Archives for June 2011

A Suggestion for More Effective Organizations: Abandon Job Descriptions

Job descriptions are a cornerstone feature of traditional bureaucratic organizations. They facilitate selection and placement by providing clear skill requirements; enabling equitable pay systems by allowing organizations to compare their jobs with those in other companies and determining a market value; providing a basis for measuring individual performance and making pay increase decisions; and telling individuals what they are supposed to do so that managers can perform more value-added tasks.

Despite their widespread uses, job descriptions frequently are more dysfunctional than helpful, even in traditional bureaucratic organizations. They are costly to develop and keep current. In an attempt to be clear about telling individuals what they need to do, they can be faulted for implying what they don’t need to do and providing a convenient excuse for not doing things.

When baggage handlers and flight attendants won’t help the cleaning crew clean a late arriving plane so that it can leave on schedule because it’s “not their job,” that’s a real cost.

In addition, job descriptions slow change and make it more difficult. This is not a serious problem in stable businesses because change simply doesn’t occur very often. But, in today’s dynamic world, change is a constant.

As a result, more and more organizations face situations where job descriptions become quickly outdated and need to be regularly updated; this takes time, energy, delays change and can be quite expensive. The alternative is to simply abandon them. They are an obsolete management practice that no longer fits today’s rapidly changing human capital centric world of work.

Of course, it’s not quite that simple. Given all their uses, organizations cannot just abandon job descriptions; they need to fill the void left by their absence. Let’s start with the most basic use: letting people know what work to do.

Job descriptions tell people what to do and can be used as a basis for motivating them to do it. The evidence is clear however; a combination of effective leadership and an effective goal-setting process is much more effective at motivating and guiding behavior.

When managers are aware of their organization’s strategic agenda, skilled in collaborative goal setting, able to give feedback to employees, and ensure their employees have the right skills, they can create a much more effective and adaptable organization.

Organizations such as W.L. Gore & Associates, a technology-driven global company; sportswear and equipment supplier giant Nike Inc.; and DaVita Inc., a Fortune 500 health care services company have adopted a goal-setting approach and altered their performance appraisal system.

Often, this means a quarterly or semiannual performance management process in which individuals and their supervisors develop goals and identify projects that will support strategic objectives. In many cases, this process needs to be done with teams of employees.

Often, work, particularly knowledge work, requires multiple contributors and as a result is best managed by having team goals rather than individual goals.

Without job descriptions, how can the organizations set pay rates? The answer is simple, straightforward and logical; it is to pay individuals based on the skills and competencies they have (and the organization needs) and to let them share in the value they create.

Compensating somebody based on a job description is a misleading way to determine pay. An individual’s skills and competencies have market value, not jobs.

Therefore, a better way to determine what an individual is worth is to focus on skills and to use them as a basis for developing the market value of individuals. This is already done in a number of professions and with recent graduates who are clearly hired for their skills rather than for the jobs they are taking.

Focusing on an individual’s skills and competencies enables an organization to abandon pay based on job descriptions. It also enables the organization to improve its selection and placement processes.

Organizations need to know what work needs to get done and the skills and knowledge necessary to do it. Just as the organization’s strategy informs the goal-setting process for the present and the future, it also establishes the competencies, capabilities, and skills required to reach the goals and get the work done.

This in turn should form the basis for establishing the skills and competencies used to select who works in a particular area and, as mentioned earlier, what the individuals should be paid.

Abandoning job descriptions may sound like a radical approach to many but it is in fact the way many professional service firms and knowledge work firms have been managed for decades.

It is also the way an increasingly large number of global technology organizations from Google to Netflix are managed. Simply stated, it fits a management approach that highlights agility by emphasizing adaptability and focusing on human capital as a source of competitive advantage.

For organizations, it is a step toward achieving sustainable effectiveness.

About the Authors:

Edward E. Lawler III is a distinguished professor of business at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business. He is the founder and director of the university’s Center for Effective Organizations. Christopher G. Worley holds a joint appointment as a research scientist for the Center for Effective Organizations and as a professor of management at Pepperdine University.

Reprinted from Workforce Management Online

The Emerging Field of Enterprise Engagement: Implications for Training

The term “engagement” has become increasingly popular in human resources and marketing circles. Dozens of professional conferences produced by organizations as diverse as Marcus Evans, Human Capital Institute, and The Conference Board have focused on the topic over the last few years, and engagement will be the subject of several sessions at the 2011 Society of Human Resource Management conference in Las Vegas.

The term is being used in reference to employees, customers, training, communications, and, most recently, in social networking circles. The emergence of engagement presents both opportunities and challenges for the training executive and human resources profession overall.

While it is has always been possible to implement the principles of engagement at the tactical levels of human resources and marketing, what is changing is the increasing number of CEOs committed to implementing engagement at the strategic level. Organizations as diverse as McDonald’s, AstraZeneca, Hewlett-Packard, Best Buy, and Nationwide Insurance are in various stages of undertaking strategic engagement initiatives designed to align their brands across all of their audiences to maximize loyalty, engagement, and performance.

Engagement has become the subject of a growing number of blogs, and a growing number of companies such as EGR International, JWT INSIDE (a division of JWT Worldwide), and StratAchieve now market themselves as “full-service engagement agencies.”

What this means is that engagement is moving from tactical to strategic: Organizations have recognized they can benefit from a strategic, enterprise-wide approach to engagement designed to become part of the organizational culture and values. And this presents significant opportunities for training professionals.

A Growing Priority

Engagement has emerged as a growing executive priority because it is now increasingly possible to measure the financial impact of engagement on an organization’s performance and brand equity.

Today, the financial benefits of engagement are too compelling too ignore.

• The average three-year revenue growth for “high-performing companies” (e.g., those that effectively manage employee engagement) was more than twice that of industry peers; engaged employees are more likely to stay with their employer than those with a lower level of engagement; and the more engaged employees are, the lower the inventory “shrink” (CLC-Genesee and the Corporate Executive Board; 2009).

• When workers were asked how they would describe relationships with their coworkers, 86 percent of engaged employees said their interactions were always positive or mostly positive vs. 72 percent of unengaged workers and just 45 percent of actively disengaged workers (Gallup Management Journal; 2009).

• High-engagement firms experienced an earnings-per-share (EPS) growth rate of 28 percent, compared with an 11.2 percent decline for firms with low levels of engagement (Towers Perrin survey; July 2008).

• Public organizations ranking in the top quartile of employee engagement had earnings per share (EPS) more than two-and-a-half times greater than organizations that were below average (Gallup Management Journal survey; January 12, 2006).

Knowledge & Skills

At a recent Marcus Evans conference, Rick DeMarco, director of Internal Brand Alignment for Hewlett-Packard, summarized the approach taken by H-P and other companies presenting their case studies: “The employee engagement framework is about creating brand ambassadors—informing everyone on the brand values, reinforcing the necessary knowledge and skills, and inspiring and empowering people.”

“Our surveys found huge gaps between the employees’ and customers’ views of the brands,” noted Gayle Deringer, director of the Global HR Design Group at McDonald’s. “The key is to simplify and focus on priorities, and to speak with one consistent message so that the employee can speak with the same message.”

Training is a critical part of McDonald’s strategy to inform all of the critical audiences of the brand proposition and how to translate that into everyone’s day-to-day work activities.

Opportunities for Training

Engagement has the potential to drive considerable demand for training at multiple levels, starting at the top. Enterprise engagement strategies require:

• Management at all levels with a clear knowledge of the organization’s brand proposition and how each executive, manager, and employee can contribute.

• The ability of employees, distribution partners, and vendors to do what is asked of them to accomplish organizational goals.

• Highly informed distribution partners or customers who feel they have an emotional stake in the organization.

That said, training professionals don’t have to wait for corporate leaders to embrace enterprise engagement to profit from the basic premises and tools of engagement. The principles of enterprise engagement have a direct bearing on the effectiveness of learning programs. Andrew Kimball, president of Qube Learning, notes: “We can’t just rely on effective training materials anymore. We have to find techniques such as games and contests to engage people to participate and to reinforce critical messages.”

Training professionals also may find themselves working with new types of clients. Helping organizations implement engagement strategies has become a business opportunity for traditional marketing agencies and human resources consultants.

“Over the last decade, our company has made the shift from focusing on meetings and events to providing integrated marketing to providing full-service engagement services designed to help our clients achieve results through people, no matter what the audience,” says Jeff Grisamore, president of EGR International. “Many of our programs involve a training component.”

“We know that having people capable of doing something is as important has having them motivated,” explains Jim Dittman, president of Dittman Incentive Marketing, a New Brunswick, NJ-based incentive company. “We incorporate training elements into almost every program we present to clients, as well as our engagement technology.”

For Melanie Lewis, director of Commercial Engagement for AstraZeneca, assessment data continually identify the need for training as part of the company’s engagement efforts.

“Often, the critical touchpoint for engagement occurs at the field level,” she says. “You can’t make that happen without significant and ongoing training of field level management, and the training won’t sink in unless it is truly engaging.”

About the Author:

Bruce Bolger, managing director of the Enterprise Engagement Alliance (, was an early proponent of integrated, targeted communication, marketing and sales programs to better engage customers and employees. He helped found the Forum for People Performance Management and Measurement at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and was one of the founders of the EEA, which is creating a formal curriculum and certification program on enterprise engagement.

Bolger is also the author of two books, “Principles of Results-Based Incentive Program Design” and“Strategic Incentive Program Design: Critical Steps to Ensure an Effective Performance Improvement System.”

Reprinted from the Training Magazine Network

Conversations with 3 Mentoring Leaders

One of the tough challenges for companies today is finding systemic ways to tap into the vast pools of knowledge that exist in their organizations, and then creating effective ways for that knowledge to be shared among employees. The breadth and depth of knowledge available can make this task overwhelming.

Networked mentoring begins with the philosophy that everyone has something to teach, and everyone has something to learn. In this same vein, mentoring leaders from Agilent Technologies, YUM! Brands, and McDonald’s share what mentoring means to their organizations and how they are taking mentoring to the next level.

Agilent Technologies

Leslie Camino-Markowitz, Director, Next Generation Leadership Programs, Global Learning and Leadership Development

Q. Why is mentoring important to Agilent?

A. Agilent’s aim is to foster a high-performance environment that will focus and maximize the passion, performance, and potential of its people to deliver business results. Agilent has strong management practices, processes, and systems that support the development of employees in their current work and encourages their continued growth at Agilent. Mentoring can play a significant part in supporting all levels of employees to achieve this together.

Q. How is Agilent using mentoring?

A. Agilent has a strong mentoring culture, and as such, we use mentoring in a variety of ways. Mentoring at Agilent is a process that supports learning and development, and therefore, performance improvements for an individual, team, or business. It typically involves offline help by one person to another in making significant transitions in knowledge, work, thinking, or career.

Mentoring can be formal, using structured and systematic processes, procedures, and tools. It is typically driven by organizational needs, based on goal achievement, and of a fixed duration. Mentoring can also be informal, which is flexible and loosely structured, with only periodic measurement of results. The characteristics of mentoring relationships will vary depending on the nature of the partnership and the needs of each partner.

Agilent’s Next Generation Leadership programs provide accelerated development for top talent by matching senior leaders and executives with high potential talent to develop a leadership pipeline. Our CEO leads the way by enthusiastically accepting mentoring relationships as another way to directly influence the development of our future leaders, and it allows him to get keen insight into the organization.

Q. What business impact does Agilent hope to achieve through mentoring?

A. At Agilent, we look at our yearly strategic imperatives to analyze the business requirements for talent and to understand how we can move on our commitments. We consider how to use mentoring in support of our values.

From creating a culture of speed to opportunity, creating strategic alignment, building organizational capability, and delivering results by engaging the hearts and minds of our people, mentoring allows for people connections to get us where we need to be. Ultimately, it’s about increasing speed to competence and breaking the intrinsic challenges that come with matrix organizations.

Q. Where do you see the practice of mentoring going in the next 5-10 years?

A. It’s all about increasing connectivity for a purpose. While I do think that traditional mentoring continues to be highly effective, the reality of the speed in which we need to deliver results, react to continuous unprecedented change, and synthesize information—along with demands on our time—require us to develop faster modes of connectivity toward building capability, enabling informed decisions, and promoting action. Tapping into sources of knowledge quickly and in real time is an imperative. It is all about dynamic mining for knowledge.

To that end we are conscious that we need to evolve mentoring as a knowledge transfer solution that incorporates social learning approaches. We are in the midst of launching ASK network—Agilent Sharing Knowledge—to help shift the mindset of traditional mentoring only as a long-term commitment to one of mining knowledge now, and we are doing it by socializing the concept in support of business objectives.

Q.What influence do you think this will have on your employees?

A. Knowledge exchange to increase productivity and enable competency to deliver on Agilent’s strategic intent is the desired result. With this comes the potential of higher employee engagement and innovation. It is about using the rich knowledge and experience we already have in-house and about the innovation that comes when several minds come together.

Yum! Brands
Emma Oberdieck, People Development Manager

Q. Why is mentoring important to Yum! Brands?

A. At Yum! Brands, one of our core beliefs is, “people capability first… satisfied customers and profitability follow.” This guides our overall approach to the training and development of our associates. We know that the only way to achieve breakthrough business results is by believing in all of our associates and helping them to unleash their full potential. Mentoring is one of the key ways we build the capability of our associates to help them grow and develop.

Q. How is Yum! using mentoring?

A. We practice a philosophy reinforcing the belief that every associate owns their own development. In support of this practice, mentoring has been woven into the people development fabric of our organization to make it accessible throughout the year. We talk about mentoring when we set goals at the beginning of the year.

We encourage onboarding mentoring for many of our new hires, and we strongly support mentoring for new coaches. We use one-on-one mentoring as a complement to our broader internal ideation and project collaboration network. And mentoring supports our cultural values, which we call “How We Win Together.”

Our most visible mentoring effort is in direct support of our mid-year Individual Development Planning process. Together associates and their supervisors create yearlong action plans to help the associates grow and develop. Emphasis is put on learning from experience, learning from others, and formal learning methods.

And while special development offerings such as stretch or temporary assignments can be made available from time to time, mentoring is always available to Yum! associates who work above the restaurant level.

To ensure that these associates get the most out of mentoring, we provide a variety of tools and support to enhance the mentoring relationship experience, including goal sheets, discussion guides, newsletters, websites, books, and self-guided e-learning modules.

We offer a formalized matching tool for those associates who would like a helping hand in identifying the right mentor or mentee. And we have assigned mentoring leaders in each of our operating divisions to provide program and participant support.

Q. What business impact does Yum! hope to achieve through mentoring?

A. Mentoring allows us to grow our people and our business in two key areas: business growth and expansion, and retention and engagement.
In business growth and expansion, mentoring matches associates across geographies, disciplines, and generations, both allowing us to share our wealth of knowledge outside of the boundaries that our business can naturally create and encouraging global innovation and new thinking. Because mentoring fosters close relationships, we learn to deliver superior results supported by the requests we feel more comfortable making of each other.

Related to retention and engagement, we use mentoring to engage and coach associates to grow to their full potential. Mentoring asks us to identify and focus on specific needs for development, and it pairs us with others who are dedicated to developing us in a truthful, safe, one-on-one work relationship.

These relationships, based on low-cost experiential learning, expand professional networks, promote diversity and inclusion, and increase engagement. This heightened sense of associate commitment results in reduced turnover, which allows us to build a stronger talent bench. Our associates tell us mentoring is one of the reasons Yum! is an employer of choice.

Q. Where do you see the practice of mentoring going in the next five to 10 years?

A. Our vision is that every associate around the world has the opportunity to grow professionally and has the responsibility to coach others through every transition and phase of their career. Today, informal mentoring is happening globally in nearly every piece of our business. Formal mentor matching, however, is currently limited to our associates above the restaurant level in both our domestic business and our English-speaking international business units.

Although formal programs would have to be customized to meet the needs of our restaurant associates, we are actively pursuing solutions to enable every associate to enjoy the growth benefits of a close mentoring relationship. In addition, we would expect to offer a formal matching system in all of the languages our associates speak across the globe.

Q. What effect do you think this will have on your employees?

A. Survey and anecdotal feedback from formal and informal mentoring participants and their coaches reinforces our belief that mentoring increases job satisfaction, engagement, and retention. We’ve found that sharing information in a transparent and supportive setting increases breadth and depth of associates’ business understanding.

We know an expansion of mentoring will make our global business strategies and competencies accessible and attainable to associates where they live and work. And we’re counting on that bridge of the knowledge and support gap outside of current comfort zones to unleash the amazing talent potential we house so we can encourage our leaders of tomorrow to emerge as leaders of today.

Dennis Brennan, Director, Inclusion, Global Inclusion & Intercultural Management

Q. Why is mentoring important to McDonald’s?

A. Mentoring relationships harness the additional experience and expertise that is available to every employee in the form of fellow employees. Our founder, Ray Kroc, said it best, “None of us is as good as all of us.” We encourage all employees to seek out formal relationships that build their personal and professional skill sets that raise their competence, confidence, and add value to our business.

Q. How is McDonald’s using mentoring?

A. McDonald’s has a long history of using mentoring programs in formal and informal manners to identify and nurture future leaders, build skills for more competent employees, identify and grow successful franchisees, and assist those businesses that supply our quality products and services. Since 2006 we have offered an internal, online, virtual mentoring program that employees can utilize at their pace to make relationship connections and build their skill sets.

Q. What business impacts does McDonald’s hope to achieve through mentoring?

A. Our mission at McDonald’s is: “We aspire to be our customers’ favorite place and way to eat.” To achieve this mission, our actions as individuals and as a system must reflect our values, one of which is “We strive continually to improve.”

Engaging in effective advisor or learner (mentor-mentee) relationships within and between our employees, franchisees, and suppliers will achieve levels of employee performance, franchisee growth, and supplier expansion that will service our needs in building the McDonald’s brand around the world to satisfy our customers.

Q. Where do you see the practice of mentoring going in the next five to 10 years?

A. Practically speaking, as today’s virtual information society continues to expand, mentoring as we know it in the form of advisor, teacher, or learner will still exist.

People and leaders will continue to reach out to those who have the initiative, drive, and desire to improve their performance contributions to our business and the communities in which we do business. The delivery systems will dramatically change as

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the virtual world becomes smaller and access to people and learning tools becomes more fluid.

Q. What impact do you think this will have on your employees?

A. If past performance is an accurate predictor of future performance, our employees will utilize mentors or advisors to greater depths and continue to build their skill competence on broader scales that will better prepare them for positions and contributions to which they aspire.

Journey Forth

Three unique companies, three approaches to mentoring, yet all with one belief: That mentoring will continue to be the way to spread knowledge, skills, and context throughout their workforces, helping to make their employees better and their companies stronger.

About the Author:

Randy Emelo is president and CEO of Triple Creek and has worked with hundreds of clients showing them how to blend formal and informal learning into an interactive, relational, and measurable process with enterprise mentoring;

Reprinted from T&D Magazine

10 Tips for Designing Mobile Learning and Support Apps

For quite a while now, I’ve been pouring over mobile design books, listening to podcasts and reading online content to learn the best practices for designing mobile phone applications as I design one of my own.

Strangely enough, it seems as though many gurus actually agree on the basics of functionality, usability and aesthetics required for making an effective mobile application. Here I’ve gathered up what I think are the best practices of mobile app design and applied them to mobile learning and mobile performance support when possible.

1. Use a broad definition of mobile

Although mobile applications are often used while someone is busy and on the go, they are also used in a calmer context. For example, people check Twitter updates on their mobile phones while at home, they read articles on the phone while waiting in a doctor’s office, and they may even use mobile phones at their desks, if the convenience factor is greater than using a computer.

2. Design for short bursts of activity

Probably the most realistic model for mobile learning and performance support is similar to how people use phones for other purposes—in short bursts of activity. Users probably won’t sit for an hour going through a full-blown eLearning course on a phone. The more likely scenario is that people will squeeze a mobile learning segment in between other activities. And they will access a performance support app while doing a task. Think micro-learning and micro-instruction, which is ideal for informal learning and learning augmentation. See Clark Quinn’s Designing mLearning for more on this.

3. Minimize functionality for a simple user interface

Many people who design for the web and for eLearning like to pack in the functionality. But when you’re dealing with something like a 320×480 screen, small selection regions and somewhat limited processing capacity, it’s best to minimize your grand ideas to

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a simple set of options that gets the job done. Less functionality should translate into a simple user interface that users can easily perceive and understand. For example, a micro-lesson might provide topic navigation from a list, a way to navigate through the lesson and links to a glossary. Simple and straightforward.

4. Make efficiency a goal

Consider the fact that users expect to get the information they need in just a few taps. This is particularly important if you’re designing a mobile performance support app. Structure information so it can be easily accessed. When designs lack efficiency, people will be less likely to use the app.

5. Think differently when designing for touch

Touch screens have a huge cognitive advantage over using an input device because they more closely resemble interactions with the physical world. Touch screens allow users to directly manipulate content. Designing for the gestural interface takes a different mind set. Although you can be innovative when designing for the mobile phone touch screen, don’t go too far. See the limitations below.

6. Use the simplest features of the gestural interface

According to Josh Clark, author of Tapworthy: Designing Great iPhone Apps, most people don’t know about the more esoteric gestures that work on some mobile phones. There isn’t room to explain the user interface on a small screen. For example, I probably had my iPhone for four months before I discovered that a pinch open gesture will magnify the text. (Someone told me.) Keep in mind that the most well-used gestures are simple taps and swipes.

7. Consider one-handed users

The more dexterous among us use their mobile phones in a one-handed manner, while holding something else in the other hand or while in conversation as it seems (slightly) more polite. One-handed use might be particularly applicable for some performance support scenarios. During design, consider whether your app will be used with only one thumb. If so, design for it.

8. Design for visual clarity

There are certain visual design principles to help ensure users won’t misinterpret the cues on the screen. For example, keep the screen uncluttered as much as possible to promote clarity. This means thinking through which features and content are extraneous and which are essential. In addition, take advantage of the human inclination to see relationships in groupings. When items are close together or bounded by a border, people assume they belong together.

9. Design for a low error rate

Selection errors on mobile phones are higher than on desktops because fingers can be clumsy, people are often distracted during use and some people have large hands. The navigation bar at the bottom of the iPhone is 44 pixels in height in an effort to reduce selection errors. When designing your app, therefore, consider ways to reduce tap errors, such as surrounding selection areas with as much white space as possible. Ideally, when a user taps something on the screen, it should invoke the correct action.

10. Prototype first with a web app

Even if you are considering developing a native app (these reside on the phone), there are many advantages to prototyping your app on the web first. In an interview, digital product designer Luke Wroblewski points out that prototyping apps for the web first gives designers a quick way to learn what works and what doesn’t. You can experience your app by carrying it around, accessing it in different situations, and providing access to target audience group members for feedback.

About the Author:

Connie Malamed is a consultant in the fields of e-learning, visual communication, media design, and information design. She is the author of Visual Language for Designers: Principles for Creating Graphics that People Understand. Contact her at Join her on Twitter for new ideas, resources and inspiration: @elearningcoach.

Reprinted from Learning Circuits

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