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Three Key Leadership Lessons For Promoting Cultural Cohesion
Leadership is more than a role or an office occupied by an individual by way of happenstance, appointment or willpower. Leadership equates to influence. The leadership style, behavior and rhetoric of any given leader — and the values represented therein — can direct the culture in which the leader operates.
Here are a few key lessons on the elements of leadership that can promote cultural cohesion and drive sustainable success in an organization.
1. Cultivating A Culture Of Diversity And Inclusion
Diversity cannot be viewed as a box to check or a measure undertaken for the sake of demographics reports or stakeholder expectations. Diversity can be a key element in ensuring that a culture remains fertile with creative potential. In fact, research published in Financial Management found that organizational policies focused on building a more diverse workforce are linked to higher levels of innovation. Creating an agile organization in competitive, highly disrupted markets may require that leaders embrace a workforce with employees who come from a range of backgrounds and can bring to the table the differing opinions, life experiences and areas of expertise that promote innovation.
What’s more, Gallup found that "engagement and inclusiveness are closely related." This is likely a result of engaged employees also feeling valued at work. When employees sense that their opinions matter and that leaders care about their input, they typically feel more committed to helping the organization achieve success.
Organizations with higher than average diversity and inclusion rates not only can achieve elevated agility through innovation, but they also can gain a greater sense of cohesion and may see higher overall rates of employee engagement — which, according to Gallup, can translate to higher productivity and 21% higher profitability.
2. Fostering Loyalty
Loyalty is of paramount importance to most leaders. When members of a group remain loyal to their leader even through times of decreased performance, doubt or struggle, leaders may feel confident in persevering in their duties to achieve desired results.
However, the method by which leaders attain loyalty is no insignificant matter. Commanding loyalty through positional power tends to guarantee only temporary advantages. By leveraging their positional power, leaders maintain loyalty only by virtue of their office — not thanks to any particular personal strengths, abilities or righteousness. As it is, positional power is easily abused and can morph into scare tactics, manipulation and unilateral control that's exerted in order to obtain allegiance that they haven't earned. Members of the team remain loyal out of fear, coercion or incentives rooted in power-related promises.
Conversely, persuasive power inspires loyalty by way of a leader’s influence — the virtue of their vision, decency and transparency. Loyalty that's built organically, rather than coerced or artificially contrived, is rooted in the authentic commitment of team members. This kind of loyalty can promote purposeful engagement at work that's driven by a dedication to realizing the leader’s vision and the desired outcomes of the group. As such, it can require less oversight during periods of crisis as team members remain assured of their leader’s abilities regardless of circumstance.
3. Reactivity Versus Proactivity
Overcoming both anticipated and unanticipated challenges is a daily requirement for most leaders. How they choose to handle these hurdles can send a clear message to the teams they head — indicating whether the organization should act or react in the face of an obstacle.
In response to their leaders’ approach to meeting challenges, team members can form beliefs about how they should think and act in high-stakes situations. If a leader is faced with a challenge, he or she sets the precedent for beliefs and conduct for the rest of the organization.
A pattern of reactive responses can create a belief in the workforce that reactivity is the correct method by which to handle challenges. Ultimately, the blame game is given free rein over an organization, which can deplete team members’ faith in their leader while undermining confidence in one another, both within and between teams and departments. The result? Internal silos, splintering loyalties and a lack of team cohesion that can inhibit productivity and performance.
On the other hand, proactive leaders react with grace and effectiveness: They recognize a problem when it arises, take psychological ownership for the problem, mobilize creative problem-solving efforts to create a meaningful solution and deploy the most effective solutions in order to overcome the challenge seamlessly.
Closing The Gap With Strong Leadership
Leaders can create a sense of strong collective identity and promote increased innovation by championing diverse opinions, skill sets and backgrounds. At the same time, fostering loyalty through the positive influence of demonstrated honesty, tenacity and vision can create a deeper commitment to achieving shared goals. Finally, leaders can meet challenges head-on with a proactive approach to problem-solving that illustrates a high degree of accountability for delivering positive results.
When leaders foster diversity and inclusion, build loyalty through authentic virtue and overcome challenges with grace and agility, they set a precedent for the rest of us. When we all buy into and embody beliefs that contribute to our collective good, we can mobilize meaningful change and achieve greater success together.
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5 Ways to Help Your Team Be Open to Change
More than 90% of CEOs believe their companies will change more in the next five years than they did in the last five. Having a workforce that’s ready and able to harness that change will make the difference between success and failure.
Leaders at every level need to embrace and model how to engage in and affect change. Personal leadership and engagement, however, is not enough. For change to be operationalized, you need to inspire your team to be creative and enable them to innovate. But innovation only happens when people are able to work in the gray space — where ambiguity is okay and business principles, rather than hard and fast rules, apply.
Here are five daily practices you can put in place to inspire and enable your team to become change makers:
Tell stories about others who moved beyond the status quo. Asking people to work in the gray space often creates uncertainty. They need reassurance that moving into uncertainty can create positive results. Success stories provide tangible, memorable examples of what moving beyond the status quo looks like. To craft a compelling story, ask yourself:What is meaningful and important to the people I’m working with now? What is the core idea I want them to take away? What essential parts of the story invite them to come along on the journey?
For example, early in my career, I was leading a part of a project that aimed to transform the patient care delivery model in a hospital. To design key parts of the new delivery model, we were asking a cross-section of staff to work in design teams. This had never been asked of them before and they were nervous. We gathered the 50 people together in the hospital auditorium to introduce them to the project and their role in it. I knew they were nervous about what was being asked of them, so we closed the kick-off with a scene from Dead Poet’s Society, where Robin Williams asks his students to stand on their desks and see the world differently. The scene ends with Williams telling a student, “Don’t think that I don’t know this assignment scares the hell out of you.” Afterwards, a nurse walked up to me and said, “How did you know that is me?” We talked and I shared my confidence in how much her knowledge and experience was going to help her with this task. She went on to be one of the highest contributors to the design effort.
Ultimately, your stories should share a common message — it’s okay to step up and out. Powerful stories create psychological safety, letting people know that making change is good and will be rewarded. Share how the individual(s) in the story, as well as the company, benefitted from stepping into the gray space.
Create dialogue, inviting others to ask questions and share emotions, experiences, and insights. Change stirs up emotional responses that often cause people to pull back rather than to lean in. Inspiring and enabling your team to affect change requires having conversations that move people from reaction to action. Try having 30-minute meetings to discuss both the emotions related to change and the actions participants can take to affect change. I call these “listening posts.” Listening posts were originally facilities that monitored radio and microwave signals to analyze their content. Like that original definition, your listening post can help you understand key information, and can help others take action. Listening posts consist of:Table setting: Define the purpose of the meeting for your team. Encourage them to discuss how change is affecting them. For example, “We’re here to talk about the change we are experiencing and understand how it’s impacting you personally and us as a team.” Invite everyone to define actions that the group will take to influence how change is happening. Listening: Encourage individuals to start the conversation by sharing their experiences by using metaphors or adjectives. This gives them a safe way to talk about emotions. Share your metaphor first to break the ice. For example, you may feel like a juggler trying to keep all the balls in the air. Share that with your team. As people share their metaphors, remember to listen for who is dissenting or significantly challenged by the change. The voice of the outlier can provide key insights. Consolidating: Ask the team what common themes they are hearing. Use questions like, “What does it seem like we all have in common? What is different for each of us?” Summarize key themes and confirm what you’ve heard. Acting: Identify actions. These ideas need to come from the team, with you as the facilitator. Ask questions like, “What do we control or can we influence?” “How do we want to change this?” “What role will each of you play in making this happen?”
Ask “what if?” questions in one-on-one and team meetings. This is your opportunity to help your team be bold. Don’t ask what-ifs that only look at slightly different solutions or behaviors. Role model testing the boundaries — what are the guardrails and how can you push up against them? Questions like “What if we were all freelancers? How would we think about this?” “What if we built this process from scratch?” or “What if our lead product suddenly became obsolete?” push people to think boldly. People may be unsure just how far they can push at first. Recognize and reward initial steps and continue to ask for more. Reinforce ideas by saying “That’s a great idea. Let’s push that idea even further.” Or “That’s a good start. We need to be asking ourselves these questions continually.” This will reinforce the message that being a change-maker should be the norm, not the exception.
Set expectations that everyone (including yourself) should acknowledge, and take responsibilities for mistakes. And then, treat mistakes as opportunities for learning and growth. Michael Alter, former president at Sure Payroll, made making and acknowledging mistakes a core to operationalizing their business strategy. When he joined the company, he needed employees to become change-makers and take more risks to meet accelerated growth goals. After trying personal stories, analogies, and other techniques without enough success, he formalized failure. He created the “Best New Mistakes” competition, rewarding employees for providing the most unique and interesting mistakes. Rules included that employees could only nominate themselves and it had to be a new mistake. Entries were discussed, and prizes were given at company meetings. Six years later, it was still one of their most innovative learning initiatives.
Champion cross-boundary collaboration and networks to open up thinking and gain new perspectives. To become change makers, your team needs to hear a variety of voices and get a variety of perspectives. Urge them to work across boundaries by asking questions like:Who else do we need to involve? What other parts of the organization could help with this? Who has perspective on this topic/issue/area that we don’t or can’t have? How should we connect with them? What can I do to help create that connection?
Organizations that succeed are no longer the ones that change top-down, or where innovation is expected only from certain people or roles. Winning teams build change agility into the heart of their culture. That’s why change leadership is no longer just something you do. It’s a large part of who you are. And that means building “change muscle memory” in yourself and your teams. These five everyday practices are a great way to start.
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The 5 Cs: 5 Essential Qualities That Define Great Leadership
Want to be a stronger leader? Build a stronger team on these five principles.
Many leaders focus on upward movement within their organization, deciding ways they can ascend the ranks in their company. However, fighting hard to get to the top doesn’t necessarily make for a strong leader. There’s another approach you can take to improve your leadership skills that is more rewarding and far less lonely: surrounding yourself with great people. But how do you find and cultivate strong workers?
According to the 2018 Gallup Employee Engagement report, only 34 percent of people in the U.S. are engaged in their work. Although this number is quite low, you may be surprised to learn that this is the highest percentage in the history of Gallup’s employee engagement reporting. The number of disengaged workers has reached an all-time low of 13 percent. Despite these record-breaking statistics, U.S. employees’ lack of engagement can have disastrous impacts on the success of their organizations. Perhaps these figures are a direct result of poor leadership.
To inspire engagement and effectiveness in their employees, leaders should look within, asking themselves the following questions:How clear and communicative are you as a leader? What is your leadership style? Do you practice what you preach? Do you keep the promises you make?
First and foremost, a good leader establishes an important foundation of credibility and trust. When people trust you, you can inspire their engagement and loyalty in the company; this is critical when the organization faces challenges and you need to rally the team to success. Effective leaders can build strong teams on these five principles, the five Cs of great leadership:1. Collaborate
It may be satisfying to be able to complete a project on your own. However, those who try to juggle a considerable amount of work by themselves often result in failure. Competent leaders understand the importance of working with a team to complete tasks both large and small. To encourage collaboration among your team, you should be able to delegate. Having work completed by other members of your team doesn’t mean getting items off your own plate. You will likely need to look over the finished product, after all. Instead, collaboration can vastly improve the quality of the product your team is creating. You know what they say: “Two heads are better than one.”2. Communicate
Strong leaders should motivate and instruct the people on their teams. If they are not skilled communicators, they may have trouble getting messages across to their teams. When speaking with your employees or delegating tasks, be sure to give them clear direction. You should always be willing to answer questions that may arise if the employees are having trouble comprehending complex instructions. Make time to meet with your staff to speak with them and check on their progress to ensure success.3. (Be) Candid
Being honest sounds fundamental to being a great leader, yet many people often hold back what they’d really like to say to avoid hurting someone’s feeling. Instead of helping the problem, this can hurt it. When important statements go unsaid, no one on the team can learn from their mistakes. This will cause them to make the same mistakes over and over, not knowing that what they are doing is incorrect.
When correcting employees’ mistakes, you need to figure out a way to approach the issue in a constructive – not harsh – way. Approach the critiques as a form of self-improvement, coaching rather than correcting.4. Connected
Effective leaders understand the value of feedback, on both the giving and receiving end. As managers, we likely have information to share with our employees about their individual performances. Provide regular check-ins with employees to measure their success. A quarterly one-on-one isn’t enough to keep your team on track. Meet individually with your staff members consistently to reinforce their hard work, provide feedback on areas in which they can improve and explain both short- and long-term goals for team metrics.
It is just as important to encourage your employees to offer you feedback as it is to lend it to them. When your employees are encouraged to express their opinion, they feel that their voices are important and their ideas are valued. When employees feel useful, they are more likely to stay engaged. Make sure to listen to the feedback you receive and follow through with their requests and suggestions. Getting criticism can be difficult, but make sure you stay off the defensive and thank your employee for their honesty.5. Care
Exceptional leaders are empathetic, caring for their staff members, not just the work they do. Employees want to feel valued. Make sure you ask them about their life. What do they enjoy? How is their family doing? Did they find time to relax on their recent vacation? Work isn’t everything, and employees feel a sense of loyalty when their leader cares about them as a person, not just as a workhorse.Invoking Change in Your Organization
Great leaders typically attribute their success to the strong individuals on their teams. Look to the people who work with you and for you. When they respect their leader and feel that their voice is valuable to the organization, they are likely to feel engaged in their work. As leaders, we are only as good as our people. Forging strong relationships with our teams pays off in corporate morale as well as overall performance. Use the five Cs every day and you may notice an improvement in attitudes and results among your team members.
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10 Leadership Resolutions for a Successful 2019
You can’t predict everything that will happen in 2019, but it’s a safe bet that change and uncertainty will continue to be major themes. It’s also safe to assume that your leadership will be critical for success. With that in mind, here are 10 leadership resolutions for the coming year.Leading Yourself
Stay healthy. We know you hear this a lot around the New Year, and you probably think about it more, too. Your personal performance — and therefore your effectiveness as a leader — are heavily influenced by your health.
Healthier people have more energy, can think more clearly, focus for longer periods, and are less likely to get sick. There are 4 key practices:Eat a healthy, nutrient-rich diet. Get adequate, high-quality sleep. Engage in physical activity regularly. Manage pressure so it doesn’t turn into negative stress.
Succeed at digital learning. Being a leader doesn’t mean you have all the answers. Leaders must continue to acquire new skills, new areas of knowledge, and new leadership tools.
With limited time and resources, some of that learning will take place via digital learning. So how can you make the most of your time?
First, make sure you commit. Set real deadlines and block out time on your calendar.
Second, just practice the new skill or find a way to apply your new knowledge. Real learning doesn’t happen until you actually use it.
And third, celebrate your success. This reinforces the value of ongoing learning.Leading Others
Stop wasting time in meetings. We’ve all complained about time spent in a meeting that just wasn’t worth it. So how can you make sure that the meetings you set are productive? Here are 3 tips to start:Only hold a meeting if it’s necessary. Can this be handled via email? Make sure all attendees are really present. Invite only those required and enforce behavior standards to keep everyone engaged. Decide in advance what the purpose of the meeting will be and how you’ll achieve its goals.
Make better group decisions. We’ve all heard — and many of us have said — that several minds are better than one. But actually making good decisions as a group is challenging.
Here’s how groups can make better decisions about things such as work processes:Define the task. Choose the best fit for decision making. Set decision-making criteria. Brainstorm at least 3 alternatives. Select the best alternative using the agreed-upon method. Develop action plans. Take action. Evaluate decision effectiveness. Repeat until complete.
Support your employees in their development efforts. Professional development is important for everyone on your team. Our research has found that the primary predictor of the success of leadership development programs is the degree to which participants’ bosses support them.
So how can you support your people?Set the stage for an effective program by discussing with your direct reports their goals — areas they should focus on and how they can get the most out of each opportunity. Give them permission to focus fully on the training by allowing them to fully disengage from normal responsibilities. Find out what support they’ll need when they return. Follow up after the training by meeting with your team members to discuss what they learned, how they’ll apply it and what you can do to continue supporting them.
Lead your team through change. Change is the one thing we can be certain of. For leaders, it’s also a virtual certainty you’ll need to lead your team through change.
Even when leaders and organizations know what the change is, they may still hesitate, fail to act, or act slowly. Here’s how to overcome the inertia:Know what you want to achieve. Observe the current state of your team or organization. Accept that this is where things are and that change won’t happen unless you take action. Communicate your intent and why — again, again, and again. Demonstrate your personal commitment to the change. Offer a better vision based upon your intent. Reward those who move forward. Leading the Organization
Help frontline managers master their roles. In most organizations, frontline managers are critical.
A recent McKinsey study found that more than 70% of senior managers were unhappy with frontline manager performance, and more than 80% of frontline managers are dissatisfied with their own performance.
The first step in fixing this problem is to understand what skills frontline managers need. There are 6 they should master to be effective:Self-awareness Political savvy Learning agility Influencing outcomes Communication skills Motivating others
These 6 skills should form the core of development programs for frontline managers.
Create an environment where women can excel. Research shows that gender diversity benefits the bottom line. So how can your organization attract and retain more women? The first step is to understand what ambitious, talented women want from employers.
Women want to find their calling. That is, they want their jobs to connect with their values and purpose.
Women want flexibility in where, when, and how they work. Women rated paid-time off and flexible schedules as 2 of the most valuable benefits.
Women want real leadership opportunities. But women are more wary of some leadership opportunities, perhaps because research suggests that they’re more likely to be offered roles with fewer resources or high-stakes, high-risk opportunities.
Understand and manage millennials. For all the commentary about millennials, younger workers are not a mysterious tribe that can’t be understood or managed by older leaders. Here’s what you need to know:Millennials place a high value on their team, boss, mentors, and friends at work. They want to feel like their managers genuinely appreciate them. They also want their managers to coach and mentor them. Millennials want work to be interesting and meaningful — but they don’t want to be plugged in 24/7. Work-life balance is also important. Millennials want to grow. They’re interested in opportunities for development, promotion, and feedback. They want to advance, and they want help doing so.
Nurture innovation instead of squashing it. Innovation is important, but few companies are really good at it. Why? In part because leading innovation is different from leading ongoing business operations.
Managers and individual contributors responsible for innovation need more emotional support to take the risks and give innovation efforts all their knowledge, skill, and energy.
Leaders must practice 3 critical behaviors to support innovators:Demonstrate trust in innovators to empower them. Keep the purpose of the innovation front-and-center to motivate, inspire, and focus innovators. Partner with innovators as equals to contribute and share the risk.
If you can keep these goals in mind, or bookmark this list and come back to it, you’re bound to have a more successful and rewarding year!
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8 Top eLearning Trends For 2019eLearning 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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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.
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Simon Sinek: How to Make Your Life A Success
In this revealing interview, Simon Sinek chronicles the journey of finding his own "why", how he came up with his ideas, and how he eventually became one of the countries most recognized thought leaders.
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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 learningWhy '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
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Training or Learning – More than Semantics?
Training can be mandatory, learning is always optional. That’s my answer when asked to explain the difference between training and learning. It’s a common question and one that all learning and development professionals should be able to answer. (Not that we all have to agree on the answer.) Some L&D professionals believe that learning is a long-term process related to development and change while training is developed for a specific task – learning about emotional intelligence as opposed to being taught how to operate a piece of machinery. It may be a matter of semantics, but words are powerful. The term learning gets more traction in leadership circles in organisations than training – so why do most of our colleagues still talk about training not learning? Training for most people in an organisation is something that is done to them whereas learning is something that they actively participate in – ‘they’ learn. That semantic ownership ensures that learners engage. By being ‘trained’ colleagues allow others to take control and ‘instruct’ them in what needs to be done, specifically and within a structure and format that they do not have ownership of nor influence over. There are many reasons why training fails to deliver learning, they include:There is no contextualisation The content doesn’t flow The training method doesn’t resonate The environment isn’t conducive There’s no real life application There’s a lack of follow-up
Learning is being conducted everyday through informal networks within organisations where colleagues exchange information. It is not necessarily classed as formal learning – as most of it isn’t – and it is distant from formal training. It is the responsibility of the L&D professional to recognise the value in these informal learning networks – where no formal learning objectives have been set – and leverage it for the organisation. Learning networks happen everywhere at work where colleagues interact, they are also formed digitally through the utilisation of non workplace reference sources, search engines and communities. “Just Google it” is an invitation to learn in an unformatted, non-formalised self-directed manner embraced not only by by Millennials but by all colleagues. No-one is afraid of the web anymore. (Who among us hasn’t looked on Youtube to learn how to do something?) There is of course still a requirement for specific formal training, but is has to be part of a greater mix of opportunistic learning options that are flexible and agile to suit individual learners. If your organisation introduces a new project management system you will still need to train people to be able to use it (via instruction, retention and repetition), but beyond that you will need to allow opportunities for them to continue to learn how to get the most out of the new system as they become familiar with it – how to apply critical thinking and creative applications to various situations – beyond the narrow operating requirements that training will deliver.
The goal of your organisation, regardless of what type of organisation you work within, is to achieve results. Whatever those results might be – profit, attendance, membership, votes, lives saved, goals scored – there is a need for all members of the organisation to be able to deliver their part in achieving those goals and it falls to L&D to ensure that they are equipped with the knowledge and skills to do so. It is therefore incumbent upon us as learning professionals to drive the culture of learning within our organisations beyond designing and delivering training. It is understood and widely accepted that for organisations to grow they must become agile in how they operate and relentless in how they innovate. This is also true for L&D.
An agile L&D department is commercially savvy and strategic in thought. It is operationally focused and responsive in delivery. It promotes and accommodates ongoing and continuous learning. It also does a bit of training here and there. An agile L&D department is always asking itself:Why do we work in this way? (Challenge everything.) What can we do to improve? (Exclude nothing.) How can we drive the learning agenda? (Ask everyone.)
Challenge everything. It’s simple and scary and the single most important thing you can do to understand your current situation. Exclude nothing. Everything is up for grabs: ways of working, systems, processes, environments, technologies, timings, formats, audiences, objectives and rationales. Ask everyone. The knowledge needed to improve your learning culture, offer and outcomes is there, you just have to ask the right person.
It’s okay to train. But be aware that it won’t always result in learning. That’s out of your hands, but you can give it a nudge by making your training:Relevant to the individual Specific to their role Focused on a goal Contextualised to assure impact
If you want to super-size the learning opportunity make your training agile and responsive to the needs of those being trained:Self-paced and self-managed with optional guidance opportunities Bite-sized, micro-sized and immersive content Easily-accessible across multiple platforms and environments Informal and/or formal instructional delivery as requested Allow for self forming learning networks to support one another Reward learning with recognition and opportunity
Finally, if the goal is to deliver learning, L&D professionals must stop accepting every request for training as an edict. (Challenge everything.) Learning solutions are varied and should be responsive to an identified business need as opposed to being a knee-jerk training product developed because a stressed-out manager thought it was a panacea to poor performance (Which it never is). Training can be mandatory, but it should be focused on addressing an identified problem where the solution adds organisational value in a specific and measurable way that is easily applied by the learner, maybe then learning would be an option that more people would choose.
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Employee Centred Learning & Development: A Model for the Modern Workplace
I have written extensively about how my 11 year longitudinal study into learning tools shows that more and more individuals are doing a lot to learn for themselves – by Googling what they need, by watching YouTube to get quick answers to their performance problems, by building a professional network of people from whom they can learn on an ongoing basis, as well as signing up for Web courses or MOOCs if they want to learn something more formally.
And this is very important, because nowadays everyone needs to be an independent lifelong learner – it’s no longer enough to rely on being educated or trained to do a job to last a whole career. Everyone needs to take it upon themselves to self-improve and self-develop in the new and evolving world of work where jobs are changing all the time – and where there is no such thing as a job for life.
Furthermore, organizations need workers to be self-sufficient lifelong learners too – that is people who are constantly discovering new things – new ideas, new thinking, new resources – and bring what they learn into the organisation, so that others can benefit from them too. In fact, this is the only way to build a true “learning culture“ or “learning organisation” – otherwise you simply have a training culture.
Although many L&D departments are making great efforts to modernize their training activities – i.e .by creating shorter, more visual, more social, more flexible, and more accessible resources – in order to offer similar experiences that people chose to have on the Web – this is not enough. In this fast changing world of work, L&D are finding it increasingly difficult just to cater for everyone’s current needs, let alone prepare them for the future.
And as the power of the individual grows, modern employees want more flexibility and autonomy in how they work and learn. We are now in the Age of the Individual.
Whilst many L&D professionals do recognise this, they just don’t know how to enable and support continuous independent learning, and more often than not try to force-fit it it into the traditional training model – by trying to capture and manage everything in some sort of central enterprise learning management system or “learning platform”. Whereas an enterprise platform might be relevant to keep track of (mandatory) corporate training, it is just not appropriate to use it to try to manage an individual’s professional learning.
In other words, the traditional, top down, one-size-fits-all, command-and-control approach to workplace learning – which organizations have been using for more than 100 years – is just not up to the new world of work. What it requires is a new workplace learning model.
The Employee-Centred Learning & Development (ECLD) Model – turns everything on its head. Here an employee’s professional learning and development lies at the very centre of the model. It is something they organise in a privately owned learning space and evidence in a privately owned digital portfolio. It is the role of their manager to enable the growth and development of all the members of his/her whole team, and the role of L&D to work with both managers and individuals to support all this – as summarised on the diagram below.
When the focus is on helping individuals become fully successful, they feel valued and this in turn leads to higher levels of engagement and performance, which leads to achievement of organisational goals. As a consequence, everyone wins – employees, managers as well as other stakeholders.
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Continuous Improvement in Learning – an Organisational Challenge.
Compromising on the quality of learning in an organisation cannot be justified by the need to do things faster or cheaper. But invariably – in organisations that do not value learning – quality is less of a priority than cost management. This is both short-sighted and a threat to organisational performance. In any other area of an organisation when cost savings are sought, quality of deliverables is a non-negotiable when it comes to identifying where savings can be found. Instead, many businesses employ continuous improvement processes – Lean ways of working – and strive to find process improvements to save costs without compromising quality. Learning organisations understand the importance of applying the principles of continuous process improvement in developing, delivering and evaluating learning.
Continuous process improvement is not new. Kaisen, Kanban etc are all Lean process improvement methodologies that have been used globally for many years. The term refers to the task of identifying opportunities for improvement, implementing changes, and robustly measuring the impact of those changes. There are three key principles that support continuous improvement in L&D:Continuous process improvement is a mindset not an event Buy-in to the mindset is needed across the whole organisation The process is recursive – Plan, Do, Check, Act
The mindset of continuous improvement refers to the ongoing search for ways to improve organisational efficiency and effectiveness – it is the belief that there is always room for improvement and a way to do things better. When this mindset is championed and encouraged across all functions and at all levels in the organisation the opportunity to focus on activities that add value and to reduce everything else drives business transformation, results in productivity improvements, growth opportunity and increased profitability – goals that strategic learning departments should be aligned to and measured against.
The notion of the continuous process improvement mindset fits well with what Stanford professor Dr Carol Dweck called the Growth mindset where individuals who continually learn and embrace challenges improve their overall intelligence and opportunity for greater personal success. (She identified having a fixed mindset as being self-limiting with little opportunity – or desire – for personal improvement where challenge and effort is needed to be successful.) An L&D professional must have a growth mindset in order to creatively deliver when their organisation is under cost pressures and to ensure that they are able to challenge what they do and how they do it in the search for continuous process improvement.
Learning professionals need to drive the conversation by asking questions of themselves and others in the organisation, eg:What can we do differently? What does good look like? Why do we do it like this? Where are the pain points? What is the saving here? Where can we add value? Where can we strip cost/time? How can we leverage our current system/processes? What is our measure of success?
Asking questions is the first step in understanding where we can make improvements to services, products, and processes. The process is enriched when others in the organisation outside of the learning department are involved and allowed to contribute without judgement or qualification. There are a number of principles that can help us to work with the outputs of our initial questioning conversations in the search for improvement to our learning:Value everyone’s contribution – especially the learners in the organisation. (Encourage them to identify what small things would improve their learning experiences. Or ask them what bothers them about the current way of doing things.) Look for improvements based on small changes - large changes can often be met with fear and negativity. Look for incremental improvements – they tend to be low-cost and low-risk and therefore easier to establish and embed. Check-in regularly. Open communication and constant feedback are important aspects of continuous improvement. Have a measure. Be clear of the impact that any improvement will make – and tell people.
Once a potential improvement has been identified, take action.
By continuing to cycle through these steps, improvement is always being worked on and evaluated. Each step builds on the previous step, and then feeds into the next.
Plan - In the planning phase, the L&D team will drive the conversation – ask the right questions - to measure current standards, come up with ideas for improvements, identify how those improvements should be implemented, set objectives, and make the plan of action.
Do - Implement the plan that was created in the first step. This includes not only changing processes and ways of working, but also providing any necessary communication and engagement across the organisation.
Check – This is where the L&D team need to evaluate what impact the changes they have implemented have had against an agreed measure of success. It is at this step that any corrective actions need to happen to ensure the desired results are being achieved.
Act - All the data gathered from the change is analysed by L&D and presented to the organisation leadership team to determine whether the change will become permanent or if further adjustments are needed.
The goal of continuous process improvement for the L&D professional is ultimately the provision of efficient and effective learning aligned to the organisational goals – which is why changes are measured and presented to the organisations leadership. The principle of The Aggregation of Marginal Goals made famous by David Brailsford and his team at British Cycling back in 2003 is a great example of how continuous process improvement can make a difference to performance in an organisation. It is the notion of looking for lots of little improvements in what you do – tiny margins of improvement everywhere. When Brailsford took over British Cycling he looked at everything about the sport, the bikes and the cyclists in the search for those improvements. He and his team redesigned bike saddles, rubbed alcohol on tyres, taught team cyclists how to wash their hands (to minimise the risk of infections), changed the pillows they slept on and the socks that they wore as well as changing their training regimen and diets. Applying the principles of the aggregation of marginal gains saw the team go from relative obscurity and mediocre performance to winning the Tour De France and dominate cycling at the 2012 Olympics – and beyond. Applying the same principles to learning and development can only result in improved organisational performance - find the 1% improvement in every aspect of L&D. Adopting a continuous process improvement mindset can only lead to growth in the success of learning that may be cheaper and may be faster, but that will not compromise on quality.
Learning is continuous, and so therefore should be the search for improvements in how we approach it within our organisations.
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Why Sky needed a radical rethink of L&D
The concept of workplace learning today bears almost no relation to what most organisations were practising even a decade ago. Classroom cohorts have given way to user-centricity. Textbooks have been replaced by smartphones. Peers are as likely to take the lead as trainers.
But while it is easy to talk about reinventing L&D roles, the reality of initiating such a shift is daunting, even in an organisation as inured to change as Sky, Europe’s largest media business with 30,000 employees and revenues of almost £13bn.
Five years ago, says Tracey Waters, the business’s head of people engagement and development, it took 12 months to design a leadership development programme before it could even be piloted. Most soft skills and onboarding was handled in classrooms. In a business that had begun a broad digital transformation, that meant learning was in danger of lagging behind. “It wasn’t responsive,” as Waters puts it.
The L&D team set out to shift the way learning was delivered, doing away with cohort-based, scheduled programmes and instead introducing a mindset focused primarily on solving employees’ problems, where staff could take control of their own development.
That meant L&D had to borrow both processes and practices from digital development, going from what Waters calls a ‘waterfall’ mentality of cascading information, to an agile world where ideas are prototyped and iterated to succeed fast.
“We needed to embrace a mindset around user-centricity, data-driven decisions and iterative development,” she says. “That is so far removed from how most L&D teams work. You have to get used to products that might feel a lot less polished, rather than delaying a release until it is a complete solution.”
The new vision was necessary because Sky was facing a fresh array of nimble rivals – not just the likes of Amazon and Netflix taking on its core TV business, but YouTube and social networks competing for customers’ attention. The business had also recently launched Sky Mobile and was continuing to grow its other divisions.
“We need to be fast, and so does our L&D,” says Joanna Lewis, director of HR for the UK and Ireland. “That’s not easy in such a varied business. We’re a creative business, a customer service business, a technology business. We are constantly innovating.
“The wrong answer would be a development offering that takes people away from their work for long periods – it’s not effective and it would be almost impossible, and impossibly expensive, to create a learning catalogue that covers all the company’s existing and future skills requirements.”
The primary answer is to identify and target ‘points of need’ rather than broad topics. Instead of creating a management development programme, for example, the L&D team focuses on a specific pinch point such as onboarding a new team member or having a positive end-of-year review conversation, and backs this with digital resources and small group coaching workshops.
Automation helps too. Emails target newly recruited or promoted managers to show them the depth of resources available in their first 90 days. Specialist content, meanwhile, is mostly covered by third party, on-demand solutions.
“We’ve tried to remove the bottleneck that L&D can become,” says Waters. “The idea that in this day and age you can have an L&D team who are experts in the learning needs of a company like Sky is a recipe for failure. We have to unlock a whole company of people who are much better informed about their learning needs than we are.”
Sky has been helped in this by working with its own UX lab and consumer psychologists to help hone digital products. And the HR team has approached its work with a marketing mindset, helping encourage the adoption of products.
This measurability piqued the attention of HR industry analyst Fosway Group, which praised Sky’s focus on metrics: “Without tapping into data that examines user behaviour and usage of resources, and going beyond traditional completion rates, organisations cannot start to measure engagement [from L&D initiatives].”
The overall aim, says Waters, is to put the onus on individuals to learn in ways, and at times, that are comfortable for them. But that isn’t straightforward: “A digital learning solution is much harder to help people navigate than you expect. We thought we’d switch this thing on, people would have amazing access and they would get on with it. But it’s a product, and you have to market that in the same way as you would market to your customers.”
For Lewis, what’s also becoming clear is that much traditional L&D activity doesn’t deal with ‘real’ problems. Instead, she says, it is used as a proxy to solve a lack of recognition or issues around status or networking. By making learning about real, definable skills and behaviours, some of these other issues are now being solved.
The human-to-human is still critical at Sky – popular 90-minute seminars bring together groups of six to eight people to learn from each other through appreciative inquiry, for example – but it’s clear being more employee-centric and data-driven has struck a chord with a progressive workforce. Already, engagement surveys are showing employees feel they have more development opportunities, and L&D is looking at how it can add genuine value in a role where it isn’t at the centre of the learning experience. It’s a process that’s never likely to end – and they wouldn’t have it any other way.
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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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Want to Become a Great Leader? Work to Acquire These 8 Simple Qualities
Not everyone is cut out to be a leader.
Some entrepreneurs, CEOs, and even middle managers confuse leadership with the title next to their name. They think just because they're "in charge," people will rally behind them, listen to them, and heed their every command. But the truth is, it's very easy to become a "leader" in terms of acquiring responsibilities. What's far more difficult is becoming a credible, trusted leader who is loved by everyone.
So, what makes a terrific leader?1. Walking the walk
The best kinds of leaders lead by example. The worst kinds of leaders live by the phrase, "Do as I say, not as I do."
This is especially true for leaders who feel they don't need to become truly knowledgable about the organization they are leading. For example, some executives or managers don't prioritize becoming experts of the industry they're in, and instead lean on their title as a way to avoid digging into the hard work. This behavior then leads to a poorly balanced team dynamic, and people begin to see the leader as lazy and hierarchical.2. Earning your stripes--not showing them off.
Leadership is something you have to earn, day in and day out.
Your title is not something you flaunt. In fact, the moment you have to lean on your title in order to get people to listen, you've started down a difficult path. People respect leaders that show up and continue to prove they are worth following--not leaders who expect everyone else around them to work harder than they're willing to work themselves.3. Being open, honest, and trustworthy.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a leader is breaking someone's trust.
Especially if you're at the helm of an organization, you're going to run into scenarios where people will come to you to share how they're feeling, or issues they're experiencing within the company. It's your job to treat those conversations carefully, make the person feel heard but respect the fact they came to you and you alone. Don't go sharing that individual's issues with one of their peers in the company. That's a fast track to breaking trust you've built in the past.4. Doing what you say you're going to do.
If you say you're going to give everyone a raise, then you better give everyone a raise (or, very honestly, explain why you weren't able to deliver on this promise).
I have a few stories about this in my book, All In. One of the big mistakes young leaders make is painting these wildly imaginative futures for their employees, never once considering what will happen when, two years later, all those employees want to know why none of it came to fruition.
The best thing you can do when leading a team, a department, or an organization is stay true to your word. So, if you think there's a chance you won't be able to deliver on the promises you're making, don't make them in the first place.5. Aim for the moon, and be clear about how you're going to get there.
Nobody likes following a leader whose mission is to do things "pretty well."
As a leader, you have to ride the careful line of setting realistic goals for yourself and your company, while simultaneously choosing goals worth getting excited about. Contrary to popular belief, employees really do want to work hard and be part of building something special.
Don't be afraid to share the grand vision.6. Learn to control your emotions.
To protect the culture of your company, you have to master the art of remaining calm during periods of high stress.
When you react emotionally--to an individual, to a conflict, or to a massive threat to your business--you are showing the people around you that it's alright for them to react emotionally as well. This is not the kind of team dynamic you want to encourage.
Instead, try to see these moments as opportunities to exemplify patience, understanding, focus. While everyone else is feeling stressed, show them another way of dealing with problems.7. Be decisive.
One of the worst qualities a leader could possess is a habit of indecisiveness.
It's a pattern that's easy to fall into: you say the words, "Let me think about it," and then before the day has even ended, you've suddenly got 10 different things you've decided to postpone and "think about." But deep in your gut, you almost always know what decision needs to be made. There's no reason to postpone it.8. Educate yourself--constantly.
Some people become leaders because they are brilliant, talented, and have a knack for constantly educating themselves.
And then they stop.
They reach a point of authority, they hit a plateau, and they decide they know everything there is to know--and become complacent as a result. Trust me, you don't want to become the sort of leader that suddenly realizes you've fallen behind the growth curve.
In order to stay at the forefront, you have to keep educating yourself.
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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
Delivering the currency of relevance
Embracing the discomfort of uncertainty
Accessing the multiverse of content
Giving learning customers choice and control
Facilitating self-determined learning
Making content easy to find and access
Learning strategy driven by data analytics
Learning with an overt commercial measure
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 ContentRecent 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?.
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Are Companies Making Progress In Digital Transformation?
The term “digital transformation” is now ubiquitous. Nearly every company’s leaders and board of directors see the potential of digital transformation to create new value and improve their competitive positioning. They are investing in building out capabilities to transform their business. Unfortunately, some companies build digital capabilities but don’t generate value that changes their competitive position. So, are businesses really making progress in these investments? Where are we in efforts to succeed at digital transformation? Here’s my view and what I believe must happen next.Digital Transformation’s Current Status
For the last 18 months, the focus of digital transformation was understanding the capabilities that companies needed to develop or implement for their digital journeys. In addition, consulting and advisory firms responded to this effort by coming up with frameworks and the Target Operating Model (TOM) companies needed for building those capabilities. This led to a problem.
The problem is the digital world is moving fast and we don’t have 10-20 ears of experience to know what works and doesn’t work. Disruptive technologies force new operating models or new capabilities, but companies can only hypothesize as to what those capabilities should be. Frameworks are untested. Thus, TOMs and frameworks are built in a vacuum. They don’t reflect reality; they only reflect the best thinking at the time as to what a model or framework should be. This is part of the reason for the abysmal number of transformation failures.
That is where the digital transformation market is now – companies need to move the discussion from building/implementing capabilities to how to measure the value a company extracts from that effort. But they struggle to do this. Here’s the issue: Only a paucity of metrics exists to measure progress in digital transformation and understand if companies are getting any juice from the squeeze.
Companies need to be more realistic in the capabilities they are building. They need a new framework to look at what works rather than what is theoretically meant to work.
In understanding where we are today with digital transformation, we have two important examples of how business transformation evolved in the past.
The first is the internet bubble. It was clear in the late 1990s that the internet was a hugely disruptive technology and capability and that it would reshape business and companies. There was an enormous rush to build websites and buy technologies – much of which, if not most of it, was wasted. And every consultancy and research house expended enormous resources and time to build a framework for the capabilities needed to succeed in the internet age. Consultancies touted massive projections as to how much market share would be captured or lost.
Then the burst came. Although the internet was an extremely powerful and disruptive technology, the capabilities that companies rushed to implement were not well understood. So, the frameworks and the effort to create the capabilities didn’t yield much value.
Here we sit, almost 20 years later. We understand much more clearly how to utilize the internet, and we’ve built on top of it. Amazon and other firms leveraged the internet to create tremendous value. But most companies spent a lot of money on websites that were just sophisticated brochures. In the last 10 years, those sophisticated brochures matured and began enabling e-commerce to get much more value out of them. But that’s almost 20 years after we started the internet journey. It’s kind of shocking how long it took for those technologies to consistently take market share.
We’re moving into the same trap again today. We now have a raft of new, disruptive technologies ranging from Artificial Information (AI) to chat box to analytics to Robotic Process Automation (RPA), all of which collectively promise a massive breakthrough in performance. But we’re going down the same path as we did with the internet – we’re building capabilities against unproven maturity models and frameworks. If history repeats itself, which seems highly likely, much of this digital investment will be wasted.
Another example is the distributed computing revolution. The same story played out there. It was clear that distributed computing and PCs were far cheaper and far more powerful than mainframe computers. Companies rushed to take advantage of this and spent huge fortunes to equip their employees with PCs. Think about what we believed in the mid- to late 1980s around distributing computing and the capabilities needed for that. There is a world of difference compared to what we now know 30 years later about how to get the wanted productivity from PCs.
The path for the internet and PCS is a very natural path for the way technologies evolve. It’s inevitable to start with the technology and vision, then think about capabilities and then to evolve to hold organizations accountable to extract value. That last step is the hardest, and that’s where we are today in digital transformation. Hopefully, we can shorten the time from the initial vision to consistent value capture compared to how long it took us to do that with distributed computing and the internet. We built capabilities against unproven models and then had to go back and rework those.
In the case of digital, we went from three or four years ago to realizing that these technologies will inevitably create tremendous market value and we need to adopt them or be left behind. So, we went from vision to capability building. Now companies need to figure out how to extract value; otherwise, they will waste a lot of investment. The only way to succeed is to build metrics that measure progress toward extracting value from investments. That’s what needs to happen now.
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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.
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Informal Learning – the engine in the basement
There is a big engine running in the basement of your organisation. You probably aren’t even aware that it is there. No one has been down there for years, if ever. There is rubbish amongst the puddles of oil and water on the floor and it’s like any other dark abandoned basement.
And yet that engine running in your basement is critical to the success of your organisation. If it stopped at midnight tonight, your organisation would be on its knees in a month, and probably out of business not long afterwards. It is lucky that the engine is so incredibly reliable that it keeps running, even if it does not run so smoothly now.
It is the informal learning engine that every organisation has. There is a huge amount of informal learning going on within every organisation all the time. Informal learning is made up of the learning that comes about through the experiences and social interactions of your employees. It is this day-to-day learning in the workflow that enables us to serve customers well and to improve things as we go along.
Its importance is vastly underrated because we are so good at learning things that we don’t even notice that we are doing it. Most of what we learn on a day-to-day basis as we do our jobs, we learn unconsciously. We don’t necessarily set out to learn, but we do, because that is our nature as a species.
Take a moment right now and reflect on what you have learned in the last couple of hours. The amount we learn on an ongoing basis is quite staggering, and in the work context, much of that learning is the input that drives continuous improvement.
We do a task, and we notice whether we get what we want, or whether there is a gap between what we wanted to achieve and what actually happened. Whether that gap simply manifests as an unconscious unease, or whether we are consciously aware of it, the next time we do that task, we will change what we do to minimise or close the gap.
This is the root of that old saying, practice makes perfect.
The more we practice a task, and the more we reflect on the task and the results we get, the more we learn, and the quicker we can close the gap between what we get and what we want. Typically, what we want is a moving target, and so the gap widens unless we keep learning fast enough. In order to survive, we need to learn faster than the widening gap. We need tom learn faster than the rate of change around us.
Given that informal learning is so critical to the survival of an organisation, how can we help that poor informal learning engine stoically chugging away in the basement?
Think about that from your own perspective. When you are trying to get a job done, what helps you learn about the job in a way that means you can get better at it? Most people would say things like access to the right information and the right kind of just-in-time support, either from colleagues or from resources. And of course they would also want to have the right tools and processes at their fingertips to do the job rather than having to learn to bodge it with the wrong tools. These are the things that need to be made available in order to get that informal learning engine running more smoothly. This is how you improve the quality of fuel for the engine, and how you get the basement clean and shiny.
It is well worth spending some time making people aware of how important informal learning is to the organisation, and to the continuous improvement which is essential to its survival. And then spend some time thinking about how you can support the informal learning engine by making learning in the workflow easier.
You cannot rely on formal training for all your learning needs. Indeed you never have, but you probably didn’t realise just how critical informal learning is.
Read up on Informal Learning at Work http://pal.gl/i
First published at http://haywoodmann.co.uk/informal-learning-the-engine-in-the-basement/ on 29.07.2015.
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In the classroom - one toolkit, three different roles
A classroom is a space that can be used in many different ways. And there isn't just one way to make the best use of this space. In this Skills Journey animation, we explore the ways that classrooms can be used for presentations, group instruction and facilitated group learning. Each of these uses very different tools to deliver a very different experience.
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Training evaluation in this New World - Part II
Last month I blogged about learning being a sacred cow, and that the emphasis should be on performance as the outcome rather than learning as the outcome. So I was most intrigued to have the opportunity to attend a short course on the Kirkpatrick “New World” Four Levels model run by DPG a couple of weeks ago.
Given my proactive stance on informal learning in all its guises, and my lack of enthusiasm for much of the formal training that currently gets delivered, going to a formal training course on how to evaluate training seemed like a strange thing to do. I suspected that I would spend a lot of my time biting my tongue to quell my objections, or squirming in my seat as I disagreed with those around me worshipping at the Temple of Training.
I was wrong.
I knew something about the model, or at least I thought I did. Like many in the learning community I knew it was an old and venerable model for measuring learning at different levels. The first level being the happy sheet, and easy to do; and the higher levels progressively more difficult to do and therefore often not done. Nice in theory, but not so easy in practice.
I was wrong again.
What turned things on their head for me was how the model has evolved since it was first published in 1959. That is a very long time of continuing development in response to business needs and the changing business environment. My knowledge of the model, what it actually is and how to use it was clearly well out of date.
What got my attention very quickly was the use of the Stephen Covey catchphrase, “start with the end in mind”. According to the New World Kirkpatrick Model, the very first thing to do before you have even confirmed that training is indeed a possible solution, is to focus on the business outcomes that are required. Given I have said this numerous times and even published it in my little booklet on tips for L&D people, all I could say was “I agree, this is good thinking”.
And I could also see around me the internal paradigm battle that often occurs when you get people in L&D to focus on business outcomes without thinking about training at the same time. Typically, given a brief sniff of a business goal, they are quickly off in their minds designing some new training intervention based on what they know how to do.
Then we talked about the critical behaviours that would need to be in place in order for this business outcome to be realisable. What do people need to do, how do they need to perform, how do they need to behave in order for this business outcome to happen?
Again, this is something I have said many times. By now I had stopped biting my tongue and squirming in my seat. I felt right at home with the thinking and was looking forward to what the rest of the course had to bring.
They did indeed cover all four levels of the model but I sometimes wondered if they regretted the numbering system that has been applied to them. The reason for this is that the fourth level is about business impact and this is where you start. And you do this before you have even thought about your training course, who needs to be trained, where you might hold it, how many days it will be, what content it will have and how you will blend it with other delivery channels.
As someone who has operated at director level in a NASDAQ quoted global company, I could really appreciate this. When people in the teams I was responsible for went on training courses, I was largely unmoved by what they thought of the cheesecake they had for lunch, or even what they had learned. I was mostly concerned if they could improve their performance, and thus the KPIs of the areas in the business I was responsible for.
Mind you, the cheesecake I had for lunch at this Kirkpatrick training course was a fine example of culinary art. It was blueberry cheesecake (and I put cream on top).
I came away with the realisation that the Kirkpatrick model can be wrapped around a training course. It guides the thinking you need to do before developing or buying your training, it guides the thinking for the design of the training, it guides the evaluation of the training event itself, and then guides you through the evaluation of the effectiveness of that training in terms of its impact on the business. It is virtually impossible to use Kirkpatrick evaluation successfully after a training course unless it was part of the thinking when the training course was just a twinkle in your eye. But if you do use it at the twinkle stage, it is relatively easy to put in place, and greatly helps with getting the right training to the right people, and with tools in place to prove that to the business.
There is a great deal of difference between effective training and training effectiveness.
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Exploring the seven Cs
I’ve always been a little suspicious of models in which the titles of the elements share a common initial letter or just happen to spell out a word that sums up the overall message. I would wonder whether important ideas had been omitted because they didn’t fit the pre-determined pattern and how strained the search might have been for synonyms.
You will have to believe me that when recently I was exploring ideas for high-level designs for learning solutions, option after option seemed to begin with the letter C. I did not conveniently leave out options beginning with other letters, nor did I have to hunt for better matching synonyms. It was just one of those days. Enjoy!
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Learning and Development's Two Customers
Imagine if you had to satisfy not one set of customers but two. Both were demanding, and each was looking for quite different things. Well, such is the lot of the learning professional. Not only do you have to provide a great service to your clients, business sponsors and key stakeholders, you also have to deliver satisfying experiences to your end users – the learners.
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The Learning Stack
One of the critical success factors for learning is reflection. In fact, most people would agree that learning cannot take place without some level of reflection. Let’s look at how we can use this to underpin the thinking for a learning intervention and the subsequent learning transfer.
I have developed a very simple model with five levels of reflection which I call the Learning Stack. The higher up the levels you can push the learner in terms of the quality and quantity of the reflection, the more likely it is the learning will stick, and be transferred into behavioural change.Unconscious reflection
I know ‘unconscious reflection’ sounds like an oxymoron, but it occurs when we practice something and improve our performance without consciously reflecting on what we need to do to improve. We have an unconscious targeting mechanism that guides us towards improvement. This ‘practice makes perfect’ process is very evident when we practice physical skills such as driving or typing or sports skills. Conscious reflection
This is what we normally regard as reflection where we consider what happened. Note that for this reflection to be useful from a learning perspective, it needs to be questions based. We need to be asking ourselves how things could be different, who can do it better and how do they do it and so on. Simply reflecting on how good, or how bad, you did something has little effect without a questioning overlay. External reflection
If we take our thoughts and externalise them to a journal, a colleague, or just the dog on a walk, we need to re-formulate the disorganised content from our internal processing into an ideas sequence and language that is understandable in the outside world. This ‘translation’ for external consumption adds another level to our thinking. External reflection with consequences
When we think there may be consequences to us externalising our reflection, or if we think someone will judge us based on what we put out there, we will think twice. We add another layer of reflection to try and imagine what someone else will think about us based on what we are planning on externalising to a coach, a boss, a blog or an email. Teaching someone else
I am sure you have heard the aphorism that the best way to learn something is to teach it. I believe it is more accurate to say that the best way to learn something is to prepare the lesson plan to teach it. It is the reflection on how to prepare and present the material to novices that deepens understanding, rather than the presentation itself.
Level four is a result of what social scientists term the ‘audience effect’. There are some fascinating experiments on this effect where students were asked to put their English homework on a blog rather than just handed in to their teacher. The extra level of exposure their homework received caused them to improve their standards considerably. This is well explained in Smarter Than You Think by Clive Thompson where he cites a range of experiments and research. He sums it up on page 55 as “the effort of communicating to someone else forces you to think more precisely, make deeper connections, and learn more.”
Although this Learning Stack is a very simplistic view of a complex process, it is useful. For any learning intervention, you can consider how far up this Learning Stack you are pushing the learners. Have a look at any programmes you are currently delivering, or about to deliver, and consider what levels of reflection they trigger in the learners.
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Coaching for learning
In their book Transfer of Training, Mary Broad and John Newstrom estimated that merely 10% of the dollars spent on training resulted in actual and lasting behavioural change. And that’s obviously not enough. They did some research into who it was that made the biggest impact on transfer of learning. They found that the greatest difference was made by the learner’s manager in setting expectations before the experience and then following up after. This video shows why coaching does such a fantastic job of supporting a learner through a learning experience.
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Sixteen great training tips for writing good emails by Training Works
Sixteen great training tips for writing good emails
Many staff who in past years would have perfectly good conversations on the phone are now having to write emails instead. It’s also worth remembering that an email is, after all, an electronic letter and should follow most of the conventions of letter writing which many people have forgotten, if they ever knew them in the first place.
Having training in writing emails gives staff at all levels the confidence to write really professional, warm, well laid out accurate emails. For many customers their only impression of the company will be from the quality of the email, and if an email is badly spelt, poorly laid out or sloppy in any way, it will lose the company sales.
Remember that every email is an advert for your company so make sure it’s a good one by using the following hints and tips:
1. Have a relevant subject in the subject line so it can easily be found
2. Use a salutation e.g. Dear or Hi (unless you’re in a live email conversation)
3. Use the correctly spelt name e.g. Sarah not Sara
4. Leave a line of space before going into the main details
5. Say something nice in the first paragraph
6. Don’t put whole words in capitals, it gives the impression of SHOUTING
7. Have an average of 15 - 20 words per sentence
8. Have an average of 3 lines of text per paragraph
9. Use bullet points to help condense information and make it easier to read
10. Use a line of space between each paragraph
11. Use the correct grammar
12. Use the correct spellings
13. Punctuate well
14. Have a sign off e.g. Many thanks
15. Always type your name even if you have an email signature (after all you would always sign a letter even if your name was typed)
16. Have a great email signature with your name, position if relevant, company name, what the company does, web address, landline numbers, phone numbers and LinkedIn link where relevant (as people often look at an email to find out how to contact you again)
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Are Sales Apprenticeships Suitable for Experienced Sales Professionals?
Sales Training provider Mercuri answers the questions you've always wanted to ask about the Level 4 Sales Apprenticeship Standard
Apprenticeships are suitable for anyone interested in improving their knowledge, skills or behaviours within their current role or, a role they aspire to. Apprenticeships are an effective way to upskill existing staff, and recruit new talent into your business.
The Sales Executive Level 4 standard was released by the Institute for Apprenticeships at the beginning of November 2018.
An apprenticeship standard (as opposed to a framework) is linked directly to a job role and provides learners with a comprehensive suite of skills, knowledge and behaviours needed to be fully competent in their chosen role. The standard enables apprentices to demonstrate full mastery of their role by the end of the learning journey.
The Sales Executive Level 4 Standard lasts up to 18 months (a government requirement for all apprenticeships is that they last a minimum of 12 months) and the government offers £6,000 funding per learner. The funding is available through a co-investment model or through your Apprenticeship Levy fund.
The skills developed during the Sales Executive Level 4 include analytical skills (such as customer needs and customer engagement), sales planning and preparation, how to find and develop new customers, negotiation and closing techniques.2
Here are some of the common questions about the Sales Executive Level 4, answered by Dan Hodgetts, Apprenticeship Consultant and Barry Hilton, Managing Director at Mercuri International (UK) Ltd:
I’ve already completed some sales training - can I still do a sales apprenticeship?
Absolutely. Existing sales training can be a great foundation to a sales apprenticeship. Furthermore, those who already have a degree or NVQ are still eligible for a sales apprenticeship providing there is evidence to show they will benefit from an improved Knowledge, Skills & Behaviours for a specific job role, future employment or career progression.
If there are any particular areas in the apprenticeship that learners want to specialize in or learn more about, additional, free-standing sales courses can be undertaken.
Note for employers: Your apprentice must be working at least 50% of their working hours in England and have the right to work in the UK.
How often would I see my apprenticeship coach?
This varies to suit the needs of the learner and employer. Dan Hodgetts states that as a minimum, a learner can expect monthly contact and support from their trainer. This doesn’t have to be face-to-face, it can be via Skype or on the phone. There will also be on-site meetings as part of the learning process as training is completed on the job and off the job.
How is the apprenticeship taught?
On a modular basis over a period of up to 18 months. At the end, the Association of Professional Sales (or a similar independent End Point Assessment Organization) will verify through a variety of assessment methods, that each learner has acquired the knowledge, skills and behaviours outlined within the standard.
What’s the success rate with the Level 4 Sales Standard?
As the standard was only released in 2018 the statistics on overall success rates have not yet been recorded as the first apprentices to complete this standard will not reach the end of their learning cycle until circa April 2020. However, learner satisfaction rates are measured continually and currently sit at a minimum of 98%.
Is the standard suitable for experienced sales professionals, who have been in their role for a number of years? Or is it too junior?
Barry Hilton, Mercuri MD explains:
“Most people learn most about their jobs in the first year, and so someone with 10 years of experience may very well have one year’s worth of knowledge, repeated ten times. It’s a question that many sales professionals find very challenging to answer. Our belief is that even experienced salespeople will draw huge benefits from having a formal planned, measured and immersive training. I would recommend this standard very much to any salesperson who is in a customer facing role.”
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Show me the data: the case for learning analytics
Data is the fuel that drives effective decision making. Without the right data, you’re relying on guesswork and hoping for the best. Data allows you to accurately assess needs, compare alternative approaches, assess progress and determine results. We look at the arguments for data analytics for learning and performance.
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Sacred Cows and Red Herrings - Part I
I’m going to take an irreverent look at what I think are a couple of sacred cows. This might annoy you, or you might even applaud it, but I doubt it will leave you without your own opinion.
You see, a sacred cow (when used as an idiom) is something that is regarded with such respect and veneration that it is considered immune from question or criticism, immune from tampering.
But what if this veneration is misplaced?
I am talking about Learning and Engagement (yes, with capital letters).
They are beautiful aren’t they, as we look at them. They are things of wonder, and well worth striving for. Well worth the mighty effort to make them happen. There are so many people that focus on these two things. There is so much written about them. Everybody says they are wonderful, necessary and depending on the pundit, the cure for all our problems.
I have nothing against Learning and Engagement per se. I simply think we are looking at the wrong things. They are both red herrings, distracting us from what we really should be focusing on.
A red herring (when used as an idiom) is a piece of information or suggestion introduced to draw attention away from the real facts of a situation. A red herring is a type of strong-smelling smoked fish that was once drawn across the trail of a scent to mislead hunting dogs and put them off the scent.
Let’s not get put off the scent. Let’s focus on what is more important: Performance.
Performance is what the business wants. Performance is what the customers want. And actually, Performance is what the workers want. It’s my belief they would love to do a good job if only we would enable them to do so.
Let’s consider Performance first, and look at learning and engagement (look, they have lost their capital letters) along with many other factors as servants in support of Performance.
It’s interesting how many people in L&D and HR struggle to come up with good and useful definitions of both learning and engagement, struggle to find ways to effectively measure them or measure the changes they have made in them through their interventions. They struggle to justify their value of the business based on changes to both learning and engagement. Where there have been improvements in performance, they struggle to prove that those improvements were the direct result of changes to learning and engagement.
There are enough isolated cases so there is always a case study or two to prove that learning and/or engagement are good things. And they are, but I think focusing on them as an endgame, as an outcome is not helping us.
When I ask someone in L&D to reimagine their role so that their total focus is on ensuring capability at the point of work when a worker has a job in front of them, their thinking changes. They start thinking in much more practical terms about how they can enable and help that worker do the job that is immediately in front of them. Some learning may be required, but often it is other changes that are necessary to ensure capability at the point of work.
The same thing happens when I talk to HR people about engagement, and changing their focus away from engagement and onto capability, and thus Performance.
We are talking here about enablement. If we enable people to do their job, how does that affect them, affect their engagement, and their learning?
There are many things that we can do to enable people without ‘using’ learning and engagement. Instead, give them the right tools, the right information, processes that flow well. Fix the things that frustrate them. Take the brakes off what they are doing. Performance will improve.
I believe that when the brakes are taken off, and someone can do better, they will. They will also become more engaged and willing to learn as they can see that better performance is possible. It wasn’t them being stupid, it wasn’t them not caring; it was the systems and processes and environment they were being asked to work in.
Just for now, do a thought experiment for yourself in your role and imagine that your total focus is on enabling a worker in your organisation, so they are capable of doing what needs to be done. How would that affect you? How would that affect them? How would that affect the customer? How would that affect the bottom line of the business?
Maybe, or maybe not. What do you think?
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Communicating with sound
Sound is a medium that matters. Your audience can listen to a podcast or a radio programme while they’re busy doing other things like walking, driving or keeping fit. You can add narration and sound effects to your animations and videos or leave it to music to set the mood. Sound is a medium the learning professional can master without the need for in-depth technical skills and professional tools. Perhaps it's time to listen in.
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Learning is a human experience
Humans need humans and never more than when we are learning. As we move from a situation in which most learning is face-to-face to one in which we make use of digital content and perhaps even AI as the vehicle for a learning experience, we don't need to give up on our humanity.
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Good Decisions make Great Businesses
Your Company’s success is directly related to the good business decision taken by leaders and staff.
It is the decisions made by people in your organisation that will determine the future prosperity of the business.
It is therefore essential to ensure your people can:Develop their ability to make good business decisions Understand the wider implications of their decision making Ensure their business decisions align with the needs and strategy of the business Assess their business making ability Show evidence they can make good business decisions
Making good business decisions is not easy. It requires:Knowledge about the business Knowledge about the actual decision area Understanding of the impact of the decision on the business Understanding how to influence and lead people to carry through your decisions
To learn to make good decisions requires the ‘right’ practice environment. At Business Smart International we provide such an environment through our business simulations. We enable people to improve their decision-making skills by giving them the knowledge and then the environment to apply this knowledge.
Our business simulations are World Class as are our results. Please visit us on:
or Call: +44 (0) 845 371 3088https://business-smart.wistia.com/medias/7fehfda8ac
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Levy Funded Development - Have you recognised the opportunity?
Upskilling for our future – The Apprenticeship Levy
What is the biggest lie in life? How about – ‘People like change!’.It’s a cliché popular with management particularly when a workforce is required to do something it’s not happy about. Why are people resistant to change? Change requires thought. It draws more energy than normal. It creates disturbance and can make some feel inadequate. Change nurtures vulnerability, uncertainty and fear. Resistance is magnified by lack of understanding. On the flip side, change frequently provides opportunity, signifies progress, encourages development and improves output. People are often happier after change has occurred.
British industry’s collective reaction to the Apprenticeship Levy has been fuelled by sporadic and ad-hoc communication about the levy, defensive behaviour from existing providers and a pinch of short-term thinking by some employers.
As our national capacity to invent, make and own things seems to daily diminish, there is a real possibility that longer term, the UK will become no more than a low skill, service delivery mega-centre off the north west coast of Europe. How many have grasped the potential magnitude of the opportunity for UK PLC’s presented by the Levy?
Before summarizing the opportunity, let’s consider the counter argumentation, much of which is built not on ideological objection, but on simple lack of understanding.
Why use the Apprenticeship levy?
The opportunity to acquire accreditation in roles previously deemed too intangible to quantify is a compelling case for commitment. As an example; Sales is largely ignored by career advisors and academia mainly because the profession is poorly understood by both. Young adults reliably informed of employment pathways to financial security, career progression and entrepreneurial opportunity will be very interested. Building a qualification around core business and life skills which have already created companies, jobs and wealth is vital to national economic health. Investment in human capital ticks a very important box for Millennials whose value set differs markedly from that of their parents.
It’s too bureaucratic and inflexible
For whom? Process is necessary to ensure learners reach the end-point. To generate commitment and drive learner achievement, rigour must be applied. The use of public money necessitates the elimination of any possibility of misappropriation. Quality must be assured and this demands attentiveness. Regarding flexibility; process need not however equate to rigidity. The Level 4 Sales Apprenticeship can be tailored specifically as the need arises, even though most core competencies in Sales are common across roles and industry sectors. Training providers now need a greater degree of agility than ever before to support the needs of the employer.
The opportunity cost
Businesses are often prone to short-termism and evidence of that is easy to find. Many companies worry about lost productivity costs and in particular - lost sales. It seems few are considering the multiplicative power of a more able and stable sales team which can improve conversion rates, lower the cost of sale, increase turnover and grow the customer base. Equipping the next generation of sales professionals requires investment from individual and employer alike, otherwise the old cycle in which only the strongest survive is perpetuated.
Change is inevitable. The learning marketplace in the UK has undergone a significant alteration. Budget holders across the country are considering whether training provisioned through hard-fought internal negotiation can now be funded through the Levy. This means either; more human capital development can be accessed or, the money can be diverted elsewhere in the business.
Providers with specialist expertise are enabling themselves to be the partner of choice in a market segment previously roped off and inaccessible. Employers frustrated by the low-quality people development delivered by some providers in the past now have exciting alternative choices.
Return on investment now reigns supreme. Business owners, who have now been forced to part with their hard-earned money to spend on Apprentices are, rightfully so, wanting to know that the result of their financial investment will yield increased returns in productivity, revenue and staff retention as an absolute minimum.
Apprenticeships Training Providers now, more than ever need to be responsive to meet the individual needs of employer and learner simultaneously whilst assuring an underpinning theme of quality along the entire journey.
The UK has a real chance to catch up and even overtake some of our fiercest economic competitors by investing in a skills-focused future beyond the EU. Collectively, we need to grasp the opportunity with both hands. In times of change, the adaptable prevail.
About Mercuri International
With a commitment to delivering innovative training solutions and over 60 years’ experience helping companies worldwide transform their business results, we develop and implement training to help your people become tomorrow’s leaders, managers and sales professionals utilizing a blended learning approach: classroom, digital eLearning, one to one sessions, webinars and tutorials. www.mercuri.co.uk
Reference & Further information(Dunn, Apprenticeship Levy Pricing Young People Out Of Training, 2018) - www.newstatesman.com/spotlight/2018/03/apprenticeship-levy-pricing-young-people-out-training The Association of Professional Sales: https://www.associationofprofessionalsales.com/ Institute for Apprenticeships: https://www.instituteforapprenticeships.org/about/ Apprenticeships for England: https://www.app4eng.info/
Sarah James | Tel: 0330 9000 8000 | email@example.com
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Is it Really John’s Fault?
There is a task in your workplace that needs to be done. Sally can do it, but John cannot.
Our automatic assumption is that John does not have what it takes to do the job. John is not competent, and if we ever want John to be able to do the job, we need to give him some training and instruction so he becomes competent.
It is easy to see that for someone to do that job, they have to be as good as Sally. So we spend what might be quite a lot of money and effort ‘fixing’ John so he can work effectively alongside Sally.
This might all be true, however, there is another possibility that is almost always overlooked. There is another possibility that is almost always a cheaper solution.
Sally is more experienced than John, and she knows the little shortcuts, the tricks to making that particular machine work, the ways to bypass the system when it gets in the way, who to call when something she needs is missing and how to deal with all those little things that conspire against success.
If those barriers against success were absent, perhaps John could do the task, and do it well. So actually, he is competent for this particular task, and it is the environment that surrounds the task that is not ‘competent’. It is the faulty environment around John that renders him incapable in the moment of doing the task, even though nominally he is competent.
So you have two options. You can train John with all the knowledge and skill that Sally has in order to overcome the problems in the environment that surrounds the task, or you can fix the environment.
Which would cost you less?If you fix the environment, then others like John can also do the task. If you fix the environment, then Sally won’t need to bend the rules in order to get the job done. If you fix the environment, it is much easier to stay legal and compliant. If you fix the environment, people new into role will reach proficiency much more quickly.
The moral of the story is, when there is a performance problem, do not automatically blame the performer. It might be the stage that you are asking them to perform on, that is faulty.
(Originally published https://russellhrconsulting.co.uk/the-hr-headmistress-blog/is-it-really-johns-fault/)
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Compliance v competence - ten years on
I was looking through some old presentations the other day, trying to find some inspiration on the subject of compliance training, and I found this one. I was amazed to find that it was 10 years old and that there wasn't really anything about it I'd change.
For the learning professional, compliance training continues to provide lots of work but I'm not so sure it's not a deal with the devil. Tick-box training damages our reputation, at a time when we're looking to establish our credibility as performance consultants and learning experience designers.
There is a better way!
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Humility vs Power: Are you a Shackleton or a Scott?
Last week I had the pleasure of attending the 2019 Merit Summit in Vienna. It was my first time at the event as well as being my first time in Vienna. As I reflect on two full days of listening, connecting and learning, I wanted to distill some of my personal take-aways from the event. This comes at a particularly self reflective time for me, as I have now set up my own business after leaving Citi in December.
The overwhelming theme for me was that of Connection. It has manifested itself in many ways as a rallying call for anyone wanting to be successful in the new world of work.
Connecting the dots for L&D Professionals
Seek, Sense, Share! I've long been an advocate of PKM theory, especially as advanced by Harold Jarce. The Merit Summit ended up being a big fat episode of seeking, sensing and sharing for me! I found it incredibly rewarding as I noticed opportunities to connect people in my network with new individuals and ideas as they showed up for me during the two days. I intentionally didn't pack my schedule with back-to-back sessions, meetings and workshops. I tried to select speakers and topics that challenged my thinking and then gave time to reflect and synthesise as the day went on. Less was definitely more in Vienna.
It all started on Tuesday night at a superb dinner generously hosted by Sigrun & Sofia of the HR Builders. I met some old and new colleagues including Gerard Penning of Shell, Celia Berenguer of Sanofi and Richard Howell (who is a leading International Change Consultant). Building relationships in this type of environment is incredibly helpful. In my case I really enjoyed the seeking and sharing of new knowledge and understanding within a mini professional social learning network. Stories helped build relationships and personal connections. This theme was to continue throughout the week and has reinforced my belief that L&D Professionals of the future will be great story-tellers, intuitive connectors and generous enablers of learning.
Leaders as Connectors
Tuesday was kicked off by Gerard Penning's key-note speech on Leadership. In his typically engaging style, Gerard used no slides, and simply told stories about great leadership. He focused on the importance of Respect, Curiosity and Resilience as being key ingredients in a successful leader. The theme of Respect was to raise it's head in the debate that I participated in an hour later.
The debate was entitled 'Paradoxes of Leadership: Humility Vs Power.' I shared the stage with three wonderful colleagues: Celia Berenguer of Sonofi, and Tracey Camilleri of Saïd Business School, and the debate was expertly moderated by Michael Banks.
I feel strongly that this isn't really a paradox. When leaders demonstrate humility they exert considerable power and influence. In fact I consider humility to be a key ingredient to the projection of real power by a leader.
The key here is the definition of 'power'. I define progressive power as the ability of a leader to influence others to go on a journey of personal and collective change. It has a long term time horizon and requires the development of considerable follower-ship. Humility is a fundamental ingredient.
However short term power (I would call this limited power), where power is being done 'onto' others requires very little humility. However this is not really 'leading', rather it is simply 'commanding' and has a short and limited shelf-life in terms of leading others in times of change. In his excellent book 'Kinds of Power', James Hillman talks about a form of Social Darwinism that continues to poison our preconceived idea of how leaders should show up. Society still thinks of leaders in the cult of the Victorian-era 'hero-leader'. There is always a winner at the expense of losers and often winning the race by any means necessary is paramount (even if that means sacrificing team members). For this reason I've always been a fan of the arctic explorer Ernest Shackleton, rather than his contemporary Robert Scott!. (Shackelton didn't reach the pole but managed to bring all of his men home alive while Scott reached the prize but tragically perished with his men).*
The debate was a healthy one where the main point of difference centered around the topic of fear as an enabler for learning. Some felt that fear could be used by a leader as a motivating factor to generate leaning in their team. Personally I strongly disagree. Certainly, having challenging environments can offer great learning opportunities, and leaders should stretch their people by exposing them to those situations. But they must always do so with respect and support. It's here where connection is key. Firstly the manager builds trust and connection with the individual and co-creates learning as a result. Secondly they must connect the work to a clear shared purpose. Lastly they will connect stakeholders to form coalitions by aligning around a common goal.
The Employee - The Future is Social
As our idea of successful leadership matures, we see the importance of the leader as a humble connector. Equally, leadership is becoming democratised. The very smart Lori Niles-Hoffmann really made us sit up and think about this in her presentation on the Gig Economy. We are building flatter, more open and agile organisations to prosper in the new world of work. The separation between employees and leaders is increasingly grey. This new gig economy will ensure that more and more of the workforce are coalescing around work and projects rather than roles and organisations. The successful worker of the future will be the one who has their 'connector' dial constantly turned to 'high'. If we are seeking and sensing and sharing in our networks we will be alert to the opportunities to add value and collaborate around important work and opportunities. We will seamlessly contribute to the network, while connecting others to opportunities. We'll also know that by paying into this social dynamic, in effect a form of 'paying it forward', we will simply be increasing our access to opportunities in the future. The future is indeed social.
* I would highly recommend the book Shackleton's Boat Journey by F.A. Worsley. Worsley was Shakelton's skipper on this voyage and their tale of survival and rescue is so remarkable it seems fantastic that this a true story. Shackleton's leadership was remarkable.
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When performance support trumps learnig
This past year I have worked with clients on a number of projects in which the sole focus has been supporting employees in adapting to a change by providing resources that they could access at the point of need – a process that we normally call ‘performance support’.
In a world of immediate access to information at any time of day and night and wherever you happen to be, we no longer expect to have to acquire all the knowledge required to do our jobs. Yes, we still need to understand fundamental concepts and principles, and to develop key skills, but the rest we can look up as we need it.
Performance support is not quite the same as learning
The purpose of training or any other learning experience is to bring about a long-term change in knowledge, skills or attitudes – and that's not an easy thing to do. Depending on the requirement, we need to apply just the right strategy to help our learners make lasting connections in their brains. This process takes time and success is never guaranteed.
Learning and teaching activities aim to build lasting knowledge and skill. When future problems occur, the individual can access their memories to help them decide what to do. They can then take action.
With performance support, we are not concerned with long-term retention. It doesn’t matter whether the users of our support systems remember anything – just that they're able to get the job done. So, if we have an immediate problem, we access the support system to find out what to do and we take immediate action.
Performance support is not completely separate from learning. You could regard it as knowledge that exists externally to ourselves, as a sort of ‘outboard brain’. George Siemens described it like this: ‘Instead of the individual having to evaluate every bit of information, he or she creates a personal network of trusted nodes - people and content, enhanced by technology. The act of knowledge is offloaded onto the network itself.’
Traditionally, we have used performance support materials as part of the follow-up to a formal programme. Our courses are supported by a modest selection of resources - perhaps a handout or a checklist.
The modern approach still values courses as a way to engage people with new learning and to help them establish confidence. But the emphasis shifts to what happens next, how we follow-up to support learners at the point of need.
You could say that it’s becoming more important for people to know where to look or who to talk to than it is to know the what, why or how.
Deciding when performance support is the right approach
One of our most important tasks is to decide what needs to be taught in a course – or through some other sort of learning activity – and what can be included as a resource. Let’s look at some criteria that will help us decide …
Performance support is going to be useful when a task is performed infrequently. It’s unrealistic to expect people to remember what to do in every eventuality. Better to provide the information only when it’s needed. A good example would be a form you only complete once a year – by the time the next year comes around, you can remember very little.
Another indicator is when the task is complex. Even when you perform a task fairly frequently, you may not be able to remember every rule, every code, or the precise sequence in which every action should be carried out. Performance support tools refresh your memory and give you confidence that you’re getting the job absolutely right.
Performance support comes in handy when there are tricky problems to resolve. Even when you are well trained and have a lot of experience, you can be caught out by particularly thorny problems. A support system can provide you with a method for tackling the problem or access to others who might have experienced the problem before.
Another indicator is when job holders change frequently. When employee turnover is very high, the argument for training diminishes. Better to provide really excellent performance support which allows those who are new to do an acceptable job first time.
And then there are situations when there is simply no time for training. Better performance support than nothing.
Performance support is better when it’s learner-centred and agile
Obviously, it’s possible to determine requirements for performance support from the top-down – after all, managers have valuable insights into what would unlock performance in their areas of responsibility. But no-one knows better what would work in the real world than the people who are doing the job.
The best way to approach performance support is from the user’s perspective. Talk to employees; find out what challenges they face; get a feel for the contexts in which these challenges occur; ask employees what they feel would help them to overcome the challenge. They might say that they could really do with some training. More often than not, they’ll say they need a quick video, a checklist, a template, a fact sheet or a decision aid.
Don’t set about creating these resources as if each was a Hollywood production. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and trouble by working up a quick prototype and testing it in the field. Who knows? It may just be fine as it is. Typically, you’ll make some changes to take account of the feedback and put it back in the loop again. Performance support is best approached from an agile perspective.
I hope you feel inspired to make an impact with performance support in your organisation and that you’ll do this working alongside your users.
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Who is responsible for learning transfer?
Is it L&D, or the line managers?
I have heard many people in L&D say something like this… “You asked for training; you got it. Job done. Our responsibility finishes at the end of the course. Learning transfer is not our responsibility.”
This attitude arises when L&D set themselves up as an order taker, as a shopkeeper. One tool which is commonly used by these shopkeepers is a traditional Learning Management System with its list of courses and events that people can book to attend. It’s like ordering something off an online shopping site where the seller is not involved in any way with how the product will be used. Some even have a background algorithm that says, “Other learners who attended this course also attended these other courses."
A common lament I hear among L&D people is the lack of access to the top table and a lack of involvement in top-level decision making. I often find that the people with this lament are the very same people who have the shopkeeper attitude. Think about it. Would you as a senior decision maker in an organisation want to have the head shopkeeper from a small peripheral department at your board table? Not likely.
So, start getting interested in how people are using your training courses, and why they order them in the first place. Assume that at least part of the process of learning transfer is your responsibility and notice how that shifts your thinking about your role as a trainer and as a course/programme designer. People want a training course to solve a problem they have. What is that problem? Become someone who solves problems for people rather someone who just sells stuff that might be a solution. If we are buying anything other than a commodity, we really appreciate the expertise of a salesperson who takes the time and effort to find out what problem we are trying to solve and then guides us to a viable solution.
And often management says it’s not their responsibility either. They say that their job is operational excellence, not staff development. “L&D should be doing staff development.”
There are two aspects to this. One is that most management role job descriptions include a section that states their responsibility for developing the members of their team. If the job description does not include this responsibility, it should. The second aspect, which they also cannot run away from, is that most of the learning that happens at work, happens on their watch in the general day to day workflow. The 70:20:10 learning model tells us this, and even a moment’s reflection also tells us this from our own experience of where we learned to do what we do at work.
What most managers don’t understand is that unbeknownst to them, they have superpowers. These powers manifest themselves every time the manager answers a question, delegates a task, has a conversation or has any other interaction with a team member. They also manifest when a team member observes how their manager interacts with anybody else either directly or in any other way. By their actions, the manager sets the mini-culture within the team to be accountable or not, to learn or not, to blame or not, to help or not, to experiment or not, to seek excellence or not, to serve customers or not, to go the extra mile or not. Employees look to their manager for a lead to understand what is rewarded and what is frowned upon.
Every manager has an immense effect on how their team functions and performs, and most of them don’t begin to comprehend the magnitude of their power. They are already ‘developing’ their team members to behave a certain way by being the manager they are, and they have far more power over developing/moulding team behaviour than L&D ever will. A manager cannot abdicate their input into staff development because it is already baked into their role. The question is whether they become aware of their power and use it consciously, or whether they remain unaware and use it haphazardly.
Extract from Paul's latest book Learning Transfer at Work: How to Ensure Training >> Performance available on Amazon and our website http://pal.gl/dx