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Immersive Training Solutions for a Hybrid Work World

Remote workforce training has come of age. Forced to get creative during lockdowns, many companies moved beyond their traditional learning and development initiatives, exploring other education options. Those that reported excellent results usually had one thing in common: They embraced immersive technologies.

What does immersive technology look like? Think virtual reality or augmented reality. Both VR and AR training options allow people to feel like they’re in the midst of a situation without physically being in the room. And these educational experiences are not as untested as you might assume.

Though COVID ramped up the reliance on immersive education, immersive VR and AR solutions didn’t start in early 2020. They’ve evolved over the past decade. That’s why Mercedes-Benz began using Microsoft’s HoloLens to scale up widespread corporate training a few years ago, following in the footsteps of competitors like Ford and Volvo.

Advantages to VR and AR Training Solutions

You don’t have to be in the automotive field to get the benefits of immersive technologies to train your personnel, though. VR and AR training can be useful for organizations across a wide range of sectors, from engineering to oil to industrial operations.

For instance, some businesses opt for immersive training to help their employees understand how to approach complex situations. Others use immersive modalities for self-driven “practice,” as workers can run through scenarios countless times to perfect their abilities. But corporations don’t have to limit AR and VR to “hard skills.” Leadership, problem-solving, and other soft skills can come to life in a virtual format, too.

That doesn’t mean that you want to just jump into immersive training without a plan. It’s important to be prepared so you can successfully upskill a cross-section of your team cost-effectively and reliably. With those considerations in mind, you can move forward by paying attention to the following strategies:

1. Budget correctly for your immersive training program.

One of the biggest obstacles leaders face when trying to get executives to champion VR or AR training is the perceived costs. As with most technologies, the direct cost for software, equipment, and setup of VR and AR training has dropped over the years. Even VR headsets have become surprisingly affordable, not to mention much more comfortable than before. Nevertheless, the upfront price might seem too high—at first. However, you have to factor in all the ways that AR and VR can cut down on traditional expenses associated with training.

For instance, immersive training allows you to give the same message to all your people without transporting them anywhere. You don’t have to rent a conference room or pay for travel. Instead, you can put all your dollars toward scaling your training solution in a reliable, consistent way where efficiency nets greater ROI.

2. Take your immersive training on test runs.

During the pandemic, countless companies embraced immersive training out of necessity. Unless you’re under a time constraint, you can likely start smaller. Invest in some AR and VR technology programs, but don’t change everything you do regarding onboarding, upskilling, or reskilling.

What’s the simplest way to begin in a limited way? Find a partner who works in the immersive technology industry. Most providers will be able to help you develop VR and AR simulations that you can test on specific teams or employees. That way, you’ll be able to see how immersive technologies can be used across the rest of your business. You’ll also have an easier time getting higher-level champions to support more comprehensive VR and AR training due to your proof-of-concept information.

3. Collect data from every immersive training.

A huge boon to VR and AR training is the ability to collect scores of data. You can use the information you gather to better measure and even monetize your training sessions. An example might be to collect information on how many times your newest employees need to run through a certain simulation. If you notice that one simulation seems more challenging and takes longer to learn than others, you might want to consider ways to break it down into bite-size parts.

The more data you bring into the fold, the better you can make your VR and AR modules. This will help improve the learning across your workforce no matter where your employees plug in. And when you test different modules, you can see how they’re affecting other ones by examining the data.

Immersive training is set to become a norm at many firms and organizations, particularly with the uptick in telecommuting. Even if you’ve never considered adding VR or AR technology to your learning and development initiatives, take a second look at the possibilities. Classic in-person and e-learning models work, but they have limitations. Immersive training solutions can optimize education for all employees and corporate goals, making them excellent companions to your current lineup of training.

Employee Education: How to Avoid the ‘Forgetting Curve’

You’ve spent the day at a leadership conference learning all sorts of great things: how to coach your team, how to build engagement, how to run effective meetings, how to encourage career development, and more. You go back to work the next day with good intentions—but quickly lapse into your old habits.

Within a few weeks, you try to recall what you learned, but even with your notes, you have a hard time. What on Earth happened? If he were still alive, 19th-century psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus would have the answer: You just experienced the “forgetting curve.”

We’ve known for 126 years that the human brain doesn’t retain a lot in terms of memory, and Ebbinghaus’ forgetting curve shows just how rapidly new information is lost if we don’t have the opportunity to put it into practice quickly. But just 12 percent of professionals use their newfound skills right away.

This means taking people out of work and putting them through a formal, structured class (where they might even be tested with the accompanying assumption they know what to do if they pass) and then putting them back in the workplace doesn’t actually influence the performance.

Being expected to retain large volumes of information all in one go is like trying to drink from a firehose—sure, you absorb a little bit, but the majority washes over you without sinking in. Fortunately, though, there are employee education tactics to make knowledge “stickier” and avoid the forgetting curve.

1. Give workers access to bite-sized learning.

When it comes to employee education, it’s common to bombard employees with large amounts of information. But most people, especially your high performers, are time-poor and constantly pulled in competing directions.

The way around time constraints is to give workers access to quick information that can be ingested in small bursts. For instance, a self-directed program of 15-minute modules allows employees to tap into knowledge at their point of need. So rather than spending a week learning about agile management, they get a distilled understanding of the principle that they can apply immediately.

Microlearning is also an effective way to improve uptake and engagement. Eighty-five percent of all educational content is either forgotten or rendered useless within six weeks of learning it, which indicates that traditional training might not be the most effective way for people to learn. Pandora is one example of a company that turned to microlearning for its workforce and saw training completion rates go from 15 percent to 90 percent. Busy people who might not be able to commit fully to an all-day event can usually find small nuggets of time to devote to a little education.

2. Encourage managers to follow up after training to help reinforce learning.

Having team members share how they’ve applied what they learned is one of the most effective ways to overcome the forgetting curve and to ensure behavior change (which is usually the goal of employee education). These informal interactions can be brief; think of them more as a huddle than a formal check-in, as discussing what has been learned in conversation can help make knowledge stick.

This is especially important after bringing new employees into the fold. Onboarding typically involves a large volume of information: “Here’s our tech system. Here’s how we do stuff.” Once onboarding is over, employees frequently experience the forgetting curve. Meeting with their team leaders to go over digestible chunks of the material they learned while onboarding helps with retention.

3. Stack new knowledge on top of prior knowledge.

Another way to bypass the effects of the forgetting curve in employee education is to build learning experiences. For example, an employee would need to be able to demonstrate and apply specific behaviors before learning something else. This type of information “stacking” creates a strong foundation and avoids learning loss. Over time, the lower levels of the “stack” become more and more ingrained.

Be careful, though: Not all knowledge “belongs” on top of other knowledge. Learning has to make sense for your employee. Take the idea of a public speaking course for a performer who doesn’t have a speaking engagement planned. The material may seem unnecessary, making it more likely to be forgotten before it can be applied.

To ensure that you’re stacking knowledge efficiently, request feedback from your team members. You can always fix something that’s not working.

4. Create training opportunities that are easily accessible and device-agnostic.

People in need of information don’t always want to read about the topic. Many people are visual or auditory learners. Or they may want to interact kinesthetically with curricula if possible. Be certain that you’re offering training that meets people’s learning needs and preferences.

Similarly, be sure that all employee education content is accessible on any device. Use laptops, tablets, smartphones and desktops for learning purposes. The more user-centric your learning content is, the more it will become a reliable resource.

Calculate which types of devices or learning styles are being used most often by your team. Maybe the majority of employees seem to tune into podcast-style micro-content on their smartphones, in which case you might like to add more audio formats to your learning toolkit.

5. Go for a blended learning approach that still includes formal learning.

Formal learning has a place in corporate training, as long as it’s equally as engaging and effective as other types of education. Intersperse formal learning with other types of employee education, such as microlearning, feedback loops, and self-directed learning.

When designing your learning processes, go for a blended approach with multiple touchpoints. Don’t just have a lecture-style marathon. Instead, add a post-workshop task and follow-up sessions to round out the learning and reinforce the transfer of knowledge.

The forgetting curve may be a proven phenomenon, but there are certainly ways to overcome it! Just put a few measures in place, and you’ll have far less forgetting—and far more employees eager to show off their mettle.

The Value of Self-driven Skill Development [Podcast]

For many employees, a job isn’t simply the act of doing some work and collecting a paycheck anymore. For example, Millennial employees live in what some are calling an “identity economy,” where they place value on their work and want it to have meaning. They’re demanding more thorough training, and they don’t want to stop learning or become stagnant in their roles.

While it is great that employees want to deliver more value to businesses, many organizations don’t have the processes in place to empower them to do so. As workers become more invested in skill development, HR departments and managers should offer employees more opportunities to grow and adapt. They need to consider how they can offer employees collections of valuable information to make skill-building convenient, accessible, and rewarding.

Our Guest: Ike Bennion and Henry Vasquez, Cornerstone

On the latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Ike Bennion, the director of product marketing, innovation and strategy at Cornerstone, and Henry Vasquez, manager of product management for Cornerstone’s Skills & Capabilities products. Ike has written and presented on various HR functions, including AI, recruitment, learning, content, and benefit strategy. Henry has 10+ years experience in software development with a strong understanding of enterprise knowledge management, talent management, and productivity software. Cornerstone is a founding member of the Velocity Network, which puts people in control of their data by helping them accumulate a digital wallet filled with their validated experiences, skills, certifications and licenses, and more.

Why should brands care about self-driven skills development?

“They should care because there’s a lot of redeployment of skills happening in the marketplace today,” Ike says. “We aren’t necessarily seeing job roles disappear while new jobs are created in their places. But we’re seeing skills move from position to position.”

Basically, to prepare employees for these changes, employers need to develop a library of resources that empower employees to learn.

“Employees need a robust library of resources at their fingertips to adapt to whatever the day looks like,” Ike says. “So for employers considering whether to offer this to employees, the question is: Do you want a competitively skilled workforce or do you not? If the answer is yes, then think about how you’re going to offer the right resources to the right employees.”

Personalizing the Skill Development Experience

Leaders need to take on the role of driving skill development, Henry explains. In short, they need to determine where individual employees will succeed and how they can grow. Once they’ve done that, they can offer badges, points, and other incentives to fuel people’s desire for skill development.

“If you can convince your leadership team to lead by example–watch webinars, take college courses, upskill–you can build an extremely effective skill development culture,” Henry says. “You can also offer regular career development check-ins to make sure employees are doing what they want to do. If you don’t create space for those check-ins, work just becomes tactical, and you’re not really focusing on the employee.” 

Managers can inspire employees to focus on skill development by focusing on social engineering and currency. They can put skill development into the context of helping the company to succeed. This will drive people to want to engage with learning. Leaders can show their direct reports that hard work and upskilling has an impact and reward them for doing so.

“When you know everyone else is learning, it makes you want to get involved. By championing knowledge sharing, you’re motivating the people,” Henry says. “When you share knowledge and you’re being heard, your expertise is valued. And that creates a great social ecosystem of learning.” 

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends sponsored by Cornerstone. You can learn more about the value of self-driven skill development by reaching out to Ike Bennion and Henry Vasquez on LinkedIn.

Career Development, 2021 Style: Learning How to Learn

Think back to your first day of work with your first major employer.

You probably arrived early on your first day, ID card ready, and experienced a week full of inductions, walk-throughs, and hand-shaking introductions.

Now imagine if your first day took place in April 2020.

Your first day would probably be spent in your bedroom, opening a laptop and trying to figure out how to log on to Microsoft Teams or Google Workspace.

In a similar fashion, your mentors were also coming to terms with new technologies, new processes, and the dramatic events unfolding all around them.

It’s almost as if they were experiencing their first day in a new job, too.

The extraordinary nature of the COVID-19 pandemic impacted everybody.

But most notably, it had a profound effect on the career development of younger generations and those entering the workforce for the first time.

Focus on Young Workers

Grappling with personal concerns and anxieties during a global health crisis is one thing, yet young workers also had to cope with:

  • Organizational learning taking a back seat, with leaders focusing on surviving the crisis rather than integrating new workers or transferring skills
  • Lack of authentic relationships; communicating with and meeting coworkers and mentors took place virtually, without the benefit of in-person interactions
  • Absorbing a diluted, online version of company culture, without the benefit of informal coffee, lunch, or hallway chats
  • Learning to work with new platforms and systems without in-person support
  • Working from challenging environments–such as shared housing or in a multigenerational household

By concentrating on learning and career development, business leaders can help workforce entrants find their place within organizations and focus on building their skills for the future.

Organizational Learning

Why is organizational learning important for career development?

An organization that empowers people to learn will drive personal growth, job satisfaction, and loyalty. In turn, this leads to greater performance and in-house skills.

Indeed, at a time when employees are choosing to quit their jobs rather than go back to the office, organizations must find more effective ways to find and retain talent.

(Let’s not forget, this also comes at the time of a global health crisis, the worst recession since the Great Depression, and a dire skills shortage.)

That’s why it’s crucial to invest in learning and development in your organization, but this doesn’t just refer to hard skills.

The Need for Soft Skills in 2021

Organizational learning comes in many different forms. Developing soft skills is arguably the top priority during this unprecedented moment in history.

But, the soft skills required now are markedly different from those of just five years ago.

The World Economic Forum’s top skills for 2020 places complex problem-solving at the top of the list, followed by critical thinking and creativity.

In 2015, the top three included skills related to in-person interaction, such as coordinating with others and people management.

“Employers overwhelmingly agree that young employees need soft skills, such as communication, creative problem-solving and entrepreneurial thinking,” according to the World Economic Forum.

Positively, all of these skills can be learned. The key difference is that in-person learning has, for the most part, been replaced by distance learning.

This may be new for many workers, particularly those working remotely for the first time.

That’s where the process of re-learning comes in, or “learning how to learn.”

Learning How to Learn

In 2018, Ulrich Boser, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, explained how to become better at learning, tackle skills gaps, and enable career development.

“A growing body of research is making it clear that learners are made, not born … In short, we can all get better at getting better,” Boser says.

Boser outlined three key behaviors to help workers focus on learning:

  1. Organize your goals: First, set achievable goals and plan each stage. This strategized approach will help to strengthen the commitment to tasks while minimizing feelings of self-doubt. “By setting targets, people can manage their feelings more easily and achieve progress with their learning.”
  2. Think about thinking: Also known as metacognition, “thinking about thinking” is the process of being more inspective. How do you know what you know? Could you explain it to a friend? Do you need more practice or clearer goals? Push yourself to really think about what you’re learning.
  3. Reflect on your learning: Have you ever noticed that when you step away from a problem, you achieve greater clarity? This process of reflection and focused deliberation is crucial for understanding. This cognitive quiet, says Boser, also helps explain why it’s so difficult to gain skills when we’re stressed or angry or lonely: “… for us to gain any sort of understanding, there needs to be some state of mental ease.”

Learning Starts Now

Young workers are the next generation of leaders in your workforce.

The sooner you can integrate them into your organization through a process of organizational learning and career development, the sooner they will become embedded in your culture and a part of your company’s future.

Consider the benefit of providing a virtual office membership to your remote employees and leveraging coworking options for future in-person collaboration. Investing in the well-being of your employees is investing in your company.

While nobody could have predicted the health crisis or its legacy, a positive outcome is that we can turn it into a process of constructive learning and equip young workers with a unique and invaluable set of skills for the future.

The Future of Work: AI Transforms Career Progression

What is the shelf life of your professional skills? According to research, not very long. In fact, one in three skills from an average 2017 job posting in IT, finance, or sales is obsolete due to continued digital innovation. If that stat doesn’t shock you, it should. The skills we have today are expiring fast, with some experts estimating their life expectancy at just two to three years.

While we can’t place blame solely on the global COVID-19 pandemic, it and other world events have accelerated us toward an environment of unrelenting business transformation and permanently pixelated work arrangements. Employers must now prioritize a more inclusive, purpose-driven culture through broader strategic skilling investments to retain and attract top talent.

Leveraging AI for skill proximity

As our skills become increasingly outdated, new skills will replace them. So, how can employees expect to excel in their careers when today’s business landscape is continuously evolving? It boils down to one word: visibility. A barrier many employees face in the workplace is a lack of visibility into career advancement opportunities. Employees are also largely unaware of the resources and connections available to help them achieve their career goals. This obstacle stems, in part, from a prolonged debate regarding who within a business owns career development. Difficulties aligning the needs and wants of the employee with those of the organization has also contributed to the issue.

Through skills proximity, employers can provide greater visibility. Companies should prioritize an employee’s distance between skills and identify how skills correlate to expedite development. If businesses can find a balance between where employees want to take their careers and where they might be able to take their careers within the organization, they can recognize and foster the skills needed to help them grow.

AI technology has a role to play here. For employees to proactively pursue a growth plan that accelerates career mobility, we need to leverage AI to make skills data and qualification information readily available. Resurfacing relevant learning content and development opportunities is also paramount to an employee’s future success. Done right, it can deliver a broad range of business benefits too. Improved organizational agility and workforce productivity, as well as increased transparency and DE&I, are all advantages attributed to AI.

In addition to AI technology, learning and development content is another tool necessary to ignite career development at work. However, human resources and talent leaders first need to identify a way to connect learning and development to performance results–and annual performance reviews aren’t going to cut it.

Employees and businesses each play a role

There is no one size fits all approach to employee engagement. For employers to maximize the success of their training programs, they must first personalize the content available to each employee. Lessons should be adapted according to an employee’s needs, learning style, and preferred delivery method, in turn allowing the employee to more easily navigate their own development and gauge how their skill-maturity aligns with their overall career goals.

Businesses also need to reconsider how they measure learning and development. Self-directed learning pathways require an element of unstructured exploration required for career growth. Currently, however, course completion and time in course are the metrics being utilized. While important, we need to pivot and explore other factors, including course engagement and the focus of content employees primarily seek out.

Ultimately, employee learning is the foundation of high performance and a key motivator for those wanting to stay at their current company. According to LinkedIn’s 2021 Workplace Learning report, managers are 3.3x more likely to still be with their company in two years if offered the room to learn and grow. Proof that when you invest in people, they will invest in you.

Employee experience is critical for overall company success

The bottom line is the best way to help employees achieve their full potential is to provide career growth opportunities. An AI-driven platform can provide employees with a unified view of skills. It can provide a measurement of the proximity of different skills. Also, it can provide continuous monitoring of the new skills required for continued career progression. Organizations that utilize comprehensive skills data will have a better understanding of their talent’s existing skillsets. Additionally, they’ll understand what will be required of them in the future to adapt.

Between artificial intelligence and the careful deployment of skills-oriented content, anyone with the intrinsic motivation to grow can benefit.

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.

Is Your Training Content Ready for a Hybrid Workforce?

When it comes to training today’s hybrid workforce, traditional content formats fizzle. Their limitations in flexibility with UI, design, integrations, and analytics can cause learning and development (L&D) initiatives to fall short of expected goals. Improving worker skills in a hybrid setting depends on rethinking the document status quo. To drive experiential learning, adopt interactive training content technology.

It’s a Hybrid World

The future of the workforce is hybrid.

A hybrid workforce is a blended workforce where some work in the office full time, some people are remote full time, and others are in the office part-time and home part-time. As society begins to open up after the pandemic, hybrid workforces have become the norm. For instance, over half of the workforce intends to be in the office 10 days or less a month, according to a Webex study, while Upwork estimates that 26 percent of workers will be working remotely through 2021. Furthermore, they estimate that 22 percent of the entire workforce will work remotely by 2025. That’s roughly 36.2 million people.

So what does this mean for L&D professionals? That complexity will increase the difficulty of running traditional training programs. L&D professionals need to think outside the 2D box to engage and energize hybrid learning. Employees need interactive, engaging, and consistent learning experiences.

L&D professionals need tools that are easy to use to create training content that’s experiential and easily shared among remote workers. They will need to lose the 2D approach and adopt a multimedia approach, including video, polls, and the ability to choose their own personalized learning journey within the training materials.

While it’s important for employees to have an immersive and engaging experience, it is equally important for L&D professionals to easily manage, create, and distribute training materials. It’s especially important for them to be able to make necessary adjustments as time goes on.

How to Drive Experiential Learning in a Hybrid World

What is experiential learning? Experiential learning describes the ideal process of learning and invites you to understand yourself as a learner. It also empowers you to take charge of your own learning and development.

The experiential learning process supports performance improvement, learning, and development. According to David A. Kolb at The Institute for Experiential Learning, “There are two goals in the experiential learning process. One is to learn the specifics of a particular subject, and the other is to learn about one’s own learning process.”

This can’t be done in an engaging way with old training materials—not in today’s hybrid world. You need to have content that’s flexible and powerful enough to fill gaps and support experiential learning opportunities more effectively. Also, The content is important before, during, and after the overall learning experience.

Interactive content is the best solution for experiential learning. It can support multiple media types (e.g., audio, video, etc.). Additionally, it can be customized with polls, quizzes, or other ways to take action and put the new knowledge into practice.

With people at home, at work, or both, training needs to be more self-driven. In other words, interactivity enables self-driven experiences, increasing overall engagement with materials and more freedom for users to learn in the way that best suits them.

You need more powerful digital content platforms to help even the playing field for dispersed workforces. This will help organizations create better digital-first learning experiences.

The Work World Has Gone Hybrid and Your Content Needs to Evolve to Suit It

The shift to hybrid learning is in full swing. Because of this, L&D professionals are in the process of looking at their old training content systems and finding new ways to maintain productivity and meet future goals. The challenge is to deliver consistent development and training materials for hybrid workforces and make learning experiential for dispersed teams. For success, the learning experience must be built to reach participants through as many senses as possible. With this in mind, improving worker skills and capabilities within hybrid workforces depends on rethinking the document status quo. It also means adopting interactive content technology to drive experiential learning.

Managing Employee Uncertainty to Help Them Thrive [Podcast]

Employee uncertainty is bad for business. When people don’t feel their work situations are stable, they get anxiety, depression, and have a tendency to catastrophize. They also become disengaged with their work. Because of this, productivity wanes, and so does financial success. Gallup estimates that 22 million employees are disengaged, resulting in $350 billion lost each year due to absences, illness, and other unhappiness-related issues.

It’s up to leadership and HR professionals to manage employee uncertainty before things get out of control, especially in these unprecedented times spurred by the pandemic. It is up to managers to get ahead of uncertainty and find ways to communicate with employees, reassure them, and have structures in place to manage uncertainty should it arise.

Our Guest: Sandy Scholes, Chief People Officer at Flipp Corporation

On the latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Sandy Scholes, chief people officer at Flipp Corporation. She has over two decades of diverse HR experience, having held several executive HR leadership roles at organizations like Entertainment One, Becton, Dickinson, GlaxoSmithKline, and CARA. Sandy has long sustained a passion for working with people and focuses on growth empowerment. She aims to help create work cultures of learning at organizations and provides strategies to manage employee uncertainty during times of organizational change.

Because employee uncertainty is especially prevalent thanks to the pandemic, I was eager to get her insight into how to work with such uncertainties. I wanted to know: What can organizations do to combat this? The first thing is to equip leaders and managers with the ability to spot uncertainty in the first place.

“It starts with all of your leaders and coaches. You need to pull people in a room and equip leaders and managers with the right kind of skills to try to notice that. You have to double your communication,” Sandy says. “At Flipp, we’ve asked all of our leaders to be deliberate and spend one-on-one time checking in on employees to see how they’re doing.”

The second thing to realize is that everyone reacts differently to uncertainty, and will need different accommodations. What one employee needs to feel more secure may be wildly different than another.

“You can’t treat everyone the same. For example, at Flipp, for parents, we’re trying to manage uncertainty by providing more flexibility. How do we create a schedule where they don’t feel overwhelmed?” Sandy says. “Managers and coaches need to understand that they have to provide this level of flexibility so that people can work differently now.” 

Don’t just survive. Thrive.

Of course, managing uncertainty isn’t enough. Once you help people get to a baseline of comfort, you want to make sure they’re able to get to the next level. Employees don’t just want to survive; they want to thrive.

“Make sure employees have a growth and development plan. You have to sit down with them monthly, even if they’re remote. Talk about career aspirations. Because if they don’t feel like they’re going to develop, then they’re going to feel stagnant,” Sandy says.

And engagement will suffer. With the surge of the “Great Resignation,” this isn’t a risk you can take. Offer employees options to grow. Give them stipends to allow for creativity and learning–even if it doesn’t directly correlate to work.

“If employees want to take music lessons or guitar or they want to sign up for a wine course, they can take some of that money and spend it on a personal thing. It’s all about feeding your soul,” Sandy says. “Stay invested, grow people, help challenge them, and make sure they’re learning and they feel like they’re making a difference.”

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends. You can learn more about managing employee uncertainty by reaching out to Sandy Scholes on LinkedIn.

The Secret to Retaining Tech Talent: Give Them Ways to Grow

If you want to keep that tech talent you invested so much time, energy and resources recruiting and hiring on, put yourself in their shoes. Work is about far more than coding: as employees rise in tech, they may be called upon to make presentations, participate in a conference, lead a team, articulate a complicated process to newbies, troubleshoot with peers — you name it. And employees are hungry to expand their skills. Companies that overlook this reality stand to lose that talent they worked so hard to find. That’s going to impact not just your present, but your future: those stand-out new hires already marked as candidates for succession may look elsewhere for opportunities.

To say this is not an ideal time to be bleeding talent in the tech sector is beyond an understatement. According to a recent survey by the job site Indeed, 86% of hiring managers say it’s challenging to find and hire tech talent. The average tenure in a job in 2016 was 4.2 years according to the BLS. But the average tenure in the tech industry is far lower, according to SHRM — only three years.

The reasons are numerous — including the nature of working in tech itself. Tech talent is by nature hungry to learn — whether or not you’re providing the opportunity, learning is part of their DNA. Many tech companies focus far more on apps and tools than on social and language interaction. But if you had the chance to ask a tech employee, most would readily convey a need to improve their soft skills as well — which is evidenced by the rising popularity of soft skills courses for tech talent offered by giants such as Harvard Extension.

The overall economy and work climate also play a key role:

  • Recent economic shake-ups left many people realizing they need to keep a Plan B in their professional pocket.
  • A thrilling but endless disruption of new innovations and new start-ups are constantly clamoring for tech talent — including your employees. Today, the pace of development and rollouts is generally rapid fire, and the people who work in this climate are used to training and ramping up fast.
  • It’s intensely easy in this digital, mobile and social environment to look for greener grass on the other side.
  • Increased globalization means different cultures, a variety of social behaviors and a range of different languages. To unify a multinational, multigenerational team takes far more than just hiring them.

Millennial Culture

Millennials have a core sense of healthy self-worth, and tend to see themselves as consumers of employers and jobs they can pick and choose from. But according to research by Deloitte, they’re also looking for an employer that offers more stability than ever before. And in terms of any career, you have to grow to remain in the same place. So if they’re in a job that doesn’t provide the chance to grow, they’re going to look for one that does. 18-35 year-olds stayed in a job for an average of 1.6 years last year — a trend noted by Lingo Live in their new report on the importance of upskilling for tech employees. Millennials are not only hungry to learn, they’re hungry to land in a place they can.

Align Learning With Working

The bottom line for today’s talent, and today’s digital culture a well, is that they are constantly experiencing new things: new apps, new social media pages, new forms of communication, new emojis, new policies and procedures, new bus routes, new challenges. This is the case at work as well as in life. Add the unique circumstances of any individual — such a software engineer for whom English is a second language or taking a job has meant living in a new country.

Every time our attention shifts to a new task or a new environment, we are thrust into a learning capacity once again. If you don’t provide your people with multidimensional learning and development opportunities, it doesn’t mean they don’t need to find the education and upskilling they need to grow. It just means their learning needs will not align with working for your company.

Instead, create that alignment — and then leverage it to drive engagement and ambition as your employees learn and grow within the context of their employer. Consider the soft skills you may want to offer:

Language skills and proficiency: According to the “Real Benefits” report by Lingo Live, language skills are overlooked by employers but highly valued by employees. In fact, a full 70% of engineers they surveyed believe their language skills play a key role in career advancement in their industry. Especially for tech talent that has been sponsored on a work visa, the challenge of communicating, writing, reading, and even interacting in English can be daunting. It’s a challenge easily remedied with a range of web-based, easily accessed language courses and practice.

Leadership skills: From team management to cultural customs and social etiquette, we expect a lot of our managers and leaders. In fact, the Education Advisory Board pinpointed a need to developed five key soft skills for tech talent, all of which are critical for a successful career trajectory. Rising up through the ranks usually means taking on more responsibility and overseeing employees. Among these key skills STEM fields are facing an increased demand for: creativity, teamwork/collaboration and building effective relationships. All can also be bridged into language development and cultural training, enabling tech talent to gain confidence that they can, indeed, become leaders.

Upskilling your talent is a tangible way to demonstrate that you value your employees not just as present-tense labor, but as future assets to your organization. But the benefits go far beyond the doors of your company and right into recruiting. Your employees will convey your brand whether or not you intend them to, but if they are growing and able to learn and develop within the aegis of your organization, they will let others know — and that makes you an employer people want to work for. For any organization trying to establish itself above the fray in this era of transparency, and be able to truly attract, hire, engage and retain the best tech talent, being able to provide soft skills training is an undeniable plus.

This article is sponsored by Lingo Live. Views are my own.

Photo Credit: Compu-Net Systems, LLC Flickr via Compfight cc

 

The Connection Between Skills And Employee Engagement

Employee Engagement: individual’s investment of wisdom, skills, energies, creativity and time in the work assigned.

We have explored wisdom. Now let’s explore employee skills and their connection to positive engagement for job, team and company.

What Skills Mean (definition)

Skills means application of knowledge, wisdom, and dexterity to specific elements of one’s work assignments. The transition from product economy to service economy has not lessened reliance on skills. Companies hire specific abilities that achieve profitable results. These include manual or intellectual, technical or social, mathematical or linguistic skills.

What Skills Bring (value)

Productivity. Refined skills generate employee productivity. Productivity combines effectiveness and efficiency. Effective skills application accomplishes results. Efficient skills application means least expenditure of resources in shortest time. Consider: a skilled employee produces more output and thus more value. Consider: that employee is more positively engaged for the company. Consider: company attention to ever-increasing those skills increases engagement value.

Pride. Human nature desires success. The resulting emotion is pride of success. When individuals approach a project proud of their skills, they engage more readily, more productively. Successful, those individuals relish another go at a bigger challenge. They want more opportunity to engage their skills. They are motivated to sharpen those skills for the next opportunity. Here is the dual value of skills engagement and skills improvement. That is a victorious cycle of greater success.

Profitability. The more skilled your employees, the more productive their output. The greater number and significance of opportunities to apply their skills, the more satisfied your employees. The more satisfied your employees, the greater your employee retention. The greater your retention, the more profitable your business. You might call this “empowerment”. The more employees are empowered to utilize and improve their skills, the greater profit a company is likely to experience.

How To Bring Skills On (actions)

How, then, does your organization focus on the skills component of your employees’ engagement? Here are three broad areas that cover many ways to boost engagement by boosting their skills. Keep in mind, by boosting an employee’s skills, you’re also boosting his or her engagement.

Recognition. Individuals take personal pride in what they do well. They experience more pride when what they do well is recognized. There are an infinite number of employee recognition tactics. The key here is recognizing specific skills, not just overall performance.

Suggestion: a recurrent chance for individuals to talk about their specific skill(s), how they developed them, what they’re doing to enhance them, what the skill means to them personally. This may be a constant agenda item at team meetings or a brief “interview” in regular newsletters.

Continuous Improvement. Does your company provide the learning chance for employees to improve their skills continuously? One sure way to show the company values employees and their individual skills is to make it easy for them to build those skills even greater. This may be with training, coaching, external education, professional/trade association membership, and subscriptions/libraries.

Suggestion: survey employees regularly, frequently. Offer formal and informal surveys, anonymous and identified surveys. Ask employees what information they want and need, and how they want it. Of course, be sure the survey results are treated with respect and that responses go to all employees quickly and clearly.

Added Opportunities. Invite employees to suggest more, better ways to use their skills. Increase their skills opportunities. This was called “out-of-the-box thinking,” and that’s a good name. Encourage employees to think out of the box in which their skills are normally applied. Give them the opportunity to follow that lead, to work from their productivity and their pride, and to generate greater profit potential.

One suggestion is an ongoing “suggestion box” inviting employees to suggest new, different ways to adapt and apply a specific skill. This should be supported with ample publicity and celebration.

We have looked at how business should focus on wisdom and skills as employee engagement elements. The next article will examine energies.

About the Author: Tim Wright is professional speaker/coach/facilitator with expertise in employee engagement and culture improvement.

photo credit: CRYROLFE via photopin cc

Applicant Assessments: Testing The Waters

(Editor’s Note: We invite you to discuss candidate screening techniques in more detail with the entire TalentCulture community, this week at #TChat Events on Wednesday, February 19th. For details, see the #TChat Preview post: Hiring Great Talent: How Do You Decide?)

Can you tell from a resume if an applicant has the skills needed to succeed in a job? How do you know if someone is really the right fit for your company?

If you’re unsure, perhaps pre-employment tests should be part of your evaluation process. Knowledge is power — and assessments can be a powerful addition to any hiring toolkit.

Evaluating Job Candidates: A Smart Strategy

Increasingly, organizations are relying on screening tests to improve their hiring and workforce development decisions. In fact, in a recent survey by Aberdeen Group, 49% of companies said they have an assessment strategy in place — up from only 40% in 2011.

Infographic - How to select assessments for employee screening

See Details: How To Choose Job Candidate Testing Tools

Melissa Hulsey, president and CEO of Ashton Staffing, explains that, with the correct type of test, employers can evaluate candidates effectively across multiple dimensions, including job skills, professional  knowledge and cultural fit. It’s even possible to make behavioral predictions and gain insight into core values.

“Properly constructed assessments look below the surface information presented by applicants to systematically predict which one will be the best hire for a position,” explains Dr. Charles Hanler, president of Rocket-Hire, a consultancy that helps improve organizational hiring practices. He compares the resume review and interview process to the tip of an iceberg. The bulk of an iceberg is what remains below the surface — what you can’t see and touch.

Choosing Applicant Assessments

It’s essential to choose the right type of assessment for your goals. Tests can produce a mind-numbing array of candidate metrics — personality, cognitive abilities, professional knowledge, work skills, physical and motor abilities, emotional intelligence, language proficiency, drug use and even values like integrity. Yet, when evaluations are properly applied, employers can more quickly and confidently identify candidates who are best qualified for open positions and most likely to succeed in the organization.

As the Society for Industrial & Organizational Psychology explains, there are pros and cons to each of the many types of employment assessments. But before deciding how you’ll test candidates, it’s important to determine what kind of information matters most to you. Tests vary according to their mode of administration (web-based tools vs. paper and pencil), content focus (interpersonal skills, mathematical ability), level of standardization or structure, costs, administrative ease, and other factors.

Although there can be significant benefits from using tests in the employee selection process, there are also multiple issues to consider. In particular:

• Validity  Does the test actually measure the characteristic it is designed to measure? For example, does it actually predict future job performance or success?

• Reliability How consistently does a test measure the target characteristic? If an assessment tool isn’t highly reliable, it will be of little value in predicting a candidate’s future job performance. As with validity, a test’s reliability should be verified before it is administered.

• Legality Because employment tests are periodically challenged in court, employers must make sure assessments do not violate federal, state, or local EEO laws, including Title VII.

TYPES OF CANDIDATE TESTS

Assessment Centers Often used to assess interpersonal skills, communication skills, planning/organizing and analytical skills. Typically involves exercises that reflect job content and types of problems faced on the job.
Biographical Data Uses questions about education, training, work experience and interests to predict success on the job. 
Cognitive Ability Tests Assesses aptitude or potential to solve job-related problems by focusing on mental abilities such as verbal or mathematical reasoning, or perceptual abilities like speed in recognizing letters of the alphabet.  
Integrity Tests Assesses attitudes and experiences related to honesty, dependability, trustworthiness, reliability and pro-social behavior. 
Interviews The most common type of employment test. Typically assesses interpersonal skills, communication skills and teamwork skills, and can be used to assess job knowledge.
Job Knowledge Tests Typically uses multiple choice questions or essays to evaluate technical or professional expertise and knowledge required on the job.
Personality Tests Measures traits related to behavior at work, interpersonal interactions, and satisfaction with different aspects of work. 
Physical Ability Tests Uses tasks or exercises that determine ability to perform. Measures physical attributes and capabilities, such as strength, balance and speed.
Work Samples and Simulations Measures specific job skills or job knowledge, but can also assess general skills such as organizational, analytic and interpersonal skills.

How Do You Evaluate Job Applicants?

Do you use pre-employment tests to screen applicants before they’re hired? Has this been effective for your organization? How does this help or hinder your company’s candidate experience? Share your experience in the comment area.

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

Digging Deep into Social Learning #TChat Recap

Why in the world of work would anyone sit online for an hour and share serious answers to a list of questions – along with random bits of wit and wisdom that come to mind?

No, I’m not talking about watching “Game of Thrones” and tweeting with my friends. I’m talking about our chat — #TChat — the weekly Twitter chat where TalentCulture community members come together to talk about today’s “world of work.”

Learning Together: A Surprise Inside

No subject is off limits, except maybe “Game of Thrones” (which, by the way, trended lower than #TChat on Twitter last night). No offense to that show, or to this week’s historic #MarriageEquality trend line (which also was less active than #TChat during our session last night). In fact, we’re honored to trend with both of these popular topics.

But I digress. Once again, I ask, why would anyone devote an hour each week to a Twitter chat like ours? I remember asking myself that question when we launched #TChat over two-and-a-half years ago. I never thought it would last a month. I love telling that story because, well, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Collective Knowledge: Sharing Adds Value

This week, the TalentCulture community dug deep into the concept of “learning.” In particular, we’ve been exploring social learning — that amorphous, organic, continuous, “knowledge sharing” activity that was originally ignited in the Garden of Eden. (“Adam, would you like a bite of this juicy apple?”) Or if you prefer, that point in human evolution when our frontal lobes sparked cognitive thought, we began hunting for information, exchanging it with others, and making decisions on behalf of ourselves and those in our social circles.

Social learning can be as simple as a single moment: an incremental yet transformative interaction where one person shares a piece of information that another receives, absorbs, adopts and applies in a new context that propels him or her forward. This process of information exchange, reinforcement and transformation lights up pleasure centers in the brain, as ideas pass from one person to another in an “additive” way. With each hand-off, information evolves, and is modified by the next person who absorbs, adopts and applies…

Layers of Learning That Live On

And so it goes. This is the beauty of social learning. And this is why I participate in #TChat forums.

It is why I’ve found value in showing up nearly every week for over two-and-a-half years. Participants offer ideas that continue to build on one another. As I step back and look at this community’s body of work it’s similar to the formation of rock over a geological span of time.

We can dig through #TChat archives and see the layers of growth and progress. We can see how continuous interaction has created a context that helps our community evolve – absorbing the bad with the good, and establishing more useful understanding as we move forward. It’s a community where a better world of work emerges every week from the layers below — generating a new level of wonder and wisdom.

The beauty astounds.

#TChat “Social Learning” Week-in-Review

MichaelClark

Watch the sneak peek interview with Michael Clark

To dig deeply into organizational learning and talent development issues this week, we joined forces with two brilliant experts: Michael Clark, CEO of ReCenter, and Justin Mass, Sr. Manager of Learning Technology & Design at Adobe. The richness of their contributions added tremendous value throughout the week.

We invite you to revisit insights on this topic anytime! Just follow the links below…

SAT 3/23  “Sneak Peek” Video: ReCenter’s Michael Clark kicked-off the week by defining key terms with our community manager, Tim McDonald.

SUN 3/24  TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro, outlined 5 ways that professionals can leverage learning in her column at Forbes.com.

MON 3/25  #TChat Weekly Preview “Igniting Social Learning” laid out the week’s premise and questions.

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Listen to the recorded #TChat Radio show

TUE 3/26  #TChat Radio: “The Social Learning Show.” Our hosts joined forces with organizational development experts, Michael Clark, and Justin Mass, to examine social learning innovation and its role in optimizing talent in today’s workplace. It’s a fascinating 30-minute session for anyone interested in improving professional and organizational performance through learning.

WED 3/27  #TChat TwitterJustin and Michael gathered around the Twitter stream with hundreds of other participants to expand and amplify key issues in workforce learning and development. See highlights from the conversation in the slideshow below…

#TChat Twitter Highlights Slideshow: Igniting Social Learning

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Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

SPECIAL THANKS: We extend our gratitude to Michael Clark, and Justin Mass for leading our community through the social learning discovery path this week. Your expertise in learning tools and techniques is inspiring and invaluable.

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about social learning and talent development? We’re happy to share your thoughts. Just post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we’ll pass it along.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Next week, we move to yet another level of talent discovery, as we explore the notion of “Humans as a Service (HaaS), with Jason Averbook, Chief Business Innovation Officer at Appirio, and Richie Etwaru, Group Vice President of Cloud and Digital Innovation at Cegedim Relationship Management.

Until then, we’ll continue to tackle World of Work conversation each day. So join us on the #TChat Twitter stream, or on our new LinkedIn discussion group. And feel free to explore other areas of this redesigned blog/community website. TalentCulture is always open and the lights are always on.

We’ll see you on the stream!

Image credit: Stock.xchnge

 

Igniting Social Learning: #TChat Preview

(Editorial Note: Want to read the RECAP of this week’s events? See Digging Deep into Social Learning #TChat Recap)

Social learning. Two simple words with so many meanings.

The TalentCulture community understands one meaning very well. After all, we exist is to encourage social learning among talent-minded professionals. But this week, we want to look more expansively at the role of learning in today’s social business environment.

Our mission is to unpack this concept collaboratively – sharing ideas and information about how and why social learning can make a meaningful difference for individual careers, as well as organizations.

We even have some heavy-hitter experts to help us see how leading-edge learning tools and techniques can transform business.

MichaelClarkWhat’s Your Learning Goal?

Yesterday, I started the conversation on Forbes.com by thinking aloud about 5 ways anyone can jump-start social learning. As I fleshed-out these thoughts, a key question kept coming to mind: When you pursue learning, what’s your purpose?

  • Are you learning, so you can teach?
  • Are you teaching so you can learn?
  • Are you learning for learning’s sake?
  • Or do you have other intentions?

What’s more, does your goal really matter? I think it does. Arguably, the most powerful learning experiences are fueled by purpose-driven passion.

Truth is, learning should propel us not just through school, not just through work, but through life. And when our personal quest for knowledge, skill and competence aligns with business goals, the results can make a meaningful difference.

#TChat Focus Topic: Let’s Get Social About Learning

Life is a continuous process of learning and skill development. And by nature, learning is a social activity. Throughout our lives we look to others – parents, teachers, mentors, managers, experts, peers and others – for information, instruction, insight, guidance and validation. It’s all part of the learning process.

So, what does it mean to apply emerging social tools and techniques to the process of continuous learning? And why does it matter? Let’s talk about it!

TChatRadio_logo_020813#TChat Radio

#TChat Radio – Tuesday, March 26 at 7:30pm ET / 4:30pm PT

Tune-in online and discover new ways to ignite professional and organization learning, as we interview Michael Clark, CEO of ReCenter, and Justin Mass, Sr. Manager of Learning Technology & Design at Adobe.

#TChat Twitter

#TChat Twitter – Wednesday, March 27 at 7pm ET / 4pm PT. Join our weekly online forum, and share your thoughts with others about these key questions:

Q1: How & why should we define social learning & talent development in the world of work?
Q2: How can we bridge today’s skills gap by connecting business with education?
Q3: We equate social learning with online learning, but is that view complete? Why/why not?
Q4: What are the most important technology platforms for social learning today?
Q5: What critical metrics should leaders should use to measure social learning & talent development?

Want to see more about this week’s topic? Watch Michael Clark, talk with TalentCulture community manager, Tim McDonald in this preview video on YouTube, or read Tim’s “Sneak Peek” blog post now.

Throughout the week, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter stream and on our new LinkedIn Discussion Group. So please join us share your ideas and opinions.

We’ll see you on the stream!

Image credit: Pixabay

 

Global Technology Stepping Up Workplace Collaboration

For anyone that can remember the time that a latest and greatest technology emerged to bring business to the next level, we can say that it is profoundly interesting the impact that these advancements actually make on companies.

Some can probably remember the days before email and before cell phones when letters were either typed by hand and traveling sales people had to actually stop at a pay phone to verify an appointment or call home to check in.

More than ever management need to be watching technology trends and making sure their organization is equipped.

Times are changing, the proliferation of technology is moving faster than ever, and businesses are the ones that are benefiting.  At least they should be!

There are many ways that technology is leading to better business practices.  There are systems for managing customers, accounting, communications, and operations.  We are connected 24×7 if we so choose and we are able to reach all ends of the world instantly via the click of a button.

As a proponent of successful businesses being comprised of people that use technology and not just technology alone, I believe that nothing in business may be affected by emerging technology than Human Resources.  Recruiting, talent development, and employee retention are all seeing a significant boost based upon what advances in technology have to offer.

Two of the specific technologies that are revolutionizing talent and professional development more than any are IP (Internet Protocol) Based Communications such as Skype, VoIP, and Video Conferencing as well as the rapid emergence of Social Media (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+).

Let’s take a look across the scope of Talent Management and explore how the aforementioned technologies as well as a few others are facilitating success for so many companies.

Recruiting New Talent

It used to be a newspaper ad or a sign in the window.  Your audience was narrow and your options were thin.  It was difficult to reach the best talent leaving positions to be filled by less than ideal candidates.

  • Communications – With the ability to inexpensively bring employees in via the network  either by voice, video, or perhaps a combination such as Webex, employees can now be sourced from and potentially located anywhere.  Productivity tools allow companies to hire the BEST candidate from any location and get them integrated with the team whether they are near or far.
  • Social Media – Depending on the specifics of the job, talent can be sought through massive global social networks such as Linked In, Facebook, and Twitter.  These networks allow a help wanted ad to reach millions of users who may or may not be actively seeking employment.  Recruiting and searching for talent has also never been easier due to profiles, recommendations, and other affiliations that can be easily found online using Social Media.  As an aside, Social Media has also helped many companies decide who not to hire.

Talent Development

It used to be a quarterly or yearly trip to headquarters for remote employees and or classroom learning for those already in town.  Coordinating training was intensive and time consuming.  With technology advances now learning can be routine, meaningful, and completed on demand.

  • Communications – Similar to the recruiting process the continued education of employees can be accomplished using technology tools.  Webinars, Distance Learning, and E-Learning platforms all pave the way for continued education for employees regardless of where they are located.  On top of being able to create content and have employees learn and develop on demand, it also helps companies to utilize global resources to provide the education.
  • Social Media – Intranets have existed for companies for some time however they were rarely used all that effectively.  With professional usage of social platforms employees can learn from one another as well as competitors by following, reading, and embracing the information that is widely available.  Content is created and shared regularly and it allows company talent to keep their finger on the pulse of the industry and any important changes within.

Employee Retention

It has been discussed to no end the impact that turnover has on a business.  Whether near or far from headquarters, companies need to focus on how they can keep people satisfied, growing, and engaged.  In the past when companies would hire remote employees they oft felt isolated and/or disconnected from the organization.  With emails and phone calls perhaps being the only regular communication eventually the employee may choose to be with an organization where they feel more involved.  Technology has changed that, and if used correctly it can assist the organization with retention allowing it to focus on strategy with key employees rather than on replacing them.

  • CommunicationsHearing a voice on the line is fine, it is practical, but like long distance relationships in life, eye contact means a lot.  With offerings from Free (Skype) to immersive telepresence costing millions ( Cisco, Polycom) and everything in between companies and their employees can now sit across the table and make eye contact with the click of a mouse.  Now as easy as a phone call, video can be accomplished and the quality is really good.  Video is not only beneficial for the employee, but also for the company as it forces focus and regular collaboration (We all know how easy it can be to multi-task on the phone).  Another item that is critical to many employees is flexibility, with tools that allow productivity anywhere and everywhere, (pending signal) companies can be more flexible with their resources allowing both parties  to benefit.
  • Social MediaSocial is a medium for even smaller companies to build their brand and create an identity for their employees. This effort can often aid in the development of company community and in some cases successful out of work friendships.  While peoples out of work activities generally don’t bare much success for the organization, happy people tend to generate more productivity.  People that feel connected to their brand and feel that they are a part of something special tend to work harder and drive greater results.  Social Media is a growing vehicle for accomplishing this.

For as long as business has been business, companies have only been as good as their people.  In almost all cases where a great product or service fails it isn’t the product or service at all, rather it is those behind it.  With emerging communication technology and proper social media integration you have the chance to be ahead of the curve.

Now technology of course isn’t all free, and choosing the technologies that are best for your organization may take some work, however, it is time well spent.   You can all but assume that the competition are looking at all the options too, some are integrating, some are watching and waiting, and you can only hope that a few are oblivious.  Nevertheless, technology will continue to advance making companies faster, smarter, and of course full of better talent.

The question is, are you embracing it, or are you hoping to ride to prosperity on the tired old horse that got you to where you are today.

Image Credit: Pixabay

4 Employee Engagement Drivers: Workplace Social Technology

We’ve heard the term “employee engagement” a gazillion times, and one could even say it’s now just a buzzword.  If you ask me, it is the most critical aspect of any successful organization….without a doubt!  A positive correlation exists between employee engagement scores and business results (via Right Management – “Employee Engagement, Maximizing Organizational Performance”).

I have worked with a dozen plus diverse organizations on their employee engagement strategies, not only identifying their top engagement drivers, but facilitating strategy design and execution.  I can see how it could be a buzzword to many because they have not the slightest clue how to take employee engagement beyond just simply talking about it.

Regardless, my definition of employee engagement is, “an intimate emotional connection that an employee feels for the company they work for that propels them to exert greater discretionary effort in their work.”  Take note that their are many definitions that exist, and whichever one you favor, remember this…it all comes down to the positive emotions that employees possess, individually and collectively.  In my experience the top 4 engagement drivers are the following:

  1. Strength of leadership capabilities of direct managers.
  2. Perception that advancement opportunities exist, and are attainable.
  3. Opportunities for personal growth and development.
  4. Appropriate recognition for the good work that I do.

The “What” Versus the “How”

I just listed what I have seen to be the top 4 common engagement drivers.  The next natural question would be, “now what?  How are we supposed to improve engagement if we now know where our focus needs to be?”  There is no cookie-cutter response because it depends on each organization, because each organization is unique due to the distinctive make-up of their workforces.  But, I will say this…the “how” (i.e. executing an employee engagement strategy) is as important, if not more so, than the “what” (i.e. what we need to focus on).

This is where social technology could theoretically play a huge impactful role.  I say theoretically because again, the success of strategy execution does not lie in the technology/platform itself, but in how it’s executed.  At the top of my head, key things that are required for successful execution are strong leadership, people change management, communication, trust, authenticity, and ultimately a strong perception of competence in the eyes of employees.  Notice how this is nothing different than any other major organizational initiative?

One Step Further

You need to also recognize that workforces in North America are more diverse than ever before.  Work is now fully integrated into our personal lives, rather than being completely separated like it was just a few decades ago.  We value customization, personalization, flexibility, variety and choice.  Organizations need to understand this, and find a way to fully integrate these characteristics into how employee engagement strategies are executed.  Now enter social technology!

Where Technology Could (Really Should) Play a Role

Keep in mind that technology by itself means very little.  It’s a very similar concept to strategy, which I’ve said many times before, “is just a piece of paper with words on it” (see Strategy = A Piece of Paper…).  If you don’t execute it well, it doesn’t matter how great the technology/strategy is.  All technology does is enable organizations to be flexible, offer variety and choice, enable personalization and customization.  It’s a vehicle, albeit a very effective one ONLY if you actually get the “how” part and focus on executing.

Having made my point about what technology is I will say this.  The market has just been bursting with new niche social technology platforms that aim to help make business easier, more effective and efficient, and ultimately more successful.  The mainstream platforms include the likes of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google and others.  Example niche HR platforms include Rypple, ZuzuHire, SurgeHire, Yammer, Yackstar, ClearFit, Success Factors and I Love Rewards.  Thousands more exist out there, but you get my point.

Tying it All Together…

So, I have talked about the following:

  1. Employee Engagement, Maximizing Organizational Performance
  2. How employee engagement strategy is executed is more important than what you’re executing.
  3. Impact of workforce demographics on our preferences for customization, flexibility and personalization.
  4. Work is now fully integrated into our personal lives—no longer separated.
  5. Social technology is a huge part of our lives, and social platforms are highly effective vehicles to support strategy execution.
  6. The key in all of this is that leveraging technological platforms within traditional HR functions, particularly as it relates to employee engagement strategy will enable organizations to optimize their ability to drive positive employee engagement results.

(Note: The next post in this series of 3 posts will explore a case study of an organization that integrated social technology into its employee engagement strategy to drive positive results.)

Image Credit Flickr

http://jeffwaldman.ca/?p=86St