Archives for March 2012

Ethics Group Warns of ‘Steep Declines’ in Workforce Trust

A survey by a corporate research and watchdog group that predicts “a potentially significant ethics decline ahead” in American workplaces is a clear warning to employers to address employee disaffection, experts say.

The “ominous warning signs” of an ethics decline, the Arlington, Virginia-based Ethics Resource Center said in its 2011 National Business Ethics Survey, include a sharp increase in retaliation against employee whistle-blowers. More than 1 in 5 employees, or 22 percent, who reported misconduct say they experienced some form of retaliation in return. That is an all-time high and is almost double the number—12 percent—who experienced retaliation in 2007.

The most common forms of retaliation, according to the survey, are exclusion from decisions and work activity, getting the cold shoulder by co-workers and verbal abuse by a manager, according to the survey.

“This confirms other data [showing an increasing] level of distrust in the workforce, directed particularly at executive management,” says Earl “Chip” Jones III, a labor and employment law specialist at the law firm of Littler Mendelson in Dallas and a former senior executive for Dean Foods Co.

Workers who distrust management, Jones says, are more inclined to “perceive” they have been retaliated against even when, in reality, they have not. “There’s a breakdown in the relationship,” he says.

The Ethics Resource Center, which interviewed nearly 4,700 private-sector workers for the survey, which was released in January, reported that 2011 was “a year of extremes and substantive shifts.”

On the positive side, “[M]isconduct has reached an historic low and observers of wrongdoing are more willing to report than ever. But with this good news we also see some very ominous signs—ethics cultures are eroding and employees’ perceptions of their leaders’ ethics are slipping.”

Among the survey’s specific findings:

• The percentage of employees who perceived pressure to compromise standards in order to do their jobs climbed five points to 13 percent, just shy of the all-time high of 14 percent in 2000.

• Companies with weak ethics cultures also climbed to near-record levels at 42 percent, up from 35 percent two years ago.

As a group, the Ethics Resource Center said, active social networkers “are much more likely to experience pressure to compromise ethics standards and to experience retaliation for reporting misconduct than co-workers who are less involved with social networking.”

Jones sees a positive trend in the greater willingness of workers to report misconduct.

“Employees are more aware of their right to speak up,” he says. And juries appear ready to punish those employers that retaliate against whistle-blowers.

In what may be the largest verdict for a single employee in U.S. history, a California jury recently awarded close to $168 million against a Sacramento hospital for firing an employee who made complaints about patient safety and sexual harassment to the facility’s human resources department. In North Dakota, meanwhile, an oral surgeon won $900,000 against a health system in February in a similar whistle-blower case.

Both the Ethics Resource Center and Jones recommend that employers carefully review their anti-retaliation policies and invest heavily in ethics and compliance programs. As a first step, Jones advises clients to conduct a thorough employee engagement survey that asks questions such as, “Are you able to complain about your supervisor?”

“You have to find out what the cultural climate is in your business and then manage it,” he says.

Companies should also train managers, Jones says, “to understand they have a duty to let people complain” rather than take complaints personally. “If an employee complains about you … you have to take personal sentiment out of the equation.”

And human resources practitioners should understand the company’s business, Jones says. If a factory worker, for example, complains that a manager put chemicals down the drain, there might be environmental law violations. “HR should be spotting all these issues,” Jones says.

As for active social networkers, the ethics center suggests that employers engage them in discussions about ethical issues and “enlist them in efforts to positively integrate social networks into your business culture.”

About the Author:

Matthew Heller is a freelance writer and editor. Reprinted from Workforce Online

From Traditional Instruction to Instructional Design 2.0

We’re working in a wonderful era of easy-to-use, readily available social media technologies ideally suited to learning and instruction. These tools—blogs, wikis, social networking sites, microblog sites, video sites, and more—provide wonderful, new opportunities to invite participation from our learners.

Anecdotal reports from learning and development (L&D) professionals indicate that trainers and instructional designers are enthusiastic about and interested in using new tools and approaches, but just don’t have a good understanding of how to do so. Industry news and technology aficionados offer frequent updates about new social media tools (such as the recently launched Google+) or updates to old ones—often without much in the way of ideas for integrating them into practice.

Advantages are many: Social media allow more participation over a span of time, encourage people to “learn out loud” for the benefit of others, and provide ways to more closely embed learning into work. So what are some strategies for workplace learning practitioners seeking to incorporate these new tools into their training design?

Defining social learning and social media

Social learning is not new, and just using social media tools doesn’t make learning “social.” Also, social learning and social media aren’t the same thing. In fact, social learning isn’t necessarily connected with social media.

Social learning is learning with and from others by moving within one’s culture, workplace, and world. It’s often unconscious and unintentional, and it often looks more like solving a problem or working together to make sense of something. Social learning is how most of us learn most things: through living in our cultures and interacting with others there. It’s how babies learn to talk and how we learn the basic rules of getting along on the playground. It’s all around us every day, from water cooler conversations to asking a co-worker for an opinion.

Social media are the tools that enable social learning to happen on a large scale, and their popularity has gone a long way in bringing increased awareness of and interest in social learning in the workplace. In seeking to be part of this, practitioners can begin by expanding their current practices and finding ways to extend their reach.

It’s important, for instance, to begin practicing what some call social instructional design: incorporating collaborative activities, particularly with new online tools. But it’s also important to start moving past our traditional notion of instruction, particularly as it is delivered in the form of discrete modules or courses.

For instance, we know learners talk during breaks, after class, and in between sessions or modules—how can we be part of those conversations? We know that workers often turn to one another for help—how can we listen better to have answers more readily available to them?

Identify the instructional goals

This seems obvious, but a focus on outcomes often gets lost in enthusiasm over new tools and products. “Doing Twitter” isn’t a goal. Do you want learners to explore, listen, share, reflect, interact with the instructor, interact with one another, or some combination of these? Does the material indicate an assignment such as: Read an article or watch a video, and comment on either; brainstorm and arrange ideas into categories; or work together to lay out the flow of a process or project?

Or do you want to find new means of continuing classroom conversations or conducting formative or summative assessment activities? These kinds of decisions will affect your choice of tools.

You should identify where performance gaps are. Where are your learners struggling, and how can you help? Most of us likely will agree with Josh Bersin Associates’ David Mallon when he says, “It’s easier for me to find a long-lost high school friend than a document I need at work.” Few of us complain that information is too easy to find, or that communication is too smooth.

What would be of most help to your learners, and most in support of your goals? Do your learners need to explore ideas and information (as with structured web searches), listen (as with RSS feeds or podcasts), share (as with bookmarking tools such as Delicious, or media sharing sites such as YouTube, Slideshare, or Flickr), reflect (as often happens with blogs), or work collaboratively in a dynamic workspace (as with a wiki)? Do your learners need help finding one another to engage in conversations of their choosing (as with social networking tools)?

While many tools will accommodate a number of approaches, try to identify the ones that make sense for your large goals in the long run. It’s also important to consider the real reasons for using social media for learning in the first place; it should in some way extend or enhance the learning experience, or make the learning more accessible to learners. Simply bolting social-media-based activities onto programs because it’s the trendy thing to do won’t serve anyone well.

Other considerations

Apart from matching goals to strategies, there are other considerations that can support your success with “ID 2.0.” Think about what your learners will use, find out what percentage of your workforce comprises Facebook users or Twitterphiles, and determine how many workers have smartphones.

Similarly, what will the organization support? Look into whether employees encounter many problems with websites being blocked. How flexible is your IT department in working with the learning department? Also, check with the marketing department or communications office to find out what is being used elsewhere in the organization and whether you can build on that.

Beyond Twitter and Facebook

Think about how social media tools could help you get into new spaces, such as those between or after formal events, or where conversations are otherwise naturally occurring. What are some ways to help support the new learning as people work to implement it?

Some ideas include:

  • an online leadership book club to sustain learning beyond the confines of the organization’s structured leadership academy
  • a networking group for graduates of a particular course, which can be a great way to support transfer of new learning from the classroom event
  • a dynamic, evolving frequently-asked-questions webpage for new hires, created by new hires, or a webpage with tips from top sales staff
  • a wiki for group projects
  • a site for “critical incident” discussions related to training topics such as customer service or ethics
  • a microblog-based live chat for all the leaders in your organization, or all leaders in the pharmaceutical industry, or all leaders everywhere
  • a Twitter hashtag assigned to your training sessions so participants can tweet key points and takeaways to those who were unable to attend.

One area ripe for expansion is performance support. L&D is perfectly positioned to use social media tools to deliver job aids and provide real-time mentoring and coaching. Helping to establish and nurture communities for recent course graduates and new hires is an excellent way to build and reinforce ties between learners and learning.

Find ways for learners to support one another and showcase their work. For instance, Google’s Julia Bulkowski recommends that when a stellar salesperson closes a big sale, ask that employee to share her presentation by narrating key points, objections, and responses, and then ask what she considered critical to the sale. Publish this via a sharing tool or company site as a support tool for others.

Watch for opportunities that training and development may be missing. For example, do your workers have an easy way of finding one another? How long would it take someone to, say, find another person in the organization who is fluent in Portuguese? Lead the initiative to establish employee profiles that include skills inventories.

Work with others to establish blogs on topics of particular interest in the company, and recruit ambassadors or experts to help populate these and lead conversations. These can be specific to business, such as sales tactics or new product details, or information of more personal relevance to people such as wellness or work-life balance.

Host a “lifelong learning” blog or Facebook page with updates about L&D activities, as well as links to how-to sites and videos, links to free webinars or podcasts, and overviews of academic programs that might be of interest to staff. In other words, help your learners use social media to learn. Work to invite conversation, comments, and suggestions from your readers or members.

Support learners in generating help for other learners. For example, help them make videos showing successful performance or illustrating common pitfalls for new supervisors. Help them use tools such as Scribd or Slideshare to publish their projects and presentations.

Look for opportunities to help in the workflow. One of my biggest successes was intervening the day a higher-up asked for 15 people to review and return their iterations of the same document. It was a perfect moment to introduce simultaneously shared Google Docs.

New opportunities

New tools allow us to engage with learners, provide opportunities, and work in learning spaces in ways we never could before. We can offer access to experts in real time, keep course graduates in contact as they work to implement their new learning, and, essentially, have more of a place in the learners’ workflow. The opportunities to broaden the reach of the L&D department are now limitless. For instance:

  • Provide real-time access to expertise. Ask the CEO to participate in a social-media-based conversation. Encourage learners to follow experts in the field on Twitter or Google+.
  • Invite an expert or author for an online (Skype or virtual classroom-based) chat; prior to the event invite participants to post their questions using a tool such as Wallwisher.
  • Provide a wiki for learners to record course notes, providing a searchable, permanent record of their course across time and iterations. All participants then will be able to leave with a virtual course book.
  • Provide a virtual field trip to another office or other location via YouTube.
  • Draw expertise and work together on a work product via a wiki or document-sharing site.
  • Provide real-time updates that go directly into networking or micro-
    blog streams.

Move into the workflow

A frequent refrain heard from L&D professionals is “I set up a community and they don’t participate” or “I set up a blog for the training department but hardly anyone visits it.” This is where the real shift is coming.

New awareness of social learning, and new tools to facilitate it, are changing L&D’s role as content-pusher. We need to participate and partner, and help find and support the conversations. Workers are learning from one another all the time, although they may think of it instead as solving a problem.

We are finally uniquely positioned to help move workplace learning from scheduled event to meaningful process.

About the Author:

Jane Bozarth is a career-long trainer, training manager, and instructional designer, presently working as the state of North Carolina’s e-learning coordinator.

Reprinted from T&D Magazine

Content Curation Strategies for Corporate Learning

In a previous article, Your New Role: Learning Content Curator, I underscored the need for corporate learning professionals to begin to let go of content creation and start nurturing a content curation mindset. According to global marketing strategy guru Rohit Bhargava, a content curator is someone who continually finds, groups, organizes, and shares the best and most relevant content on a specific issue online.

As content curators for corporate learning, we are tasked with providing context and filters for learning content that not only guide learners to the appropriate formal learning opportunities, but also furnish timely informal assets their peers and managers develop and publish.

By donning the content curator hat on top of a strong foundation in instructional design and performance consulting, we open doors to a new incarnation of interactive online learning. We begin to break through the traditional boundaries previously imposed on learning content. Content curation requires that we move away from delivering corporate learning as a loose collection of independent e-learning courses. It requires new learning strategies and technologies.

But if cramming a corporate LMS full of new courses isn’t the path to the future of learning, where do we start?

You’re Probably Already Curating Content

If you actively use social media, you likely already have participated in content curation. Any time you share a link to content you have not created, you are a content curator. You are providing a filter, directing your readers to a specific target in a sea of information clutter. You also are providing context—that is, the understanding of why the link may be meaningful to your audience at that particular point in time, especially if you add a few words of explanation.

Curation makes information mining much more efficient than unguided search and allows readers to focus on digesting the provided content under the assumption it already has been vetted as worthy of their time and attention. This is no more or less true if you are sending a link to an article by an industry guru or a fresh service bulletin to your internal business team…or forwarding that video of a cute Jack Russell Terrier to your fellow dog-loving Facebook friends.

If you have ever developed learning content, you are wired for content curation. Consider the types of links you have shared in the past. You may recognize that curation skills are similar to those we have used for years in supporting traditional classroom or online learning content:

  • Notating a research paper
  • Creating a recommended reading list
  • Requiring a course reading assignment
  • Establishing a resource “share drive” on the corporate intranet

These activities all exercise similar content curation muscles:

  • Filter down to just the right content
  • Provide appropriate context
  • Share a link to the content

Content Curation in Corporate Learning

Now you’re ready to put content curation into practice at your workplace. Where do you start? Here are a few content curation strategies we’ve implemented at Media 1 to give you inspiration:

Resource Page

A simple solution that can offer high value: Offer a curated Resource Page containing links to additional reading at the end of your next e-learning course, along with a few descriptive lines to provide context. If you are concerned about maintaining links within a course, provide a single link to a resource page on your intranet for easier updates.

Be sure to consider internal or external blogs or podcasts that you know consistently provide helpful content, and while you have their attention, don’t forget printable job aids or worksheets.

Course as a Portal

Blackboard or Moodle users, consider setting up a “course” that is a reference portal to organized, curated resource links for a department or job function. In essence, use the framework as a content management system for your curated content.

Smart Portal

To avoid unruly “data dump” portals, enlist SharePoint logic and workflows to help further filter large amounts of curated content by subject or relevance. For example:

  • Guide new hires to instructions and resources for completing common tasks in the first weeks on the job
  • Drive learners to a group of courses in your LMS that are most relevant based on their role, region, or self-selections from a drop-down menu
  • Provide salespeople with the ability to sort and filter podcasts by managers on targeted selling or product announcements
  • Assign curator(s) to periodically seek out new content links from within your organization and register them in the appropriate portal(s)

Moderated Learning Community

Develop a moderated Community of Practice, enlisting dedicated mentors or guides to curate content in their area of expertise. Consider the model of the moderated learning community

Mahalo is the world’s first human-powered search engine powered by an enthusiastic and energetic group of Guides. Our Guides spend their days searching, filtering out spam, and hand-crafting the best search results possible. If they haven’t yet built a search result, you can request that search result. You also can suggest links for any of our search results.

As a bonus, offer moderated discussion boards to encourage learners to share ideas around curated content. Or, scale back and set up a series of moderated wikis for a simplified approach.

Curated Blogging

Educate your blogging managers and subject matter experts (SMEs) on the art and value of high- quality content curation around a theme that is meaningful to them and valuable to the continuous growth of your learners. Targeted curation eases the burden of always having to work through completely new ideas and allows busy writers to scaffold on the foundational ideas set forth by others.

At the same time, it builds organizational knowledge by personally directing learners to relevant content that is already available but may otherwise be overlooked.

Closing Thoughts

Throughout each of these strategies, the running theme is to enlist yourself and other knowledgeable and

passionate SMEs to filter and provide context to the resource materials that they value the most—trusting that your knowledge also will provide value to others interested in the same subject.

Over time, through competent content curation, the communities and portals we develop and support will become sought out as trusted sources of sustainable learning and performance in their own right—despite the learning content not being delivered as a formal course.

About the Author:


Chris Frederick Willis is CEO of Media 1, a consultancy specializing in integrating people, technology, and performance to drive Human Capital Improvement (HCI). Willis is passionate about melding the best practices of multiple disciplines and the power of SharePoint technology to support integrated learning and talent management—developing innovative solutions for onboarding, sales, and leadership.

Reprinted from Training Magazine Network

The Sweet and Sour of Bite-Sized Learning

When time is money, spending time away from the job on learning and development isn’t always a high priority. Short, bite-sized bursts of learning offer an alternative for busy professionals.

“Think about it like vitamins,” said Dave Basarab, independent learning consultant and former learning and development executive. “You take one a day. Can you find time to leave the office two days to go to class? No. Can you find 20 minutes to learn something new? Absolutely.”

Basarab began using microlearning, or learning bursts as he calls them, when he headed up sales training at Pitney Bowes. The 20-minute or less, self-administered bits of learning were designed to balance the desire of sales managers to get staff into the field with the need to get them trained. The sluggish economy and mass layoffs compounded the problem, giving remaining workers more to do with less time for development and growth.

“[Microlearning] gives the participant an opportunity to learn on their own without having to disrupt their daily work flow,” Basarab said.

Basarab’s learning bursts are designed to be accessed from mobile devices such as a smartphone and consist of an eight- to 10-minute audio track featuring a conversation with a subject-matter expert along with a workbook of supporting material. Each unit can be combined with others in a sequence to equate to one or two days of traditional classroom learning.

Microlearning: The Sweet

The idea is to provide learning on demand at the time of need in a flexible and repeatable way, Basarab said. That approach comes with advantages:

It’s mobile and can be taken anywhere. Workers can take courses during their downtime or on their commute. “It’s whenever I need it versus when the learning department says it’s available,” he said.

Content is flexible and focused. Single topics can stand alone or make up units in a larger course like finance for non-financial managers, marketing 101 or performance management. Added back together, they form part of sequence. “So if there were 14 of these micro-bursts that make up a finance course, I could just go in and take No. 7 without having to take one through six,” Basarab said.

No new technology needed for development. “All you need to do to record the audio is have a subject-matter expert, two headsets plugged into a PC and some open-source software to create an MP3 and edit it,” he said. It can then be put up on an LMS, sent out in an email or posted to a website.

Saves time and money. Basic entry courses delivered in person and requiring travel and time away from the office can be replaced with microlearning. Instructors can follow up with team-based learning via webinars or simulations afterward to check understanding.

Microlearning: The Sour

There are drawbacks to using this approach, Basarab said. It works well for fundamental knowledge — such as safety rules and regulations, principles of marketing or finance — but not for teaching a topic requiring practice and application.

“If you’re trying to get someone to learn how to coach employees, it’s probably not a good idea,” he said.

Basarab also cautions CLOs to consider the needs and learning style of particular learners. Some learners respond better to visual or textual information as opposed to audio. But the biggest drawback, he said, is the lack of a tracking or evaluation mechanism common to many other learning methodologies, such as e-learning.

“If you hand people 15 learning bursts and say go complete this … most people don’t complete it,” he said. “They’ll start and they won’t finish.”

Some companies set up a virtual cohort to overcome those shortcomings. Learners are given microlearning as an independent assignment and are then brought together with a group afterward to discuss and apply the knowledge.

Microlearning is a useful tool in the CLO’s toolkit but it’s not the answer to every need.

“If it’s a small amount of people, you’d probably be better served doing it in traditional ways,” Basarab said. “But when you have large amounts and it’s a repeatable process and the content is static … it lends itself well to that.”

Microlearning is effective for information-based kinds of training. While simulations and follow-up activities can be used to overcome some of the limitations on its use for skill- and application-based training, it still may not be the perfect solution.

“Don’t think it’s the answer to all problems,” Basarab said. “It’s the answer to some of the nagging problems.”

About the Author:

Mike Prokopeak is editorial director of Chief Learning Officer magazine. Reprinted from Chief Learning Officer magazine

5 Tips to Make Coaching More Effective

When faced with shrinking budgets, a leaner workforce and the need to transfer knowledge from impending retirees to young up-and-comers, coaching can help organizations stay competitive and boost productivity. Yet, well-intentioned coaching programs struggle to get off the ground and maintain momentum.

Consider the following checklist when designing or re-designing a coaching program to increase the likelihood of success.

Technical expertise does not make a great coach. While technical expertise is certainly important, it is at best only half the battle. Great coaches are empathetic, patient, good listeners and good teachers.
Post-mortems from failed programs reveal that many coaches feel frustrated that participants couldn’t just catch on to what they were describing, while the participants feel frustrated that coaches just couldn’t explain how to do something.

By making sure coaches are more than just technical experts, talent managers stand a good chance of avoiding the frustration and failures that come from poor coach-participant communications.

Bad behaviors transfer just as easily as good behavior. While on the topic of what makes a good coach, it is important to realize that program participants will learn to be just like their assigned coach — even if that means picking up some of the coach’s bad behaviors.

Typically, the coaches who are selected are some of the most tenured and respected employees in the organization. As such, they know all the loopholes and ways around the system and they could easily (in the name of expediting work and shortcuts) pass these along to the participants.

Make it clear that the goal of the program is not only to allow participants a chance to experience how the coach realizes success, but also to teach and reinforce company standards and policies.

Coaching efforts must be treated like real work. A common complaint when evaluating failed coaching programs is that there just wasn’t enough time for coaches and participants to have meaningful engagements. Effective coaching relationships take concerted efforts from both parties and, as such, require time away from day jobs. Good coaching is more than just having lunch or coffee once a month, and it is more than just the ad hoc, office doorway conversation. Leaders must realize that in some instances, coaches may require some leeway such as a project extension.

Plan, agree, act and measure. Coaching relationships are business endeavors. As such, they demand the same amount of rigor that’s expected in any other business arrangement. Discussions should be predicated on mutually agreed-upon objectives, aligned to a mutually accepted plan of action, which demonstrates observable and measurable results.

Failing to effectively plan, agree, act and measure within the coaching construct is the quickest way to develop great relationships but poor results.

Ensure new coaches are coached. Being a coach may not come naturally to many; for this reason, many successful programs implement a coach’s coach for those individuals who are new to the program.

The coach’s coach has experience on both sides of the relationship, has proven that his or her coaching ability delivers results and has the emotional intelligence to help coaches work through the frustrations and conflicts that will arise.

About the Author:

Matthew J. Ferguson is practice manager at ESI Consulting Services, ESI International.  Reprinted from Talent Management magazine

Pin It on Pinterest