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Developing a Training Program With Better ROI

Despite the economic downturn, training and professional development expenses in large companies rose from an average of $17.17 million in 2019 to $22 million in 2020. Similarly, small businesses also increased their investments in training by over $100,000. With so much money being spent, it would be easy to assume that companies of all sizes are seeing clear returns on their investments (ROI). Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. One study found that only 11% of employees actually end up applying the training they receive to their day-to-day work. Why is there such a disparity between spending and results? Is training at work even worth it? The answer is yes, and it’s time for companies to shift their focus to developing a training program with better ROI.

How Training Programs Fall Short

The problem isn’t with training so much as the way many organizations approach developing and implementing a training program. All too often, companies rush into these programs without reflecting on what’s really needed to support their objectives. Consequently, not enough work is done to understand the challenges employees face, how they learn best, and what sort of follow-ups are required.

As an HR leader, you must transition from implementing professional training for training’s sake to analyzing each program’s effectiveness and ROI. Even moving the needle a few percentage points could have a significant impact on employees’ success and your company’s bottom line.

Achieving Better ROI in Professional Training

Putting the focus on ROI isn’t as difficult as you might think. Actually, it just requires a little more planning before rushing into training implementation. The goal is to figure out what training methods work best for your organization and calculate the true costs of that training ahead of time.

Set up key performance indicators to measure the success of training programs. Additionally, employee assessments can be used during the training process to more accurately analyze organizational data and the benefits of training and development. The important thing is to turn training from something good in the abstract to a practical, measurable, and mutually beneficial process.

Focusing on ROI will help you create effective training strategies. With this in mind, here are a few steps that can help you focus on developing training programs with better ROI:

1. Develop an integrated education and talent management framework

There’s no silver bullet when it comes to the perfect training program, but the right framework can ensure a strategic alignment of objectives and outcomes. Select and align programs to the specific needs of your organization. If you currently have training programs that don’t fit into this new framework, cut them. Every initiative should be moving your employees in the right direction for your business.

2. Create a digital strategy.

Up to 77% of organizations in the U.S. already use e-learning. A digital approach to training is more flexible, easier to access, and more engaging. Today’s digital learning platforms incorporate a variety of different techniques to keep employees interested, including interactive quizzes, videos, and games. Tailor E-learning to each employee’s specific needs as it pertains to their position or role. Using assessments prior to training can better determine individual learners’ needs, motivations, and preferences. Far too often, the learner’s perspective is not captured when it comes to training. The right digital strategies can fix that.

3. Favor flexibility.

Training needs to adapt fast to the changing needs of consumers and the economy itself. The ability to rapidly adjust resources to serve learning needs as they arise is crucial. Locking into a top-down formal approach doesn’t accommodate this. Instead, emphasize flexibility in your content and delivery modes to stay agile.

4. Keep an eye out for silos.

Silos in training can result in duplicate programs and inefficient use of data. So, be sure to thread learning throughout the day-to-day operations of a business so it works alongside its objectives. Many training programs use what’s known as a 70:20:10 learning framework to address this. This means 70% of training occurs while working, 20% happens during collaboration, and 10% takes place through more formal means, such as classroom sessions.

You can reduce the silos that pop up by fostering intentional connections between training programs among different business units and HR programs. This will promote learning networks and help ensure stakeholder alignment when it comes to rollouts. You should also remove the silo between theoretical training and practical application by implementing real-life applications and leadership encouragement.

The Importance of Resiliency

Be sure to implement resiliency alongside other strategies in order to make the most of training. This has become a key human skill across HR departments as agility and adaption have become essential to survival.

Resiliency in the business world means drawing actionable insights out of a variety of different sources. The goal is to be ready to change course quickly while also planning for a longer-term evolution. Effective training strategies should incorporate resiliency in order to prepare employees for real-world work.

Teach your employees resiliency through individual virtual training and group activities. These methods not only help employees learn resiliency, but they also give you a better idea of how each person handles tough situations. From there, you can apply additional training where necessary.

Training is not a set-it-and-forget-it type of thing. Therefore, employers must reevaluate training regularly and adapt it accordingly so that it remains applicable to both your company’s and your employees’ goals. By emphasizing resiliency and focusing on creating flexible, practical training programs, you’ll see better results.

Got Burned-Out Employees? Rethink Learning and Development

As we transition to a post-pandemic working world, I need my team to ________.

How did you fill in the blank? 

Many organizations need employees to focus on a host of skills and tasks to help their business bounce back from the pandemic. Priorities include improving communication, building resilience, selling, cultivating digital dexterity, and more. All this is important, yet there’s a major problem: many employees aren’t in learning mode.

It’s not that employees are lazy, unmotivated, or dispassionate about their development. It’s simply that they’re experiencing employee burnout, and as they transition back to the office, they feel can’t take on more. Having to learn new skills on top of reintegrating with teams, settling into a “new” office, and readjusting their work schedule feels like an overwhelming proposition.

Regardless, there are skills that teams need to develop right now for businesses to achieve both short-term and long-term results. 

To resolve this, businesses must embrace the reality that as the concept of work has been disrupted, so has the concept of learning. Traditional approaches to development–like face-to-face instructionneed to be re-imagined to ensure that employees can build skills at the right pace. What’s more, new ways of thinking and working must be introduced gradually to ensure they can become sustainable habits.

To achieve this, employers must integrate learning into a professional’s day-to-day work life and streamline it. Here are four ways to make this happen.

Abandon classroom training. 

Not forever. Just for now. Employees have zero appetite for cramming into a small room with their teams to listen to a PowerPoint lecture for hours. And lengthy learning games and ice breakers? Forget about them. During the pandemic, we learned how important our time is. Even the idea of sitting in a classroom can be un-motivating. For employers and safety restrictions, it’s also an unnecessary extra hurdle to prepare a room for learning. We now know there are other ways to learn. You can learn virtually, independently, through asynchronous methods, and more. Right now is not the time for classroom learning. Maybe in the future. But not now.

Think hybrid. 

Just as we now have a new appreciation for what a hybrid work environment looks like, learning should take the same approach. By looking at their learning methods (in-person learning, virtual learning, live vs recorded instruction, self-led development, book clubs, etc.) employers can create a mashup. Identify the skills that need to be developed and the time it takes to develop each respective skill. Then, be creative with how you can build the skill in micro-learning sessions over a set period of time. In regard to micro-learning, think about a learning session that takes less than 90 minutes.

For example, you can partner with clients to deliver cohort training, which leverages group, virtual learning, and one-on-one coaching. Deliver the group learning in multiple micro-sessions. The coaching serves as a supplement to ensure that the knowledge shared is both retained and customized for each participant. Make each group learning session 60 t0 90 minutes. Allow each coaching call to be 30 to 45 minutes. Deliver content over the course of three months to support development, while ensuring that nothing is more than any participant can handle. Have each participant schedule their coaching session at a time that best suits their schedule. Cohort training is ideal for time-constrained managers.

Leverage technology. 

We’re all gifted at leveraging Zoom, Teams, and Google by now. There are still different platforms we can utilize to share knowledge, like Padlet, Quizlet, Mural, and more. Help employees learn at their own pace with LinkedIn Learning and other sites like Udemy and Coursera.

It’s not all on the shoulders of employers to create and distribute content. You can design a self-paced course, complete with accountability metrics, to provide your employees with the right amount of learning at the time that’s right for them. Don’t make learning a time-consuming affair. Spread it out over a longer period of time. It also doesn’t have to be expensive, especially if you’ve got the right partner with the right platform.

Share the responsibility.  

Professionals showed creativity in the “getting stuff done” department during the COVID-19 crisis. Allow them to apply their ingenuity around their skills development. Provide the expectation, share the options, and then allow them to find their time to learn. Forced-fed learning is rarely effective. Setting a high standard, allowing team members autonomy, and reinforcing with accountability is a great way to generate engagement. As an added bonus, this method helps encourage on-the-job learning. This is more valuable because professionals get to apply what they’re learning in real-time, ensuring that the habits they’re building become lasting. After all, real-life learning is always more impactful than learning done in a laboratory setting.

Re-imagine learning and development. An incremental, micro-learning approach to development has never been more on time and on target.

Hiring for Soft Skills: Benefits and Tips

Today, hiring for soft skills is critical for your organization’s success. By looking beyond a job’s requisite hard skills, such as those needed for cloud computing or customer service, you can attract and retain top talent by focusing on soft skill recruitment.

According to a recent LinkedIn Global Talent Trends survey, 92 percent of hiring and talent professionals stated that it’s “increasingly important” to hire candidates with well-developed soft skills, especially in today’s changing workplace. In the same survey, 89 percent stated that bad hires “typically have poor soft skills.”

Unlike hard skills, however, soft skills are often trickier to assess during the hiring process. It’s hard to tell from a resume what soft skills someone possesses. And traditional interview questions don’t typically focus on these competencies.

In this article, we’ll explore some benefits of hiring for soft skills for organizations. And we will offer tips for switching to a soft skills-focused hiring process.

Benefits of Hiring for Soft Skills

Broaden and diversify your hiring pipeline

Increased workplace productivity, employee retention, and improved customer service experiences aren’t the only benefits of hiring for soft skills. Additionally, hiring for soft skills allows you to broaden and diversify your hiring pipeline since you’re shifting your focus away from credentials.

According to Harvard Business Review, companies with robust talent pipelines focus on “potential, not credentials.” For example, instead of focusing on technical skills, which have a shelf life of a couple of years, soft skills can last a lifetime. Notably, those employers all valued soft skills as much as they did hard ones.

Increase workplace productivity and retention

In a frequently cited study by Harvard University, University of Michigan, and Boston University, researchers found that soft skills training increases productivity and retention by 12 percent, overall netting a 256 percent return on investment. That would make any CFO happy.

Further, as the workplace quickly evolves, upskilling and reskilling are at the top of everyone’s to-do list. Training for soft skills is no different. In a 2019 Consumer Technology Association study, 66 percent of tech industry leaders stated that “professional development programs to hone soft skills” are important or very important to retaining qualified employees over the next five years.

Improve customer satisfaction and experience

Soft skills are also essential when delivering superior customer experiences. After all, most customer service skills are soft skills, such as active listening, communication, and empathy.

And, of course, when customers have better experiences, this leads to increased sales. Forrester recently reported that companies focused on customer experience increased revenue 1.4 times faster while increasing customer lifetime value 1.6 times more than companies without a customer experience focus.

Ease upskilling

Additionally, soft skills are more challenging to teach than hard skills. Why are soft skills harder to learn? For one, they are rooted in personality, unlike hard skills. For example, empathy may be rooted in one’s life experience.

Because soft skills are tied to an employee’s personality, improvement of these skills requires continual learning and self-reflection. It’s just not the same for hard skills like accounting. When you hire for soft skills first, you’ll find it easier to upskill employees. This is because you’ll be focused on easier-to-train hard skills.

Tips for Switching to a Soft Skills Focused Recruiting Process

Focus on your job descriptions

Review your current job descriptions. Do they focus on soft skills such as communication or teamwork? If not, it’s time to step back. Review the competencies needed for the job opening and refine your job ad accordingly. Refocusing your job requirements with soft skills in mind not only helps you find the best candidate but also strengthens your talent pipeline by broadening your pool of qualified applicants.

Structure your interviews

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “hard skills can be trained; soft skills can’t.” Because of this, it’s critical to structure your job interviews in a way to solicit insight into soft skills competencies. However, when refining your interviewing process, be sure to standardize your questions, helping to keep potential bias in check.

Screen for soft skills efficacy

Pre-hire assessment tools allow you to pinpoint soft skills at the top of the funnel. By incorporating these tools into your hiring process, you can hire up to 10 times more accurately. This saves money, time, and, yes, frustration, while creating a better recruitment experience for candidates.

With AI-driven tools such as Cangrade’s pre-hire assessments and job description decoder, you can start narrowing your talent pool quickly, making the right hire the first time. You can learn more about how these tools help you identify the specific soft skills required for success in your organization with this demo.

The 360-Degree Feedback Tool and How It Benefits Leadership

To appreciate the recent rise of 360-degree feedback in today’s workplaces, we must first understand the factors that led to the decline in its reputation. With roots in the industrial era and often referred to as a multi-rater assessment, 360-degree feedback rose in popularity and became mainstream. It became so mainstream that organizations slowly lost sight of its purpose. Frequently used to evaluate an individual’s professional performance, organizations often missed developmental opportunities for business growth. They also missed an alignment of key leadership behaviors that cultivate a strong organizational culture.

Several factors contribute to the decline in the perceived value of 360-degree feedback, including the impression that the 360s are:

  • Focused on individual performance evaluations rather than ongoing development. Mixing individual performance management with development in a single 360 assessment created distrust and undermined employees’ willingness to respond truthfully.
  • A one-off measurement tool with no monitoring of the development of progress over time
  • A complex and time-consuming process that made data collection and analysis harder to complete promptly
  • Inconsistent and riddled with subjective bias as poorly written questions, lack of benchmarking, and some skewed data undermine efforts to reach objective results
  • “Read-only” – A lack of action in response to data resulted in employee frustration since the process didn’t yield tangible effects beyond a performance evaluation.

Consequently, traditional 360 assessments often suffered reputational damage from misapplication and participant frustration. However, when used correctly, a well-calibrated 360-degree feedback measurement provides a high-definition feedback mirror. Also, it provides an opportunity for continual learning and development. The key is leveraging a well-validated measure of leadership success that predicts real behavior change. And it needs to be supported by a holistic development plan for achieving meaningful insights on individual strengths, overall business performance, and career growth.

Skill Gaps and the Art of Upskilling

In collaboration with the Boston Consulting Group, The World Economic Forum (WEF) highlights that technological changes affect almost all jobs. This makes digital literacy and human-centric skills indispensable. There is a need for company-wide investments in employee upskilling, engagement, and retention to overcome technological disruption. The McKinsey Global Survey on the future of workforce needs shows that 87 percent of executives and managers believe their organizations already face skill gaps. Or that they expect such gaps to develop by 2025. Also, less than 50 percent of these leaders know how to address the problem and build their future leadership pipeline.

The sense of urgency to strengthen leadership pipelines across the world is supported by Gallup’s research findings. They conclude that managers account for 70 percent of the variance in their team’s employee engagement. This makes them the linchpin for team effectiveness and retention. Moreover, Gallup found that when managers can drive high employee engagement during times of economic disruption, their teams respond with resilience. Business performance is also strengthened and outpaces their competition.

Despite today’s uncertain business climate, leaders have taken steps to identify vulnerable areas and offer their staff stability and direction to move forward. Thus, developing leaders who are trained to navigate change, difficult circumstances, and continuously build stronger teams is imperative for cultivating future-ready leadership.

The Business Case for Alignment Between Manager and Employees

Leadership development is never easy and never a destination. Recognizing your strengths and opportunities for improvement is a difficult task for individuals. Most of us have heavily biased opinions of ourselves, making it difficult to constructively self-reflect and receive feedback. We struggle to cut through all the “noise” around us that provides clues to our performance and potential.

Proven 360 feedback tools are powerful means for helping leaders reflect on their behavioral tendencies. They also provide insight into leaders’ performance from the lens of their colleagues. The very best feedback tools don’t simply provide insights into leadership behaviors. They also help leaders explore how to use their unique talents and strengths to act on feedback.

A global meta-analysis of 49,495 business units and teams, 1.2 million employees, and 45 countries empirically demonstrates that a strengths-based approach to development leads to substantially better performance and business outcomes, including:

  • 10 to 19 percent greater sales
  • 14 to 29 percent higher profitability
  • 9 to 15 percent higher employee engagement
  • 26 to 72 percent lower turnover in high turnover teams

Simply put, a strengths-based approach to 360-degree feedback is an accelerator for development. It helps participants take an individualized approach to how they can achieve their desired outcomes. In addition, it helps them embrace and maximize their natural talents and apply them to tackle new goals.

This approach is very different from a traditional 360 assessment, designed solely to evaluate employee scores, usually with spectacularly little detail and advice on how to improve. With over 50 years of research, Locke and Latham conclude that significant performance progress is much more likely to transpire when goals and feedback are specific, appropriately challenging, and routinely discussed.

A note on the authors:

This piece was co-written by Ben Wigert, Director of Research and Strategy, Workplace Management at Gallup, and Jennifer Balcom, Director of Consulting at Explorance.

5 Mistakes Companies Make with HR Tech Adoption

The HR industry underwent massive shifts over the last year. The pandemic reframed the role of HR to focus more holistically on employee experience, and emerging tech has become mission critical.

As a result, HR teams’ tech stacks continue to grow. According to Sierra-Cedar, the average HR organization has 11 systems of record, with 10 for recruiting departments and almost 203 for L&D departments.

And demand is growing. Sapient Insights Group reports that 28 percent of organizations plan to increase investments in nontraditional HR technology areas like remote-working tools and infrastructure.

While the excitement and need for HR tech remain essential for supporting agile and resilient workforces, the influx of new tech and systems doesn’t come without pain points.

Here are five common mistakes companies make with HR tech adoption (and how to avoid them).

Purchasing Vertical Solutions for Each Pain Point

We get excited when we have the opportunity to buy a beautiful tool that gives us a laser-sharp focus on a pain point—be it improving employee engagement, payroll systems, recruitment, and more.

But here’s the rub: when you have several platforms and systems of record working at once, it’s nearly impossible to extract related data into a single view. Data becomes siloed, and we end up taping together each solution without the ability to look at the information in context.

I was once in this spot, and I had to ask my Excel-wizard colleague to help me each time I needed to look at data. This is not sustainable when you consider the complexity of data and how many work technology solutions we use in today’s business, not to mention how difficult it is to keep up with data in companies experiencing rapid growth or change.

Thinking the Technology Will Do the Work

Maintaining your tech stack takes time. Whether you use one tool or 100, your HR team must spend considerable time updating, maintaining, and correcting data.

To add another layer of complexity, insights are not always cut and dry. Say you’re in the middle of your compensation planning cycle. You’re prepared to reward your high performers and make recommendations to those who haven’t hit their targets. Sounds easy, right?

In reality, what constitutes high achievement is not always clear. For example, if a candidate achieves four out of five of their KPIs and really struggled on their fifth, you might be compelled to give them glowing remarks. But when you dig deeper, you find that this person’s fifth KPI was actually the most directly relevant to their roles and responsibilities. Beyond that, the person also received some pretty negative 360 reviews on their management style. What now?

Ultimately, it’s best to contextualize data within your org’s mission and goals. HR teams need to make sure they have the clarity to connect data points to real action and solutions.

Acting as Data Gatekeepers

To foster strategic decision-making throughout the org, HR needs to make data accessible. This doesn’t mean posting every team member’s personal files on your org’s intranet. It requires strategic thinking about what data people need to do their jobs and what data can be too distracting.

For example, 60 percent of employees spend five hours or more per week waiting for information. HR teams are often main sources for answers to questions like:

  • How many people are currently on the engineering team?
  • I just opened a new position for a marketing manager; what is our compensation range for that role?
  • Can you send me a copy of my last performance review?
  • And many more

Centralizing and increasing access to information can be a huge time-saver and productivity booster for your entire org.

Using Technology to Be Reactive vs. Proactive

Too often, we use data to respond reactively to isolated issues. That’s a problem.

Let’s say your company has a DEI issue. You look at the numbers and see that Black people make up only two percent of your workforce. You conclude there’s a need to direct attention solely to your applicant pipeline. After tapping into new applicant pools, you increase that percentage to 15 percent. Congrats!

Flash forward to a year later. You look at your numbers and find that you’re back down to two percent. What happened?

All those people you hired left.

That’s because your team doesn’t have a recruiting problem; it has a culture and retention problem. Improving workplace culture and inclusivity involves its own dedicated stream of data collection, programming, and initiatives.

Putting your data insights in context and strategically identifying the root causes of issues gives you the tools you need to plan proactively.

Failing to Train Key Users

When you get a new tool, you may be struck with a newfound zeal to get things up and running. You just made a significant investment, and you’re ready to prove your ROI.

Yet, even the most simple tools require time. Rather than immediately jumping in to configure your accounts, take a moment to learn:

  • Review tech onboarding files to understand everything that’s possible with your new software.
  • Tap into customer communities and reviews to see how others have leveraged the platform.
  • Make sure to connect potential outcomes with the original intent for purchasing the tool.

Then when you’re ready to use your new tech, you know exactly how to get the most bang for your buck.

Better Tech Adoption for Strategic Planning

If we’ve learned anything this last year, it’s that HR teams need the ability to anticipate, adapt to, and react decisively to change. To do so requires thoughtful investment in resources and tools that give teams the upper hand.

The challenge is that different tech means that data is often housed in multiple applications, obscuring the “real” truth and insights needed to make complex decisions.

But don’t let that overwhelm you! With patience and the right mindset, you can make sure that your team is effectively leveraging new tools and tech to support your org and its people.

Coping With Talent Shortages for On-Location Roles

As healthcare workers administer more vaccines, many companies are pushing employees to return to in-person work. However, not everyone wants to go back to hour-long commutes and drab little cubicles. In fact, some people would rather quit their jobs than give up remote work. And thousands of Americans are doing just that.

While their decision to work from home (or not work at all) may improve their well-being and work-life balance, it’s caused severe talent shortages in on-location roles across the country. Subsequently, countless businesses are struggling to fill their offices and retain skilled employees.

How to Attract Talent

Many of today’s workers have spent more than a year earning a paycheck at home. These same employees will likely expect similar perks when they return to the office. Thus, if businesses want to retain their current workforce and attract new talent, they must make on-location roles more appealing.

Here are a few ways modern businesses might rethink their benefits package, workflow, and office design to accommodate and welcome back a post-pandemic workforce.

1. Encourage Open Dialogue

After businesses laid off millions of workers, those who were left began to experience mental illnesses like anxiety and depression. They didn’t know if they’d have to pick up the slack or if they’d be sent home next. These same employees are now returning to the office with survivor guilt. Their co-workers’ desks sit empty and, to make matters worse, many supervisors are completely oblivious to the widespread survivor guilt wracking the team.

To move forward in a healthy way, employers must become aware and accepting of their team’s worries and frustrations. Allowing them to openly voice their thoughts and opinions can also help workers release some steam and discuss their needs. Companies should implement an ongoing feedback loop. This will ensure both current and future employees are satisfied and will help them understand why furloughs and firings are necessary.

2. Provide Child Care

One-third of the U.S. workforce has a child under 14 in their home, and nearly 20 percent of them must reduce their work hours due to a lack of child care. Meanwhile, 26 percent of women had to quit their jobs to raise their kids. Only 30 percent of working parents had backup child care, highlighting the disparities between low- and high-income families.

As of December 2020, more than 25 percent of child care providers remain closed. However, more businesses are requiring employees to return to the office. Employers will have to provide free or at least discounted childcare to these workers if they’re to avoid talent shortages in the post-pandemic era. Whether it be on-location or a few blocks away, this employee benefit will help retain working parents and entice new ones to submit a job application.

3. Invest in Ongoing Training

The increasing demand for remote jobs has affected practically every business. However, industries like healthcare, hospitality, financial services, and construction are experiencing the most severe talent shortages.

These professions often require on-location workers that train under an apprentice if need be. Thus, employers can attract new talent by improving training programs and investing in ongoing learning. This arrangement also contributes to current employees’ engagement to improve retention.

4. Offer Better Benefits

Employers looking to develop a hybrid workplace environment might consider offering better benefits to on-location workers. Contrary to popular belief, this method is completely legal, as there are no federal laws requiring plans to provide the same benefit coverage to all employees.

Thus, providing childcare, learning opportunities, health insurance, 401(k) plans and other perks to on-location employees may entice more workers to stay and others to apply for such positions. Adding amenities like a fitness center, coffee shop, and even sleep pods could also bring more workers into the office and help with talent shortages.

5. Plan for Flexibility

Regardless of how many benefits you offer, some employees will still prefer to work from home. If most of the team feels similarly, supervisors might consider a flexible schedule rather than a complete company overhaul. This approach will help them save money and adapt to the ever-changing workplace environment. More importantly, it will help retain and attract cream-of-the-crop workers.

Employers should collaborate with employees to determine a schedule that works best for them. Maybe they’ll work from home every other day or only come into the office for meetings. Whatever system they choose, team members are bound to be less stressed and even more productive if they spend at least part of their workweek at home.

Finding and Retaining Talent

Ironically, finding on-location workers will require many human resource professionals and talent acquisition specialists to work remotely and use online resources. By utilizing digital job fairs, experiential events, and artificial intelligence, businesses can effectively search for and vet potential job candidates. Emerging recruitment tactics like jobcasting and gamified skill tests can also attract talented employees who don’t mind working in an office.

While this process may be incredibly stressful and expensive, it won’t go on forever. This is especially true if businesses alter their hiring and retainment strategies. As long as they incorporate the tactics above, they shouldn’t have to face a talent shortage for a long while—or at least until the next pandemic.

 

Photo by Milkos

4 Effective Ways to Execute 2021 Employee Training

There is no doubt employee training boosts motivation and reduces turnover. But did you know that training also provides employees greater direction, purpose, and peace of mind?

According to a recent report, 94 percent of employees say they would stay with a company longer if their employer invested in their learning. The report also found that heavy learners are 47 percent more likely to find purpose in their job. They’re more likely to know the direction of their career. And they’re 47 percent less likely to feel stressed at work.

Ongoing employee education should be a top priority for every organization. Unfortunately, the abrupt shift to remote work sparked by the pandemic forced many companies to push training to the back burner. As companies reexamine their 2021 budgets, many HR and training professionals seek smarter ways to invest in and execute employee training in 2021.

Here are four tips for getting the very best training for your employees — even if you have a smaller budget:

1. Ask Managers and Employees to Help Identify Gaps in Knowledge

According to a recent McKinsey memo, CFOs budgeting for 2021 should be looking to unlock more profound value from every investment. That includes employee training. Of course, for some companies, maintaining certifications will require training. In other cases, you may be completely clueless about the gaps in employees’ knowledge.

To ensure you’re investing wisely, talk to department managers and employees about what type of training would be most beneficial. Their knowledge and support will be helpful if you have to make a case for the investment. Plus, employees are likely to get more out of training they’ve already identified as needed.

2. Invest in Private Group Training

The pandemic may have disrupted your training in 2020, but that doesn’t mean 2021 should be a lost year. You can set up private group training either on-site or virtually, depending on current COVID-19 restrictions and your organization’s comfort level. Private group training gives you ultimate flexibility on scheduling, and the instructors come to you.

Private group training is an excellent investment, in part because you can tailor training to your company and employees’ needs. For example, IT training solution provider IBEX offers a customized curriculum to ensure the training aligns with your organization’s goals. They also incorporate your internal processes and terminology into the curriculum. Plus, educating an entire team or department is more cost-effective than training individuals.

3. Set-up Video “Lunch and Learns”

Executing employee training isn’t just about giving your team the technical skills they need to level up. It’s also about igniting their curiosity and creating a culture of growth. Of course, this idea gets a little nebulous when your team is remote. After all, where does that spirit of inquiry live when your employees are working from home?

One way to keep this growth mindset during a lockdown? Coordinate virtual “lunch and learns.” You’ve probably heard of TED Talks, but now you can get customized video recommendations based on your interests with TED Recommends. Pick a new video every week, and then discuss it as a team via Zoom. Not only will this help spark curiosity and innovation, but it will also give your team some much-needed social interaction.

4. Book Virtual Conferences Early

As COVID-19 cases surged, many organizers canceled major 2020 conferences. It’s unclear if big festivals such as South by Southwest will have physical events in 2021, but many are planning online events. While digital experiences don’t bring all the excitement of in-person events, there are certain advantages to booking online conferences.

First, many conferences are making their panels and keynotes available on-demand. This approach allows for greater flexibility and means your team can be sure not to miss the most relevant sessions. Second, these virtual events enable HR and training professionals to score tickets for a fraction of the typical cost. Tickets to SXSW usually cost upwards of $1,700, for example. But early-bird tickets for the virtual event are going for just $149. Plus, your company won’t have to foot the bill for plane tickets and hotel rooms.

Now more than ever, the future is uncertain; no one has any idea how 2021 will look.

The one thing we do know? Ongoing employee education provides enrichment that boosts job satisfaction and morale. Training is also an investment in your human capital that pays dividends for years. So as you look ahead to 2021, pay extra attention to how you will execute employee training for your company.

Jachym Michal

[#WorkTrends] Strategic Learning: How to Upskill, Reskill and Retrain

How do you define strategic learning? How does your organization upskill, reskill, and retrain employees?

Did you know? Only 57% of the 350 HR pros we surveyed report they use their payroll or HCM systems to store data on training and development. Even worse: Many HR teams are still keeping track of who learns what on paper. Yes, paper.

Clearly, we have a long way to go when it comes to leveraging the technology and tools used to support the training of our people — and how we keep track of that training. And our recent transition to remote working only serves to give this issue an even higher sense of urgency.

Our Guest: Dickens Aubourg of Paycom

On this episode of #WorkTrends, I welcomed Dickens Aubourg, Director of Client Learning at Paycom. We talked about the need to make employee training — reskilling, retraining, and upskilling — a key business strategy. As we already know, developing from within has always been a smart approach. But it makes even more sense in the context of today’s remote workplaces. The first question I asked Dickens: “Do you see a gap in terms of how learning and development are being delivered, and what is required?”

Dickens didn’t pull any punches with his response: “I do, Meghan. I see a gap in how training is delivered and defined.” Dickens explained: “Learning is happening all the time within the workplace. So, it’s important to also recognize informal learning. After all, informal learning coupled with formal learning creates the knowledge and the experiences employees and leaders need to drive business impact and results.”

Our insightful guest’s next thought perfectly summed up the challenge many companies face when building a strategic learning program, especially for top performers: “True learning happens when it’s engaging through the work we do every day,” Dickens said. “That form of learning brings context and relevance. There has to be that connection, that collaboration. And we’re seeing that emerge in learning-focused HR products and platforms.”

The Key to Strategic Learning: HR, Upskill Thyself

Sensing Dickens and I were on the same page, I asked him about what I see as a disconnect between the importance of continuous development of existing talent and the need to hire new talent. As I told him, it seems like HR, recruiting teams, and L&D need to sit down and have a serious talk about the need to upskill, reskill, and retrain employees. He agreed: “This is so important and relevant. Especially right now, when so many organizations and companies are dealing with a post-pandemic rebound. Now, organizations not only need to survive this pandemic… they once again need to thrive.

“And in order for you to thrive, you have to be nimble enough to seek out new approaches. You have to incorporate new technology and new tools.” Dickens is so right. We in HR can’t keep doing things the same old way. 

In order to upskill our employees, we must first upskill ourselves.

I really enjoyed this conversation with Dickens Aubourg. I know you will too. Listen in. Then decide how your HR team will up your organization’s upskill, reskill, and retrain game.

Find Dickens on LinkedIn.

 

This podcast was sponsored by Paycom.

 

Editor’s note: #WorkTrends podcasts and Twitter chats have evolved! Our goal: To better meet your needs! Check out the new FAQ page and #WorkTrends Podcast page. Then let us know how we’re doing!

 

3 Ways to Create a Cyber Security Culture in Your Workplace

Today’s workplace is more concerned with online attacks than before. As hackers launch cyber-terrorist attacks against businesses of all sizes, everyone from the customer to the CEO is concerned for the safety of their information. Some of these hackers don’t do anything but break into the system and vandalize webpages and cause other types of chaos, but many are looking for credit cards and other information they can use to make money. Both types of attacks damage your reputation and can result in hours of additional work for your team.

The solution isn’t just to create stronger security for your network. It’s to create a workplace culture that understands, prizes, and implements computer network security protocols on a regular basis. Creating this culture involves starting with a strong foundation and building up while making certain your team is there with you.

  1. Don’t Forget the Basics

Many businesses look to the latest in security tricks, programs, and concepts as the only things that can protect them. However, in doing so, they often forget many of the basics. Following some of the basic security methods can actually stop most attacks, especially those done by amateurs who aren’t serious hackers. Following these basic security protocols is often very easy and very affordable, too, so your business doesn’t have to spend a lot of money to protect itself. Here are some of these simple yet powerful methods of defending your network.

Use Strong Passwords Strong passwords are the first line of defense against a cyber attack that would turn your own users against you. Your employees must understand that asking them to create long passwords that use a mixture of letters, numbers, capital letters, and special characters isn’t just because you want to make them remember something difficult. These passwords can often be the only thing that keeps someone from breaking into a user’s account and doing anything they want with the data found there and the access that account has.

Patch and Update Regularly – Software isn’t perfect. In fact, most software has a few glitches in it, even software that has been on the market for years. Sometimes, these glitches aren’t really noticeable and don’t affect the overall operation of the programs. Other times, these issues open up your system to attacks by creating vulnerabilities that can be exploited. Keep all of your software, especially programs such as your antivirus scanner and your firewall, patched and up-to-date. If a company says a patch addresses a security issue, make sure to install it right away.

Know Your Norms – What does your system look like when everything’s normal? If you don’t know, then you can’t really know when something has affected your network. You need to have a baseline image of what everything looks like before you encounter any issues so you have something to compare a potential cyber security breach to.

Limit Access – Most employees only need access to a small amount of your overall computer network, so why give them access to everything? By limiting access, you protect your more sensitive data since only those who truly need to access it can. This way, even if an employee account is hacked due to a weak password, chances are the hacker can’t get much information because the account’s access is limited.

Inventory Your System and Monitor It – Take an inventory of the programs and other resources on your network and update that inventory when you add or remove anything from your system. This way, you know what programs should be there and can more easily spot something that doesn’t belong.

Once your system is inventoried, you want to add real time intrusion detection software such as Snort to your system. This program will monitor your network and alert you to anything suspicious, including users trying to access files they have no business trying to open. Using Snort will help keep your network safe even when you’re not actively watching it, such as during the evening and early mornings.

  1. Train Your Employees

Your network security is only as strong as your least-trained employee. That’s because employees often leave doors open to hackers and others who want to infiltrate your network. But it’s not always the employee’s fault. If they were never trained in good security techniques, how can they be expected to know that they shouldn’t open email attachments from senders they don’t know or that they shouldn’t use a simple password?

Training is especially important in today’s BYOD culture where employees often bring smartphones, laptops, tablets, and flash drives to work and connect them to the office network. You have no control over the security on these devices, so they could be riddled with viruses and malware. Teaching employees how to protect their own computers not only helps them keep their systems clean, it also protects you.

There are a number of ways you can train your employees on good network security protocols. All new employees should go through computer security training so they know the basics. You can reinforce this training regularly by including monthly security tips in your internal newsletter or in emails. Having refresher courses annually may also be a good idea, especially if you’ve had some employees become lax in following network rules.

  1. Encourage Leadership to be Role Models

If your senior leadership takes your online business security seriously, everyone else will, too. However, they have to be seen as leaders in this area, which means they have to follow all of the rules as well. Some senior executives may feel as if the rules don’t apply to them, so they’ll use weaker passwords or leave their computers unlocked while they’re out of the office. Executives often have more access to the system than other users, so having one of their accounts compromised can be disastrous.

This doesn’t encourage anyone else to be vigilant about their computer security. If your top level managers don’t follow the rules, why would anyone else? Make certain training starts at the top and that everyone, from the CEO down, follows your security protocols.

Photo Credit: UKNGroup Flickr via Compfight cc

4 Reasons You Should (Not) Trash Company Performance Reviews 

Recently, there’s been a lot of talk as to why companies should just get rid of their performance reviews. They don’t improve performance. No one likes them. Well, just because you don’t like to give constructive criticism doesn’t mean you should just get rid of it. After all, you still had to eat your broccoli as a child regardless of if you thought it tasted like dirt, right?

Love them or hate them, performance reviews are a necessary use of time and are critical to the success of your performance management system. Most of the arguments to get rid of the performance appraisals all together are largely based on poor performance management practices. You can, however, improve the effectiveness of performance reviews in your organization without trashing them. Here are four reasons to keep them around:

 

  • They do improve team performance.

 

Performance reviews of the 1950s may not have been conducive to the improving employee performance, and that’s the problem. The organizations that say performance reviews are merely a formality and don’t truly ameliorate the work of the team use an antiquated process. Companies that see performance reviews as more than merely a formality do experience a 14.9% lower turnover rate because they conduct them more often than just once a year.

 

  • You can empower management.

 

One of the problems with employee performance reviews is simply that managers don’t like to give criticism because they don’t know how to give it. As an employer, you can solve this. You can empower your management team by providing the supervisory training necessary to conduct more effective performance reviews. Nearly half – 46% – want training in how to properly and successfully conduct performance reviews. When your managers know how to give praise and criticism, they are empowered to conduct better appraisals.

 

  • Employers can ensure consistency.

 

Often, performance reviews are criticized for a lack of consistency from employee to employee. However, as with any other process, employers can set standards. Establish goals and expectations before the performance appraisal so employees know what their supervisors look for when evaluating their work. Paul Falcone (@PaulFalconeHR), a Senior Human Resources Executive at Grifols BioScience, said:

“So don’t think of the process of goal-setting as an afterthought once the backward-looking annual performance review is given: see it as a new way for your staffers to reinvent themselves in light of the new challenges that may be coming your company’s way.”

 

  • Employees want performance reviews.

 

Not only do your employees need regular performance reviews to know their progress on goals, they want performance reviews. More importantly, they want the constructive, or corrective, feedback from their supervisors. In fact, 57% of employees want the corrective feedback. It’s a learning and growth opportunity for employees, so give them the tools they need for development and provide some areas for improvement.

Just like broccoli at dinner when you were a child, you may not like it, but the performance appraisal is a necessary practice. Despite the growing disdain towards performance reviews, organizations still need to use the performance management method in order to track employee growth and maintain goal adherence. Employees want to improve their performance, and a thorough appraisal is the perfect way to do that. Even though each performance appraisal will be slightly different because your employees are different, you can ensure consistency by establishing goals and expectations before the review process. Regardless of the growing negativity surrounding performance reviews, if conducted in accordance with the emotional intelligence of your team, they will improve performance.

How to Identify and Train the Skill That Matters Most

The more people talk about the skills gap, the more I realize it’s a problem employers, and not candidates are going to have to fix. Sure, there’s the issue of candidates not seeking and learning the skills required of some of the world’s most high-paying jobs, and schools may need to focus on showing students how learning a trade can help them out in the long run. But if candidates aren’t interested, they won’t learn, and employers will be the ones who suffer. The candidates will find somewhere else to work — we’re in a candidate-driven market, after all. But if we attain better hires, we’re going to have to focus on things outside of learned skills. My recommendation? Problem-solving.

Problem-Solving: The Hardest Soft Skill to Find

Employers are realizing schools aren’t producing the candidates they need, and are adapting accordingly. Rather than focus purely on skills that make resumes look good, 77% of employers are now looking for candidates with “soft skills,” and 16% of employers consider them more crucial than hard skills. Soft skills are those you can’t easily learn on the job: communication, ethic and of course, problem-solving.

But while they may be looking, employers are coming up short on these kinds of candidates as much as they are those with the hardest of skills. A 2013 survey of the St. Louis workforce recently found candidates came up short with regards to the three skills I mentioned earlier. When candidates lack these skills, on-the-job training becomes much more difficult, and employers know this. It’s why they’re looking so hard, and the reason they’re coming up short is because they’re screening for problem-solving effectively, and not encouraging the kind of training employees need to improve at this crucial skill.

Why Problem-Solving Matters

Why is this soft skill so important? Because proper problem-solving skills will help employees learn all the hard skills they’ll need on the job, and help them thrive in whatever environment they may be working in. Once a problem-solving ethic kicks in, employees are less likely to have to ask questions about the work they’re doing, as they’ll be more inclined to look for their own solutions to the various problem they’ll encounter. As they solve more problems and continue learning, they’ll eventually become the self-sufficient and knowledgeable employees everyone is looking for.

Candidates know this as well, and are attempting to learn these skills as they look for jobs. Tim Murphy, founder of job-search company ApplyMate, catalogs his experience in learning to problem solve in order to get better jobs:

“Like any other highly-valued skill set, a can-do attitude requires practice, practice, practice. When preparing for different government jobs, I knew I’d face a lot of problem-solving or puzzle questions, and my early attempts at these challenges did not go well . . .  I needed work. So I tried as many sample questions as I could and bought puzzle and mental exercise books like How Would You Move Mt. Fuji? Most of these questions deal more with how to react to and work through the problem at hand, so they’re great practice even if you don’t get many of the answers.”

Solving the Problem-Solving Problem

After reading this far, you may have realized that your application or training process lacks a way to find these problem-solving candidates, or train those who may be lagging behind to find better solutions to their problems. The good news here is that as long as you’re willing to put in some work, these failings are rather easy to fix.

First, screening. How do you know if a candidate with a strong resume has the problem-solving knack to cut it at your company? You test them. First, develop a test that tackles some of the real problems people at your company will face. For example, global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company developed a test for their employees based on the computation, data analysis and logical thinking required of their best workers. The test asks candidates a number of questions about real problems employees have, and if they can’t pass the test, they don’t get an interview. It may take some time to develop a test that takes into account all of the skills required of working at your own company, but the time spent will be worth it once you find and hire employees whom you won’t need to babysit.

Second, training. If you’re already saddled with employees who can’t seem to think for themselves and come to you several times per day with small questions, the best bet may not be to fire them, but to teach them to fish (as the old adage goes). When employers offer training with more personal coaching focusing on problem-solving and offering direct feedback on said training, employers may see a performance boost of up to 88% per employee.

Problem solving isn’t a cure-all. If a worker or candidate doesn’t make the cut and doesn’t seem to respond to targeted coaching or screening, the best bet may just be to cut them loose. However, in a market in dire need of soft skills, extra effort spent on finding candidates who can problem-solve or instilling its values on those who may not have, may just be worth it.