CARA Chronicles Blog
Frontline Leadership Development Meets Bottom Line Results
March 18, 2013 | Jane Brent
By Jane Brent
A great workforce relies on great leadership.
If you subscribe to this notion, it’s not hard to imagine why so many companies invest in identifying, developing, motivating and retaining the good leaders. As with any role, the frontline leader experiences ups and downs, which really only means that the learning never stops.
A few months ago CARA conducted a survey among OD and training professionals from Fortune 1000 companies. The goal was to learn how businesses are investing in leadership development, and where these companies are focusing resources. We also wanted to find out the gaps companies are seeing in the leadership ranks from both a skill and pipeline perspective.
We found that companies are directing their development dollars toward frontline leaders and the greatest skill gap is the ability to lead others, which includes managing change and driving the vision, decision making and innovative thinking.
The conundrum is that companies are investing their development dollars in frontline leaders and yet still have a weak pipeline of leadership talent, leading them to think that the current programs are ineffective. So what’s an organization to do?
Great leaders aren’t just born. They have a desire to lead and are motivated to learn. Then, only if they are given a chance to practice the skills learned, can frontline leaders demonstrate good leadership skills.
When developing or enhancing your leadership programs, take the following into consideration.
1. Frontline Leader Influence
Frontline leaders can have the greatest influence over their team because they interact with them every day. If the frontline leader demonstrates good leadership skills, it’s likely their team is productive, providing value to the organization.
We’ve all had leaders who were inspiring, able to move us to our best performance levels. We’ve also had leaders who left us feeling like we didn’t matter. The general consensus is that people want to produce good work and do a good job. It makes them feel like they are contributing to the success of the company. Good leaders help make this happen.
2. Responsibilities of a Frontline Leader
The frontline leader’s responsibilities shape how the team works. He or she takes on the role of:
• coach and mentor
• career developer
• decision maker
• strategy implementer
3. Your Program Design
If your development programs aren’t effective, think not only about the program content, but also consider the way the program is delivered. Are you thinking about the participants – the frontline leaders? Are you thinking about the best way for them to learn? We can no longer rely on previous traditional training methods. Technology is available to everyone and it’s cool and innovative, which means that people are learning in a new way all the time.
Which of the following programs was more successful?
Company A offers a leadership development program with valuable, customized content and in-class role playing opportunities. The workshop is three days in length and offers participants the chance to learn from the facilitator and peers. They can role play with real life scenarios throughout the program. Then, each participant creates a development plan to use back on the job. Finally, participants complete a level one evaluation, which tells the designers how well the program was received.
When evaluating the effectiveness of Scenario #1 ask and answer these questions:
• How much can the participants learn that stays with them long enough to apply on the job? Based on research, it’s likely the retention rate is approximately 30%.
• Have the participants prioritized how they should apply the learning on the job or do they try to figure out how to apply everything learned? In general the training was information overload and the participants were left on their own to prioritize how they apply what was learned. If the participant has an individual development plan, he/she can apply the learning to their plan.
• What support systems are in place to encourage the leaders to practice what they learned? In this case the participant enrolled in the program independently of manager knowledge or approval. The participant runs the risk of the manager expecting “business as usual” behavior upon return from training. Behavior change cannot take place without support.
The answers to these questions provide guidance on how to consider designing and developing a training program where behavior changes and the business are positively impacted.
Company B also offers a leadership development program. Here’s how they went about creating the program. The learning and development team:
• Compared the company strategy against leadership skills needed to implement the strategy.
• Analyzed the frontline leader skill level to understand the skills gaps.
• Designed a program to include:
- pre-preparation work relative to training content (written, reading, job shadowing)
- manager discussion to prepare for key take-away learning
- staggered in-class learning opportunities filled in with on-the-job learning (learn/do/learn/do)/approximately 20% in-class learning and 80% on-the-job learning
- post training activity to reflect upon learning and incorporate in the daily job
- strategically scattered assessments to test retention
- overall program evaluation to capture levels 1-4 data
• Leader trainee received a mentor/coach.
• Manager participated in preparation work and post-training activities.
• Continuous learning through on-going development was required for one year after the formal training program concluded with post-work activities.
• Each participant created an individual development plan that was reviewed by the manager at specific periodic times.
As you may surmise, the second scenario was the most successful. Frontline leaders could weave learning into their daily activities on the job, which meant training wasn’t considered “another thing to do” in addition to their job.
The second scenario definitely takes time to develop and implement. The results are proof positive that taking time works. Because the training content is connected to company strategy, and so much learning time is experiential, the frontline leader training becomes a bottom line necessity.
If your objective is to create a developmental opportunity for your leaders, consider Scenario #2 as a best practice to link training to positive business results.
What best practices would you recommend in developing leadership training? Let’s continue the discussion. We invite your comments and feedback.
Helping SMEs Stay on Course
December 4, 2012 | Jackie Zahn
By: Jackie Zahn
Hi, I’m Jackie Zahn, a CARA instructional designer/developer and yes, a mountain climber. I wanted to share a story of how I recently helped my subject matter experts (SMEs) stay on course and I can tell you it’s been an uphill battle. There are two SMEs, one in California and one in Ohio, and here’s me, in the suburbs of Chicago.
The two SMEs hold the secret to all the content I need for this course. They work consistently over 50 hours a week, we’re in 3 different time zones and their schedules allow for only small pockets of availability at very random hours. Because of this, getting conference calls scheduled has been a nightmare. Recently our course went through a major redesign based on a soft launch and I was having difficulty getting their feedback. We were getting down to the wire and, long story short, I was at a point where I really needed them to approve how I overhauled the course. I tried scheduling conference calls and we couldn’t coordinate our schedules. Phone calls resulted in playing phone tag, and bullet-pointed emails were resulting in simple “looks good” responses.
One night I figured I needed to get creative. I put myself in their shoes – here are two guys accustomed to working a ton of hours, out in the field, responding to dozens of phone calls a day, and I was never going to get the “chunk” of time that I needed. Then I started thinking about the people who would be taking this course. I wouldn’t be asking a learner to read paragraphs of text and yet I was sending long emails to the SMEs. Our courses allow the learners to bounce around, pause, leave and come back but I was asking the SMEs to sit down and commit to a 60 minute conference call. So I needed to find a way to let them work on their own schedule, take every obstacle out of the way and I needed to engage them in an interesting, even quirky kind of way to keep their attention. Sound familiar? It’s what we do for the people taking our courses! That’s when I decided to create a YouTube video.
That night I pretended I was having an online meeting but instead of “sharing my screen” I opened up Camtasia and clicked “record screen”. I started by setting the urgency of where we were at and how we needed to get the course finished by the end of the year and the holidays are approaching (note the turkey and Santa graphics).
Then I moved on to my PowerPoint deck, in notes view, and said “there are 138 slides but I’m going to highlight just what I need from you”.
Don’t Forget the Call to Action
I ended the video with the call to action and told them what I needed them to do. They’re accustomed to seeing PowerPoint decks and Word docs and making edits. So, on the final slide, I told them where everything was located (and also in the email I sent that night) and I made sure it was on an external site since one of them had issues with the VPN from time to time.
To wrap it up, I used the Camtasia “upload to YouTube” feature, published my screen capture, set the YouTube video to “unlisted”, and sent my SMEs an email with the link.
My email went out at 8:50 p.m. CST that Tuesday night. My master plan was that they’d see it first thing in the morning and review it over a cup of coffee. It worked!
The East Coast SME responded at 4:30 a.m. the next morning. The West Coast SME responded at 10:12 a.m. the next morning. I think it even helped to reinvigorate the process! Here’s the feedback I got from the West Coast SME:
Why Did it Work?
So why did it work? In my email I set the urgency that I needed something from them right away. I said “Since time is limited and coordinating schedules is difficult, I created a 12-minute video update to explain where the course is at.” In 12 minutes you can be fully caught up!
I liked YouTube because I knew it would be recognizable to them, it’s browser agnostic, and doesn’t require any special plug-ins for downloads. I set the YouTube video to “unlisted” so there would be some level of security, and showed them how the course content flowed, illustrated how much work was already done, and it even helped me later in the day to show my client boss what was going on.
It worked like a charm so I found myself making a video the very next day.
Other Uses: Clarification
This “video communication” style came in handy when we were discussing the upcoming video shoot. In an email I told them about the “Director’s Cut” style idea I had for the video shoot. I needed to be 100% certain they knew what I was talking about so I made a quick 2-minute video. It wasn’t production quality, by any means, but it got the point across – to the SMEs and the project manager. This was critical because my idea just saved us the cost of having to get a full blown camera crew with boom mics, etc. Over the phone, the Project Manager confirmed her understanding of what I was talking about, but the video helped bring clarity to the issue.
In closing, if you’re up against a deadline and not getting the cooperation you need, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Look at things from the SMEs perspective and believe that they really want to help – they just have other things pulling at their time.
- Try using video to put things into context, use humor if you have to, and don’t get hung up on production quality. No one is going to see it except for the SMEs and once it gets the point across, you can immediately delete it from YouTube anyway.
- Keep the videos short and focused. Remove every barrier. Before deciding to use YouTube, I considered sending them an MP4 or windows media player file but even downloading a file was a barrier because I didn’t know if they could read those formats, downloading files takes time, and if they’re using a smart phone they might not want to bother with a file download. YouTube is free with direct streaming.
- Tag the YouTube video as “unlisted” to maintain a level of security.
Let’s continue the discussion. Have you used a similar solution to help update your SMEs and keep them engaged? We look forward to your comments and feedback.
No GPS for Driving Consistent Business Results
November 1, 2012 | Jane Ehrenstrom
By Jane Ehrenstrom, featuring Michelle Reid-Powell
The 11th Annual Learning Leaders Conference was held on Monday, October 1, 2012 in Oak Brook, IL at McDonald’s Hamburger University. More than 300 learning executives and thought came together for the day to collaborate and share best practices around the theme, Set the Roadmap for Continuous Learning: Delivering CONSISTENT Business Results. More than 25 sessions followed compelling keynote presentations by McDonald’s COO, Jim Johannesen, Deloitte’s CLO-Tax, Neda Alavi-Schlictman, and United Airlines’ CTO, Ted Forbes.
From the keynote presentations and sessions I attended, a common thread was the role that successful leaders must play in driving and delivering business results. From Jim Johannesen’s anecdotes of coming up through the ranks in McDonald’s global culture, to Neda Schlictman’s history of building a cutting edge Deloitte University, to Ted Forbes’ tale of two airlines and their struggle for customer satisfaction through accountability and measuring results. Without successful leaders to set the direction, align goals and measure performance, delivering consistent business results is just a tag line.
There were many other examples of leaders driving consistent business results within their organizations. These organizations are the members that make up the Executive Learning Exchange, a consortium of senior learning leaders who are committed to promoting greater visibility, influence and professional opportunities among its members. CARA is a member of this organization and proudly sponsored the Chicagoland Learning Leaders Conference.
From this cadre of thought leaders the Director of the Executive Learning Exchange compiled and published a set of original essays under the title consistent with the conference theme, Continuous Learning: Delivering CONSISTENT Business Results. Each conference participant received a copy and the book is currently available on amazon.com.
The collection contains practical insights and tips to affect measurable change within an organization. And speaking of successful leaders who deliver business results, CARA’s own VP of Talent Management and Organizational Effectiveness, Michelle Reid-Powell, is featured in her contribution, The Four Habits of Successful Learning Executives. We are pleased to excerpt this piece for you here.
The Four Habits of Successful Learning Executives
Industry analysts report that CLOs and other learning leaders are increasingly playing a strategic role and connecting their work to company results. This shift from “event-based training” to “results through performance” is an important evolution. In my role at CARA, I’m fortunate to see best practices of learning leaders that lead to sustained business results. I’ve shared a few examples below.
#1: Successful learning executives believe their job is to get (and measure) results
Often, when people think about “the training department,” they think about training programs. But that’s just a part of what we do. We improve company performance by developing the most valuable of company assets – its people. We’re concerned with individual performance, operational performance, and organizational performance. In other words, our job is to achieve sustainable business results. That requires aligning the training organization with strategic business goals, and measuring the results. Successful learning executives recognize that business acumen and the ability to quantify how we achieve results is actually a fundamental requirement of the job – it’s not a “nice to have,” it’s a professional obligation.
#2: Successful learning executives focus on performance
Think about anything that you have learned to do: ride a bicycle, manage a budget, or lead a department. Chances are you tried it, failed at some aspects and succeeded at others, revised your approach accordingly, and tried again. Learning requires practice, and both assessment and feedback are critical to the process. In spite of this, every company has a catalog of instructional “events” with no connection to the process of trial, feedback, and revision. Learners are often sent forth from a learning event with no prescription for what to do next and no plan for reinforcing what they learned with practice or coaching. Learning leaders that get consistent results raise the bar. They focus on improved performance on the job, and ensure that learning programs are designed accordingly. But they don’t stop there. They also ensure measures are put in place that track how individual performance is paying off in overall organizational performance.
#3: Successful learning executives align with other areas of the organization
Whether the training organization is centralized or distributed, learning leaders that get results see beyond their function. They align the learning strategy with HR, Talent, and Operational strategies. They connect with the lines of business to understand company performance and talent gaps, and how they can work together to close those gaps. They build support coalitions that share best practices and leverage talent. This helps them prioritize investments and resources on the programs that will yield maximum results.
#4: Successful learning executives stay focused on the result, and celebrate victory at every opportunity
Learning executives that get sustained results aren’t shy about their team’s accomplishments. They celebrate their team’s contributions to business performance, to the development of future leaders, and improved business metrics such as reduction in turnover and increased employee engagement. In doing so, they position their team as business professionals that accomplish business goals.
As always, we enjoy hearing your perspective on the conference, the book and Michelle’s essay. Does your organization have a GPS for driving consistent business results in your organization? And, join CARA on Thursday, November 15, 2012, Noon – 1:00 p.m., for a complimentary webinar, “How Strong is Your Leadership Pulse?” To register, click here.
Voyage to the Land of Practitioners: Chicago eLearning & Technology Showcase
September 5, 2012 | Barry Larson
By Barry Larson
I’m a sales guy. By nature, I help my clients solve problems with a recommended solution. When I attended the Chicago eLearning & Technology Showcase at the Hilton Chicago on August 16th, it was like exploring a utopia of solutions that had helped solve a boat load of problems. So, that day I became a voyager. I set my own course to listen and learn from a host of native experts.
The day was kicked off with a participant activity that revealed 59% of attendees were like me, a first-timer who came to learn. I began to feel that I was in good company and looked forward to the keynote speaker, Chad Udell, “uber practitioner” at Float Mobile Learning, Bradley University, Iona Group. Chad spoke to the group about The New Reality of Learning: Putting the Social, Local, Mobile Landscape to Work for Your Organization. Chad provided some interesting perspective on the pace of change in workforce learning. Change is a constant force in learning. The multitude of social and informal learning tools and platforms has accelerated the growth and adoption of the mobile device market giving us more tools at our fingertips than ever before. Chad said the average lifespan of S&P companies in 1937 was 75 years. Today it’s 15 years. We need to harness these technologies to help keep pace and optimize our learning organizations.
And that set the pace for the day. I found my way to a session on Best Practices and Avoiding Pitfalls for eLearning Translation & Localization. The presenter, Dan Emery of TransPerfect Translations, a business developer, made me curious how he landed here in Chicago at a practitioner’s conference. During this session, I interpreted the following key learnings that Dan shared in how he helped a variety of organizations translate courses into 100 languages:
- Translation is very granular, so be as consistent as possible for both continuity and minimizing translation expense
- Words can grow in size using a different language, particularly in workflows
- Don’t be too wordy
- Use best practices:
- be clear and succinct
- avoid passive voice
- state it simply with short sentences
- avoid humor, symbols, slang
- create an effective glossary
- control terminology
- reuse content as much as possible
One of CARA’s own senior practitioners, Terry McGoldrick, led a discussion on The Changing LMS Landscape: Updating Your Criteria When Evaluating LMS Vendors. Terry’s session had a good turnout and strong audience interaction. The group consisted of a range of technically savvy, experienced LMS consultants to me. But it seemed all were struggling with getting their systems to meet respective internal requirements.
Terry provided 3 key criteria for LMS system evaluation.
Terry also shared current trends in the industry which include:
- Enterprise Scalability
- Talent Integration
- Analytics and Reporting
- Cloud Solutions
- Industry Consolidation
At the end of the day, this non-practitioner did not feel as foreign to this land. I learned some new language, experienced innovative ideas that will ultimately make me a better traveler in my own more familiar sales territory.
Did you attend the Chicago eLearning & Technology Showcase? What was your experience? Share what you learned. Let’s keep the conversation going.
On the Road Again … Southeast Wisconsin Learning and Talent Development Leaders Conference
June 29, 2012 | Sue Deisinger
By Sue Deisinger
A “CARAvan” arrived at the Harley-Davidson Museum® in Milwaukee on May 24, 2012, for the 2nd Annual Learning and Talent Development Leaders Conference hosted by the Executive Learning Exchange, a consortium of Learning Leaders around the Midwest committed to promoting greater visibility, influence and professional opportunities among its members. This year’s theme was “Set Your Roadmap for Continuous Learning – Delivering CONSISTENT Business Results.” About 175 learning leaders participated in the day, collaborating with peers on a variety of topics on leadership and talent development, and applying the lessons learned by the respective presenters and speakers. Here are some highlights.
Morning Keynote: High Impact Continuous Learning at GE Healthcare
The morning’s keynote address was presented by Bob Cancalosi, Chief Learning Office at GE Healthcare. Bob shared his insights on his organization’s model to deliver consistent business results, called “Halt It & Unlock It”.
The “Halt-It” paradigm is about 6 ways to reduce learning “scrap.” The most critical success factors for any manager are his or her ability to set expectations up front, and then engage the employee to teach-back. Knowing what is expected and understanding that each manager is responsible to teach back what is learned reinforces success:
- H is for Hold accountable before, during and after the teachable moment is key.
- A is for Action learning. Link to actual business issues, and make a formal recommendation to the CEO.
- L represents Leaders teaching leaders.
- T means that you must Tie everything to the business financials. Every course they have includes a portion related to finance, tied to income statement, balance sheet and cash flow.
- I is for Integrating an individual’s development plan. Prepared in advance, take strengths and make them stronger. GE does this during the first quarter with employees.
- T is for Time to think. Take reflection time to process the expectations and steps involved.
“Unlock-It” it is a metaphor that uses 4 numbers—or a combination—to unlock the potential in individuals to become the best leaders. What is it that the best leaders naturally do to drive the greatest impact on learning? Here’s the combination: 5 – 8 – 10 – 13. Each number represents the number of letters in a key leadership trait:
- Trust – 5 letters. Trust signifies the say/do ratio in a leader. When you say you’re going to do something, do you schedule the time on your calendar to fulfill those commitments?
- Coaching – 8 letters. Coaching is critical for continuous improvement. Is your culture more ask than tell? Do you listen or talk more? To unlock the potential in your people, focus less on the coach and more on the coached.
- Innovation – 10 letters. Unlocking creativity within your people enables them to think about the big ideas that differentiate you from your competitors. It requires persistence and training.
- Collaboration – 13 letters. Collaboration may be the most significant trait. It enables the horizontal linkages within and organization – looking at the “we” of the organization; not the “me.” Metrics need to align to team based activities to foster inclusiveness, imaginative thinking and continuous improvement.
Afternoon Keynote: The Business of Learning. What It Takes to Deliver Results and How TDRp Can Help
Dave Vance, Author, Professor and former CLO at Caterpillar, delivered the afternoon’s keynote. In his address, Dave discussed the strategic challenge and four key steps to running learning like a business to ensure its greatest impact on business results.
- Learning must be focused on the highest-priority goals of the organization.
- Learning must be carefully planned to deliver results agreed upon in advance with the stakeholder, including the expected impact of the learning initiative on business goals. Ideally, this step includes the creation of a business plan for learning and development of a business case for the key programs.
- Learning must be executed and reported with discipline to ensure the promised results are achieved.
- Results must be measured and compared to expectations in order to continuously learn and improve.
Today, Talent Development Reporting Principles (TDRp) are available to make the process of running learning like a business much easier. In driving consistency in the organization, Dave explained how TDRp provides standards and guidance for the L&D profession to plan learning initiatives, reports progress using standard definitions, and demonstrates the value of learning. These are the metrics that answers the questions of what data to collect, how to define the measures, and what to do with the measures.
Initiated by Kent Barnett (CEO, Knowledge Advisors) and Tamar Elkeles (VP of Learning and Organization Development, Qualcomm) in the fall of 2010, TDRp has benefited from the guidance of industry thought leaders and leading practitioners. Key terms and measures are clearly defined, and three categories of statements and reports are recommended:
- The outcome statement collects the most important business goals and learning’s expected impact on them, clearly showing the value of learning to the organization’s success.
- The effectiveness and efficiency statements collect all the quality and cost/activity measures.
- Customized management reports pull the most important measures from the statements to use in actively managing the function to deliver the promised results.
For more information about TDRp go to www.TDRprinciples.org.
There were many more sessions with panel discussion and talks on Sales Enablement, Creating a Culture of Service, and Best Practices shared across the collaborative participants. For a comprehensive overview and abstracts of the sessions, please go to the Executive Learning Leaders Exchange at www.learningexecutive.com.
We’d love to hear insights from others who attended the conference. What got your motor running?
Social and Mobile and Learning … Oh My!
May 29, 2012 | Jane Ehrenstrom
By Jane Ehrenstrom
Wednesday, May 16th, I had the honor of being a facilitator for the Corporate University Professional Development Network (PDN) of the Chicago Chapter of the American Society for Training & Development (CCASTD). The evening’s theme focused on the topic, Social Media, Mobile Technologies, and Social Learning: How are they being used?
Equity Residential hosted the event in their corporate offices, and Naomi Berkove, Learning and Development Manager at Cannon Design, and co-moderator of the PDN, kicked off the evening. Naomi welcomed more than 40 attendees who came to participate in the discussion. The topic was the brainchild of eLearning and On-line Education Consultant, Danny Ortegon. Danny also organized and led the event that evening.
After providing some context for the meeting, and presenting a few definitions on Social Media, Mobile Learning and Social Learning, Danny introduced Carolyn Haug, Assistant VP, Learning and Knowledge at Equity Residential. Carolyn set the tone for a lively discussion, sharing examples of the collaboration tools her organization is currently using—and piloting—to connect and interact with Equity Residential’s internal and external communities and stakeholders. Carolyn cited technologies like Yammer which her organization uses to share knowledge internally and diminish the management of increasing volumes of emails. She also noted their intranet, ERNIE, is a growing more interactive to support internal collaboration and productivity through blogging, and Google Site to help manage projects. Social Media sites she referenced included Facebook pages created for each of the property sites, LinkedIn being avidly used and YouTube channels to promote the lifestyle associated with each of the company’s managed properties. There were other applications Carolyn touched on as well, including Foursquare and even Pinterest.
We then began a rotating round-table discussion focused on the following themes:
- Performance Improvement/Change Management
- Social Media for Learning
- Mobile Learning
I facilitated the table discussion on Social Media for Learning. The first group was interesting—most participants at this table did not, shall we say, embrace Social Media. There were, however, some personal experiences like downloading an application to a mobile device to learn something on PowerPoint, for example. Surprisingly, a medical doctor, there to accompany his wife, an Instructional Design student, shared how he’s using an app on his iPhone for collaboration on patient diagnosis. Suddenly the table dynamics changed and the discussion centered on the practical application of the doctor’s need, the discovery process and shared learning that took place within his medical community. Just as the discussion grew lively, the group had to switch to the next topic.
The second and third group of professionals seemed a little more experienced using Social Media and collaboration tools in the corporate world. Each shared his or her knowledge of industry gurus, links and sites with the others around the table. Several were furiously capturing the nuggets of information being referenced—some with pen and paper; others on iPads. Social learning—in practice—right before my eyes.
So, what did I learn?
- Many of us are still overwhelmed by the pervasive chatter of Social Media and struggle to determine what tools to use, why and when.
- Cool applications and tools don’t cut it—practical need is where it’s at for adoption, generally through a grassroots movement.
- Corporate organizations are beginning to consider new positions like “curator” for the content developed by the communities on collaboration sites.
- Embedding Social Media into a corporate culture requires a Sponsor and Change Management.
- Social Media is not Social Learning and vice versa.
With regard to that last bullet, the definitions and references Danny shared helped to distinguish our terms:
- Social Media (SoMe) may be defined as online software tools used to post, communicate and share information, pictures, websites, text, video, for “personal purposes”. It can include Public Media sites (YouTube, Wikipedia, Slideshare, Blogs, etc.) as well as Social Networking sites (FaceBook, Twitter, and LinkedIn). In general, Public Media sites are used to create, collaborate, comment on, and share information or content, and Social Networking sites are used to build a network of connections or colleagues. — paraphrased from Jane Hart and C4LPT
- Social Learning refers to all learning that happens socially (with others) both social media powered and not socially powered (delivered). It has also been described as Communication and Collaboration to support learning and performance as the “moment of need”. It has further been described as something that people have always done either on the job, but SoMe tools and Mobile devices have served to accelerate everything. — paraphrased from Jane Hart and Jane Bozarth
- Mobile Learning involves using personal devices (smart phones, mobile phones, tablets, and other devices) to design and deliver specific learning content to support learning and improve performance. Mobile content can be text, graphics, video, audio, pictures, calendars, and can be formal or informal
— paraphrased from Clark Quinn, “Designing mLearning”, 2011
“mLearning is the use of mobile technology to aid in the learning, reference or exploration of information useful to an individual at that moment or in a specific use content.” — http://floatlearning.com/2010/04/mlearning-is-not-elearning-on-a-mobile-device/
Our industry is changing. As practitioners, we need to recognize that learning is a process, design for more collaborative learning experiences, and incorporate the available and emerging technologies—when they make sense—for performance support; not just strictly design course modules for a training event. As learning leaders, we need to enable the evolution, encourage the creativity that facilitates learning as a process and measures success in terms of performance.
Let’s continue the discussion. What are you doing with Social Media in your learning organization? Any insights on designing and developing mLearning? We look forward to your comments and feedback.
Tips for Putting Your Best Face Forward in the Job Market
April 25, 2012 | Susan Schneider
By Susan Schneider and Lisa Vitale
Whether you’re looking for your first job, or you’re a “seasoned” worker, the process for getting a job (writing your resume, packaging your work samples, and then actually interviewing) can be a daunting experience. Times have changed. Resumes are often scanned electronically rather than reviewed by a pair of eyes, and interviews can be done over the phone, in-person, or via WebEx or Skype. To help job seekers become successful job hunters in this new electronic age, The CARA Group and the Society for Technical Communications (STC) recently hosted a workshop designed to provide the tools for success. CARA Recruiters, Jeff Warner and Lisa Vitale, along with STC President Elizabeth Burke, recently spent a Saturday morning with 11 technical writers discussing best practices for writing resumes, organizing a portfolio of work samples, and surviving interviews.
Jeff Warner kicked off the workshop using the tag line “Trust Me Im a Technical Writer” (yes, error included!) and talked about the importance of writing and presenting a strong resume. As the first “deliverable” a potential employer will see, your resume must create a good first impression, one that piques the Recruiter’s interest enough to provide you with the coveted opportunity to interview. If we think of how branding is used in a marketing sense to “package” a product, the same concepts can be applied to the job seeker. Putting careful thought into how you want your resume to represent you and your capabilities allow you to brand yourself and showcase the value you can provide to prospective employers.
Jeff addressed several topics:
Keywords – Resumes that are submitted online are usually filtered electronically for key words, so make sure your resume passes this first level of scrutiny by using words that are key and specific to the job.
Resume Styles – Choosing the right style of resume is important to best showcase your abilities and work history. Recruiters typically don’t like functional resumes, preferring to see work history presented in reverse chronological order. Functional resumes can work, however, for fresh grads or people who are changing careers or fields. A combination of chronological and functional styles is good for people who have experience across diverse areas and want to highlight their skills that can be used in a broader capacity.
Best Practices – Since a technical writer’s primary talent is writing and developing useful documentation, a resume with typos, grammar errors, and unsightly formatting tells the Recruiter you don’t have the expertise, or talent, for the job. Some Best Practices that Jeff highlighted are:
- For each work experience, include project results that are quantifiable, such as size of document, completion within a tight timeframe, advanced tools, etc.
- Include only your recent work experience. Remove or summarize older work, especially if it isn’t relevant to the job.
- Omit irrelevant information, such as “I’m available to interview at your convenience” or “references available upon request.” The employer already assumes these are true.
- Make sure your LinkedIn profile is consistent with your resume, and make sure your Facebook page is “fit for viewing.”
- Highlight any non-working accomplishments or activities that are relevant, such as President of the local PTA (which shows leadership and management experience), or grant-writing volunteer.
Cover Letters – cover letters should be specific, direct and to the point. The objective is to identify the position for which you’re applying . A cover letter should include only an explanation why you’re applying for the job, your unique qualifications and accomplishments, and a short paragraph asking for an interview and providing your contact information where you can be most easily reached.
Reviewing a Resume – Before submitting your resume, have several pairs of eyes review it for clarity, content, format, and validation that it’s presenting you in the best possible light.
Work Samples and Portfolios
STC‘s own Elizabeth Burke introduced the concept of developing a portfolio that showcases your work samples so employers can view the breadth and quality of your work. With more than 20 years of experience as a Technical Writer, and as someone who frequently is in the position herself to interview and hire technical writers, Elizabeth was able to bring both practical and anecdotal experience to her discussion.
What’s the difference between work samples and portfolios? A portfolio is a complete package of your experience. It demonstrates the depth of your experience and includes: your resume, a list of collateral, one or more partial work samples that can be paper-based, online, or multi-media, awards, and references. Work samples, on the other hand, are individual examples of your deliverables that showcase your skills and tool expertise. Each work sample should be accompanied by a short description about the document, i.e., the business reason for the documentation, audience level, tool used, length of complete document, production timeline, and any other relevant or unique information.
Frequently technical writers say the company for which they created the documentation won’t allow them to keep work samples because of confidentially issues. Elizabeth offered the following workarounds to this dilemma:
- Obtain approval from the employer early in the project to retain a copy of the document. If the employer does not provide approval, don’t include the document in your portfolio!
- While highly sensitive material will most likely be denied permission, non-critical documents can be scrubbed of references to the company name, products, and confidential and proprietary content.
- Create your own documentation. Write a procedure that involves a hobby or software tool you frequently use.
Presenting Work Samples
An employer may ask to see work samples prior to the interview. Often times candidates don’t want to relinquish physical control over samples and, when they turn down the request, they lose the opportunity to interview. A better approach would be to ask the employer to participate in a WebEx session. Make sure, however, that you’ve rehearsed your presentation and are fully comfortable with the WebEx controls.
If you’re presenting work samples during the in-person interview, package your work samples so they’re neatly and attractively arranged, and easy to reference. If you intend to show documentation on your laptop or tablet, always have a backup plan in case the hardware doesn’t work or you don’t have internet access.
Lisa Vitale continued the branding concept by noting that once you’ve created a great resume and portfolio, it’s time to market your brand with solid interviewing skills. CARA Recruiter Gina Arinyanontakoon and Service Delivery Manager Susan Schneider provided an Oscar winning performance during a roleplay that revealed an “interview-gone-wrong”. The “candidate”wore inappropriate clothing, arrived late for the interview, and had no clue about the business of the company for which she was interviewing. Workshop participants were able to see how the candidate lost the job the minute she walked through the door.
Lisa provided insight on the following interview topics:
- Preparing for the interview – The biggest mistake a candidate can make is not being fully prepared: it can mean the difference between getting an offer and getting rejected. Some preparation suggestions include:
- Research the company and its core values
- Check LinkedIn for background information on the interviewer
- Know the job description and prepare questions about it
- Organize your work samples and select ones that are appropriate for the position
- Practice interviewing!
- Phone/Skype interviewing – Good communication skills via the phone and Skype can be challenging, but are equally important. To have a successful phone or Skype interview:
- Block out potential distractions such as children and pets
- Ensure the background is uncluttered and shows no personal items
- Make eye contact
- Dress as if you were interviewing in person … you’ll feel more professional
- If you’re using your cell phone, make sure it’s fully charged
- Smile! Even if the interviewer can’t see you, your voice will convey enthusiasm and set a positive tone.
- During the Interview – This is your opportunity to talk about your brand, establish credibility, and sell your abilities and skills. It’s also your opportunity to get answers to your questions.
- Remember the STAR Interviewing Technique – When you’re describing the tasks you accomplished, use the STAR method:
- Situation or Task – Describe a task you needed to accomplish and give enough detail so your interviewer understands
- Action you took – Describe the action you took, explaining the work that you, specifically, performed
- Results – Describe what was accomplished, what goals were met, what you learned
- Close the interview – Let the interviewer know that you’re interested in the position. Ask about the next step in the hiring process, and always send a Thank-You note via email.
Remembering these simple tips will provide a framework for putting your best face forward during the job hunt. Now, did we cover everything? Are there any other examples you can think of that have worked for you? We’re always interested in individual success stories. Let us know what you think.
Crystal Gazing: The Future of Learning Management Systems
March 26, 2012 | Barry Larson
By Barry Larson
Earlier this month, the Chicago Chapter of ASTD’s (CCASTD) Corporate University Professional Development Network (PDN) hosted a discussion on the topic of Learning Management Systems (LMS). The event was held at DeVry University. CARA’s Strategic Account Executive, Sue Deisinger, moderated the discussion.
The evening took a deep dive into the history and evolution of LMSs and addressed a multitude of questions on the future of the LMS – Is the LMS a thing of the past, or are Learning Management Systems about to mutate into a whole new creature? What’s going on in our organizations today and how are these systems being used? What about Talent Management Systems? Learning Content Management Systems? What’s with the Cloud?
Two local LMS experts, Danny Ortegon and Doty Sinclair, tackled these questions and more as they shared their observations on trends emerging in the LMS field.
Addressing small, mid-range and enterprise market levels, Danny and Doty traded insights from their own experience, as well as research from recognized industry experts like Elliott Masie and Bersin and Associates.
What I learned from their exchange, and a lively discussion across the participants, included who the major players are, trends, and resources. Let’s break it down.
Key Vendors Today
||Small to Mid-Market
|• SuccessFactors (SAP)
• Taleo/Learn.com (Oracle)
• SumTotal Systems
• Saba Systems
• FeatherCap LMS
There is a lot of merging in the industry. Here is a snapshot of the progression. A proliferation of LMS’s hit the market initially, followed by several niche companies focused on specific industries. Then, smaller LMS companies were acquired by larger LMS companies. Under pressure to maximize their market share resulted in large vendors trying to offer “small company solutions” and some may pursue overseas markets to expand potential client base.
Larger, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system integrators, like SAP and Oracle, are buying companies to integrate entire suites into their offerings. They are pursuing more tightly integrated offerings into the HR solutions of Talent Management, Performance Management, etc. This may cause challenges in determining overall learning goals, ownership, configuration, technical support, etc.
There is a migration going on from separate elements of Talent Management to integrated offerings, including social media, SaaS/Cloud-based offerings and the move to .net technology which offers a cleaner, simpler user experience such as the use of hover overs vs. clicking a series of links. Workday is a new cloud-based ERP from the founder of PeopleSoft.
Clients will be affected by the ongoing changes in LMS ownership which may impact the quality of customer service, as well as requirements for future tools and features.
Mobile Learning and Social Media
Mobile Learning impacts the need for more flexible LMS features like configurability and implementation. How the LMS might integrate or collaborate with mobile is still too early to tell for a clear cut solution.
Social Media, Mobile and informal online learning is likely to affect how LMS solutions are configured, marketed, and sold. These informal solutions are likely to change the amount of learning that will be LMS based versus what will be more socially or informally driven, i.e. provided as “performance support” or a “Personal Learning Environment” in the future.
The pace at which these options are growing provides a challenge for efficient configuration options and ongoing implementation.
Education Market Influence
Some top flight universities (Stanford, MIT, and Yale) are pushing curricula and content delivery services online. This raises overall awareness of online learning and impacts organizational leaders’ expectations that online learning solutions need to be easier to use.
Some startups are providing unique services such as an “App Store” for customers to upload, browse, buy and sell their e-learning content. Examples include Open Sesame, iTunes University, or the recent iBooks textbook authoring. While this provides additional paths for clients to acquire content online, it can also provide more challenges in evaluating the success of learning using new technologies.
With the quality of these predictions, we didn’t really need a crystal ball or fortune teller. However, a good list of resources is provided below for any future reference.
We’re always interested in other opinions and perceptions. Are there any trends we missed? We welcome your comments and questions.
The 2012 Summit: Learning to Inspire
March 8, 2012 | Jeff Warner
By Jeff Warner, Recruiting Manager
Everyone can use a little inspiration. On February 23rd, my colleague, CARA Account Executive, Tim Devine, and I participated in the 2012 Learning Summit hosted by ASTD’s South Central Wisconsin Chapter (ASTD-SCWC). It was held at the Alliant Center in Madison, WI and CARA was a proud sponsor of this event. The theme of the Summit was “Learn Inspired, Live Inspired” featuring keynote speaker Lance Secretan, Ph.D., author of The Spark, the Flame and the Torch: Inspire Self. Inspire Others.
As the former CEO of a Fortune 100 company, university professor, award-winning columnist and author, Dr. Secretan is one of North America’s most sought-after speakers on leadership. In his book and in his speech, he addressed many provocative topics, from mission, vision and value statements, to leadership and brand management theory, motivation techniques, psychometric profiling, performance management systems and coaching. Lance Secretan’s goal in life is to inspire new ways of thinking on these topics in order to transform organization to a higher level of performance. He cited examples of how alternative ideas have been implemented successfully in some great organizations, and then went on to realistically explain how everyone can be an inspiring leader, create inspiring organizations and ultimately change the world for the better.
Six excellent breakout sessions dovetailed off the keynote address. Three tracks consisted of content designed around inspiring one’s self, others, or organizations through Learning. Each of the presenters did a great job of identifying common sense, down to earth strategies for inspiring yourself, as well as your co-workers. It was apparent that each speaker put a lot of time and preparation into their respective break-out sessions, incorporating the overall theme of the Learning Summit:
- Deb Denure, Quickly Engaging Learners’ Brains for Lasting Results
- Lori Gibson, Resilience and Renewal: Being Your Best So You Can Give Your Best
- Sarah Gibson, Live, Love, Give
- Amy Climer, Make it Experiential: Workshop Design and Facilitation Tools for Amazing Trainings
- Rebecca Doepke, From Hired to Inspired…Is Everyone Onboard?
- Daniel Schroeder, Ph.D., Becoming a High Performance Organization
The ASTD-SCWC staff effectively facilitated the break-outs as well as in-between sessions, demonstrating some of the inspired leadership characteristic suggested throughout the day. And with 250 participants in attendance, Tim and I found a lot of inspiration in networking with some of the top Training and Performance Leaders and Professionals in Madison.
The President’s State of the Industry Address … the State of YOU!
January 31, 2012 | Sue Deisinger
By Sue Deisinger
On January 19th, a “CARAvan” descended upon the first 2012 dinner meeting hosted by the Chicago Chapter of ASTD (CCASTD). My colleagues—Susan Beyers, Barbara Coughlin, Tina Jandris—and I were curious to hear CCASTD President, Sue Weller, address how learning professionals can better prepare for 2012 and beyond. Sue spoke on the topic, “State of the Industry…State of YOU!”
Sue’s sources for her address included the ASTD State of the Industry Report, reports from Bersin Associates and Training Magazine.
The good news? Employers are spending more on learning programs, and the top 3 content areas appear to focus on more advanced, strategic competencies:
- Management and Supervisory Skills
- Professional or Industry-specific Learning
- Mandatory Process or Compliance-related Expertise
These skill-sets are driven by the business need to invest in employee performance.
Sue’s presentation style engaged the audience. She held our interest as she summarized five trends in learning for 2012 and beyond.
- Increase in the use of social learning and the emergence of the “Social Cyborg” and the implications of talent management. These are the people who have integrated social networks and information technology into their lives, (think constant Facebook posts) and how they think, learn and solve problems.
- Increase in mobile engagement; a broader adoption than just mobile learning. Smartphone applications are creating a more robust environment to access information in general.
- Increased “gamification.” Ideas include reward tools to engage the learner like giving out points or virtual badges of completion. Completion status, or progress, is compared to others, and rewarded. For example, if you complete a certain activity—contribute to a knowledge exchange—you receive a badge, or lead a discussion and receive a more impressive badge.
- Stronger consideration of change management within learning. Learning leads to understanding, and understanding leads to a commitment to change. Leaders are recognizing that in order to transform an organization they need to consistently communicate their vision and enable the behavior change to occur.
- Rise in virtual training. With the economy slow to recover, there is a need to continue to save costs and improve learning effectiveness. Virtual training is an economic method to bring together people in geographically dispersed.
There is a movement toward individualization, where the learner takes more responsibility on what she/he needs to learn and when vs. participating in an event-based structured program designed for a much broader audience.
What does this all mean to Learning Professionals? The days of being a purist are gone. We need to be even more multi-disciplinary, beyond solid instructional design skills. We may also need to develop change management and talent management expertise, for example.
Sue suggests a three-point action plan to brush up on your personal skills and remain competitive for the future:
- Don’t underestimate the challenges in achieving a goal. Instead of just stating the goal, be sure to anticipate the challenges in achieving the goal. Mentally prepare and plan to overcome obstacles to success.
- Don’t overestimate the rewards. Recognize upfront that your progress maybe incremental, and while meeting your goal may be slower than you hope, the important thing is that you don’t give up. Keep trying and celebrate the milestones along the way.
- Don’t try to do it alone. Join your colleagues at future CCASTD dinners where you’ll continue to develop your skills and knowledge. Maybe you can find a colleague to help hold you personally accountable to achieve your goal.
The evening was a practical investment in my own professional development, learning more about emerging Industry trends and enjoying the venue with a supportive group of learning professionals.
We’d like to know what you seeing emerging in your workforce environment. Please feel free to comment on this article and share your own insights.