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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.

Digital Upskilling to Close the Generation Gap

The enterprise and the workplace are increasingly influenced by technology and technology-driven processes. With digital upskilling becoming an increasing priority, this often comes with a new level of competency and a shift in demand on the skills required to fulfill the needs of a job.

This is particularly true in the insurance industry, where we are seeing a confluence of events. Such as accelerated digital transformation, rapidly-changing customer demands, and the migration to hybrid work models.

This has a direct effect on talent and the workforce.

As a result, many companies are increasing their investments in digital upskilling and reskilling their employees to prepare staff to capitalize on this golden market opportunity.

Building a Digital-Ready Workforce

With new digital tools, connected technologies, and better access to real time data, there is a balance between tried and true insurance methods. This includes new ways of analyzing information and insuring risk. Using new digital tools eliminates or automates repetitive tasks to free up talent to analyze and interpret client needs.

Reskilling, upskilling, and training employees is crucial for companies to build digital-ready workforces to carry their businesses into the future. This will lead to industry modernization and inspire teams to develop solutions that meet evolving customer needs.

Adopting Unique Learning Methods

According to Mercer’s 2021 Global Talent Trends Insurance Industry Outlook, insurance companies are 1.5 times more likely than other industries to develop skills related to innovation and adapting existing products. Additionally, insurers look to drive digital innovation and enhance the user experience to meet evolving customer needs.

This is great news for both current and budding insurance professionals. It is also a warning signal for carriers that are not investing the right time and resources in their talent.

New technology integral to the insurance industry presents an exciting ground for recent graduates. This is also true for employees from other fields looking to make a career transition. To take advantage of this opportunity, both employers and employees must take on a proactive learning mindset.

But appealing to everyone and their preferred way of receiving tools and technology training is a huge undertaking. When it comes to learning and development, teams have to think how to engage generations in the workforce today. While older generations are used to classroom learning, Gen Z and Millennials prefer YouTube videos or snippets of learning available. Companywide training programs incorporate different learning combinations, such as lecture, demo, and hands-on lab exercises.

Training to Suit All Ages

Incorporating the following steps, insurance industry leaders can train different generations across the tools required for learning and technology.

  • Determine the organization’s digital workforce goals: Identify the benefits leaders can expect from their digital upskilling investments and the steps that will be critical to the team’s success.
  • Connecting with the whole organization: Reskilling is not an individual project. Make sure training is available to staff across all levels and incorporate different learning styles to stay in tune with how everyone learns.
  • Provide recognition: Learning additional skills on top of an existing workload is not something that should be taken lightly. Rewarding staff for upskilling will help with employee morale, retention, and engagement.
  • Measuring success: Employees must embrace continuous learning so that reskilling does not fade. To mitigate this possibility, a digital workforce strategy must extend beyond learning and development to influence culture and ways of working.

Finding out which skills are missing across your organization and within specific teams will help you create a stronger workforce.

Embrace the Diversity of Different Generations

Having a range of ages on your staff adds value to the organization. As the age of retirement rises, companies need to explore adopting more inclusive policies to accommodate an older workforce.

Younger employees are more accustomed to rapidly developing technology and adapting to the changes it drives. Similarly, more mature employees have knowledge from the duration of their experience that can guide decision-making.

Creating an environment where all generations can learn from one another allows for mutually beneficial mentoring opportunities. When you have multiple generations in the workforce, those with more years of experience can advise younger employees on career development. Additionally, cross-generational mentoring will allow more junior employees to educate mature workers due to their familiarity with current trends and technology.

When it comes to reskilling and upskilling, it is not only about the generations already in the workforce, but companies also need to provide tools for those reentering the workforce. Reentering the workforce includes re-training of both technology and basic workplace skills.

Digital Upskilling is Here to Stay

As technologies evolve, the need for digitally skilled talent is not just for the short term. Insurers must foster a culture of innovation to develop skilled professionals internally – a culture that attracts them from the outside and helps retain them for the long haul.

One thing is certain: the insurance industry will continue to digitize to meet productivity goals and provide customers with an engaging experience. If companies can proactively address digital upskilling; customers, employees and the overall organization all benefit.

Photo by Fizkes

Remote Employee Training: 5 Steps to Creating Effective Microlearning Content

Keeping employees engaged in training is no easy task. This is especially true when asked to design remote employee training, where WFH distractions are almost unavoidable.

You can host day-long virtual meetings and give them PDFs to go through, but how much of that information will they actually retain? Chances are, hardly anything. That’s because this mode of training is not engaging enough. Employees start treating it as a check-the-box exercise, resulting in a waste of company time and money.

Microlearning can help you address those challenges.

This method involves delivering short and focused training content at regular intervals. It aims to train employees in short bursts, which retains their attention, guarantees more engagement, and increases learning ROI. The fact that microlearning makes the transfer of learning 17% more efficient and creates a 50% increase in engagement proves that microlearning is here to stay.

Let’s look at how you can create effective microlearning content for your remote employees in five simple steps.

Step 1: Determine the Learning Objective

Look at microlearning content as building blocks. While each block has its purpose, they all collectively point towards one single objective. Similarly, every microlearning content piece needs to be created with the training’s learning objective in mind.

Think about what you want your remote employees to achieve from the program. To help that thought process, consider using Bloom’s Taxonomy — a practical method of creating effective learning objectives that establishes six learning goals:

  • Remember | Recall facts and basic concepts
  • Understand | Explain ideas or concepts
  • Apply | Apply knowledge in new situations
  • Analyze | Compare ideas and draw connections
  • Evaluate | Form opinions and justify decisions
  • Create | Propose new thought processes and ideas

You can implement this while planning your employee training program in which each level delivers a specific learning outcome.

In short, start with knowing where you want to go and then work backward.

Step 2: Plan the Training Material

Now that you know what you want to achieve, the next step is to plan and organize your training content. In other words, so they meet the learning objectives, think about what information you need to provide to employees.

To start, create a course outline that details out the information you plan to include while ensuring it flows in a logical manner. Next, speak to subject matter experts and gather all the information you need to train your employees.

Step 3: Break Content into Smaller Chunks

At this stage, you’re sitting on truckloads of data, research, and information.

What’s important now is breaking down that information into action-based, smaller chunks. Not only does this prevent information overload, but it also helps learners consume information at their own pace and retain it for longer periods.

Make sure each of the bite-sized content pieces has a single takeaway focused on one learning objective. After all, you can always share links to additional articles and research for those who want to know more about any one concept.

Elearning Industry has a useful tip for creating microlearning content. It states, “Avoid throwing a whole novel at them. Ideally, each module should stick to around five to seven minutes, so being precise in what you want your employees to know is important.”

Step 4: Choose Your Formats Wisely

Microlearning is not only about creating bite-sized content, it’s also about diversifying your content delivery formats.

Review every granular piece of content and assess the most appropriate content format for delivery. For instance, if you want to explain a process, a process infographic might be the best choice. On the other hand, explainer videos might be a better choice for explaining a concept.

Here are the different types of microlearning formats you can include:

The idea is to use a mix of interesting formats that help you deliver the bite-sized training content in the best possible manner that retains your employees’ attention and keeps them engaged. For instance, here’s an example of an infographic that explains the different diversity and inclusion terms. As you’ll see, this learning format succinctly presents the essential information.

 

DEI infographic

Source: Venngage

Step 5: Create Context

The end goal of training programs is to get employees to implement what they learn in their day-to-day work. To achieve that and help employees transfer their learnings, it’s essential to create context in the content you create.

Employees need to know why the training material is relevant to them and how they can apply it in their work. Doing this also piques learner interest, helps them derive meaning from the training, and boosts performance.

You can create context by including the following tactics:

  • Create branching scenarios
  • Provide real-life examples
  • Use role-playing scenarios
  • Provide case studies

Incorporate Microlearning in Your Remote Employee Training

Declining attention spans is one of the biggest challenges learning and development professionals face.

The good news is that incorporating microlearning in remote employee training will help you overcome that and create a meaningful training experience that engages — and truly enriches — employees.

 

Photo: Nick Fewings

How to Perfect the Skill of Listening

Coronavirus has changed the way American businesses operate, to say the least. And from work-from-home mandates to reopening strategies to locking down again in the face of virus spikes, it’s taken a toll on effective communication in the workplace. 

Communication is a two-way street. But it’s not just about what we say. As the old saying goes, we have two ears and one mouth — so we ought to be able to listen twice as much as we speak. Or consider the inverse, as Ken Blanchard says: “I often like to joke that if God had wanted us to talk more than listen, he would have given us two mouths.” 

But in reality we aren’t listening very well, and it’s not new news. The Harvard Business Review published a famous article way, way back in 1957 about a study of manufacturing executives in Chicago: it found that listening is a much neglected skill. Benchmark research found that the average listener remembers only about 25% of what they heard, and that number has been repeated in many posts on why we can’t listen, time and time again. Flash forward more than half a century and for all the work on refining and clarifying our message, the weakest point of how we communicate is what we actually hear. Compound that by the fact that so much of our work is happening online and remotely, and it makes the listening part of communication even harder.

But we need to be better listeners, especially now. To be able to actually listen, take in someone else’s points and retain the information is not only better for whatever work process is going on at the moment. It also builds far more trust, promotes empathy, and forges a work culture of engagement and exchange. You can’t tout transparency if there’s no emphasis on listening, either. So here’s a refresher with eight ways to improve your skill at listening now, including some tips that will greatly boost the quality of remote communication:

1. Allow for Silence

Give the person speaking time to pause and collect their own thoughts as they’re talking. Everyone talks with a different style and pace. Some get nervous when they’re talking and tend to need to slow down and clarify for themselves before saying an idea out loud. Some may be broaching a difficult topic and try to circle around it. Listening requires patience and slowing down our own rapid-fire internal thought process: we think faster than we speak. Don’t try to fill in the silences with your own interjections. Let the speaker have the room and the time to say what they need to say.

2. Repeat Back in Your Own Words

Don’t respond to the speaker with your thoughts right away. That’s the default setting for listening, but it’s far more effective to restate their thoughts in your own words. It cements the fact that you understood it — and if you didn’t, they can clarify. For example, start with “I hear you saying that …” and reiterate carefully. Not only do you demonstrate that you are actually listening, but the speaker will, in turn, be more receptive to your point of view knowing you understand theirs.

3. Ask Useful (and Relevant) Questions

Asking useful questions can help you better understand what the other person is saying. To encourage further discussion, make them open-ended prompts that give them the opportunity to further elaborate. Try asking, “What do you think we should do about this?” Asking questions is not about controlling the conversation or pushing back on someone’s perspective. It’s about understanding.

4. Work toward Empathy

We all fear being judged as we talk. Make a concerted effort to truly understand and acknowledge how the other person feels; to put yourself in their shoes. By carefully reiterating their feelings as you understand them, you build empathy and set them at ease.

5. Do a Recap 

We may listen, we may hear, but do we remember? One highly effective way to recall a conversation is to recap what was said. Restate the point of the discussion, and list the action steps each party is going to do in response. This doesn’t need to be word for word, just an overview. And let the person who spoke weigh in, so they’re comfortable with your summary. 

Remote communication has its own set of issues and conditions, including how people behave, multitask, and receive information; and how technology can suddenly go haywire at the worst possible time. These three final tips will help: 

6. Have a Backup Plan for the Tech

Always have a Plan B when it comes to remote meetings and discussions. If the tech you’re depending on happens to fail for whatever reason, you can pick up the thread without a mad scramble. Many of us know the frustration of a 15 minute video call that turns into an ordeal of pixelated video or frozen presentations. Having a backup plan prevents the goal — communication — from being hijacked by tech problems. 

7. Use Names in Remote Meetings

During an in-person meeting, there’s no doubt as to who is speaking or whom they’re speaking to. Online meetings aren’t as clear. Use names when addressing people, and encourage everyone to refer to themselves by name as well. And when you are discussing the points someone made, reiterate who said them to keep everyone on track. 

8. Take Your Time  

Video meetings allow us to see each other but not always discern the nonverbal subtleties that are part of communication. Tiny delays are nevertheless long enough to prevent how we perceive each other’s expressions. Eye contact is altogether different: if we really want to look at someone’s face, we need to stare at the camera, not their face. But people don’t just speak with words. Take the time to consider what’s being said rather than jump in with a response. If you’re not sure of the intent, ask. Virtual is not the same as in the same room. 

Communication is a fundamental part of who we are. At the workplace, it’s critical to be able to listen well, whatever context we’re in. Blanchard encourages all professionals to master the art of listening, but I’d take it one step further: it should be considered a skill, like any other, and we should all endeavor to practice it, especially in these times. A little understanding can go a long way in terms of collaboration, trust, and productivity.

Photo: Waldemar Brandt

#WorkTrends: Mapping the Future of Workforce Skills

We’re learning that the term social distancing may not be precisely right — physical distancing is more like it. Socially, we’re finding all sorts of ways of staying close. The same is true with the term “soft skills.”

As this week’s #WorkTrends guest and workforce expert Angela Maiers noted, “You could call them power skills more than anything. These are the power competencies that allow you to succeed, your team to succeed, your company to succeed — in a crisis or not.”

An edupreneur, author, and founder of the global nonprofit Choose2Matter, Angela Maiers had a frank discussion with Meghan M. Biro on why these skills are so important. Angela talked about how these skills have to be developed habitually, but can and should be identified, supported, and refined. Key among them, she noted, is being self-aware — in the context of everyone you work with. “You have to understand how you not only fit in, but how you advance as a team,” and recognize “other people’s diverse competencies.” 

People need the tools, development, and time to fully cultivate their life kit of essential “people” and human skills, she noted. But given the current time we’re all working in — where we’ve had to jump into remote competencies faster than you can type in a meeting ID, what if we don’t have the luxury of time? We may have to problem-solve to tackle very different challenges in the near future, Meghan pointed out — if the nature of the evolving crisis happening today is any indication. 

We all need to be able to handle VUCA, Angela said — “volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.” That goes double for today and tomorrow’s leaders. “When you look at a leader that provides a place of not just security… but there’s a calmness around them, there’s hopefulness, there’s resourcefulness around them — those are the leaders that stand out.” Meghan noted that this particular mindset was likely going to be in high demand.  

So can we learn this? Meghan asked. And do we all learn it the same way? “One of the points causing confusion is that we think of skills as masterable segments, but they’re far more than that,” Angela said. “Building a habit is different than mastering a skill. You don’t get a percentile grade.” And since everyone has different competencies, their learning curves are also different — likely more easily addressed by modern learning platforms that can meet the needs of each learner.

We all need to be channeling VUCA now, Meghan noted. And we need to remember that at the core, these “power skills” are really human skills. We’re going to need them all to adapt to the workplace of the future, she said. Life skills are the new power tools.

Listen to the full conversation and see our questions for the upcoming #WorkTrends Twitter Chat. And don’t forget to subscribe, so you don’t miss an episode. 

Twitter Chat Questions

Q1: Why are soft skills necessary skills in the workplace? #WorkTrends
Q2: What strategies can help organizations better develop soft skills in their workforce? #WorkTrends
Q3: How can leaders help their organizations focus on essential soft skills for the future? #WorkTrends

Find Angela Maiers on Linkedin and Twitter

Photo: Nick Kane

#WorkTrends: How to Make Your Work Culture Rock

What does a person do when the pressure is on them? That’s what NY State Governor Andrew Cuomo asked in his daily press conference on March 26. The same could be asked of our organizations. In her #WorkTrends conversation with workplace culture expert Jim Knight, Meghan M. Biro started by thanking everyone working today — particularly those of you in HR and management who are doing your best to keep your people safe. This is a transformation no one asked for — a sudden and mandatory shift to remote, to flexible schedules, to sitting in kitchens, to navigating new platforms and software, and to trying to virtually and digitally maintain the values of a workplace. What enables that to happen is culture.

Jim built his career as part of the Hard Rock International brand, creating award-winning training programs to catalyze learning and growth. He’s also the author of the bestselling Culture That Rocks: How to Revolutionize Your Company’s Culture

As he and Meghan started jamming on the concept of culture, it was clear they agree that culture is anything but a logo or a color scheme. “It’s always going to be about the people that are currently working in the business at that moment….at the core it starts with each individual with their own unique behaviors, and then when you put them together, if you’ve got similar values and shared experiences, that’s when the culture becomes more robust.”

Meghan pointed out that it’s often a challenge for organizations to find out who their rock stars are — and noted that we often know who the innovators and key players are “in our gut,” aside from the data. Jim added that often, the great ones may be flying right under the radar. Finding them is a matter of looking for those great qualities even before they walk in, and then giving them a culture that brings those to the fore, that celebrates those behaviors.“ Then you can keep them because frankly, they’re a bit in love. And part of that culture has to be wanting to help the world, support the greater good — and be larger than your product or service, both agreed. In other words, your culture has to rock — and that’s when you’ll see people lean into the pressure, take on the challenges, and truly lead.

Listen to the full conversation and see our questions for the upcoming #WorkTrends Twitter Chat. And don’t forget to subscribe, so you don’t miss an episode. 

Twitter Chat Questions

Q1: Why do many organizations struggle with creating a great work culture?  #WorkTrends
Q2: What internal and external strategies can improve work cultures? #WorkTrends
Q3: What can leaders do to help organizations improve their work culture? #WorkTrends

Find Jim Knight on Linkedin and Twitter

Photo: Petri R

Continuous Listening: Moving Beyond Standard Practices

The second in a two-piece series on Continuous Listening. 

In Part One of my series on Continuous Listening, I looked at the flaws of taking a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to an employee’s development. Continuous Listening and asking the right questions can play a key role in recognizing milestones along each employee’s individual journey, and evaluating their engagement. 

The second part of this series looks at how to move beyond standard practices in order to craft engaging, long-term, and productive employee journeys and ultimately business success for all — and use the Continuous Listening strategy to tackle the challenges now facing our industry. And it’s important to note the value of feedback, as it contributes to the roadmap aimed at improving the organization.  

Applying Continuous Listening strategies before exploring suggestions for decision-makers can greatly improve outcome, and help explore various ways to address a number of HR challenges:

  • HR’s employee insight is segmented. Information is siloed based on the different HR tools used in various milestones, each tool having its own task and interface. Sharing between existing application tools is usually complex and information tends to stay within the boundaries of departments. 
  • Insight is collected from a limited number of sources. This limits HR’s ability to see the big picture and creates a disjointed employee experience. For example, some collection tools are only focused on one feedback channel instead of a combination of direct, indirect and inferred channels. As a result, HR can miss the broader view. 
  • Not enough data types are gathered. HR teams can gather transactional data on existing processes thanks to tools such as applicant tracking systems, HRIS tools, and learning management systems. Who was hired? Into what department? When was the start date? With some advanced analytics, this information can be transformed into predictive models indicating who should be hired in the future. Though sophisticated, these systems miss the heart of the employee experience as they fail to tap into the thoughts and feelings that bind employees to their jobs. Transactional data will never provide insight about personal views and cannot answer questions like: “How engaged is the employee?” or “How loyal do they feel to the brand?” “Are they committed to the mission or just the paycheck?” “What are their long-term aspirations?” Thus, it makes sense to use tools that also focus on evaluative HR processes such as 360 feedback, performance reviews, training evaluations, and engagement surveys. 
  • Most data analyses do not address an employee’s evolution. Data is collected at specific intervals and analyzed with particular timestamps, but understanding how an employee’s data has evolved over time may offer a clearer perspective of the processes that this employee has gone through with the organization. This highlights effective HR interventions to reach higher employee engagement, retention, and success. 

Moving Forward 

Continuous Listening encourages multi-directional communication among employees, managers, administrators and executives. It is designed to work in conjunction with other listening tools deployed at milestones such as performance reviews, annual engagement surveys, training programs, and mentoring programs. With it, HR can compile a more comprehensive picture of the attitudes, feelings, and intentions of the workforce. 

Organizations that are serious about optimizing the engagement of their workforce should look beyond a one-size-fits-all approach, and instead pursue a measurement strategy that incorporates:

  • Gathering evaluative feedback during milestones.
  • Collecting data between events aligned on topics relevant to employees and business goals.
  • Integrating the milestones and Continuous Listening data with fluid, real-time feedback processes to gain a comprehensive and evolving picture of workforce issues. 

Solving a Turnover Problem

Continuous Listening can help solve problems feedback can’t handle alone. Take the example of a large software engineering firm in Silicon Valley: it was experiencing a 50% higher turnover rate among employees who had been there for three or four years. The traditional milestone approach using HRIS data flagged the increase in turnover, but failed to provide any meaningful insight as to its occurrence. An evaluative feedback survey, delivered annually, showed that no one in the cohort had been promoted to a managerial position in the past 18 months. The business unit had adjusted the promotion criteria, delaying qualification by another one or two years to ensure stronger competencies among those being promoted. 

A combination of HRIS data, annual survey results, and Continuous Listening surveys revealed that employees were outraged at the policy changes, and had started looking for jobs elsewhere. Additional results from Continuous Listening surveys illustrated the fact that the 50% who remained were given development experiences and discretionary time to work on special projects — i.e., meaningful incentives to stay despite the prospects of delayed promotion.

These approaches provided substantially different data that, when viewed independently, provided weak explanations for the turnover. But through a holistic strategy, the bigger picture became clear. Using Continuous Listening provided insights earlier, giving leaders the opportunity to intervene sooner.

Feedback Approach Information Uncovered Available Leadership Actions 
Transactional 

Annual Turnover Report from HRIS turnover data 

Turnover is 50% higher. Investigate by launching a survey or conducting interviews.Backfill positions with experienced hires.
Transactional & Evaluative 

Annual Turnover Report

Annual Turnover Survey

Turnover is 50% higher.No one in the 3 – 4 year cohort has been promoted due to a policy change. Create an internal marketing campaign to encourage employees to stay.Change the policy.

Provide incentives to stay.

Continuous Listening 

(Transactional & Evaluative)

Annual Turnover Report

Annual Turnover Survey

Continuous Listening Surveys

Turnover is 50% higher.No one in the 3 – 4 year cohort has been promoted due to a policy change.

After learning of the policy change, outraged employees started looking for other opportunities.

Explain why changes are necessary.Let employees know leaders hear their frustration.

Fund new development events. 

Provide discretionary time to those who stay to work on special projects.

Feedback Matters

Without Continuous Listening efforts and the adoption of innovative technologies, information gaps can grow, increasing risk and uncertainty for decision-makers and the company. Further, effective listening allows leaders to stay informed about workforce perspectives, and it encourages employees to communicate their needs, satisfaction, frustrations, and other points of view in a healthy way. 

The journey begins when HR professionals develop and implement a comprehensive listening strategy across the employee lifecycle. By listening to employees, HR will develop a continuously evolving stream of data to support critical business management decisions. Through understanding which questions to ask and which tools to employ, HR professionals may properly listen and respond to needs. Moving beyond the one-size-fits-all approach enables organizations to craft engaging, long-term, and productive employee journeys — ultimately predicting positive or negative changes before they are likely to occur, thus driving their business toward success.

 

Photo: PCM

Continuous Listening: How to Strengthen Employee Communication

This is the first in a two-piece guest series on Continuous Listening. 

Human Resources departments own many responsibilities that directly contribute to the overall success of a company. According to Sari Levine Wilde, managing vice president of Gartner, “The businesses that are successful today and in the future, will be those that win when it comes to talent…This means helping employees build critical skills and developing employees into leaders.”  One of the burning questions today is how we can achieve that mission. 

Howard Moskowitz, a psychologist in the field of psycho-physics and a renowned market researcher, was hired by PepsiCo to determine the optimal quantity of artificial sweetener for a Diet Pepsi product. He faced a similar challenge, as mentioned by author Malcolm Gladwell in his TED Talk. With the aim of maximizing sales, Moskowitz conducted empirical tests, which provided unexpected results. He examined the data and concluded that there was no such thing as a perfect Diet Pepsi! Due to the multitude of variations between human tastes, Moskowitz found that the best option to maximize the number of sales was by offering a collection of lower calorie flavors along the scale of taste. 

Returning to the HR dilemma, a one-size-fits-all approach to HR is guaranteed to overlook the needs of many employees. More specifically, each employee journey is unique and thus HR must find ways to observe, tune in, and adapt to address individual employees in a more personalized manner.

Disjointed Employee View and Continuous Listening

In order to understand employees and their level of engagement when it comes to business goals, HR must continually gather information by asking questions and listening to employee responses. These standard HR processes currently serve as milestone events for gathering data, but with so many aspects of the employee lifecycle to monitor, it can be difficult to build a comprehensive view of the culture, engagement, retention, and success of employees. The process of data collection is usually transactional, though sometimes there are opportunities to gather evaluative information as well. In this respect, many challenges that HR professionals are faced with when attempting to gather this comprehensive data can be addressed by a strategy known as Continuous Listening. 

Continuous Listening is a methodology grounded in the philosophy that feedback matters all the time — not just once a year during a performance review, or once a year during an engagement survey. Feedback matters even after employees leave an organization and unofficially serve as alumni ambassadors for your brand. It matters because every employee has a unique journey that begins with a handshake and a contract that says, “We will do this for each other.” 

HR organizations that begin gathering evaluative feedback from employees during such milestones will gain valuable insights that leaders can use to better manage the workforce. An added benefit is that once in place, this feedback process can gain further traction as employees witness leaders responding to their feedback. This reinforces more open lines of communication, which is a recipe for future success. For every milestone along the  employee journey milestones, here are some sample evaluative questions that HR should be asking in order to enrich the information that is later provided to company leaders: 

Employee Journey Milestones Sample Evaluative Question 
Recruiting Would your employees recommend your organization to their professional network? 
Onboarding Do your onboarding processes achieve the cultural immersion and integration you need? 
Development Is your development process providing the right knowledge and skills to drive successful employee outcomes in meeting the needs of tomorrow?
Performance Management Is the performance management process identifying, recognizing, and rewarding talent? 
Engagement How much do you really know about your employees’ experiences? Are your efforts encouraging or destroying employee goodwill, motivation, and engagement? How often do you measure employee engagement? Once every two years? Annually? Bi-annually?
Promotion & Career Growth Are you identifying employees with strong potential and directing them toward leadership positions? Is your leadership pipeline full enough to meet resource planning goals?
Compensation & Benefits Is your compensation and benefits plan competitive? Is the plan sufficient to keep high-value employees engaged?
Retention Do you know what motivates your employees’ decisions to stay and grow with your organization, and what motivates them to seek opportunities elsewhere? Are you systematically collecting the data needed to analyze and improve the employee experience from hire to retire? 

Feedback matters because whatever the expression, it contributes to the roadmap aimed at improving the overall organization. By implementing a Continuous Listening strategy, we can begin to explore how to best address specific HR challenges. For that, stay tuned for the second piece in this series. 

 

Photo: John Schnobrich

Soft Skills Aren’t Optional: How to Teach Them Well

When you hire employees, especially Generation Z and the youngest millennials, you’re investing in the future of your organization. Contributing to their development is one of the smartest investments you can make. But too many companies overlook the basics when it comes to learning and development. 

If you only focus on training to meet the specific tasks and requirements of a given job, you may be developing your employees as much as you think you are. Particularly when it comes to new employees switching to an unfamiliar role, or just-hired younger employees new to the workplace, they may lack foundational abilities you now take for granted. A study by the CollegeBoard found that employers find 26.2% of college students lack sufficient writing skills — and one fourth are generally poor communicators. 

So before you train for job-related tasks, make sure your employees have these essential skills. Call them soft skills, call them life skills, or call them basic work skills, but these four are not only critical for success in your organization, but throughout a career. And whether the training is up to managers, team leaders or anyone else there are a number of tools to help get your employees up to speed:

1. Time Management

Of all the skills employees can and should have, time management is one of the most vital, no matter what the position or task. This is really a group of skills, including knowing how to prioritize, create a list of must-dos, create a workable schedule, delegate tasks, and know how to create downtime. All of these add up to employees being able to work efficiently and manage their time productively.

The best time managers are those who are never fazed by deadlines: give them a deadline and they’ll meet it, no matter what. They know how to focus on the most important tasks and limit the amount of time they spend on the less important ones. They can create and keep to a schedule because they know how much each task will take them. 

Teaching It

Given that how to manage time varies greatly depending on teams and roles, team leaders and direct managers should be involved in teaching this particular skill. Young hires fresh out of college may have mastered the ability to keep up with classwork but will need to learn how to transfer the skill into the context of work. One effective approach: implement routines and incremental goals throughout tasks. These make it easier to segment the day into manageable chunks.

Team leaders and managers may find scheduling software helps: there are a number of different applications, such as When I Work, or a task management software like Asana or Centrallo. But don’t just leave it up to tech. Make sure to clearly communicate the priorities to employees at the start of each new task — and then help them figure out how to allocate their time more effectively.

2. Interpersonal Communication

Some employees will see more direct and immediate benefits from strong interpersonal skills, particularly if they’re in people-facing and communication-heavy roles. But whether employees are going to be giving a major sales presentation or relaying information to a coworker, interpersonal communication is always essential to get the point across. 

The skill includes verbal, nonverbal and listening skills, as in being able to recognize emotions and see someone else’s side. Non-verbal communication involves being able to recognize the subtleties of body language, eye contact, and gestures, and look beyond traditional assumptions to understand what’s really going on. For instance, lack of eye contact is often misinterpreted as dishonesty when it’s actually shyness or nervousness.  

Teaching It

Learning interpersonal skills is a personal process for most employees, and can be tricky with a brand-new hire or a person who’s naturally shy. As such, it’s best taught by mentors or team leaders with small, close-knit teams — provided that your team has the right dynamic to keep everyone comfortable.

You could start by teaching employees how to listen effectively, and recognize the different types of communicators — such as controllers, analyzers, supporters, and promoters. Each enters a conversation differently, and responds to a different listening and speaking style. 

Gather the team and have each person take a personality test to find out what kind of communicator they are and what they value in communication. From there, compare notes: see how each team member tends to communicate, note the similarities and differences — and work on ways to better communicate with each other based on this new data.

If you need more avenues to foster stronger interpersonal communication among your workers, consider heading online. There are a number of classes for improving personal skills, including those recently listed on The Muse. 

3. Written Communication

Writing is often just presented as one of the communication skills, but it’s likely better to set it apart and give it the focus it needs. This is a skill that’s undoubtedly critical in the workplace — the most valued, but perhaps the least utilized. Most of us can read and most of us can write in terms of knowing how to form sentences. But there’s an enormous gap between people who can write and people who are good at it.  

The ability to write is among the top three most valuable skills to employers: 82% of employers want to bring in new hires with strong written communication skills, according to recent research by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. The cost of hiring poor writers can translate into as much as $2.9 billion each year spent providing remedial writing training for current employees. Add in new hires as well, and that sum rises to $3.1 billion. And no matter the promises of AI to help assist with writing, technology can’t fill the gap in terms of bad writing. 

Teaching It

For employees in marketing departments and HR, for instance, written communication is usually a key part of the role. But the goal here is to enable all of your employees to build at least foundational writing skills — so emails are readable and a small brief or abstract is coherent. If you have employees with more potential, you’ll want to focus on helping them harness that with specific tools. 

Writing skills training may entail mentors — who can help with overall polishing and tone. But managers and team leaders are often the last stage of screening before a product reaches a client — and will know what will or won’t pass muster. But when a team leader has bad habits, those will carry through onto the team. Teaching writing should be done by those who are skilled in it and by the tools that are specific to it. 

Make sure the organization implements a clear and comprehensive style guide and provides it to all employees — sometimes poor writing is simply a matter of not knowing the rules. Set up periodic trainings on the standards of communication, presenting not only what’s expected of employees in terms of writing, but clear samples to model correct usage and style. Consider bringing in a writing coach to “workshop” pieces of writing with new employees: a hands-on, small-group setting is a great place to show what works and why. Reward good writing and share it so employees know what it looks like. But don’t punish mistakes: you don’t want employees who dread the process. 

4. Organization

In the workplace, we often sense who is organized and who isn’t by the state of their desk: some keep their workspace tidy and with everything in its place; others keep it in a state of perpetual disarray. But organizational skills are far more than what meets the eye. They usually go hand in hand with strong time management skills (reserving time to straighten the desk is a simple example). 

But organizational skill is also a matter of knowing all the steps to a task, being able to envision them and know how to complete them, who to bring in for different phases, and when to bring in a senior coworker for help over a hurdle. Organization is vital for any employee whose job includes overseeing, managing, project completion, or team leading. Likely, that’s nearly everyone — in some form. And it’s hard for employees to see — or convey — the big picture in terms of purpose and objectives if they don’t have the energy or ability to look away from the small stuff. But aligning with a greater sense of mission is a key part of employee engagement, particularly among younger employees. And it doesn’t mean anything if you can’t see the forest for the trees.

Teaching It

Organizational training is usually team-specific, sometimes department-specific. For example, the organizational process that works for marketing workflows isn’t necessarily well-suited to engineering; bringing in an outside expert on calendar and schedule management won’t necessarily work for employees whose tasks have to be completed within a single day.

Direct supervisors are often the ideal choice for organizational training, with backup support from experienced team members. They know the strengths and weaknesses of their team — and are typically the ones who need to connect the dots or undo a snafu. 

The trend to remote working may call into question the need for a tidy desk for some — but it’s the mentality that needs to be emphasized here, and remote teams certainly need to learn how to be organized. Starting by training how to create a routine and a schedule — and stick to it — creates a framework for other facets. Employees need to know where they need to be, what they need to be doing, and when they need to get it done.  Begin with a daily schedule of the top three or four tasks for a given day, then increase with more tasks, over time, as the team masters what needs to be completed.  

This is where you may see a spark of recognition from new employees, particularly those just out of school — who suddenly see the similarities between meeting deadlines for schoolwork, which is mostly done individually, and completing tasks with coworkers as a team. Each has a part to play; each can contribute to the overall completion. Then, start tailoring the organizational methods to best meet the specific nature of a particular team or department. Just make sure skills are taught consistently, regardless of personal management styles or functions. As teams become more cross-functional, it’s key your employees have a shared language and skillset to draw from.  

Work and Life Skills, Integrated

The World Health Organization notes that we spend one-third of our adult lives at work.  That means what we do and know how to do at work inevitably has a huge impact on the way we live our lives. Employers have a responsibility to invest in their people for countless reasons, but this is key. Essential skills don’t stop at the office. We want and need to develop employees who can rise to challenges, as they have the skills to draw from, whether in life or at work. 

These are the people who keep your organization going at crunch time: they know how to schedule, how to communicate, how to write, and how to stay on top of the workflow. And they become comfortable enough in their abilities to help coach others on these vital skills as well. It’s an investment that pays off for generations.

How to Use Informal Learning to Empower Employees

Remember that great day of in-house, instructor-led training last month?

Nope, I don’t remember it either because it didn’t happen! As L&D professionals know, training budgets in recent years have been slashed and the hours previously spent in seminars, workshops and offsite meetings have evaporated. But even though training budgets are slight, your employees can still learn in other ways. Informal learning is an excellent method that empowers employees to venture out into the world to discover their own learning content.

Informal learning is steeped in experiential roots, such as when we take something apart to understand how it works. You’ll know informal learning when you see spontaneous and flexible interactions surrounding an intent to learn. Think of the books, blog posts, podcasts or TED talks you’ve consumed lately. Although you may not have labeled it such, you were participating in informal learning.

Why We (Heart) Informal Learning

As the head of organizational talent and leadership development at Saba, I am in the unique position to hear about how our employees are diving into informal learning.

I’ve listened in on stories about colleagues who adore informal learning because it offers immediate information and the just-for-me flexibility most of us want.

Our leaders are excited about informal learning because it slots into the fast pace of today’s business world. We no longer have to labor two months on a training course about business presentations, for example, and send it through endless rounds of revisions. Someone, somewhere has already launched the information online.

Finally, informal learning is appealing to L&D pros because our learners are enthusiastic about it. They’re innovative in their search for new ideas, new solutions and new approaches to old problems. When our learners want to learn, many of them just do it — they don’t wait to sign up for a course or ask permission to dive into intriguing material (and that’s a good thing!).

Why Informal Learning Gets a Bad Rap

It’s not a secret that informal, online learning often falls short of its potential. There are definitely some pitfalls to avoid, such as assuming that all employees are ready and willing to search out the information they need online. With all of the pressures on employees today, learning can easily slip to the bottom of the to-do list.

And it’s easy to assume that most people in the workplace are rocks stars when it comes to finding the content they need online. But often employees are stymied in their searches. What do they need? What is a trusted source? Sometimes, the relevance of a video course or e-book can be hard to determine without a lot of wasted time.

One quirky detail that has been observed in research studies is the more choices we have, the greater stress we may feel so that we end up not choosing anything at all. In her book, “The Art of Choosing,” Columbia University business professor Sheena Iyengar notes that the ideal number of choices most humans can process effectively is somewhere between five and nine.

How to Do Informal Learning the Right Way

So, how do we start off on the right foot? Are your employees curious and eager to seek new information? Then you already have an organizational culture that embraces learning. That’s an excellent place to start.

Here are some tips for encouraging a culture of continuous learning and development:

  • During 1:1 meetings with employees, inspire your employees to set learning objectives as part of their overall goals.
  • Be a learning culture champion. Include funds in departmental training budgets for MOOCs (massive open online courses), subscription-only journals or paid industry news sources.
  • Provide employees with helpful sources such as industry podcasts and blogs so that they have somewhere to begin.
  • Encourage employees to share favorite content they have found (and provide them with tools that help them do so).
  • When creating mission statements, company goals and other aspirational content, include learning and development aspects.
  • Encourage managers to let employees know their informal learning choices will be supported (reasonably) by allowing time “away.”

More on the Way

Informal learning content, with its bite-sized and on-the-fly consumption, will likely only increase in popularity. Technology can help organize informal learning by tracking and recording what people are learning and discovering. Some organizations encourage employees to contribute to the learning ecosystem with incentives or badges. Sharing features on learning platforms tap into the very human impulse to share knowledge with others.

Business moves quickly, and for L&D teams who blink, the world moves on. Informal learning doesn’t have to be scary or vague. By encouraging what’s already happening in the workplace and tracking it through the use of smart technology, employers can feel confident they are helping launch inquisitive employees into a search for their own learning content. When employees are supported in their search for flexible and just-in-time learning, the organization benefits and employees feel empowered. That sounds like L&D success to me.

#WorkTrends Recap: How to Apply a Global Mindset to Training

How does your company manage training? If you have remote employees on the payroll or your employees work in different locations around the globe, chances are your training isn’t happening in one place anymore. So what do business leaders, HR pros and trainers need to know about training a global, virtual audience?

In her career as a global trainer, Donna Steffey has visited 25 countries over 25 years. I asked her advice on building a global mindset and applying it to training and learning.

Build Your Cultural Intelligence

Before you start working with people in another country, you just need to read up on that country’s culture — right?

That’s a common misconception, Steffey says. But it’s not enough to have knowledge; you also have to be ready to take action. She says she’s studied David Livermore, an author who breaks down “cultural intelligence” into four competencies:

  • Drive
  • Knowledge
  • Strategy
  • Action

“Before I started researching his work, I didn’t realize that desire was important,” she says. Cultural intelligence is about more than just gathering knowledge. “It’s having that drive and desire. It’s about having a strategy and a game plan for when you work with people from other cultures, and then putting that plan into action.”

Tune into Cultural Nuances

Steffey has learned volumes about the subtle differences between cultures, especially when it comes to learning. As a trainer, her students expect her to handle the same situations completely differently based on where she is in the world.

“If you as the instructor embarrass a participant in the Middle East, you should acknowledge it immediately and apologize. But in Japan, you shouldn’t acknowledge it and apologize. You should wait until you can have a private conversation,” she says.

“In South America, if something goes wrong — like let’s say you have participants who come back late from lunch — what you want to do is acknowledge those people who came back on time from lunch, and not say anything about the people who came back late.”

These kinds of subtle differences and expectations can be tough to parse, so Steffey suggests talking to a local manager before you start training a new group.

For example, she might say to a manager, “Help me understand about your culture. You’re sending three participants from India. What do I need to know about Indian culture in order to be able to serve their needs in the classroom?”

Then, she pushes for a real answer. “They’ll probably say, ‘Oh, nothing. Everything is the same.’ And that’s just simply not true. I think as trainers we have to say, ‘No, I really want to understand the folks that are coming to training. Tell me what they like, what they don’t like. What do I need to know about their culture?’”

Understanding those cultural differences is so important because they’re deeply ingrained in learners. “We can’t change our learning style. We can’t change what our culture was, how we were brought up and how we learned to learn, just because we’re traveling to the U.S. or we’re getting on a webinar based in the U.S. The learners have their own style, and we have to respond to their style.”

Engage Virtual Learners

A recent ATD report shows that only 51 percent of corporate training is face-to-face — and that number is dropping fast. If you’re leading a virtual training, Steffey suggests thinking about how to modify your in-person curriculum to better suit the remote format.

“For instructor-led virtual training, the key is to engage that learner every three to five minutes,” she says. “So often, the trainer thinks they can lecture, and they just can’t. They have to use the tools available in order to engage that learner in the virtual, remote word.”

Stay Flexible

Even the best-prepared trainers have to respond to unexpected situations on the fly. Steffey describes a common experience among global trainers: Someone is preparing for a training in a different country, using English because English is the global language of business. They’ve been told their participants are going to speak English. But when the training starts, they realize the learners’ English is not strong.

So, the trainer has to adjust quickly. Maybe they change their slide deck to be more visual, with less text. Or maybe they change their activities to involve more group work so participants can speak their own language and process the information together.

“That’s part of a good global mindset, because what it means is I have a plan, but I am aware enough of the situation to select different actions to make the training work instead.”

Finally, she says, the most important part of having a global mindset is to treat everyone, everywhere, with respect. “Allow your learners to preserve their dignity, no matter what.”

Listen to the full #WorkTrends episode with Donna Steffey:

5 Lessons In Learning And Leadership

Here in the Boston, Cambridge we are lucky, there’s a college around every corner. Harvard, M.I.T., Wellesley, Boston University, the list goes on and on. Our streets, libraries and local coffee shops are clogged with passionate students shelling out 40k (plus extras) a year for the privilege of earning those coveted diplomas.

I hate to be a bubble-burster, but some of them may be overpaying. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge proponent of education, and a degree from a top-flight school still counts. But we’re seeing a sea change in the kind of learning the marketplace is demanding. That start-up in Silicon Valley or Williamsburg, Brooklyn cares more about your passion, social-media skills and ability to keep learning than it does about that little piece of paper from your alma mater. And established companies are realizing that they need people who have their pulse on emerging knowledge, innovation and markets. In a nutshell: these days the learning curve stops at the grave and starts very early in our careers.

So whether you’re a leader, manager, employee or freelancer, it’s time to start actively learning to maintain career momentum. Please, no groans. I’m not talking about homework and pop quizzes. I’m talking about igniting your curiosity, following your bliss, and exploring the infinite possibilities of real-world, social media and online learning.

Here are 5 steps to jump start your adventure in learning:

  1. Take inventory. What are your strengths, and more importantly, what are your weaknesses and limitations? This is both in relation to your organization, and to the larger world of work. Write them down. Be honest. This inventory is your roadmap to action.
  1. Know your options. You need to know what’s out there: where are the on-line courses, social media, and real-world, non-digital opportunities to learn? Stay focused on two things: first, what will help you bolster your strengths, up your performance, and grow as a leader; and second, what excites you. Which leads me to:
  1. Follow your passion. We all remember sitting through classes that bored us to tears. Invariably we did poorly in those subjects. There may be some basics you need to know for the specific demands of your work. Nail those. Then turn to what turns you on. Follow your natural curiosity. Obviously, this can’t be the extinct birds of Borneo? Or can it? If some subject or endeavor really stimulates you, it may well contain nuggets of applicable, actionable wisdom. Make a list of what excites you. Find online communities of like-minded people. And watch the sparks fly and the learning start.
  1. Put first things second. Once you’ve got the learning bug and know where to go to find your fix, start thinking in terms of your current project. At the end of the day, delivering sustained, stellar performance is what learning is all about. Find that piece of the project that most ignites your passion, and dive into the learning pool in search of actionable knowledge, skills, and insights. Look at your current project through this learning lens. Today.
  1. Teach to learn. Teaching is an amazing learning tool. Find someone whose curiosity dovetails with yours, but where you have more knowledge and/or skills. Mentor this person. Pass on what you know. Engage. Give back. In the doing, your own know-how will be refreshed and replenished. And you will learn from your mentee. I guarantee it. His or her questions will force you to expand your knowledge, and her beginners’ minds will deliver fresh insights. You will be renewed. A variation of this is to find a peer and become learning partners. Two brains are better than one; your curiosity and hers will spark new explorations, your passionate exchanges will strengthen you both.

Lifelong learning used to be a cozy catchphrase popular in retirement communities aiming at the PBS/NPR demographic. No more. Today, it is an imperative for a sustained, successful, fulfilling career. And that’s the most important lesson of all. Every single generation. Every one of us.

A version of this post was first published on Forbes.com.

Image credit: pixabay.com

With the Warming Heart of People Pools

“And I don’t care, go on and tear me apart
And I don’t care if you do
‘Cause in a sky, ‘cause in a sky full of stars
I think I see you…”
—Coldplay, “Sky Full of Stars

The statement’s context bummed me out. Not because my father-in-law and his wife didn’t know what I did for a living, people from outside the HR technology space always think I work literally in HR. No, it was because once they realized I worked for an HR software company that provided applicant tracking software, they immediately referenced the ATS black hole from whence no job applicant is supposedly ever seen again once he or she applies online.

We ended up discussing all the other ways applicants can gain visibility with a prospective employer – their online presence and their networking acumen. But no matter how good the recruiting software is (and PeopleFluent’s is pretty damn good), managing the candidate experience along the way hasn’t been easy for companies.

In fact, for the past few years, companies on the average receive an excessive number of resumes per every open full-time permanent position. This according to Talent Board’s 2014 Candidate Award Experience Awards Report released earlier this year (the 2015 data collection is in process). The CandE data from the past two years alone that shows open requisitions for all levels of positions are tracking over 200 resumes each.

While at the same time, more than half of job applicants are applying for up to four jobs per week, while nearly a third applying to up to nine jobs per week. Though applicant tracking systems and automation has helped companies funnel these resumes into their respective job “buckets” to be reviewed by overtaxed recruiters and hiring managers, the application process has not changed much for job seekers and employers.

But one of the biggest problem with the post-and-pray reactive recruiting approach and online application process is that it’s req-based – every time a new job is posted recruiters have to review a huge volume all new applicants on the average (most of whom aren’t qualified and many they may already have in their database) instead of leveraging their existing database where potential matches lie.

What if a company’s applicant database could be used to generate proactive sourcing pipelines? With better access to their own data, knowing how to set up the applicant pipelines, and how to communicate with the candidates can make the marketing investments pay off with great return and less near-term churn.

I recommend that companies get outside their own reqs and generate their own qualified candidates by creating and maintaining people pools based on skills and competencies needed for the work at hand. Being proactive with sourcing and screening doesn’t have to be aspirational – companies can do it with their own applicant databases and they way they capture new applicants via their career sites.

Because if it takes 45 minutes to complete an online application, then it’s 40 minutes too long. Attract applicants based on skills and experience needed, not just the literal requisition (especially for non-technical repetitive hiring), and collect just enough information to screen and create qualified talent pools for your recruiters and hiring managers. This allows companies to create proactive people pools based on skills need and not the job itself, which can and will maximize their recruitment dollar.

Given the time and resources it takes to find the right people why should companies start the process from scratch each and every time? By building these people pools (again, who cares what we call it as long as we’re hiring), employers can develop them around job types, skills and competencies to which they can turn to fill key roles without having to restart the processes from the beginning.

Creating repositories and automatically updated saved searches of qualified candidates in your talent acquisition system, such as those who were qualified but ultimately not selected for the position for which they applied, provides employers with a short list of individuals already engaged and interested in working for the company. This saves time and money and can help improve the relationships with hiring managers.

Along these lines, people pools can help improve the candidate experience and employer brand. For instance, informing candidates who weren’t selected that they will be kept in a pool and considered for future positions will not only let them avoid having to reapply, but also create a more positive impression of the company. It also keeps those individuals warm and engaged and interested in future openings. As a result, when a new positions becomes available, the company can fill it much more quickly by turning to those who have previously expressed interest.

A people pool strategy also can enhance talent mobility. Understanding the talent already in the organization and identifying who can be called upon to fill key gaps is another key advantage. Using employee data stored in the HR system can illuminate the talent already in place and their unique skills and strengths. As a result, the company can further streamline the process of filling positions with internal talent, while helping to retain their best employers by giving them the opportunity to advance through the ranks.

Of course, the “black hole” application experience hasn’t completely gone away and nearly 50 percent of the CandE winners still only received 3 out of 5 stars of less on their application process. The conundrum is that because of the great recruiting technology equalization happening in the world it just will not be enough to be an employer of choice long-term.

Remember, every person is a perpetual candidate no matter how happily employed or engaged they become over time, something we discussed more than once with Talent Board co-founders Elaine Orler and Gerry Crispin on the TalentCulture #TChat Show.

They agreed that at any given time they may find another role more appealing inside organization, or elsewhere. All of these candidate and employee phases combined with empowering technologies and continuous “customer” service from those who employ and woo candidates are what will give organizations the unfair advantage in the 21st century.

This doesn’t mean the effectual stretch and learning new skills will guarantee jobs for everyone, but these will be the benchmarks for many CandEs to come, with the warming heart of people pools ultimately eclipsing the black hole.

Virtual Reality Is Coming To An HR Function Near You

Ever heard of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One?

It’s a novel that takes place in the year 2045. Human civilization is in a dark period, so people seek refuge in a virtual reality world called the OASIS. Many spend all their waking hours in the simulation – working, taking classes, exploring different cultures, and trying out new hobbies.

The book became a pop culture phenomenon when Steven Spielberg signed on to direct the film version, but that’s not why I was interested in it. I’ve long been intrigued by the promise of virtual reality, and I think Ready Player One presents a reasonably accurate portrayal of what our lives will be like around mid-century.

Is The Prospective Company A Good Fit?

Ready Player One does not talk about HR and the employee lifecycle, but my mind went to this application immediately. The first thing I considered was hiring. We instruct candidates to think carefully about whether a prospective company is a good fit, but without the opportunity to spend time in the organization, there’s a great deal of guesswork involved. Virtual reality could enable a candidate to experience a day-in-the-life of an employee in their role. She could walk through the facilities, meet managers and co-workers, and start a project. But most importantly, she could get a much better sense of the culture.

Virtual reality could also revolutionize talent management. At present, leaders have trouble managing global, dispersed workforces. Employees might clock in from locations all around the globe, work variable schedules, and communicate using different methods. Virtual reality will certainly change the degree to which remote workers feel engaged and part of a unified team. By mid-century, you’ll put on your headset and send your avatar to work alongside colleagues who could be physically located anywhere. Conferences, meetings, presentations, performance reviews, brainstorms, and team building/social events could all be conducted in the virtual world, facilitating ongoing communication, relationship-building, and innovation.

Customized Training And Individual Skill Acquisition

Learning and development is the area of HR that will likely benefit most from advances in virtual and augmented reality. This technology could take the concepts of customized training and individual skill acquisition to an entirely new level. If you want your new hire to master public speaking skills, for example, you won’t have to wait for the next Toastmasters or Dale Carnegie signup. You’ll just have her avatar work with a virtual coach and then present to a virtual group of executives in a virtual boardroom. If today’s gamification applications address the type of experiential learning younger employees crave, virtual reality will pack 10X the experiential punch.

Providing employees with opportunities to learn about and explore different areas of the business will become easier too. Now, rotational programs and even short-term stretch assignments in alternate functional or geographic areas are typically reserved for the highest performers simply because they are so expensive. By eliminating travel-related costs, virtual reality will make it possible for more employees to broaden their skillsets and increase their value to the organization.

What other ways might virtual reality transform HR as we know it?

Image Credit: Pixabay.com

Stand-Out Leaders Putter At These 7 Things

Old school leadership is about control and pushing people to achieve results; setting and communicating objectives; delegating tasks; measuring results.

Nothing wrong with old school, it’s just that different priorities and actions are required if leaders are to meet the challenges of todays competitive economy and changing employee expectations.

New school leaders make it their priority to help people; to “take care” of them. They make it easier for people to do their jobs. They run interference; bash barriers and eliminate the grunge preventing progress.

New School Leaders Putter At These 7 Basics

1. They are mindlessly focused on detail.

Detail about individuals and what’s going on for them. It’s about the little things and the “small picture” where things get done. Where people take individual actions to move the organization forward. At the coal face where customer and employees engage. If a leader doesn’t know what’s going on where customer meets company, how can they help make it a better experience for all? Exactly!

2. They have an uncanny memory.

The putterer has the innate ability to remember what they’ve seen, heard and felt in the workplace so they can follow up and take whatever action is necessary. They correlate their experience with the strategy and objectives of the organization so they can remedy any dysfunction they see or reward any champion performance they observe.

3. They make the work environment comfortable for people.

Clean. Tidy. Organized. A place where people look forward to hanging out everyday. They are crazy about hygiene factors; the basic needs that people require if they are to perform well consistently. If they are working in a pit, don’t expect them to deliver sterling results. If they aren’t WOW’D by the comforts of their workplace, they won’t be in a mood to delight a customer.

4. They take action themselves when their personal intervention is critical to moving forward.

Putterers don’t delegate on matters requiring inspiration and direction. Small picture issues can’t be delegated as no one other than the leader can FEEL what needs to be done; their passion can’t be delegated. Furthermore, delegation of small picture issues sends the “I really don’t give a damn” message to all, and their currency with the troops takes a plunge.

5. They are constantly active.

Always on the move. Always looking for things to improve for people. Don’t forget the small picture has high resolution and is always in flux, requiring constant movement on the leader’s part. They keep their feet moving!

6. They anticipate.

They have acute sensor abilities, being able to apply what they’ve learned in other circumstances to a situation that is developing in front of them. And, as a result, either avoiding an unpleasant ending OR achieving something extraordinary.

7. They smile.

Putterers love what they do. They are happy. When confronted by disappointment they look for the pony. Their positive attitude is contagious. And it costs nothing. People around them catch the “smile virus”. It spreads. Imagine a workplace where everyone is smiling! Think it’s productive? Ya.

Stand-out leaders are awesome at the basics. How do you rate?

10 Ways To Escape From The Crowd

One of the more serious problems in society today is spacial separation; we are way too close to one another.

We find ourselves almost in the living room of our neighbor. Students sit shoulder-to-shoulder in classrooms and lecture halls. Sidewalks are jammed with a stream of people heading in the same direction to the same destination.

People’s brains are cluttered with the same traditional academic teachings with little room for an original thought.

We live in a crowded world with plurality forcing us to conform. The crowd is a blend of commonality. People move in a blur with no individual identity.

Crowds are imprinting agents. The mass creates pressure for anyone to get on the “average train” and be influenced by those around them.

It’s a serious situation in an economy that begs for remarkability, creativity and uniqueness to survive and succeed.

We MUST find ways for people to create space between each other both physically and mentally.

Physical separation exposes people to different environments with different agents of influence. Mental separation opens the mind to new thoughts with the capability of achieving remarkable things.

Here are 10 ways we can give the separation movement some help:

1. Change the conversation. Stop talking about how we can copy and be like others and start asking the question, “How can we walk away from the crowd?” Space is created by differences not similarities.

2. Reward people who screw up constantly. These are individuals who are on the edge, far from the herd. They live in space and should be encouraged to stay there.

3. Loosen up on the conformity thing. Recognize individuals who don’t follow the rules. Encourage students to color outside the lines to create something new. The education system requires a major overhaul.

4. Honor weirdness. Creativity is NOT a linear concept; it is expressed by ideologies and points of views unlike most others.

5. Hold teachers accountable for creating “new-idea meisters” in addition to how well students learn traditional concepts. Let’s do the unthinkable: pay teachers on the number of unique and creative students that leave their classroom!

6. Add emphasis to “the debate.” Sure. spelling bees have some value but why not provide more focus on the forum for thoughtful argument and disagreement? You can’t be creative and think out of the box in a spelling bee!

7. Get rid of uniforms. They are the signature of a crowd having similar minds and purpose; exactly what is NOT needed.

8. Avoid labels. Labels put individuals into buckets with the expectation that they are like everyone else in that bucket. It’s a disservice to the individual. Millennials? I see individuals with some similar values but many more with amazing differences if only we would pay attention to them. Stop classifying people; it sucks space.

9. Stay off public transportation especially in rush hour. Too any people; too much crowd snuggling; chance they could rub off on you.

10. Dump the “learning from others” notion. I get that there are some benefits from it, but after a point it becomes habitual and represents a barrier to thinking for yourself and coming up with creative ideas that have escaped fellow herd members.

Even if space is not a renewable resource we must find ways to not squander it and have confinement rob us of our originality and personal DNA.

Creating space is critical to a winning soccer strategy; it’s also a vital element of any personal and organizational growth strategy.

About the Author: Roy Osing is a former executive vice president and CMO with over 33 years of leadership experience. He is a blogger, educator, coach, adviser and the author of the book series Be Different or Be Dead.

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8 Actions You Can Take To Survive A Shift

When do you know a shift is occurring that will significantly alter the competitive landscape and terms of play?

There are some people who lead a shift and determine its direction. Steve Jobs engineered a series of discontinuities that not only changed the world of communication and social engagement, they also vaulted his company to another level.

But for most of us “mere mortals,” a shift is experienced after is has begun and marketplace changes are being felt.

Most retailers waited to see how online buying was going to evolve before morphing their brick-and-mortar business into virtual stores with cyber-selling.

The traditional media world is another example where the players are gradually incorporating digital and mobility capabilities into serving their customers and marketing their services.

It is rare that one is able to “see the forest for the trees” when discontinuity strikes; it is virtually impossible to see ahead and predict how it will all play out.

What is certain, however, is that those that decide to stand on the sidelines and observe the action forego any opportunity to influence the shift and have any control over the outcome.

Willing and active participants stand a chance of surviving; you either lean into a shift or be subsumed by it.

8 Actions You Can Take To Be a Shift Survivor

1. Be a learning organization, always listening for changes taking place in customer behavior. Study adoption rates of new technologies and customer solutions. Pay special attention to Millennials and women; they both wield the power to make you or break you.

2. Create a risk-taking culture. Shift survival = (doing) (lots of) (imperfect) (stuff) (fast). If you are not experimenting in the shift, you won’t survive it. Judge your survival competency on the number of failures you create.

3. Disrupt your current direction. Aggressively intervene on yourself and push for order of magnitude change. Modest change won’t satisfy the shift; monumental change might.

4. Apply “extension thinking” to overlay a trend in other industries on your business. Digital shift creates new value for people by connecting and controlling smart devices through cloud-based software platforms. What opportunities does this capability make possible for you? Study the trees and consider the broader implications.

5. Get your plan “just about right.” Reduce precision in the plan; increase precision in execution. Don’t try to create a perfect plan. It doesn’t exist, and while you are trying to discover it, you are not doing anything. Take an imperfect plan, execute it flawlessly, learn from the results you achieve and adjust it along the way.

6. Cut the crap that gets in the way of engaging in the shift. The projects and activities that may have been important in the old world may be grunge in the new, shifted version. How much stuff in the traditional print media business is crap in the digital world? How many resources are deployed in print vs digital? Preserving print robs you of the ability to engage the shift. Honor but expunge the old; you don’t have sufficient bandwidth to take on the new if you don’t.

7. Create VALUE that is relevant and unique for the customers you serve. Stop flogging products; start delivering experiences. Address the key wants and desires of the customers you choose to serve. Be the ONLY one that does what you do in order to stand out from the herd.

8. FOCUS. FOCUS. FOCUS. Do the few things critical to your shifted direction; avoid the possible many. Failure (and survival) is directly related to the amount of unproductive activity you have going on. Pick three (or four) projects and do them brilliantly.

Surviving shift requires different thinking and different action. if you presume that what got you here will get you to where you need to go, you’re fooling yourself.

About the Author: Roy Osing is a former executive vice president and CMO with over 33 years of leadership experience. He is a blogger, educator, coach, adviser and the author of the book series Be Different or Be Dead.

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The Bravery Of Being Fearlessly Authentic

“We play the game
With the bravery of being out of range
We zap and maim
With the bravery of being out of range…”

—Roger Waters (musician and writer)

Small craters pocked the desk around her laptop dock. Tiny tendrils of sulfurous smoke rose from each one, like poisonous snakes entranced by music only they could hear. Pens lay strewn like bodies left behind on a war-ravaged beach.

Jodi rubbed her eyes with shrapnel scarred hands and gazed again into her laptop screen. She thought, Where did it go?

The email — it was right there with all the others earlier that morning. Her boss, a small, overly verbose man who still wore knit ties from the 1980s, had sent yet another loaded negative critique of her work to her, even accusing her of throwing team members under the proverbial world-of-work bus for her own benefit so she could get in the new leadership development program.

She sat on the message all morning, not knowing how to respond at all this time; she hadn’t done anything to her colleagues to better herself, and yet again, he had convinced her that maybe, just maybe, she had. She wanted to get into the program badly, but had followed the rules and submitted the application just like everyone else, only having a brief conversation with the head of HR because of their relationship.

But when she returned to her desk to respond to him, to attempt to again defend her honor, the email was gone. Vanished. A fresh crater smoked near the framed quote on the back of her cubicle, one that her father had shared with her a long time ago.

Be fearlessly authentic.

She trembled. I am, Dad. I am. But he’s not and now he’s deleting emails from the server. And I don’t know what to do about it, except to get the fuck out of here.

Maybe you’ve experienced something like this, or maybe you know someone who has. Sadly, there are a million related stories out there.

Because this isn’t the war for talent we’re dealing with; this is a war on talent. Relentless. Unforgiving. Destructive. Ineffectual leaders not leading the way with the bravery of being out of range, which doesn’t mean literally mean virtual workers dealing with crappy managers “out of range.” It means employees dealing with crappy managers who are inflexible and inaccessible, who attack out of range because they can, because of their authority and the highly misused communications medium known as email, sent from the comfort of a closed-door office less than 10 feet away.

You’ve heard it before — those who can leave, will. And they leave crappy leaders and managers every day (if again they truly can). Billions and billions of dollars each year are spent on learning, leadership development and employee engagement programs, and yet, Deloitte just released new research that shows a huge gap between what business executives say and what they do, and one of the biggest issues highlighted is a lack of focus on leadership development.

And so the war on talent continues, and the authenticity of knowing who we are, what our values are, and being clear on our purpose as leader of self and others continue to float like barrage balloons on D-Day.

According to a new global study of more than 5,500 executives and employees across 27 countries, conducted by Oxford Economics, barely half of the executives surveyed said their companies possess the skills to effectively manage talent, and only 44% have faith that their leaders are capable of driving and effectively managing change.

Plus, only about one-third of the respondents said their firms are prepared to lead a diverse workforce and have the ability to drive global growth.

None of this bodes well for the world of work’s future. This is why it’s imperative that companies devote the required resources to address the leadership gaps that threaten to derail their businesses today and tomorrow.

The good news is that some companies are doing something about developing future leaders, working hard to make them multi-faceted, multi-functional and multi-conversational by giving them cross-functional training and experience. By developing the talent and skills they need, while emphasizing mindful presence and authenticity, companies doing this can position themselves to thrive in the near- and long-term futures.

After attending Elliot Masie’s 2014 Learning Conference for the second consecutive year, where again I spoke (and PeopleFluent has sponsored), I find there’s hope.

For example, listening to the leadership development team from the Universal Orlando Resort talk about the great success of the progressive program they launched in 2010 to develop a pipeline of competent and confident leaders elevated me.

So far, at least 82% of the participants have made it to leadership roles each year, and the participants are promoted six months sooner than non-participants. They also saw an 11% increase in promoting internally, which in turn is giving the program more and more credibility.

And when it came to learning, leadership development and employee engagement, I kept hearing success stories from the likes of Lockheed Martin, Michelin, Shell, GlaxoSmithKline and many other companies. They all seem to understand the business impact of driving deeper levels of learning and employee engagement is dramatic. Deeper engagement from continuous learning drives better talent outcomes and better business outcomes. For companies that have high engagement scores, the results on the business are dramatic.

What’s clear is that when it comes to developing employees and future leaders, too many organizations are simply going through the motions, or worse yet, doing nothing at all. The bravest of companies are reaping a host of benefits, including:

  1. Better business planning—Learning and leadership development leads to better succession planning, which then leads to developing and then putting the right people in the right leadership roles at the right times. When organizations know they have the right people in the queue for key positions, they can proactively plan for the future of the business far more effectively.
  2. Improved retention and lower turnover—Sound learning and leadership development helps to ensure that employees know they’re being groomed for a particular position, which gives them a strong sense of having a clearly defined future within the company. This is a strong retention tool and keeps people from leaving their companies for greener pastures. The resulting cost savings can be substantial but it takes a long-term investment.
  3. Improved employee engagement—Obviously, showing employees a learning plan and defined future with an upward career trajectory is a powerful booster of employee engagement and emotional commitment. And, as employee engagement analysis after analysis has showed the past few years, companies with highly engaged employees experience financial growth rates nearly four times higher than those of companies with lower engagement.
  4. More accurate recruiting—Sound learning and leadership development also helps improve recruiting as well: when employers have a clear understanding of their organizations’ gaps in skills and leadership qualities, they can sharpen their focus on recruiting for specific future roles (even those not yet defined by succession plans), shortening the recruiting process and increasing sourcing accuracy.

Nobody wants a world of work wasteland. Today’s learners are tomorrow’s leaders, so let’s stop waging war on one other and invest in the bravery of being fearlessly authentic and making a learning and leadership development difference.

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The Craft VS. The Art Of Leadership

I think it’s fair to say that I am an expert, or at least, very exper-ienced, in the realm of arts education. Since leadership is an art form of sorts, I thought I would weigh in with an artistic perspective on leadership and management training.

When people talk about “arts education,” most of the time they are really referring to “craft education,” e.g., learning how to find the notes on a keyboard or a clarinet. That is an essential element of arts education, but it is not the same as the “art” part of it, which has much more to do with perception, imagination, one’s unique presence, and evoking emotional responses.

It is important to keep craft and art separate. This is because it is very easy, and very common, to get them out of balance.

Many people get by on their art even though they are short on craft. Pavarotti could not read music, but this did not get in his way. Arthur Fiedler had no baton technique, but it did not prevent him from being the most successful conductor in history. “Fik-Shun” won the title of America’s Favorite Dancer last year, even though he had minimal standard dance craft training compared to his competitors.

But while many people get by despite having minimal craft, many people are defeated by having too much of it. Too much craft can fog up your perception, suppress your imagination, shame the imperfections that make you unique, make you afraid of your audience, and just delay everything generally.

Just one example, when I wrote my first book, I was scared to death of failure and rejection, so I bought and read every book I could find on how to get published. Sad to say, I spent so much time reading these books and following their many detailed systems for success that I ended up never actually . . . you know . . . publishing a book. Years later, it was only due to a sense of total desperation that I finally took on the “art” of it. With guts a-churning, I sent a check and a pdf file to a book printer. Three weeks later, I was “published,” and four months later, I had sold every typo-laden copy. The “experts” had given me lots of nifty advice, but they had not given me the courage to simply place the order and put the book on display. In fact, they had sort of gotten in the way of it.  I could tell you identical stories about learning how to play the bass, how to dance, and how to be a public speaker.  All too often, lessons in craft get in the way of the art.

In a world where “content is king,” many people promote themselves by publishing advice on how to manage and lead. It is all done with the best of intentions, but beyond a certain point, the sheer volume of it makes it a time-consuming liability.  The “art” of leading is made of your own odd combination of desire, perception, courage, imagination, and personal presence. If those imperfect elements are suppressed, no external system or craft can take their place.

So here I am giving out yet more management advice, but in this case the advice is to ignore my advice. Sure, feedback and coaching are essential to cultivating your talents, but one must be careful not to become overly deferential to an outside system. As Dorothy learned in the Wizard of Oz, there are some things that no one can teach you, you have to figure them out for yourself. Don’t let too much leadership craft get in the way of your leadership art.

(About the Author: Justin Locke spent 18 years playing bass in the Boston Pops, and his musical plays are performed all over the world. He is a philosopher, humorist, author, speaker, and coach. He shares an amusing pragmatic approach to personal growth, “people skills,” and management, based on his experience in the world of the performing arts. For more, visit his website at www.justinlocke.com.)

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#TChat Recap: The “Be Different Or Be Dead” Show

The “Be Different Or Be Dead” Show

Have you ever thought about what it truly means to “be different”? To look past the norm, to think and behave differently from the rest, without any fear of transgression. Some of our greatest innovators have not only been different, they’ve never let their haters get the best of them and leave them for dead. This week, #TChat was joined by: Roy Osing, a leading executive in Canadian business and a recognized blogger, speaker, seminar leader, business advisor, educator and personal coach; and Melany Hellstern, founder and president of insulinpumps.ca. Both shared with our community was it means to truly be different or be dead.

Unfortunately, not everyone can take a step back and ponder over why their organization lacks the innovation and creativity it needs to be successful in a highly competitive global market or how to bring the best out of their employees. The secrets of the universe don’t just reveal themselves so easily. As Roy Osing mentioned:

It’s when we start asking, “How can we be different?” that we begin to plant the seeds of innovation and creativity. Both leaders and employees need to understand that in order to let innovation and creativity flourish and grow, we must begin to think differently. We cannot become complacent with our success or allow ourselves to place a mental roadblock on our creativity. We must:

Whether you are a leader or an employee, you need to ask yourself questions. These questions must challenge your comprehension of why certain formalities exist within your organization. These questions must push you towards driving an outcome that resets these formalities that have become considered norms, which can hold back innovation and creativity, and leave both for dead. When this happens, there are opportunities being missed. As Roy mentioned to me:

Roy hit us with an insight bullseye. Individuals are the source of opportunity. When people start asking questions, they start to become different, and they realize there’s an opportunity being missed. If organizations plan on remaining competitive and not left for dead, they have to know:

Organizations that empower their employees, and not only keep them engaged, will have active participants that drive organizational innovation and creativity, and ultimately, its success. Being different is not just about driving innovation and creativity, it’s about keeping your organization from being left for dead, on multiple levels.

Want To See The #TChat Replay?

Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

Thanks again to our guests (add guests, and twitter links). Click here to see the preview and related reading.

Note To Bloggers: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about trends on differentiation?

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Attention #TChat Participants:

There will not be a #TChat event next week so that our TalentCulture Community, #TChat guests and #TChat participants can enjoy the Fourth of July Holiday week with their family and friends!

The TalentCulture conversation continues daily on #TChat Twitter, in our LinkedIn group, and on our new Google+ community. So join us anytime on your favorite social channels!
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#TChat Recap: Authenticity Is An Inside Job That Starts With Self

Authenticity Is An Inside Job That Starts With Self

Everyday, there’s a flock of people who head to work and experience a daily dosage of empowerment, then there’s the other flock that experiences workplace dread on a daily-basis. Some people get to work in highly engaging workplaces, while others count the seconds till the clock strikes freedom. Within each workplace culture there exists what’s referred to as workplace authenticity, whether it’s real or fake. Few experience it first-hand, and many can only wonder about what it would be like to be true to themselves at work and ideally, in everyday life. This week, #TChat was joined by Jason Lauritsen and Joe Gerstandt.

Both of them get why authenticity is an invaluable workplace mindset that encourages innovation through openness, trust, and communication. Interestingly enough, authenticity is about being real and true to one’s self. Yet, in the workplace, Jason believes that:

Yes, even if that person becomes a bit of an annoyance. We must look within ourselves to find who we really are inside our workplace and who we want to be. To do so, we must:

Speaking the truth does require boldness and at times being unpopular in the process. It’s through these initial actions that we begin to discover the value in being authentic. We must find it within ourselves to accept authenticity. Instead of authenticity finding acceptance at the bottom of an organization:

Authenticity has to begin at the top and work its way down to the entire organization. It should be embraced with open arms. It must be greeted with optimism. Workplace productivity and business results experience a bumpy ride when employees are not allowed the freedom to be themselves at work. Simply put:

If authenticity generates better engagement and happier employees, then what employer wouldn’t care about the end results? If organizations truly care about the bottom line, then cultivating workplace authenticity can provide the fruition they seek. Don’t have employees sitting around waiting until the clock strikes freedom (and the end of their workday). Have them working at highly productive levels through the empowerment of workplace authenticity. Keep employees engaged by letting them voice their opinions and developing a cultural mindset of being real with themselves and other people that surround the culture. Any organization will see the results are at least worth taking another look at.

Want To See The #TChat Replay?

Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

Thanks again to our guests Jason Lauritsen and Joe GerstandtClick here to see the preview and related reading.

#TChat Events: Authenticity Is An Inside Job That Starts With Authenticity

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#TChat Radio — Are you plugged in to #TChat radio? Did you know you can listen live to ANY of our shows ANY time?

Now you know. Click the box to head on over to our channel or listen to Authenticity Is An Inside Job That Starts With Self.

Note To Bloggers: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about trends on culture?

We welcome your thoughts. Post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we may feature it!

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Save The Date: Wednesday, June 25!

Next week’s #TChat Topic: The “Be Different or Be Dead” Show

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#TChat Recap: The Power Of Workforce Culture And Continuous Mobility

The Power Of Workforce Culture And Continuous Mobility

Time and time again, employers and organizations find their talent on the move. And why is that? What drives employees to leave? Instead of finding ourselves asking this question, we should be asking, “What drives employees to stay?” Sometimes before you can go forward, you have to go backwards. Meaning, we have to retrace our steps and find ourselves at the early stages of onboarding to discover the secrets of retaining employees. This week, #TChat was joined by Tracey Arnish, Senior Vice President of Talent at SAP, who understands what managing and retaining talent is all about.

Getting new employees onboard early plays a vital role in the outcome of each employee in your organization. Tracey provides us with a glance of the short and long-term effects of new hire onboarding:

It’s through this glance that employers can visualize a roadmap to their employees’ engagement and development. From here, employers and new hires can build a career path together and:

Because at the end of the day, all employees are valuable assets, that provide your organization with the brain power and muscle to innovate and achieve success. But if you want your talent to stick around, then you have to develop it. You can do this if you:

Employees need to know that their career growth matters to you, as much as it matters to them. Why? Simply put, your employees’ engagement, productivity, and happiness is what’s at stake here. This all factors into the kind of short and long-term success your organization will have. And don’t forget, it shapes the kind of workplace culture you’ll have.

Want To See The #TChat Replay?

Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

Thanks again to our guest Tracey ArnishClick here to see the preview and related reading.

#TChat Events: The Power Of Workforce Culture And Continuous Mobility

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#TChat Radio — Are you plugged in to #TChat radio? Did you know you can listen live to ANY of our shows ANY time?

Now you know. Click the box to head on over to our channel or listen to The Power Of Workforce Culture And Continuous Mobility.

Note To Bloggers: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about trends on culture?

We welcome your thoughts. Post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we may feature it!

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Sign up for the newsletter to get the scoop on next week’s guest, topic and questions!

Save The Date: Wednesday, June 18!

Next week’s #TChat Topic: Authenticity Is An Inside Job That Starts With Self.

The TalentCulture conversation continues daily on #TChat Twitter, in our LinkedIn group, and on our new Google+ community. So join us anytime on your favorite social channels!

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#TChat Recap: Create A Transformative Onboarding Experience For New Hires

Create A Transformative Onboarding Experience For New Hires

There are millions of disengaged workers out there. Working day-to-day in what they feel is a never-ending cycle of the same old routine. But does it have to be this way?

Organizations are now starting to see the “big picture” when it comes to attracting and retaining talent. The process doesn’t just end when employees are hired. To retain employees long-term companies have to build an onboarding process that transforms and innovates the way new employees are engaged and managed.

This week’s guests, Todd Owens, President & COO at TalentWise; & Wendy Matyjevich, SPHR, HR Executive at Entia Ventures & BlackRain Partners, LLC, explain how providing a thoughtful onboarding experience not only keeps new employees around, but it makes them more productive. It builds a culture that can sustain itself.

Todd Owens mentioned:

You keep the candidate in mind during your onboarding process and think big because:

Hiring costs money. Yes, employee turnover is a costly process that ties into how productive and engaged your workforce is, which ultimately, transforms how clients are treated and maintained. It’s vital organizations don’t forget that:

Employees anticipate the same amount of time, attention, and energy from leadership that is expected of them when it comes to how they are treated. It’s a two-way street. If employees don’t receive what they want and demand for, then they may walk and your organization will suffer. Leadership has to remember that:

 

It has to mean so much more, or else employees will feel disengaged and eventually they will walk. Onboarding is about managing new employees and their transition into your community and culture. By providing them guidance and support along the way, leadership will see the results it expects and meet the demands that employees expect. 

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Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

Thanks again to our guests Todd Owens and Wendy MatyjevichClick here to see the preview and related reading.

#TChat Events: Create A Transformative Onboarding Experience For New Hires

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Next week’s #TChat Topic: The Power of Workforce Culture and Continuous Talent Mobility.

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What Truly Motivates People? Is It Money, Or Something Else?

Dan Pink’s book “Drive: the Surprising Truth about What Motivates us” has thrown a major monkey wrench into how we think about motivation. For years it was assumed– and it certainly seems logical to believe– that the best way to motivate desirable behaviors was to offer cash rewards. But it turns out that there is considerable science that refutes that notion; in fact, offering cash rewards, at least in the realm of creative work and problem solving, actually encourages worse results.

This topic has opened up a broader discussion, of what human beings are. At work we are doing fewer and fewer purely mechanical/ repetitive tasks.  “Value” is coming more and more from personal connections and imagination, so the tradition of seeing people in a simplistic mechanical way, in terms of their “skills” or “function,” no longer works. We are standing on the verge of major historical event, an entry into a new era, where the mechanical/industrial ways of viewing people, education, and work are falling apart. We are struggling to find new paradigms to guide our managerial thinking. For decades, we have suppressed our emotions to make ourselves more appealing in an industrial framework by being more uniform and efficient. We now have re-examine that previously suppressed internal dimension, and find ways to engage with it rather than suppress it.

To that end, Mr. Pink offers three things that motivate people.

These are:

  • Purpose
  • Mastery
  • Autonomy

Given the impact and influence that Mr. Pink’s book is having these days, I felt compelled to question his hypothesis. While it is not wrong, there is something missing. To explain, a story:

When I was a teenage bass player (sounds like a 50’s horror movie), I was tremendously motivated to become a professional player, to the point of obsessiveness. I was practicing eight hours every day, stopping each night only when I had reached a point of mental and physical exhaustion.

My motivation?

I certainly did not do this for the money, since I wasn’t getting any, and the pay for professional bass players is not that spectacular, given the work needed to get there. Mr. Pink was right about some elements of my motivation: Yes, I had purpose; yes, I sought mastery; and yes, practicing is a largely autonomous activity. But there was another element that motivated me, far more than money or any of these other factors:

It was a sense of belonging.

I wanted desperately to be a member of something, in this case, an oh so elegant and elite major symphony orchestra . I wanted to have a sense of belonging and connection. And I believe that a sense of belonging, far more than purpose, mastery, or autonomy, is the primary motivator of human beings.

I confess I don’t have many academic studies to support my thesis, but there is a fair amount of empirical data. Let’s consider just a few of the ways that a sense of belonging (including its synonyms, e.g., social status, acceptance, love, family, membership, and so on) motivates us to extreme effort:

There is all the money and effort many people put into “getting accepted” to an exclusive school, and thus belonging to the alumni network for life; there is the eagerness to spend massive amounts of time and money to “get certified,” and thus belong to a exclusive professional group; there are the fans (a word which is short for “fanatics”) of sports teams, who tout their sense of membership with all sorts of badges, uniforms, and rituals, not to mention paying exorbitant ticket prices; and then there is that warm glow of nationalist belonging you get when the jets fly over during the Star Spangled Banner. And do I even need to mention churches? Rotary Clubs? Street gangs? The plot of “Rudy”? Or the holy grail of social belonging, fame? The need to belong, whether to family, team, social group, or nation, drives people to extreme efforts and sacrifice. People sometimes sacrifice life itself to maintain the survival of a group to which they belong.

“Autonomy” as motivation only has meaning in the context of belonging. The only reason you don’t have autonomy is because you gave it up for something more important, i.e., a state of belonging, e.g., employment.

In my own managerial experience in the orchestra world, I found that the need to belong far outweighed any other motivation, money included. I often had difficulty finding musicians who were willing to act as leaders. Even though they were the best in their group, becoming a leader meant losing their sense of being “part of the gang.” The fun of ensemble playing was in being part of the team, not in bossing the team or otherwise being separated from it. I did not pay my leaders more money to motivate them, and I did not pay them more money because they were creating more value. It was to compensate them for their loss of rank-and-file group belonging.

For most people, not to mention wolves and other social species, belonging itself is key to mere survival. And once people become more successful, they don’t seek exclusion or autonomy; instead, the first thing they seek is ever more group social status and connection. They join the country club or the opera society board, or they run for public office.

There is also the flip side to be considered, which is the “de-motivation” caused by the loss of belonging. People who have had issues of disconnection, such as loss of a loved one, divorce, moving to a new town, or getting fired, experience massive ill effects on self confidence, focus, and every other emotion. At times they lose all motivation, period.

When we speak in terms of rewards as motivators, this typically refers to an inanimate reward, such as money or a cookie. When the “reward” is in the form of greater interpersonal connection, say, a pat on the back from an authority figure you truly admire, or the flip side, perhaps a look of disapproval from someone whose respect and acceptance mean everything to you, suddenly rewards and punishments– in the form of belonging or the lack thereof– come back into motivational fashion in a hurry.

One of the biggest reasons people resist change is the fear that it might threaten their tenuous grasp on belonging. The first thing that goes through the average employee’s mind when presented with a new idea is “belonging loss prevention.” They ask themselves, “Will doing this, or not doing this, get me fired, or result in loss of status in my professional pecking order?” All else is secondary. Consideration of one’s sense of belonging — as well as the fear of the loss of it, is therefore possibly THE most compelling motivational factor in managing people.

I am a big fan of Mr. Pink, and I think he is very much on the right track in challenging the common dogmas of industrial-era management philosophy. I just wanted to respectfully submit that as we enter into a more artistic era of management, “belonging,” as a primary emotional element of motivation, needs to be higher on the list.

(About the Author: Justin Locke spent 18 years playing bass in the Boston Pops, and his musical plays are performed all over the world.  As an author, speaker, and coach, he shares a pragmatic artistic approach to personal growth, “people skills,” and managing “top performers.” For more, visit his website at www.justinlocke.com.)

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TalentCulture World of Work was created for HR professionals, leadership executives, and the global workforce. Our community delves into subjects like HR technologyleadershipemployee engagement, and corporate culture everyday. To get more World of Work goodness, please sign up for our newsletter, listen to our #TChat Radio Channel or sign up for our RSS feed.

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#TChat Preview: Create A Transformative Onboarding Experience For New Hires

The TalentCulture #TChat Show is back live on Wednesday, June 4, 2014. #TChat Radio starts at 6:30 pm ET (3:30 pm PT) and the convo continues on #TChat Twitter chat from 7-8 pm ET (4-5 pm PT).

Last week we talked about how to visualize real-time talent alignment, and this week we’re talking about how to have a transformative onboarding experience for new hires.

According to the Talent Board’s 2013 Candidate Experience Awards report, based on data from nearly 50,000 candidates from over 90 progressive companies, new hires are sometimes met with less-than-ideal onboarding processes. They’re usually bombarded with disparate paperwork on the first day, as well as left with many questions about everything from benefits to job responsibilities.

Nobody wants to do their “day 1” paperwork from a cold, dark office. They want to do it from the comfort of wherever that comfort derives. They want to get on with the cultural immersion — and get to work.

A good onboarding experience is crucial to the success of every new employee. Since a new hire will decide within the first year if they want to stay with the company or not, the ability to deliver an effective and inviting onboarding process is key to improving employee morale and retention.

A happy candidate experience makes for exceptional hires and happy customers.

Join #TChat co-creators and hosts Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman as we learn how to have a transformative onboarding experience with this week’s guests: Todd Owens, President & COO at TalentWise; and Wendy Matyjevich, SPHR, Managing Partner of Human Capital for BlackRain Partners.

Sneak Peek: How To Have A Transformative Onboarding Experience For New Hires

We look forward to learning more from our guests, Todd Owens and Wendy Matyjevich, to learn more about creating a better onboarding experience for new hires.

Related Reading:

David Smooke: Hiring Culture: Creating A Recruitment Ecosystem

Meghan M. Biro: The Onboarding Experience Matters To Your Future Employees 

David Obelcz: Five Keys To Onboarding That Drive Employee Engagement 

Abigail Tracy: Offer Your New Hires Training, Not Free Donuts

Jim Dougherty: Company Culture Is Part Of Your Business Model

We hope you’ll join the #TChat conversation this week and share your questions, opinions and ideas with our guests and the TalentCulture Community.

#TChat Events: How To Have A Transformative Onboarding Experience For New Hires

TChatRadio_logo_020813 #TChat Radio — Wed, June 4 — 6:30pmET / 3:30pmPT Tune-in to the #TChat Radio show Our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman talk with our guests Todd Owens and Wendy Matyjevich.

Tune-in LIVE online this Wednesday!

#TChat Twitter Chat — Wed, June 4 — 7pmET / 4pmPT Immediately following the radio show, Meghan, Kevin and our guests will move to the #TChat Twitter stream, where we’ll continue the discussion with the entire TalentCulture community. Everyone with a Twitter account is invited to participate, as we gather for a dynamic live chat, focused on these related questions:

Q1: Why should candidates be treated like paying customers? #TChat (Tweet this Question)

Q2: How should companies react to changing modern-day job seeker & employee engagement demands? #TChat (Tweet this Question)

Q3: How can recruiting and onboarding be transformative for candidates & new hires? #TChat (Tweet this Question)

Q4: What practices help leaders ensure a compelling and sustained company culture? #TChat (Tweet this Question)

Q5: In what ways does a collaborative onboarding platform change engagement? #TChat (Tweet this Question)

Throughout the week, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter feed, and in our new TalentCulture G+ community. So feel free to drop by anytime and share your questions, ideas and opinions. See you there!!

TalentCulture World of Work was created for HR professionals, leadership executives, and the global workforce. Our community delves into subjects like HR technologyleadershipemployee engagement, and corporate culture everyday.

To get more World of Work goodness, please sign up for our newsletter, listen to our #TChat Radio Channel or sign up for our RSS feed.

Do you have great content you want to share with us? Become a TalentCulture contributor!

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