CARA Chronicles Blog
Archive for the ‘Change’ Category
Monday, March 18th, 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.
Monday, March 26th, 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.
Thursday, March 8th, 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.
Tuesday, January 31st, 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.
Tuesday, December 13th, 2011 | Jane Ehrenstrom
By Jane Ehrenstrom
Too bad we can’t surgically make the changes we want to see in our organization. Although some might argue that slashing headcount could be an extreme change management tactic.
Here, at CARA, our organization experienced a surgical change, to a degree. Well, it was me actually. I underwent two knee replacement surgeries this year. What does knee replacement surgery have to do with change management, you ask?
Change management is really about helping individuals travel the emotional distance between the initial anxiety and shock, through ambivalence, to acceptance and then making the new change a routine.
Using patient care as a metaphor for the company/employee relationship through an organizational change, I thought I would compare my two experiences with knee replacement surgery. My goal is to illustrate how the impact of clarifying the vision, broadening the stakeholders, organizing a support team, etc. helped manage my change experience to a more positive outcome in the second situation.
Left knee replacement
No Change Management
Right knee replacement
|Determine a Clear Vision of the Future State
||My left knee hurt and was so unstable I stopped doing yoga. I wanted to get better so I could continue a more active lifestyle.Complaining to a friend, she recommended an orthopedic surgeon who had worked on her husband’s sports injury. After 45 minutes of completing intake paperwork, I had X-rays taken and finally met with the surgeon.
The surgeon diagnosed me as a candidate for knee replacement and sent in his assistant (PA) to get the process rolling.
I was a little unclear of what to expect.
|My right knee began to fail almost immediately upon recovery from the first surgery.I was determined to find an alternative solution to my first knee replacement experience that would be less invasive, shorten my recovery time, and help me return to a healthier, active lifestyle – quicker.I began my research, weighing pros and cons between procedures. Another friend sent me an article about an orthopedic practice that performs “minimally invasive” knee replacements where the patient walks out of the hospital the same day.
I made an appointment with a new orthopedic surgeon to learn more about the procedure and determine if it was the right solution to help me achieve the goal I intended.
|Provide Support and Coaching
||The Physician’s Assistant came in to discuss the procedure in depth, answer any questions, and verbally tell me to call the hospital to register for a 3 hour class, and then schedule a number of pre-op tests with my general practitioner to clear me for surgery.I was worried about the time off of work. Who was going to take care of my dog? What about my family? Who could drive me to the hospital, and who could take care of me throughout the process? There were a lot more stakeholders involved than I had initially considered, and I had to figure it all out myself.Then, at 9:00 p.m., the night before surgery, the hospital finally called to confirm the arrangements for my surgery the next day.
I felt frustrated and overwhelmed.
|In advance of my appointment, I was emailed the new patient paperwork, directions and a map to the office.When it was confirmed that I was again a candidate for knee replacement, surgeon’s team met with me and scheduled for me a full day of pre-op work at the hospital:
- 3 hour class on the procedure
- pre-op appointments at the hospital onsite
They also provided an indexed booklet that referenced what I needed to know about the procedure—from medications to what do I do if something unforeseen occurs.
Finally, my post-op follow-up appointment was already scheduled for me in advance of surgery, and every appointment was documented and slid inside the pocket of the booklet. Low-tech, but user-friendly!
They called me prior to my surgery date to ask if I had any questions and to confirm any last minute details.
I was told a family member could to stay over with me in the hospital. My concerns were anticipated and expectations managed even with suggestions on how to handle my dog for the first week I was at home.
I felt encouraged and optimistic from the early onset of coaching and support I received.
|Allow Leaders to Contribute New Ideas
||In the traditional knee replacement procedure, the surface of the femur and shin bones, and the damaged cartilage is replaced with new joint surfaces. In this procedure, the surgeon cut through the tendons and ligaments to get to these surfaces.
||Because I sought out new ideas, in this procedure specialized instruments, designed by the surgeon, allowed him to perform a minimally invasive procedure without cutting any muscle, tendon or ligament. He also designed the gender-specific implant that fits better.
|Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
||In my unfortunate case, the tip of the femur was broken during surgery. Four pins were used to hold the bone in place resulting in additional trauma during the procedure.The surgeon told my family member about the break while I was in recovery. My family member shared the information with me as I awoke from anesthesia. And, while the broken bone was documented in the surgical notes, no one in the hospital—the head nurse or the physical therapist—was informed until I mentioned it.I felt angry and afraid about my expected ability to recover.
||As an example of good communication, the booklet provided by the surgeon’s office included cell and home phone numbers for each member of the team, including the surgeon.I was encouraged to call them with any questions or concerns.
|Create a change support team
||Seeking reassurance, and only after 3 days of demanding to see the surgeon, did he come to the hospital to explain what happened.
||The doctor’s office proactively called me every other day the first week I was home to check in with me.
|Continue Reinforcement to Ensure the Change Sticks
||I had a physical therapy routine, and three follow-up appointments scheduled. Each appointment was rescheduled due to the surgeon’s lack of availability.Reinforcement came from the physical therapist with no obvious collaboration from the surgeon.
||I had a physical therapy routine and there seemed to be more collaboration between the surgeon’s office and my therapist, even once sharing a photo of my knee for examination.After each visit to my surgeon’s office, I received a survey asking me about my experience with the staff, the wait time, the service and the doctor.
|Measure Success of the Change
- 3 days in hospital
- 2 weeks in a rehabilitation facility;
- 6 weeks outpatient physical therapy
- 3 months recovery – back to work
- 1 day in hospital
- Home next day; one week of in-home physical therapy
- 6 weeks outpatient physical therapy
- 2 weeks recovery – back to work
Estimating healthcare expenditures merely from the hospital and rehabilitation stays, it’s obvious this second experience was less of a financial burden.
What made me trust that the outcome with my second surgery would be successful than my first experience? Some might say it was the drugs, but I assert that is was good change management practices employed by the second surgeon and his team. They were inclusive. They anticipated my needs as the primary stakeholder, listened, managed expectations, communicated and supported me throughout the initiative to successful acceptance and implementation of the change.
Now, within the organization, change occurs only through the sustained, combined actions of the employees. This suggests monitoring ongoing results, leadership modeling and continued communication. Sort of like my physical therapy sessions right now.
Wednesday, October 12th, 2011 | Barbara Coughlin
By Barbara Coughlin
CARA had the privilege of sponsoring the 10th Annual Chicagoland Learning Leaders Conference again this year. It was held at McDonald’s Hamburger University on September 28, 2011 and engaged Learning Leaders from corporations around Chicago and across southern Wisconsin.
As an Account Manager, this is a main event for me – an opportunity to network with my clients and other strategic members of the learning community, in a non-sales environment. I always come away with valuable lessons learned and this year did not disappoint.
The theme of this year’s conference focused on accelerating leadership development. Here are some highlights:
ACCELERATING LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT
The morning’s keynote speaker was Harry Kraemer, former CEO of Baxter, Professor of Management and Strategy at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, and author of the book, From Values to Action.
Mr. Kraemer shared his insights on leadership, including characteristics of an emerging leader. Emerging leaders:
- Lead immediately even though they’re not in a leadership position. This is the type of person that doesn’t wait for permission, he or she takes the lead and makes things happen.
- Are disciplined and choose good habits.
- ‘Lead up’, meaning they know how to influence the C-level (this is key and the hardest to accomplish).
- Undergo self-reflection. Kramer advised a leader needs to know and lead herself before she can lead others.
- Demonstrate true self-confidence, he knows what he’s not good at, and admits it so he can surround himself with people who are good at “it”.
In summary, Harry Kraemer high-lighted his own lessons learned in identifying four key elements of a successful leader:
- Life/work balance
- True self-confidence
- Humility – never forget “the cube” you came from
Well, the morning’s keynote presentation set the tone for a day of collaboration with 70-80 corporate thought leaders and a difficult choice to select among 25 interactive sessions, including a case study presented by CARA’s own client, Kathleen Long, Director of Organizational Development at Career Education Corporation. Kathleen presented Building Foundational Management Skills to Accelerate Organizational Change. Kathleen shared how her organization rebuilt the necessary skills across middle management that had been depleted by the economic impact of corporate downsizing. She provided an inspiring model for other organizations to go back to basics.
The afternoon keynote presentation was equally noteworthy.
THE FUTURE OF TRAINING & DEVELOPMENT
Cigna’s Chief Learning Officer, Karen Kocher, was the afternoon’s keynote speaker. In her session, The Future of Training & Development: Identifying Behaviors, Competencies & Skills to Sustain High Performance, Karen shared trends emerging in the workforce over the next 10 years.
Karen’s insights were drawn, in part, from a recent study of more than 3,000 global CEOs. The study indicated that talent development is one of the top five differentiators a company must leverage for future success. Here are some other highlights that will impact the future of corporate learning and development:
- ”Smart mobbing” or “Swarming” – a process where sources from across the organization come together just to solve one problem and then dissolve.
- Millennials, born between 1980 and 1995, will be a force, and with only about 80 million of them, there will not be enough to fill the jobs required.
- Telecommuting will continue to be on the rise.
- Employees will prefer more job flexibility for less pay.
- Company Alumni networks will continue to grow, leveraging social media practices to stay in touch.
- Employees will want to be treated as individuals by HR, personally tailored programs and initiatives will be important to retaining key employees.
These trends appeared to resonate among the learning and talent executives in the room. The challenges facing corporate leaders to attract and retain the future brightest and best in the workforce are both exciting and daunting.
On a personal note, I have to continue a conversation with my clients to ensure CARA stays ahead of the curve and provides value to their future learning, performance and change management needs.
The 10th Annual Chicagoland Learning Leaders Conference was successful again this year. Learning thought leaders and vendor partners seemed to come away with solid lessons learned and an optimistic view of the future of workforce learning and development.
Friday, June 24th, 2011 | Barry Larson
By Barry Larson
I recently attended the June dinner meeting for our local chapter of ASTD (American Society for Training and Development). Knowing the room was full of training practitioners and the keynote speaker was Bob Pike, aka “Train-The-Trainer Guru,” being a lonely sales guy, I was anticipating a very technical presentation that I could only hope to follow. Who would have guessed that I would have walked away with meaningful life lessons?
The title of Bob Pike’s presentation was “11 Ways to Survive & Thrive in Turbulent Times.” No one disagreed that we are deep into turbulent waters, so Bob Pile observed that “rising tides float all ships.” It’s in the tough times you need to ensure that your ship is sound to weather the storm, so that by working on yourself and focusing on others’ needs, we can all succeed during these rough times.
Now, I’m not the best note taker, so I can’t be sure that I counted 11 techniques. No matter – what I took away were some important lessons on how to survive and thrive in turbulent times:
- Work on your interpersonal skills. These are the assets that sustain you throughout your career, and in particular, focus on listening skills. “The awesome power of the listening ear,” was a phrase expressed by Bob Pike. Listening differentiates you from the noise in the world. You’ll be ready to respond more effectively when someone needs to be heard.
- Become a life-long learner. Actively seek knowledge of your industry, your client’s company and industry, new skills – whatever. Learning keeps you sharp and helps you think more strategically. As Bob says, “Don’t learn to pass [the test]; learn for living.”
- Become a trusted advisor:
- Earn trust – make small promises and keep them. Bob says, “Promise much, deliver more, and do it consistently.”
- Provide advice based upon what someone needs; not what you get out of it.
- Build relationships – deepen your network by providing value for someone.
This inspirational session closed with a message of appreciation. When Bob asked the group if anyone was over-appreciated, not a single hand was raised. He cautioned us not to let a generous impulse pass, as “the greatest need for every human being is appreciation.” After a few heartfelt personal stories by Bob Pike, I could see a few teary eyes among the audience members. It was clear people were taking the message to heart.
Well, thanks, Bob Pike. I truly appreciate the wisdom of your teaching.
Tuesday, April 19th, 2011 | Susan Beyers
By Susan Beyers
As someone with a decades-long career in learning, I am a very big fan of “Ah-ha” moments. This March, I attended a seminar on informal learning with learning expert Bob Mosher, formerly the Director of Learning and Learning Evangelist at Microsoft, and the “Ah-ha” moments came fast and frequently.
Hosted by Chicagoland Chapter of the American Society for Training and Development (CCASTD), “Informal Learning, Are we missing a HUGE opportunity?” was a seminar of great interest to CARA. CARA just published a report on the topic, and CARA SVP, Jane Ehrenstrom, will host an April webinar for TechServe Alliance on the subject.
The discussion on “Performer Support at the Moment of Need” was an enlightening topic, and here I will share my impressions of three powerful nuggets of information Bob Mosher imparted during the presentation.
Lesson #1: Businesses Are Over-Teaching & Overwhelming in the Classroom
Today’s learners are over taught in the classroom and overwhelmed with information. According to the Research Institute of America, people retain only 33% of classroom training after 48 hours of training and only 20% three weeks after training. Long story short: somewhere between 70% and 80% of classroom time can potentially be a lost investment of time and money.
Lesson #2: Don’t Train for Everything, Train for the Moment of Need
Teaching learners to access the right tools in their “moment of need” should be a critical objective of classroom learning. Most new trainees on the job turn to a colleague at the next desk over in their moment of need instead of turning to their performer support aids. The result is productivity lost for two staff members and the possibility that short cuts and poor techniques are passed along.
Mosher gave the example of C.B. “Sully” Sullenberger who successfully landed a commercial airliner on the Hudson River. In his moment of need before landing that plane, he accessed one tool—the emergency water-landing checklist under his seat. That is what he was trained to use and that is exactly what he turned to in a powerful moment of need.
If businesses can train their employees to access their core learning aid in their moment of need, they are fostering essential informal learning—the kind that happens on the job and in those important moments of need “when they are trying to remember or apply information, when things change, or when something goes wrong.” This is where knowledge accessed becomes knowledge gained.
Lesson #3: Focus Classrooms on Applying Knowledge vs. Gaining Knowledge
Formal classroom learning will have greater impact when refocused on knowledge application. If the classroom is the place learners become experts in accessing their “performer support” tools the workplace will become the place where the right knowledge is applied at the right time. This is what transfer of learning into the workflow is all about.
The entire seminar was an important reminder that we can make the leap from knowledge to competency with the appropriate learning experience and the right tools in hand.
Thursday, April 29th, 2010 | Tina Jandris
As a learning professional, you understand that training is the important work of cultivating a business’ most valuable resources—its people. You know learning is much more than a business expense. But once you step outside training and ask colleagues where learning fits into the company value chain, many will make it sound more like a commodity than a strategic asset.
While the image of training as “a cost of doing business” is nothing new, it is also a misperception that you can change. Remember, it wasn’t too long ago that business leaders treated IT as a commodity. Now businesses depend on the innovative minds across their technology teams to create competitive advantage and find better ways to engage customers, sell, compete and operate throughout the supply chain.
Learning leaders too can earn a strategic role in their organizations and become trusted advisors in business planning and decision making. The very way in which you approach your work and interact with business teams has a powerful influence on how training is seen by the business. Are you approaching training assignments as a one-off need or are you working from a corporate learning plan that fuels business strategy and contributes to business objectives? Are you working to anticipate the learning needs of business groups based on their growth plans and objectives, or do you operate in reaction mode – planning training when a need arises? Do you have a strong understanding of the company’s five-year and 10-year plans?
Strategic contributions and leadership start with knowledge, which is where training leaders need to begin as they work to elevate the role and image of the training organization. Below are several engagement best practices learning leaders can embrace as they partner with peers from across their organization.
Know Your Client – Gain extensive insight into the operations and strategy of the business unit you are supporting. By knowing the business group – their mission, their challenges, their team, their operations—you can truly become a partner in performance improvement. This effort will not only win you the trust of business unit managers, but also give you the understanding needed to help them identify skill and knowledge needs within their organization.
Knowing that you can’t become an expert in every process and operational detail, focus on answering the following questions:
- What specific challenges is the business unit facing?
- What measurements and metrics does the unit use to analyze performance?
- How are initiatives of the business unit tied to the company’s greater business strategy?
Learn to Speak Their Language – Every industry, every business and every business group seems to develop its own language. Take time to also learn the lingo and acronyms of the business groups you are helping. This small effort demonstrates your commitment to learning their work and challenges.
Share Training’s Value – Be sure and treat your business peers as partners as well by explaining how training can help them better meet their business objectives and enhance team performance. Give them insight into your training strategy and how a deliberate learning approach will enhance their operations today and ensure they are developing the resources they need tomorrow.
Link to Unit Objectives & Business Strategy – Just as the business unit has had to link its work and objectives to the overall business strategy, training can map its solutions in the same way. Will the training services you deliver support the business unit’s objectives and align with the company strategy? If not, it’s time to go back and work with the unit manager. You may have found a case when a training need is not supporting business objectives and needs to be modified to increase its ability to impact business results.
Measure & Report – One of the best ways to convince your business colleagues and executive leaders of training’s value is to give them the evidence. Be sure you define metrics that can clearly measure the impact training has on business performance and measure and report them regularly. Reports come in several forms—from progress and performance status to manager surveys.
Provide Anecdotes – It’s also a good idea to provide anecdotal evidence, such as stories of new wins or milestones achieved. These stories bring reports to life and show the benefits of training in action.
The hard work of learning your clients’ business—their needs, processes, challenges and objectives—is the kind of work that can elevate the reputation of training. As you increase your business knowledge, you increase your ability to give strategic, thoughtful input to company managers and leaders. Rather than coming to you with specific training requests, business managers will invite you to “take a seat at the table” to discuss business strategy. They will look to training not just for a service but for thoughtful insight and smart learning tactics that support overall business goals and objectives.
How strategic is your learning organization today? Is your team treated like a consultative partner or a service provider? I look forward to hearing how you are increasing your “strategic” reputation.
Monday, November 30th, 2009 | Jane Ehrenstrom
Moving. They say it can be as stressful as a family death. While I wouldn’t go that far, I would rate our October office expansion very high on my list of “I’d rather eat a bug than do this again!” Now safely and happily settled in our lovely, bright and clean new offices, I can reflect on something that stunned me throughout this renovation.
As you might imagine, we dealt with several contractors and vendors throughout this experience. The range of customer service I encountered was extreme. I went from being delighted all the way to Dante’s 9th circle of hell. The customer aspect of this transition—me—was consistent. The service component? Not so much.
The question that keeps ringing in my head during this reflection is “Why—at a time of great economic challenge, when companies should be doing everything to exceed expectations and win customer loyalty—is there such inconsistency in customer service levels?” In my mind, it’s a workforce performance issue. Whether businesses are succeeding or failing in nurturing workers through training and incentives, performance is at the core of the gulf in customer service today. And while in some cases an all-out failure to train employees may be the reason some businesses have lost their ability to ensure quality service, I see two additional factors contributing to the customer service challenge across the American workforce.
Factor #1: Generation Gaps
By 2015 there will be five generations working side-by-side in the American workplace. That’s right—five! As this blog from the Harvard Business School explains, the “newest employees entering the workforce might not be joining their parents or grandparents, they might be joining their great-grandparents.” Traditionalists (workers born before 1946), baby boomers (born 1946 to 1964) and Gen X (born 1965 to 1976) will be joined by the young, sizeable group of Millennials (born 1977 to 1997) and Gen 2020 (born after 1997).
It’s an unprecedented workforce configuration, and it creates an unprecedented training challenge: to design effective learning programs and performance management solutions for a workforce made up of people who learn, collaborate, communicate and leverage technology often in vastly different ways. Take technology for example. Despite what many may assume, older generations are actually quite comfortable with tech-infused communications that go beyond e-mail. Forrester Research recently reported that more than 60% of baby boomers use social media and Socialnomics.net reports that the fastest growing segment on Facebook is 55-65 year-old females.
That said, older generations still see great value in person-to-person communications, especially in professional settings. Younger generation workers, like Millennials and Gen 2020s, can sometimes use technology to communicate in ways older generations couldn’t imagine. Take the young office worker who didn’t think twice about quitting her job by text message to move onto a new, better opportunity. Or consider the sales manager who asked for updates on recent communications with prospects and was forwarded records of tweets and text messages from Millennial-age workers on the team. These two examples highlight both the risks and opportunities of a technologically diverse workforce. They also underscore the importance of managing performance expectations, providing consistent training and reinforcing those expectations through appropriate recognition or reward.
The way we work and communicate is constantly evolving. For training to be relevant to all employees, regardless of their generation, it must address the various ways people access information and communicate in each particular work environment. In terms of customer service, this means monitoring the many ways staff members interact with the customer base and ensuring guidelines in these areas and performance expectations are clear. Advancing technology and generation gaps can be markers along the path of training’s evolution—reminders to keep training and performance management relevant to an evolving workforce.
Training Focused on the Generation
A CARA client that “gets” generational influences is Potbelly Sandwich Works, an innovative restaurant chain founded in Chicago. Potbelly’s team prides itself on great food and the “experience” they offer customers—friendly, attentive and fun service in a unique, eclectic atmosphere.
The company understands who its core target employees are: Millennials (people under 25). In fact, Michelle Reid-Powell, the Director of Training and Leadership Development at Potbelly Sandwich Works, did significant research on the generation itself to learn about how these young workers best learn and interact.
What she and her training team learned, they translated directly into one of the most fun, engaging and well-measured training programs today. Just look at these examples of how they turned insights on Millennials into training excellence:
Generational Insight Training Results
|Millennials are collaborative, resourceful and innovative thinkers.
- Training team went to the field to collaborate with its young workforce and design training in partnership.
|Millennials want to work with others and partner for learning.
- Rather than watching training videos, general managers go through the company’s “scrapbook” one-on-one with each new hire. The book covers everything from history to values to customer experiences.
- On-site classes are taught in Potbelly’s restaurants by regional managers and senior team members.
|Millennials want to make a difference and connect with their communities.
- Orientation includes customer stories and testimonials, such as the letter from a woman who lost a family member and was treated to lunch for her entire family when the manager heard the sad news.
- Employees are empowered to deliver the kind of extraordinary service they learn about in orientation.
- No scripts! Rather than telling employees what to say, Potbelly understands its young workers want to make contributions. They are encouraged to insert their own personality into their interactions in ways that carry on the Potbelly tradition of great service, great fun, great people.
The scores Potbelly gets on its training reviews from staff and managers alike are head-of-the-class, valedictorian-level scores. The company has also integrated its own low-tech and low-cost performance management system, which leverages Excel to track and post training results. This simple system gives employees an incentive to complete their training and management a way to measure their progress and the stores’ performance companywide.
By focusing training on the unique traits and learning habits of its core workforce, Potbelly is successfully training a happy, fun and high-performing workforce, with a strong customer service orientation. And many of those workers will likely grow with the company to become the mature, seasoned generation that will need to learn the unique ways of the incoming generation.
Factor #2: Managing in the Face of Adversity
The second factor contributing to a customer service deficit today is the need to focus more on adversity training. Since the recession derailed the U.S. economy, a lot has changed. But are companies helping their employees better meet the ever-increasing expectations of customers to provide consistent, continual value?
Training for the status quo doesn’t work when the status quo no longer exists. More than ever, companies need to ensure their employees understand how to handle client objections proactively and to the client’s satisfaction. How do we provide a value proposition for that sensitive price point? How do we anticipate adversity and prepare for successful resolution? These questions can be addressed in many ways, such as informal conversations and more formal role plays at training events—the touch points where company leaders and visionaries can guide and support individuals responsible for delivering service to the customer.
For CARA, we are tackling today’s adversity by working even harder to first serve and support our talented pool of consultants. Today all CARA consultants must take an eLearning course on CARA’s expectations of how to serve our clients; they are indoctrinated into CARA’s PURE Service Program, a tenet of our success since CARA was founded. To ensure consistency and continuity in our development and delivery of world-class training for our clients, we have periodic check-ups with both the consultants and clients, on a formal and informal basis, to validate how we’re doing. Recently, one client shared that our efforts resulted in the course becoming the Gold Standard by which other courses will be measured. Feedback like this has enabled CARA to honor more than one consultant quarterly with our prestigious PURE service award for Professionalism, Understanding, Responsibility and Excellence.
The Only Constant is Change
Change creates adversity in the workplace. Unacknowledged, adversity can jeopardize customer service. Whether the change comes from generation gaps, advances in technology, an office expansion, or the economy, anticipation and a planned response can help weather the storm. Now, I might be a little training-centric (you know, “life’s work” and all), but I am certain that the majority of customer service issues I encountered during this office renovation could have been easily overcome with solid training, performance management and oversight by the vendors with whom I dealt. And while I don’t plan on renovating, moving or really even shifting my posture in this chair for a few years, I do plan on taking extra care to ensure that CARA is acutely aware of, and stringently proactive in, addressing the changes in our workforce and the environment that affect how we provide customer service.
What is your business doing today to ensure customer service quality and consistency in today’s challenging economy and generationally diverse workforce?