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Building a Culture of Learning

We hear a lot from the thousands of candidates we speak to every year.  One of the top items on a candidate’s wish list is a culture of continued learning.  Recent human resources trends have even come up with a new form of this learning called symbiotic learning.  Symbiotic learning has at its core a commitment to continued learning.  The difference is that symbiotic learning focuses on a two- way exchange of information.  This means that new and current employees, senior and junior, learn from one another.  But how does an organization build a culture of learning to promote this kind of exchange of information?

Creating a Culture of Learning

Many human resources teams struggle with ways to improve company culture.  One of the easiest ways to improve this culture is by creating a culture of learning that encourages employee development.  This can be easier said than done, but there are some important tips your human resources team can do to create this kind of environment:

  • Start from the beginning. A culture of learning should be instilled in employees from the very beginning. This means during the hiring process, hiring managers can nurture a culture of learning.  Introducing candidates to this concept doesn’t need to be difficult, though.  Human resources can structure job postings to specifically attract candidates that seek a culture of learning.  While interviewing, the hiring manager can use video interviews to introduce candidates to stimulating videos that offer deeper insights into their industry and company.  The human resources department can encourage a culture of learning that persists throughout an employee’s career.
  • Introduce training into employee onboarding. Believe it or not, many businesses don’t actually train their employees when they join the company.  In many cases, onboarding ends at the signing of hiring documents and the office tour.  A great way to instill a culture of learning is to start the new employees off with opportunities to learn new skills and enhance skills they already possess.  Consider how this simple step can help build a culture of learning that helps set an employee up for success and engender good feelings about the organization.
  • Partner senior and junior employees together for mentorship.  Many junior employees are very eager to learn new skills and grow within their career.  And many senior employees have years of experience and knowledge that could be lost if they were to retire. A great way to build a culture of learning is to pair these two types of employees together.  The junior employee feels they’re gaining valuable information to propel their career. The senior employee gains satisfaction from passing on knowledge. This is a great way to also build a team and enhance the company culture.
  • Offer employees opportunities to attend classes, symposiums, and other learning opportunities. It can be difficult for employees to learn more skills when there’s so much work to be done.  But human resources can build a program that offers employees opportunities to take a day away from the office to enhance their knowledge.  Employees often value these opportunities to focus on themselves instead of the work.  One day away from the office won’t mean an employee falls way behind.  But it could mean they gain valuable skills and knowledge that increase job satisfaction and enhance their work product. These kinds of opportunities support a culture of learning that endures beyond one employee’s experience.
  • Offer tuition reimbursement. It’s no secret that a better educated workforce can help a company produce better work overall.  Many companies that offer tuition reimbursement find that their employees stay longer than employees who don’t take advantage of this benefit. Human resources can use this to build a culture of learning that strengthens the health of the company overall.

Creating a culture of learning does not have to be difficult.  And it doesn’t have to be expensive when companies have limited budgets.  Try some of the ideas listed herein and find out how creating a culture of learning can support your company today.

Photo credit: Bigstock

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.

The Benefits Of Success Measured By The Effectual Stretch

It wasn’t exactly the romanticized version of backpacking through an exotic land, especially if you consider a cheap roller suitcase a backpack, which unfortunately I did. But that was me then in 1998, when my then girlfriend (now wife) had bitten me with the travel bug. Prior to that my travel was limited to North America. When I was 13 I went to Hawaii, which I actually thought was another country.

My wife had traveled extensively prior to us meeting, including the romanticized version of backpacking through Europe after college, only to get most of her belongings stolen in Prague after only two days into her trip. She could’ve got home after that, wanted to go home after that, but regrouped, bought a few new things, and went on to travel for another few weeks.

Mama and Me Costa RicaAnd so our first big journey together was to Costa Rica. A lovely country, it was the first time I had been to such an exotic land, and to travel with someone else who lived boldly, to experience such visceral sensations I had never before experienced was amazing in and of itself. But the meeting of people I had never met before, some of whom had alien worldviews compared to mine, and exchanging those worldviews with one another, was the epitome of the “effectual stretch.”

The “effectual stretch” meaning pushing oneself to learn and expand beyond what’s known and comfortable in a way that’s produces desired yet diverse effective results, whatever those results may mean to each person. It could mean the literal extremes of success or failure, or that fatty layer in between that gives sustenance to our tenuous journey of sinew and bone.

We’ve attempted to impress the same approach and attitude on our daughters, teaching them to be bold yet aware, to protect themselves but not live in fear, to keep getting back on the bull like they own the beast, horns held tightly in hands. This includes exposing them to travel, new locales and people, experiences that we hope will shape their adult lives and those they interact with for the better.

Listening to a recent Freakonomics podcast about empowering a better workplace and the cities where those workplaces are, I had to smile when I heard American economist and Harvard University professor Edward Glaeser talk about how he was taking a sabbatical while “…attempting to civilize my children by taking them to a variety of different cities.”

Glaeser believes that encouraging industrial diversity would contribute more to economic growth. Cities that embrace a people-centric view of community (around infrastructure, education, services, etc.) means that businesses are more likely to thrive in said communities. The same podcast includes commentary from Glaeser on Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s ambitious Downtown Project, which is primarily an urban revitalization effort, but also an effectual stretch project on a grander community scale due to the emphasis on business and workforce diversity. It’s a “collision” strategy that encourages others to live and work together, continually exchanging ideas in order to create positive and effectual change while powering sustainable business.

Which brings me to the live TalentCulture #TChat Show we did from Cork, Ireland for the IT@Cork European Technology Summit of over 400 attendees, as well as the tech talent diversity panel session that Meghan and I moderated at the summit. The panelists and guests included a diverse group of business leaders, an academic and one inspirational young student: David Parry Jones, VP UK and Ireland VMWare; Noelle Burke Head of HR Microsoft Ireland; Michael Loftus, Head of Faculty of Engineering and Science CIT; student Ciara Judge, one of the Kinsale winners of the 2013 Google Science Award; and Caroline O’Driscoll, Tax Partner at KPMG, and Vice Chair of IT@cork.

ITCork Diversity panel

Not only is the city of Cork (and much of the Republic of Ireland for that matter) investing in business-friendly infrastructure and creating competitive tax codes, they embrace the above collision strategy. The not-for-profit IT@cork European Tech Cluster, the organization behind the European Tech Summit, represents the interests of the IT industry in Ireland. This includes indigenous and international IT professionals, executives, multinationals, government leaders, public sector, academia, entrepreneurs, investors and the legal and financial professional services community joining together to drive thought leadership, collaboration and global strategic alliances.

ITCork15 TChat Show

Amen. The good news is that IT@Cork is being replicated in various iterations throughout communities worldwide. Even less formal, but no less impactful, events take place, including the likes of Event Santa Cruz in my own backyard, founded by Matthew Swinnerton, brings together local entrepreneurs and the community every month, again to facilitate the effectual stretch and diversity of ideas.

Although our core theme of the IT@Cork panel session and #TChat Show was gender diversity, what became crystal clear was the theme of broader diversity and inclusion. It’s all about attracting a wider array of backgrounds and worldviews of both women and men who support one another. This is what can lead to a competitive advantage in business and an equitable advantage for cities and communities around the world.

According to PwC’s 2015 CEO Survey, talent diversity and inclusiveness are not just the softer issues only given lip service, but instead are now considered crucial to being competitive. Of the CEOs whose companies have a formal diversity and inclusiveness strategy, 85% think it’s improved their bottom line. They also see such strategies as benefiting innovation, collaboration, customer satisfaction, emerging customer needs and the ability to benefit technology.

So it’s clear for me and many others today that the best business outcomes for organizations today can only be achieved through diversity and inclusion growth collisions. However, it’s also important to note that no matter progressive and elevated organizations are, complex regulatory changes and an increase in Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) audit frequency and intensity abound. This means many organizations need assistance to ensure diversity programs and Affirmative Action plans are documented and compliant, while at the same time magnifying their overall diversity impact.

Ever since my wife and I had met one day at the beach nearly 18 years ago, it’s been one growth opportunity after another. Not always travel related, and certainly not always successful, it’s been more about having an explorer’s mentality and approach to mindful and agile living both at home and at work. Business and community leaders who invest and sustain this approach will reap the benefits of success measured by the effectual stretch.

What You Need To Impact Training the Right Way

Opportunities for growth can really make or break employee retention ratings. It’s the reason why 76 percent of employees choose to stay with an organization. So, organizations throw overwhelming amounts of money at formal training programs — $164 billion in 2012, according to ATD. Unfortunately, research suggests they’re seeing very little ROI.

Formal initiatives do not impact employee development the same way social learning does. Eighty percent of learning takes place through on-the-job interactions with peers, experts and managers, according to Bersin and Associates, as opposed to a formal environment.

If managers aim to retain employees through development opportunities, they should invest in initiatives that make a difference, like social learning.

The infographic below — compiled by showd.me, an enterprise peer-to-peer learning platform — shares new trends impacting learning and development.

Some stats to note:

  • 70 percent of people forget what they learn in formal training in just one week

  • 66 percent of people don’t see opportunities for professional growth in their organization

  • 86 percent of employees are learning what they need to know for work by collaborating with others

  • Trainees increased their performance by 22 percent through deliberate reflection and sharing lessons learned with others

Check out the full infographic below to discover how social learning can make a positive impact within your organization.

showdme_Social-Learning-Everything-You-Need-to-Know_550px

What do you think? How might social learning improve training at your organization?

Image Credit: Confused by Jean-Rene Vauzelle, IMCreator, cc

5 Skills Gaps Employers Need To Address

It’s no surprise that one of the biggest challenges hiring managers face is finding well-rounded candidates with strong skill sets.

Over recent years, multiple studies have addressed the growing skills gap and how to fix it. However, this has caused many employers and job seekers to think that the “skills gap” is a single catch-all for any employee or job seeker who lacks a needed skill.

What’s important to understand, though, is every field faces its own unique skills gap.

Instead of looking at the skills gap as a single, large issue, let’s break it down into five prominent skills gaps employers need to address:

1. Digital media skills

Research shows that 77 percent of companies believe their lack of digital skills is the reason their business hasn’t been able to adapt to new digital trends. When more than 90 percent of companies don’t have skills in social media, mobile media, and internal social networks, it can be difficult to keep your business moving forward.

Employers can address this skills gap by investing time and money into the development of digital skills. Employers can offer training programs for employees in order to teach them about the company’s digital strategy and give them the tools they need to be successful in the digital world.

2. Soft skills

Although hard skills are important for employees to have, soft skills are more likely to help employees increase their performance in the workplace.

Despite the importance of soft skills, 44 percent of senior executives believe this is a weakness for employees. Many employees lack strong skills in communication, creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration.

To address this skills gap, employers should provide continuous learning opportunities for their employees. Workshops, seminars, and team-building activities can boost the aforementioned soft skills.

3. Marketing skills

The marketing field is constantly evolving, and marketing professionals need to keep up with the latest trends and strategies.

Marketing professionals need to understand various content marketing skills including analytics, SEO, marketing automation, and e-commerce. Employers can provide training in these areas, which will help them develop stronger marketing professionals and tighten the skills gap.

4. Skilled trades and retiring Baby Boomers

In 2012, more than half of skilled-trade workers were 45 years of age or older. According to Adecco, one-third of senior executives believe the manufacturing industry will be most affected by the skills gap.

To address this change in the workforce, employers must actively recruit younger employees and provide training. This will help employers maintain a streamline of skilled talent, even after Baby Boomers retire.

5. STEM skills

STEM careers are expected to grow 17 percent by 2018. Unfortunately, employers believe 12 percent of workers lack software skills and 22 percent lack technical skills.

One way employers can improve this skills gap is to provide on-the-job training and certification for different softwares and technologies. This will allow employees to continuously learn new technologies and keep up with the latest trends in their industry.

The skills gap is a growing issue for employers and it can only be resolved if employers take action. By taking note of these skills gaps, employers will improve their training programs and develop more skilled employees.

What do you believe are some prominent skills gaps employers must address?

Josh Tolan is the CEO of Spark Hire, a video interview solution used by more than 2,000 companies across the globe. Learn more about using video interviewing to jump the skills gap and connect with Spark Hire on Facebook and Twitter.

photo credit: only alice via photopin cc