Archives for February 2013

10 Tips for Global Training Instructors

Once your company’s global training program is launched and underway, it’s time to turn your attention to the instructor’s teaching approach, whether the training will be offered onsite or online through Webinars and virtual classrooms. Here are 10 important teaching tips you can use to ensure that each stage in the instructional process flows smoothly and succeeds in:

  • Inviting all participants to feel welcomed.
  • Introducing content that is novel.
  • Including everyone in the discussion.


1. Welcome each person individually and ask their name (or say it from their name badge) when they enter the room or take a seat. Be sure to inquire if you’ve pronounced the name correctly, and then repeat the name as the person pronounces it. For a Webinar or virtual classroom, repeat each person’s name when logging on, and say, “Thank you for joining.” If the group size makes individual recognition unwieldy, devise a way to welcome sections or groups.

2. Set clear ground rules for classroom interaction. Do not assume that participants from many different countries will view expected and appropriate behavior the same way. It’s important to let people know at the start of your training

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session whether:

  • Asking questions and sharing perspectives is encouraged.
  • You expect answers to be clearly right or wrong.
  • Slides and handouts will use text in more than one language.
  • The atmosphere will be serious, humorous, or a combination.
  • Electronic devices, whether to text and take calls or to record the session, are discouraged or permitted.

Check for understanding and agreement of these expectations before continuing.


3. State your learning goals and expectations—and say from which educational system they emerge. For example, American training sessions often emphasize brainstorming activities and reserves time in a classroom setting for creative idea generation among participants, rather than having all information originate with the instructor.

4. Pause often and check for understanding as you explain themes and details. Language that seems precise to the presenter may include regional slang and cultural nuances that are unfamiliar to participants from other countries. One way to accomplish this is to ask for volunteers in advance of each portion of the training who will be willing to summarize a key idea or point for the group. Be sure to select volunteers from different regions and those who are not necessarily native speakers of the presenter’s language.

5. Include stories and examples from business settings in different cultures around the world. This requires planning and preparation prior to the training session, and it is well worth the effort. Reach out to colleagues or potential participants from a variety of cultures and countries, and explain the key themes you hope to convey through the training.

Ask for suggestions of situations or vignettes from their local business environment that you can include to emphasize the concepts.


6. Notice who is not speaking and invite them to share ideas, perspectives, and questions. If a participant is more comfortable speaking (or typing if online) in a different language and having a colleague translate, offer support for this approach. Sharing a new idea in a second language in front of business colleagues may be too challenging for a new participant to attempt in one session.

7. Create activities that pair people in small groups so they can participate in a lower-risk environment. Devise an exercise or game that incorporates small group discussion accompanied by reporting back to the larger group. Ask each group in advance to select a representative who will share the main discussion ideas, so nobody is caught by surprise.

8. Ask for examples of how key concepts can be applied in different countries and discuss contrasts and similarities. Offering a commentary in which various approaches have both pros and cons likely will work more effectively with global training participants than will a critical appraisal that “ranks” or categorizes different cultural norms as “winners” or “losers.”

Of course, if a particular technique or behavior is unethical or illegal in other locales, be sure to point this out, along with the likely consequences.


9. Explain something you’ve learned from teaching the class and say thank you. Working with participants from many different cultures is enormously rewarding, and the opportunities for the instructor to learn along with the participants are great. Share your appreciation with the class for introducing you to new ways of thinking.

10. Distribute evaluation forms that can be filled out anonymously to prevent loss of face. For onsite training, it may be helpful for the instructor to focus on a wrap-up task, or to leave the room altogether for a few minutes, to allow participants comfortable space to offer candid assessments of the session. Doing so is both a courtesy to your participants, regardless of their cultural backgrounds, and an opportunity to ensure that trainers receive honest and helpful feedback.

By following these 10 tips, instructors will ensure that global training sessions are inviting, impactful, and inclusive—increasing the likelihood that participants will return to the workplace encouraged and prepared to implement important training lessons effectively.

About the Author:

Jennifer Lawrence is the founder of Cambridge Corporate Training, which provides advanced management education to business professionals around the globe. Previously, she headed corporate relations for Harvard Business School’s executive education programs and was a professor at Boston University’s School of Management. Reprinted from Training Magazine

Does Your Mobile Learning Play Nice with the IT Department?

When creating mobile applications, developers can sometimes overlook one critical audience—the IT department. The same is true when planning to launch a mobile learning or performance support initiative. It is critical to consider IT department requirements when doing these things because IT is often the group managing the lifecycle of the mobile devices in an enterprise.

Failing to take the IT department’s policy management needs into consideration can cause the technology department to restrict certain applications. There is an opportunity to work together during planning and development to provide control for IT and the desired learning or performance support experience for the end user. I’d like to offer you some tips on how to make this happen.

The BYOD Factor

You are most likely aware that there is an increasing trend of BYOD (bring your own device) environments in the workplace, so app developers are able to spread a wide footprint on a variety of devices. Android and iOS are consumer-centric devices, so obtaining an app is easy. For employees working in organizations that embrace BYOD, their devices and the applications on them may not be IT approved.

This can lead to an exposed enterprise-data native on the device, in the cloud, and behind the firewall. Developers should consider IT’s need for security, such as utilizing the data protection APIs that prevent decryption from malware and also provide protection if the device becomes unlocked.

Key Questions To Ask

There are some key questions to ask. Can IT encrypt communication to the application? Can the application operate within a secure-device-container environment? Will the application prevent access by other applications seeking its data?

Developers also need to support mobile application management. IT departments focus on creating mobile policies that benefit the employee and protect the company and its data. Many polices restrict apps because they are not easy to manage, control, or secure. Developers should proactively adjust their apps to meet the wants and needs of IT.

Again, one of the most important issues for IT is control, so make apps that are easy for IT to control. Here are some other important tips:

The Bottom Line

IT departments are also interested in the bottom line and are always looking for ways to reduce costs. When developers create apps that are easy to manage, the cost is more manageable as well. Developers should be cognizant of an application infrastructure and have the option to securely store content natively on the mobile device or in an approved repository.

Applications for training purposes need to consider how much data is transmitted during typical mobile-based training sessions, so that IT departments are aware of the potential cost issues and can recommend lower-cost options.

Reprinted from Learning Solutions Magazine

4 Steps to a Rapid Needs Asssement

CLOs are often expected to perform miracles: solve deep-seated learning deficits; design transformational learning programs for all levels; take risks so their organization’s learning processes are cutting-edge; be able to put a new program or process in place at hyper-speed, all while cutting budgets to the bone and delivering a return on investment.

Learning and development teams need to be educators, innovators, financial wizards and master jugglers. Organizational diagnosis and needs assessment tools can help accelerate the design and delivery of targeted, high-impact solutions. Even a short or partial needs assessment has the following benefits:

• Brings what is working well into focus.
• Prioritizes gaps and needs to enable triage.
• Provides real-time feedback and increases positive engagement from employees.
• Helps the HR and learning team gather valuable, objective, decision-enabling data.
• Builds the competency and understanding of internal staff for diagnosing organizational issues.

There are four steps that comprise a rapid needs assessment process that can immediately be put to effective use.

1. Define the problem: Get specific about outcomes. It may seem obvious to clearly define the need before designing a solution, yet many learning-based projects fail to meet expectations due to hastily or ill-defined issues.

Executives often describe business needs in broad terms, which is understandable given their strategic perspective. It’s critical, therefore, that the person responsible for designing learning programs to address these broadly stated goals fully understands the business context and can accurately translate the business need into tangible solutions that will deliver the expected results.

Broad phrases such as “strengthen leadership skills,” “improve teamwork” or “increase innovative thinking” are too vague to make a meaningful difference when attempting to drive change. By asking probing questions and listening intently, these broadly stated objectives can be turned into tangible actions.

Suppose one has been asked to design and deliver a half-day workshop on “influencing skills” as part of a three-day retreat. Before diving into the development of workshop materials, this individual could conduct a quick needs assessment by asking questions, such as:

• What roles do the participants have, and whom do they need to influence?
• What is a typical scenario in which the participants are having difficulty influencing the other party?
• What underlying problems may be contributing to this challenge?
• What organizational factors might help or hinder their ability to successfully influence their key stakeholders?
• How well do the participants understand their stakeholders’ needs?

This type of conversation would likely uncover more specific learning needs than the original request. For example, it might become apparent the real needs are stakeholder management in a matrix structure and managing competing demands. When pressed for time, it is easy to shortcut this important first step; however, skipping it could have a negative impact in the long run.

“You have to understand what the real need is,” said David Emanuel, senior vice president, human resources at CIT Group in Livingston, N.J. “We often look at a symptom and think it’s the need. Diagnosis gives us a modicum of hope that we’ll get it right. It’s the only way that you know you are solving for the right ‘X,’ and even then you may discover that there is more than one ‘X.’ You can always speed up the diagnosis process, but you absolutely cannot skip it. By strengthening our skill sets in this area, we can truly seize our seat at the business table.”

2. Check assumptions: Slow down to speed up. Companies could save millions each year if they developed a team of people to check assumptions. Assumption checkers are highly skilled in critical thinking and recognizing cognitive biases. These are not devil’s advocates or people who are good at saying no. Assumption checkers are internal experts at listening to how a problem or issue is defined or framed to ensure that proposed solutions do not overlook a major barrier or trap, or that the team is not missing a more obvious and less expensive solution.

Good assumption checkers listen carefully, avoid jumping to conclusions, understand cognitive biases, reflect on the ramifications of an idea or plan and ask astute questions.

Imagine that the CLO at a large high-tech company that lives and breathes speed is asked to develop a one-day senior management meeting. As a relatively new member of the organization, this CLO thinks he has a good idea of how the management team needs to be shaken up. He designs a day that is fast-paced and confronts senior executives with the ways he believes they are falling down on the job. He then asks a senior person on the team, who has been in the organization much longer, to look at the design and to check his assumptions.

One of the CLO’s assumptions is that these hard-driving executives need to be confronted with their demeaning and sometimes bullying attitude toward their subordinates. The assumption checker listens carefully and points out that the design seems to model the exact thing the CLO wants these executives to stop doing. The CLO subsequently realizes that his frustration and anger has gotten in the way of efforts to design a day that is likely to be productive.

3. Gather data: Keep it brief and focused. Many learning and development professionals say, “We don’t have time to collect data, do interviews, run a focus group or send out a survey.” Data gathering does not need to be elaborate, lengthy or complicated. Valuable data can be gathered in brief, focused conversations. The key is to find ways to gather some data rather than jumping over this step and racing to the design phase.

Imagine how much time the aforementioned CLO could have saved if he had gathered a little data first. Perhaps the CLO could have interviewed some of the senior management team about past management conferences and asked what worked and what did not. Further, if the CLO asked each member of his senior team to informally interview two people, he would have had a more solid basis on which to design the one-day meeting.

Informal interviews, questions asked at the end of a meeting and hallway conversations can help gather data rapidly and facilitate plans, designs and decisions.

With a growing emphasis on evidence-based management, learning leaders are in great need of tools that can help them make evidence-based decisions. Gathering data may seem like a daunting and time-consuming task. The words “needs assessment” and “organizational diagnosis” often conjure up images of numerous consultants occupying a conference room for months, conducting hundreds of interviews and dozens of focus groups and sending out surveys.

But accelerated needs assessment and diagnosis tools can take the place of traditional methods to help senior learning leaders in their everyday, pressured decision-making lives.

Incorporating targeted data collection into the learning leader’s work often involves a change in mindset: a shift from seeing data collection as a long and elaborate process, involving survey designers, trained interviewers and focus group facilitators to a shorter, more ad hoc process. While robust data and analysis is valuable, CLOs should consider ways to collect data rapidly when faced with an all-or-none option.

Learning team members can be trained to do rapid data collection. Training in learning inquiry skills and how to conduct informal interviews and ad hoc focus group sessions is available from many sources. These team members can then be deployed on short notice to find out, for example, what is causing an acute problem in a leadership development program, or to understand a seeming misalignment between coaching practice and organizational values. There are now many methods of rapid data collection, some involving technology and others that can be done at a meeting.

4. Develop recommendations: Drive business results with targeted solutions. Recommendations are an important part of any needs assessment process, whether it is rapid or not. The advantage in the three steps outlined in the sidebar, Three Ways to Rapidly Assess Needs, is that by the time one comes to developing recommendations, they will be based on a clear statement of the problem or issue, grounded on a foundation of data rather than untested assumptions and targeted to drive business results.

When CLOs train their staff to conduct fast needs assessments, especially in rapid data collection tools, they are not only building their staff’s competence, they are moving toward evidence-based decision making.

Decisions based on data and evidence are more likely to avoid obstacles and to be successfully executed. Many companies pride themselves on fast execution, even though it carries many challenges and sometimes catastrophic errors. Defining the problem, checking assumptions and gathering data rapidly can avoid many execution delays and will almost guarantee avoidance of debilitating mistakes.

Gut instinct works sometimes, but it is no basis on which to build a state-of-the-art learning function.

About the Authors:

Dana Kaminstein is an affiliated faculty member in the Organizational Dynamics Graduate Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania. Helen Materazzi is president of Corporate Leadership Resources Inc. and an affiliate with Schaffer Consulting.  Reprinted from Chief Learning Officer Magazine

Non-Traditional Hiring Technique Gains Steam

Job candidates most commonly describe themselves as hardworking and driven. But if a hiring manager asks a candidate to describe a challenging situation he or she had to overcome as a child, the interview instantly has some color. If the candidate is asked to approximate the number of cows there are in Canada, there will probably be some blank stares.

There’s buzz surrounding career site Glassdoor’s annual Top 25 Oddball Interview Questions for 2013. Experts say they can actually be more telling than the straightforward type of interview questions most employers use.

“Nobody expects to be asked questions about their adolescence,” said Vanessa Nornberg, owner of body piercing and jewelry company Metal Mafia. “[But] asking this kind of question allows you to find out about their character.”

Offbeat questions are dynamic in their ability to deduce a job seeker’s personality and key characteristics, but if used incorrectly or without knowing what to look for, they are a waste of time.

Before asking a potential hire to estimate the number of windows there are in New York, as management consultancy Bain & Co. reportedly does, talent managers should remember the real motivation behind the questioning.

“They are designed to uncover how you think, handle unexpected problems and situations, whether you are a good fit for their culture, and how creative you are,” said Susan Ruhl, a managing partner at OI Partners — Innovative Career Consulting Inc.

And although some HR managers prefer to skip the oddball questions, insight interviewing is common.

Ruhl cites four categories that most interview questions fall under: cultural fit, thought process, behavioral and skills.

Cultural fit questions help determine whether a candidate would mesh well with the company’s working environment. An example of a question HR managers can use is: “If you won more than enough money in the lottery to take care of you and your family’s needs for the rest of your lives, what would you do with the rest of it?”

Thought-process questions are used to determine how a candidate thinks. An example of a thought-process question is: “How many trees would you say are in Yellowstone National Park?”

Behavioral interview questions gauge a candidate’s ability to deal with stress. “We do a lot of trainings on what you [hiring managers] should be asking to truly uncover how someone is in their job,” Ruhl said. How does he or she creatively solve problems? A behavioral question typically begins with, “Tell me about a time …,” so the potential hire can tell a story.

Skills questions uncover what tasks a job applicant can perform. Typical skills questions include: “If you only had six months to live, what would you do with the time?” The interviewee’s answer reveals creativity, planning skills, goal setting and time management skills, or lack thereof.

“Companies are spending money to get the right people on the bus, in the right seats. Instead of saying it’s a war for talent, it’s really a war for the right talent, because companies are spending more on getting the right people,” Ruhl said.

Reprinted from Talent Management magazine.

How Cloud Software Could Rain on Your Parade

Living in the cloud can be stormy.

It’s true that switching human resources software to the cloud can solve many issues that companies encounter running programs on their own computer servers. Among its advantages, the cloud—software sold as a service over the Internet—eliminates hardware and some of the information technology staff needed to run on-premise software. It also does away with waits between software updates that can take years thanks to slow vendor rollouts or internal company bottlenecks.

For all its benefits, though, the cloud is no panacea.

Companies that have moved talent management, payroll, performance reviews or workforce management software to a cloud-based service find it’s not as simple as signing a contract and flipping a switch.

To be successful, everyone from HR staff to department heads to employees has to buy into the change or end up with an implementation fraught with conflict and frustration. Making the switch can take months—or years. Although breaches of employee data stored on the cloud haven’t been the problem some thought they would be, some companies that are newer to the cloud still worry about service outages.

What’s more, vendors’ frequent upgrades to cloud software can lead to problems rather than solutions.

When done properly, a move to the cloud can be a move for the better, making HR processes more efficient. But companies need to have realistic expectations, carefully orchestrate the transition, and provide lots of communication and training along the way. “Change management is so important to start in the beginning and something a lot of companies don’t do,” says Michael Krupa, a Mercer partner and technology strategist who has helped companies move to cloud-based HR software.

Companies worldwide are using more cloud-based software for recruiting, payroll, time and attendance, benefits and other aspects of people management, or are planning to in the near future. In talent management, where software-as-a-service—commonly referred to as SaaS—or cloud-based software is more mature, 46 percent of 5,753 HR professionals in a recent SilkRoad technology Inc. survey reported using pure SaaS, or some combination of SaaS and in-house software, compared with 25 percent who use only in-house software.

The number of companies switching to cloud software for core HR management systems is expected to grow 35 percent in 2013, up from 23 percent last year, according to CedarCrestone’s 2012-13 HR Systems Survey. In addition to needing a smaller tech staff for support, cloud software takes about half the time to deploy, is easier to use, and users like it better, according to the CedarCrestone survey.

“Vendors who are cloud vendors, this is their year,” says Jason Averbook, chief business innovation officer at HR analyst firm Knowledge Infusion.

Yet, concerns remain. Of companies considering a switch, more than half (56 percent) fear they’ll have problems integrating cloud-based services with existing software, according to the CedarCrestone HR tech survey. They also worry about not being able to customize software (53 percent), data security (51 percent), and losing control over systems and data (43 percent), among other concerns, according to the survey.

And while close to 60 percent of HR professionals in a 2012 Knowledge Infusion-Workforce survey “like” or “love” SaaS, about 7 percent say they’ve had too many problems with it, or consider it too risky to use.

Advance Work Key

As with any major transition, the more advance work a company does and the more departments involved, the better the chances of success. That doesn’t always happen. Ask Casey Halloran, co-founder and chief marketing officer at Costa Rican Vacations. The Web-based travel agency, with offices in the United States, Costa Rica and Panama, was adding staff so quickly, it had outgrown existing systems for tracking employee’s time and attendance. About two years ago, management decided to switch to cloud-based HR software called OrangeHRM, starting with time and attendance functions.

But changing the company’s policies to fit the software was hard, and getting resources for HR technology wasn’t a priority. Then the travel agency’s HR manager quit, leaving the project without a leader. “It’s been a brutal implementation process,” Halloran says.

Costa Rican Vacations recently hired a new HR manager, and is holding regular meetings to finish getting the software up and running. Halloran estimates the company has spent $10,000 on the program, including the cost of software, installation and consultants. “People underestimate the intellectual effort that’s required” to make a switch, he says. “They want the software to do it for them, and if it doesn’t, it’s easy” to get frustrated.

As Costa Rican Vacations’ situation shows, switching to cloud-based software doesn’t happen overnight, and can rival the challenges of implementing on-premises software. Sometimes, the biggest delays happen during the switch. Other times they come even earlier when the parties involved can’t agree on the right course of action.

Joyce Taylor, a billing manager in Pitney Bowes Inc.’s global accounting operations, figures she worked up 17 or 18 business cases over several years to move the company’s employees from filling out expense reimbursement forms on Microsoft Excel spreadsheets to cloud-based software before hitting on a strategy that met all her executive committee’s requirements.

Part of the problem: The mailing-equipment-maker uses enterprise resource planning systems from SAP and JD Edwards, and any cloud expense management service the company chose had to interact with both. That knocked out a number of contenders. Meanwhile, new vendors kept popping up. “It was an ever-changing target,” Taylor says.

In fall 2011, Pitney Bowes selected cloud-based expense reporting software from Certify LLC, which lets employees snap pictures of their receipts with their smartphones or input the information into a Web-based form. Taylor chose the software because it worked with both enterprise resource planning systems, didn’t need a lot of additional IT support, and was cost effective and user friendly.

But there was still a lot of work to be done. Taylor spent three and a half months mapping out expense-reporting policies, loading spending caps for different expenses and different cities in the Certify system, and to the extent that it was possible, getting the words and phrases Pitney Bowes used to describe expenses into the software.

Taylor’s department phased in the software through most of the company during the first half of 2012 and the remainder in the third quarter after translating some materials for French-speaking employees in Canada.

The early results of the switch have been overwhelmingly positive, Taylor says. Expense reports are getting processed faster. And when reports sit in a manager’s queue for days, “We know where it’s stuck,” she says. Still, old habits die hard; some employees complain about not being able to submit paper forms for expenses. “We’re working people through that,” she says.

Too Much of a Good Thing

One of cloud-based HR software’s selling points is that upgrades are constant. But if upgrades come too often, companies can have trouble keeping up.

Dan McConnell, a Mercer talent management product manager, recalls working with one major financial services company that was excited to move to cloud-based software because it meant getting more frequent software updates, sometimes called a “rapid release strategy.”

However, the company did quality and assurance testing on every update, and quickly fell behind. “They found themselves in a cycle of nonstop testing, and it was overwhelming,” McConnell says. “They started getting releases and leaving them off. They went a quarter and two quarters without upgrading. Users were complaining that they were hearing about new functionalities, but they weren’t getting them.”

The HR organization had to bring in additional resources to manage the rapid releases. “What they first thought was a huge advantage was a huge disadvantage,” he says.

For the most part, the data breaches that some feared would happen when companies stored sensitive personnel records in the cloud haven’t materialized. It has become common for companies to include requirements for encryption, 24/7 surveillance of cloud vendors’ hosting facilities and other security measures into requests for proposals, according to McConnell and other experts.

Still, because some companies are new to cloud software, and some HR functions have been later to migrate to the cloud than others, doubters remain. When McConnell gets questions, “It’s questions about disaster recovery. It’s more about where do you have your data centers and how do you react to potential natural disasters?” he says.

To protect against identity theft or other security breaches, Pitney Bowes uses a six-digit code to identify employees instead of a Social Security number or birth date when transmitting expense data to and from the cloud. To ensure expense reports would be reimbursed in a timely manner, the company built payment turnaround times into its service-level agreement with its vendor.

Finally, if an HR department picks the wrong software, or locks the company into a three- or five-year contract only to see technological innovation leapfrog what they’re using, they have to be prepared to live with the fallout, McConnell says.

About the Author:

Michelle Rafter is a Workforce contributing editor. Reprinted from Workforce Management

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