Archives for September 2012

Trainers, Fear Not the 70-20-10

Many trainers cringe when they hear mention of the 70-20-10 learning philosophy. It’s understandable. Some assume the concept takes aim at their profession, asserting that it—and by association, they—have little if anything to do with enhancing employee performance. The more imaginative among us fret over a potential corporate conspiracy, fearing that the simple-sounding slogan is actually code for a finance-driven initiative focused on reducing the size of an organization’s training department.

In most cases, of course, the fears are unfounded. The concern, and, to be fair, excitement, over the model is based largely on a misunderstanding of what it is, what it means, and what it was intended to point out. Trainers who bypass the hype and review the original purpose can learn to employ the concept to become even more effective in the classroom.

The Not So New…New Thing

Need a laugh? Ask someone about the origin of the 70-20-10 learning philosophy. Better yet, ask them what it means. The model slowly has become one of those corporate concepts that everyone supports and professes to understand but just can’t quite describe with consistency. It’s no surprise. Search Google for the term and you’ll end up with thousands of articles on how to apply the concept to learning, as well as innovation, product rollouts, and even personal savings.

The idea actually originated through research conducted in the 1980s by Robert Eichinger and Michael Lombardo at the Center for Creative Leadership. While the duo has continued to pontificate on the now globally tested subject in various books such as “The Leadership Engine,” the core concept has remained the same.

In short, the researchers asked a pool of successful senior executives to look back on their careers and reflect where they felt meaningful development came from, i.e., things that made a difference in the way you manage. The results indicated the now familiar mantra:

• 70 percent from on-the-job experiences
• 20 percent learning from others
• 10 percent learning from formal courses

The Question Is Key

It’s easy to look at the answer and draw straight-line conclusions about how an organization should tailor its learning approach. Scrap the trainers. Digitize the courseware. And get employees in the field. But not so fast. It’s important to consider the context of the question.

Remember, this was a look back at events that shaped executives over a career. Is it any surprise that they recalled the people-based interactions? Think about it. Can you recall the statistics lecture you had in college? What about that PowerPoint presentation you sat through yesterday? No one remembers a textbook.

Sure, sometimes people fall in love with concepts, but more frequently they are moved and motivated by other humans. We grow from daily interactions with bosses, colleagues, customers, and

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direct reports. We learn as we do. So what we do in the classroom is critical.

The School of Hard Knocks

The research also noted the importance of learning from hardships—the personal and professional trials and setbacks one accumulates over a lifetime. While no one would purposefully build such experiences into a development plan, the point about learning from one’s mistakes and life lessons should not be overlooked. Getting fired, losing a loved one, being relocated are all hardships that test your metal. But let’s face it: You can’t forge steel without fire. Typically, people emerge from these trials stronger, wiser, and savvier than before. Those experiences can and should be harnessed where possible.

The Ugly Truth

The informal “90 percent” is powerful but amazingly difficult to orchestrate. For example, I learned a lot about crisis management and personal leadership when the engine sputtered in my two-seat training plane, but that doesn’t mean I’d advocate putting high potentials in a dodgy Cessna in hopes of replicating the experience.

The truth is that few organizations have cracked the code on how to successfully scale experiential learning without defaulting to a brutal sink-or-swim approach. Sure, you can put leaders in a classroom, assign mentors, and even invest in a job rotation program that gives future stars hands-on experience in key departments.

However, unless you teach people how to look for and call out coachable moments during those experiences, you’ll waste your efforts. This is where trainers can excel and offer assistance.

The Value of Formal Training

Classroom training has been and will remain a key element in supporting people’s success especially for those in functional roles and at pre-leader levels. You might not remember that statistic course now, but rest assured it served a purpose. Just as the seemingly endless flight standard operating procedures served their purpose when I ran into that patch of trouble at 5000 feet.

But even required training doesn’t have to be “boring.” Today’s learning organizations demand that courses become more interactive—with assessments, simulations, and real-world role-plays that tie in with and support the other elements of effective learning. This presents two distinct opportunities for trainers.

First, we can reshape the 10 percent to make it even more memorable and impactful by teaching employees how to solve problems…even unforeseen ones…rather than simply recall facts. Second, we can ensure the people who attend our courses become advocates for real-time learning back at the workplace.

The Challenge of Technology

Of course, if personal connection holds the key to productive learning, we, and the leaders we support, must press people to occasionally unplug. This is especially difficult for some workers who believe that breath-mint-sized keyboards hold the path to enlightenment. Perhaps, but I’ve yet to hear about the tweet that changed someone’s life or the instant message that prompted a career change. You have to experience experiences. There is simply no shortcut. Again, trainers are perfectly placed for imparting this and other successful habits that can truly enhance an employee’s ability to perform.

The Price of Continued Relevancy

Trainers are the facilitators of experience, the ambassadors of coachable moments. Yes, in the cheaper, better, faster world of the “i” (insert the appropriate Apple device here), you have to bring your technological A game. In the end, however, e-learning is a hygiene factor—table stakes of a successful strategy. If you buy into the 70-20-10 model in its purest form, then classic face-to-face trainers are more important than ever.

To be successful in today’s world, you have to make the most of your moments. For not only are you called upon to make the connection in the classroom, you have to encourage the average techno-dependent employee to look for learning…on the job, in the moment, and, most importantly, from the people with whom they interact. A tall order, but one worth fulfilling.

About the Author:

Tim Toterhi is senior director of Organization Development at Quintiles. He’s worked extensively with teams in the Americas, Europe, and Asia. He is also an author, coach, and presenter.

Reprinted from Training Magazine Network

How to Frame the Learning Discussion at Budget Time

Budget season is almost here at many organizations and that means learning leaders need to think about how to frame their case for next year’s budget. There are different approaches depending on what senior leaders expect

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from learning and how rigorous the budget process is.

In most organizations leaders expect (or at least hope) that their investment in learning will contribute to achieving some of their organizational goals. In some cases, learning may be absolutely essential to achieving the organization’s mission (e.g., the military). In most cases, however, organizations would survive (muddle through) without investing much (or anything) in learning. Employees would eventually learn how to do their job and some might even learn how to do it better or at lower cost.

So, most organizations don’t “have” to invest in learning, but they do. Why? There are several reasons.

First, leaders may believe that the right learning for the right employees can help achieve the organization’s goals more quickly and at lower cost. In other words, learning leads to higher productivity and lower overall costs. For example, sales training programs should equip the sales force to better sell the features and values in their products and services which will result in higher revenue, higher market share and higher profit.

Second, leaders may believe that their investment in learning will improve their competitive position in attracting and retaining the best talent. (Or, they may simply feel compelled to provide a minimum level of learning to attract and retain their existing quality of talent.)

Third, leaders may believe that investing in employee learning and development leads to higher employee engagement, which in turn leads to greater discretionary effort by employees as well as higher retention levels and an advantage in recruiting.

Last, some leaders may believe in investing in their employees simply because it is the right thing to do (whatever that means!). I would never advise basing your budget request on the last reason, although many L&D groups seem to do exactly this. They assume it is their “right” to have a budget and it should always be bigger. After all, we are talking about investing in people, the organization’s greatest asset, so no business case is needed, right? Just give us the money!

Even if your senior leaders believe this and are willing to give you whatever you request, I would strongly suggest an approach based on the assumption that your leaders believe in the first reason provided above, namely that learning will help them achieve the organization’s goals.

To make your case, carefully align learning initiatives to the key organization goals and secure agreement with senior leaders on the expected contribution or impact of learning on those goals. In short, build a business case for your learning investment and incorporate it in a business plan for learning.

And, if your leaders also believe in the second and third reasons above (talent and engagement), then build that into your business case as well for an even stronger argument. Your business case may be qualitative or quantitative, but at least you will have addressed your leaders’ reasons for investing in learning.

At a minimum you will have a great discussion about learning with your leaders and your organization will be much better for it.

About The Author:

David Vance is the former president of Caterpillar University, which he founded in 2001. Until his retirement in January 2007, he was responsible for ensuring that the right education, training and leadership were provided to achieve corporate goals and efficiently meet the learning needs of Caterpillar and dealer employees. Before this position, Vance was chief economist and manager of the business intelligence group at Caterpillar Inc., with responsibility for economic outlooks, sales forecasts, market research, competitive analysis and business information systems. He now consults with organizations on learning and performance issues.

Reprinted from Chief Learning Officer magazine

Lose The Career Ladder and Hit the Rock-Climbing Wall

The past decade has ushered in dramatic changes to the way we communicate, collaborate, and compute. Yet most managers and employees alike are stuck in a time warp when it comes to career development. They have old-fashioned images of advancement up some corporate ladder to that corner office in the sky—a mindset that’s out of sync with today’s business reality. No wonder career development is such a challenge and disappointment to many.

Escaping the time warp requires coming to terms with how things really operate in the workplace today.  The organizational belt-tightening and delayering that have occurred during the past several years have left far fewer leadership positions. The upper layers of the pyramid (which have always been slimmer) have become a mere sliver. Say good-bye to the career ladder.

The predictable progression from one established position to the next has given way to career patterns. These are more fluid, flexible, and responsive to the needs of the business and the individual. Say good-bye to limiting career paths.

We’ve moved beyond work-life balance to work-life integration. The convergence of technology and communication has blurred the lines for many between work and home. Say good-bye to checking your personal life at the door.

A growing number of workers have come to the realization that they can’t have it all—or at least not all at one time—and are not willing to sacrifice important parts of their lives for a job. Increasingly, people are deciding that work has to work for them. To develop oneself, or anyone else, in today’s workplace requires that we say hello to a new way of thinking about how careers happen—through a series of moves around, down, up, over, and around again.

Today’s career development looks more like a rock-climbing wall than a ladder.

The career climbing wall is expansive, offering a wide selection of spots to explore and enjoy, and a nearly unlimited combination of moves in every direction—toward one’s vision of career success.

Advancing the notion of advancement

The climbing wall metaphor only works if we shift our mindset about what career progression and advancement really mean in today’s environment.   If you’re like most people, you’ve been brainwashed into thinking that advancement means moving up in the organization: taking on more responsibility, managing larger staffs, and earning more money.

However, advancement today means moving forward and toward one’s very personal definition of career success. Onward and upward has been replaced by forward and toward.

Do you know:
•how your employees define career success?
•what kind of work they want to be doing?
•what they want to achieve?
•what talents they yearn to leverage or activate?

What about you? Ask yourself the same questions:  •How do you define career success for yourself? •What kind of work do you want to being doing? •What do you want to achieve? •What talents do you yearn to leverage or activate?

You’re in good company if you struggled with your own answers. You’re in even better company if you don’t know how your employees would answer. So, is it any wonder that career development is challenging? Most managers are flying blind. Employees need to come to terms with what advancement means to them, how they personally define career success, and what they’re advancing forward and toward. Then they need to let you in on that secret if they want your help and support.

As a result, some of the most important conversations you’ll have with employees involve clarifying their definition of career success. A profound and thoughtful dialogue can be sparked by asking simple questions such as:  •Where do you see yourself in two, five, or 10 years? •What do you want to be doing? •How do you want to be doing it? •With whom and under what circumstances?

There simply is no cookie-cutter approach for the customized, personalized, tailored, just-for-me plan that advances each employee’s unique career goals.

Up, down, and all around

Understanding the employee’s definition of career success is the first step. Pursuing that definition can happen through any number of moves in a variety of different directions. Getting there may mean promotions to higher positions, lateral adjustments, or steps that gain valuable experience that in the past might have been considered down or backward.

Up is what immediately comes to most people’s minds when they think about career advancement. And, although there may be fewer opportunities closer to the top, vertical moves remain important and necessary. Organizations thrive when they have a pipeline filled with skilled internal candidates prepared to take on the challenges of the next level.

But up is not the only way to go for employees looking for growth. In fact, in these days of flatter organizations, a lateral move is often the new promotion. Sideways isn’t sidelined; it’s quite the opposite. Increasingly, becoming knowledgeable about more of the organization is an asset. Taking on a role at a similar level on the org chart broadens perspective. It encourages a more holistic view of the business. It activates a new and expanded network. And it builds agility, which is king in today’s economy.

Recalibration is another option, although it won’t win popularity contests with employees. How can you help others to understand that moving from one level to another that may be considered lower organizationally is valid, honorable, and frequently strategic? (Answer: Begin by believing it yourself.)

Sometimes the smartest move—and the fastest way forward—is to intentionally take a step back on the org chart. Consider the following story of an engineer who made such a move:

“I saw the writing on the wall. My division had a first class ticket to outsourcing. I wanted to stay with the company—and looked forward to leading bigger projects eventually. So, I moved over to another division. I went from managing three people to being an individual contributor again. I have to be honest…my ego took a hit for a while. But I established myself quickly and learned a lot about a whole new group of customers. It was exactly what I needed to get me where I am today.”

It can be a hard sell, but recalibration is frequently the best way for employees to progress forward toward their goals. Managers have to help employees see that it’s not downshifting. It’s just changing lanes, sometimes avoiding the traffic, and seeing new scenery in the process.

Time to redefine and climb

Evolving workplace realities demand that we constantly redefine how to approach important business issues. And nothing is more critical to business today than ensuring a highly developed and highly engaged workforce. Managers who want to bring career development into the 21st century right alongside communication, collaboration, and computing need only to think differently about the activity to update and completely transform how they help others grow.

Losing the ladder and adopting the mental model of the climbing wall is the first step.

About the Authors:

This article is based on the book Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Employees Want, Copyright ©2012 by Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni. Reprinted with permission of Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Reprinted from T & D Magazine

The Single Source for Single Sourcing

You and your development team have created the perfect content for the instructor-led training class, or perhaps a stunning eLearning course, only to find out you need to make it available on a mobile app. What now? Is the content built in such a way that it can be easily converted to another delivery method? If not, your organization is missing a huge opportunity to save time and money.

Consumers are demanding that they be able to access content from whatever devices they use, whether those devices are smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops, or all of the above. According to Forrester Research, about 74 percent of knowledge workers use two or more devices for work and 52 percent use three or more.

From a business perspective, this means it has never been more critical or strategically important to be able to deliver your learning content to any device, venue, or application, including at the learner’s moment of need.

You might be thinking, who has the time, money, or energy to do that? It is a common misconception in the learning space to think that this kind of tailored delivery is a difficult, complex, expensive matter, but there is actually a simple solution.

Single sourcing is a term you need to familiarize yourself with, and pronto!

What single-source development means

So what exactly is single-source content? In short, single-source learning development is about three things. One, creating content as smaller modules instead of large, monolithic courses; two, separating the individual content pieces from the overall presentation; and three, maintaining a collaborative development-team environment.

Typically, developers expect that they must be able to deliver courses in many different ways, including instructor led, virtual classroom, self-paced eLearning, and in multiple formats as blended learning. This means that the same material must be available across all of these formats. When developers organize content correctly, it can appear in multiple deliverables simultaneously, or the learning delivery system can sort it and farm it out in formats best suited for each learner’s needs.

The beauty of this method is that developers create content one time at the individual topic level, with the ability for constant reuse.

The benefits of single-source

By its very definition, single-source means that organizations save tremendous time and resources associated with having to create the same content multiple times for different outputs.

This results in some key business benefits:

–Future-proofed content. A single-source content strategy is the only way to be prepared for any future technologies. If content is in open format such as XML, the content will not need to be recreated when a new platform emerges. Instead, organizations simply add a new output format to their existing repertoire of learning products and republish existing content to that new format.

Just think: five years ago, no one was thinking about having content available on tablets.

–Shortened time-to-market. In today’s hyper-competitive market, being late to the game with customized learning products that can be delivered to any desired situation (classroom, mobile, desktop, job site, etc.) can have a significant negative impact on revenue and customer satisfaction.

To illustrate, a publishing company that uses a globally dispersed group of SMEs to create their training materials previously needed 18 months to create and deliver a new course. By adopting a collaborative and non-linear single-source development process, they can create a whole new course in five months.

–Decreased redundancy. According to the Chapman Alliance, 30 percent of the cost of eLearning is currently attributed to redundant content development processes, including authoring, QA, and SME/stakeholder review. When you add mobile to the mix, this level of redundancy simply doesn’t scale well now that organizations need to support many different platforms.

According to one training organization, “Every time we needed to create a new, derivative version of a course, we simply made a copy and changed it for the new instance. Now we have dozens of versions of the same course, and none of them are linked.”

Single sourcing creates an environment where you can make content changes instantaneously, across all learning delivery formats, to eliminate this unnecessary redundancy.

In summary, single sourcing is an option to help achieve consistency in your content for branding, and between instructional and performance support applications. Don’t forget that because content is in smaller modules, it can be re-used more easily than ever before.

Reprinted from Learning Solutions Magazine

3 Benefit Compliance Areas HR Needs to Monitor

Up until a few months ago, I worked as a director of compliance for a health and welfare benefits consultancy. As part of my job, I would have frequent conversations with external counsel, especially regarding ERISA and Section 125. Whenever I would speak to one attorney in particular, Marilyn Monahan of Monahan Law Office, we always seemed to get off on a tangent about why so many employers aren’t compliant in a few key areas.

Here are our top three employee benefits legal areas where we see employers out of compliance most often:

1.No health & welfare plan document.

Many employers don’t realize that ERISA has two separate documentation requirements: the plan document and the summary plan description (SPD). The plan document is the legal document that establishes and governs the plan; the SPD summarizes the legal terms in the plan document in language that can be understood by the average plan participant.

ERISA outlines the elements that must be included in the plan document, and those elements will not generally be found in an SPD or a carrier’s certificate booklet.

2.Thinking the certificate booklets/evidence of coverage documents provided by health insurance carriers are ERISA-compliant.

Many employers think that if they circulate the certificate booklet or evidence of coverage provided by the insurer or HMO they have satisfied ERISA’s SPD rules. That is generally not the case. More often than not, the documentation provided by the insurer/HMO will not include all of the terms required by ERISA’s SPD content regulations.

Employers can fill in the gaps, however, by having a wrap document that incorporates the insurer/HMO’s documentation and adds the missing essential terms required by ERISA.

3.Incomplete Section 125 cafeteria plan information.

A cafeteria plan is only valid if the plan is committed to writing and the written document contains all the terms the IRS regulations require. For example, if the employer has set up a premium-only plan, a health flexible spending account, or a dependent care flexible spending account, a written plan document is required. In the event of an IRS audit, some of the tax benefits the employer is attempting to achieve could be lost if the employer doesn’t have a valid written cafeteria plan document.

Your list may be different than ours but I’m sure we would all agree on one thing: the employee benefits world has become increasingly more complex from a legal compliance perspective. In these days of increased audits (think HIPAA) and government interest and oversight (think W-2 reporting), it’s more important than ever to make sure you have your legal ducks in a row.

If anything, you may want to seriously consider complying with these three requirements sooner rather than later.

About the Author:

Ed Bray, J.D., is director of employee benefits for a major transportation company in Hawaii.

Reprinted from Employee Benefit News

Boost Worker Productivity by Offering This Benefit

Half of all workers who receive paid vacation time in some of the nation’s largest cities would be willing to sacrifice another workplace benefit in exchange for more paid time off, according to a new survey.

Here’s what they’re willing to trade off:

• More than one-tenth of all employees who receive vacation time from their employer would prefer more time off over a higher salary or a promotion.

• One-sixth of employees with paid time off would forgo a compensation bonus in exchange for additional vacation days.

• Ten percent of respondents would give up their company’s 401(k) match in return for more vacation time.

• A full quarter of employees would give up the once highly coveted private office.

However, only a fraction (5 percent) of workers who receive any vacation time are willing to take a pay cut for more time away from work. Ironically, despite their hankering for more personal time, a majority of employees who receive paid time off (57 percent) do not use all the vacation time they receive.

The survey was released by Inspirato, a private destination club, and conducted online by Harris Interactive among 2,534 adults in major cities across the U.S.

Boost to Employee Productivity

While no federal employment or labor laws require employers to provide employees vacation time, time away from the office is widely recognized as critical to long-term workplace productivity and employee satisfaction. A 2010 Expedia survey reported by ABC News found that 45 percent of Americans agreed that “they come back to work feeling rested, rejuvenated and reconnected to their personal life” after vacation, and 35 percent said “they return from vacation feeling better about their job and feeling more productive.”

Yet Americans in particular struggle to disconnect from the office and claim their much-needed breaks. Multiple hours-worked studies conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have found Americans work longer hours than practically any advanced country except South Korea and Japan.

To ensure employees are taking the personal time they need to stay satisfied and invigorated in their careers — and to help recruit the best talent — many employers are adopting vacation policies once unheard of, including providing unlimited vacation time.  As Bloomberg Businessweek recently reported, Best Buy, Netflix and Zynga are among a growing list of companies scrapping traditional vacation policies in favor of unlimited PTO.

Software startup Evernote, which did away with vacation limits in 2011, took things one step further. When Evernote managers began noticing employees were taking less vacation after instituting their flexible vacation policy, Evernote began writing $1,000 checks for anyone taking a week-long trip. “Our employees are better after they have traveled,” said Chief Executive Phil Libin. “They are more productive; they are more useful to the company.”

Creative Alternative Vacation Policies

Unfortunately, unlimited vacation plans aren’t realistic for every company. But there are other creative policies worth considering to ensure that employees — and the organization — can reap the benefits of vacations:

Sabbaticals. Only 4 percent of companies offer paid sabbaticals, according to the Society for Human Resource Management’s “2011 Employee Benefits” research report. However, more than 20 percent of companies on Fortune’s list of the “Top 100 Best Companies to Work For” do so, including Intel, General Mills and Microsoft. HR professionals also tout the advantages of employee sabbaticals to companies, citing their effectiveness as an employee recruiting and retention tool.

Vacation homes for employee use. The time and stress involved in planning a vacation can be a major deterrent for many employees already overburdened with everyday work and family responsibilities. Companies looking to encourage their most-valued employees to take vacation can do so by providing vacation homes for use by employees.

Compressed work weeks. Not every vacation comes in the form of a seven-day trip to an exotic locale. Three-day weekends can help employees recharge, reconnect with their family and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Zappos, Cisco and American Express are among the companies that offer their employees the option of a compressed workweek, or the freedom to work fewer but longer days, such as four 10-hour days.

Vacation day payment plans. While paid vacation days are considerably more popular, many employees who value time away from the office are willing to pay for it. Consider a vacation program that allows an employee to take a vacation and pay for the time via payroll deduction spread out over a one-year period.

About the Author:

Christine Rafanelli is a communications professional and writer based in Denver. Reprinted from Talent Management magazine

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