decision-making and which are not.

The most powerful neuroeconomics finding is that all forms of reward – monetary or otherwise – are processed in the brain’s master reward center, the striatum, and are experienced as rewarding feelings. For example, when research subjects are offered various forms of reward – ranging from their favorite food to a compliment to a monetary gift – neurons in this structure fire. This means rewarding employees intrinsically by treating them better or rewarding them extrinsically with money are treated equally in the brain, with both causing rewarding feelings emanating from the striatum and the dopamine reward system. This important finding is at the base of helping organizations craft more effective, rewarding environments. 

Using Emotional Reward Units to Craft a Rewarding Environment
Consider two employees, A and B. Both make the same monetary salary and benefits—let’s say $50,000. We will assume that this amount of pay creates positive feelings in the striatum equivalent to 10 emotional reward units, or ERUs. Employee A unfortunately works for a toxic manager who makes his life a nightmare. Employee A receives constant criticism, is threatened and disrespected, and never gets a kind word. The pain experienced by employee A creates a reward deduction of let’s say 5 ERUs. The emotional take home “pay” for employee A is therefore only 5 ERUs (10 ERUs–5 ERUs). 

Employee B is luckier. She works for an emotionally intelligent manager who understands human nature, takes a personal mentoring approach, believes in coaching employees and recognizing their achievements, and tries to encourage their development and success. Employee B loves coming to work and therefore gets a 5 ERU bonus on top of her monetary pay, which results in an emotional take home “pay” of 15 ERUs. 

Who do you think will want to work harder to meet the organization’s goals: the employee earning 5 ERUs or the one making 15 ERUs? The answer is obvious – the more rewarded employee will be more engaged and more productive. This is why considering engagement as a system, versus an individual intervention, is crucial to organizations. 

Applying Brain Principles for Better Business
As Nobel-prize winning economist Daniel Kahneman discussed in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, our brains form thoughts in two ways:

System 1: A fast, automatic, involuntary, subconscious system (sometimes called the old brain) which harnesses all of our life experiences to date and where decisions are initially made (and feelings emitted) within milliseconds of encountering a situation. For example, driving to work on “autopilot” without giving it much thought or getting a “gut feeling” about a situation.  System 2: The “conscious” system where we think about, deliberate, imagine, and analyze the world around us.  

It is most important to know that System 2 is more energy-intensive on the brain, so the brain therefore offloads as much work as possible to System 1. This is why after much deliberation we will select the easy, automatic solution because it ‘feels right.’ In sum, finding ways to work in tandem with System 1 can help us create more effective engagement solutions. Five examples are below:

The Associative Machine and Halo Effect: The associative machine takes all of the information we know about something (such as “bird”) and stores it under a filing for fast recall. If we come across something in an unfamiliar situation, the associative machine pulls up whatever facts it has in memory (wings, nest, egg) to instantly provide an explanation of the situation at hand and provide a feeling of confidence. For ease of processing, the brain will also combine and connect what it deems as relevant connected experiences – called the halo effect. This is how fuzzy, pink bunnies or dancing fruit can cause things as mundane as batteries and underwear to emit positive emotions within us. This holds true for the workplace as well. 

Implications: The more highly positive, emotional experiences, throughout the lifecycle of employment an organization offers from hiring to retirement, the more positive emotion one associates  with the company.

Emotional Stamps: Given the amount of information we must process each day, the fast part of our brain does much of our thinking. All of our memories are marked with an emotional stamp that controls their storage and retrieval. The stronger the emotional stamp, the easier the memory recall. 

Implications: Simply put, if we want people to remember things, we must tap emotions in some manner.

Frequency Bias: Our brains employ a frequency bias, which means ideas, thoughts, images, and awards that we see more frequently “feel” more familiar and therefore “feel” more positive. Hence, more frequently mentioned awards or destinations will have an automatic, emotional edge over the less-known alternatives. 

Implications: The more reward and recognition happens within an organization, the more often it will continue to happen and “feel” like a normal part of business. 

Temporal Bias: We remember short, peak emotional experiences more than average ones. This finding means at most, that short, highly impactful reward experiences may be more memorable and at least, that all reward experiences should conclude with the most emotional part of the event (or the big reveal) as the final portion. If it happens at the beginning of the day, quarter, year, or event, that time frame will be less likely to be perpetually stamped with the positive emotion. 

Implications: Meetings and incentive travel programs should always end on a high, emotional note. 

Harnessing Human Drives for Better Business

In Driven: How Human Nature Shapes Our Choices, Harvard researchers Paul Lawrence and Nitin Nohria propose four social drives that complement our biologic drives and regulate virtually everything happening in the workplace. If we learn how to work in tandem with these productive drives, our companies will enjoy maximum productivity and our employees will experience maximum engagement in their work.

The social drives create pleasant and painful feelings that push and pull on us during the course of a typical workday, subtly encouraging us to inquire, invent, achieve, and cooperate as a corporate team. Based in neuroscience, psychology, anthropology, and biology, Nohria and Lawrence found they serve as motivational “hot buttons.” When pressed individually, motivation rises marginally, but when pressed all together motivation grows exponentially within an organization – causing even larger impacts to engagement, retention, and commitment. Reward and recognition provide organizations a powerful tool because, in a single intervention, they help activate all of these four drives: acquire, bond, innovate, and defend.

Drive to Acquire: Employees are driven to acquire tangible goods (money, property, cars) as well as intangible skills (expertise, new abilities) and status. Dopamine is released into the brain anytime we anticipate achieving a goal or we achieve it. Likewise, companies provide compensation to employees and want them to be competent, confident experts. Ideas on activating include:

Make goals clear with defined implications for achieving Train managers and each employee to recognize and reward positive, productive, aligned behaviors Set high, yet achievable, targets that are broken in to sub-goals, then reward their realization Make recognition public and provide status to recipients Provide rewards (tangible or intangible) as close as possible to the desired behavior Make recognition spontaneous, personal, and heartfelt (not on auto-pilot or auto-schedule) Provide down time after long periods of extensive effort to achieve a goal Provide tangible rewards to supplement intangible recognition from managers and peers Provide group goals and celebrations

Drive to Bond: Employees are driven to have authentic caring relationships not just with family and friends but with their workmates and supervisors (their tribe) and to experience the warm, friendly feelings that come with them. Humans are also the only creatures which bond to abstract concepts such as ‘team’ or ‘nation.’ Bonding is supported by the release of the neuropeptide oxytocin in the brain. Likewise, companies want employees to collaborate and cooperate as a team in order to solve difficult problems. Companies that provide rewards for group achievements are working harmoniously with the drive to bond. Ideas on activating include:

Have employees create online profiles that are socially available for all to see Create randomized dyads of employees and encourage mutual-mentoring where they work together to solve problems  Ensure each instance of reward and recognition has a face-to-face element

Drive to Innovate: Employees are naturally driven to learn about the world around them and create new thoughts, systems, process, relationships, and goods based on these discoveries. Studies show how opioid receptors in the brain help create a “Eureka Pleasure,” meaning it feels good to satiate curiosity, think up a new an idea, solve a difficult problem, or comprehend a difficult concept. Likewise, companies also want their employees to learn and innovate. Ideas on activating include: 

Give all employees at least a small amount of time to innovate within their sphere of knowledge Ensure each instance of reward or recognition helps the employee learn the exact behaviors that are valued and important to the organization Encourage managers to have an “open door” to hear new ideas Continue to encourage employees when an idea does not pan out Organize dedicated “skunkworks” teams to promote radical innovation

Drive to Defend: Employees are driven to feel safe and secure and to defend the objects, people, and ideas they hold dear. The brain’s prefrontal cortex is an active participant in activating our defensive mechanisms, causing us to feel irritated, frustrated, angry or scared when we believe a closely held relationship or our status is at risk. Likewise, organizations want to minimize the activation of this drive and the inherent stress and negativity that arises when employees are in active-defense mode. Ideas for mitigating this drive: 

Maintain openness and transparency in all communications regarding determination  of all organizational incentive and rewards Gather employee input on incentive, reward, and recognition efforts to ensure they are perceived as fair Remind employees often of their importance to the organization’s mission

If when collectively activated, these drives have a compounding effect, then well-executed organizational incentive, rewards, and recognition programs hold a crucial opportunity for organizations, since they present, in a single instance, the opportunity to hit on all four drives at onceIn a single instance of giving an employee a reward or recognition, the organization allows an employee to acquire status (and potentially good or services), to bond with their team or the person giving the recognition, to more deeply comprehend what is important to the organization, and to defend the very deeply held belief that he or she is good at what they do and has chosen the right organization for employment.

From studies on oxytocin to dopamine to the pre-frontal cortex, there is no shortage of emerging neuroeconomics research on what makes humans, and employees, tick.  By working in tandem with the brain, however – and considering concepts such as the associative machine, the halo effect, emotional reward units, and the four drives –businesses will craft organizations that are not only highly productive and competitive, but better for employees overall.