Archives for March 2014

Performance Outcomes: You Have More Data Than You Think You Do

Things go wrong every day: Support calls are flooding IT for help with what is a relatively simple program; employees routinely ignore an important company policy; few employees are using the costly equipment that was supposed to revolutionize your organization.

Sound familiar? Chances are high that you’ve been called in to design training to solve one or more of these problems. And chances are also high that the content owner has a vague idea of the problem, a firm idea of the solution, and a conviction that the “A” in ADDIE is unneeded in this case.

When you suggest conducting a needs assessment, the sponsor agrees that it could be valuable in different circumstances, BUT – metrics aren’t available, the only outcome data is a thin stack of Kirkpatrick Level 1 evaluations, and thus it would take too much time to start from zero.

Don’t give up the analysis! Help is available!

Before you resign yourself to giving analysis short shrift, consider: you have more data than you think you do. The users are communicating, the messages just aren’t neatly packaged for easy tabulation.

Five practical tips can get you started on an informed design that addresses real problems:

1. Turn up the noise

A manager once responded to my questions by identifying

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the goal of a requested training as “turning down the noise.” Instead of avoiding complaints, crank up the dial. Open forums (online and in person), micro polls, and targeted surveys are good.

Meeting one on one with the most vocal critics and resistant groups is even better. Make it clear that you are there to understand, not to soothe—and take copious notes.

2. Go with your gut, but don’t stop there

After conversations with the sponsor, critics, and stakeholders, you may feel you have a good handle on what’s going on. Realize that if they had a complete understanding of the problem, they probably would have already solved it. Keep an open mind until the complexity shows up.

Change champions, laggards, those who’ve attempted and failed, and successful users each have a piece of the puzzle. Don’t base your design on a single perspective, even your own.

3. Seek out the workaround

If end users are bypassing the policy, the process, or the system that management wants them to use, it means they’re using something else. Leave your judgment at the door and discover the appeal of the workaround. Is it immediacy? Familiarity? Chunking? Personal contact? Simplicity?

Users are wonderfully creative so you want to make sure your solution will do at least as good a job of meeting their needs as their current workaround. The only way to do that is to acknowledge its advantages.

4. Codify the suffering

This will require a time investment, but will yield by far the most valuable data. Who feels the pain? Who hears first-hand from unhappy users? Chances are it’s the Help Desk, Service Center, and other front-line workers who pick up the phone when an end user hits the wall of frustration.

Ask, “What have you heard a thousand times?” “What gets people angry?” “What have they given up doing?” If there is a ticketing system, pull the logs, but don’t stop there. End users are notorious for calling or emailing instead of using the sanctioned system. Harvest that electronic crop.

If time is short, dump phone logs and emails into a document, and identify the most frequently occurring words. Entering the result into a word cloud tool like Tagxedo or Wordle will yield a powerful visual for your report to the project sponsor, as well as valuable direction for your design.

5. You are unique, like everyone else

Whatever the issue, you can bet that somewhere, someone else is already dealing with it. Mine online tutorials, user communities, forums, blogs, and FAQs. Even if your system or policy is homegrown, there are similar ones out there.

Find them and generate a bulleted list of reported outcomes and issues, then distribute it to users and stakeholders for a reality check. Reacting to a draft often clarifies hits and misses in a way that a blank slate can’t.

The anecdotal data you have is better than hard data you don’t have.

Will these steps yield hard data? Probably not. But they will provide practical requirements to inform your design and development.

Reprinted from Learning Solutions Magazine

Survey: Employees Making the Most of Mobile for Benefits Information

Give employees the choice of using a smartphone or desktop computer to see paycheck or benefits information and mobile technology wins hands down.

When employees can use a smartphone to look up a paycheck or confirm a copayment for a doctor’s visit on a mobile-friendly website, 37 percent do. By comparison, when employees have to access the same data from a Web portal and desktop or laptop computer, only 23 percent use it, according to an Automatic Data Processing Inc. Research Institute report.

The report is based on analysis of 2 million employees at 25,000 U.S. companies that use both ADP’s Web- and mobile-based paycheck and benefits services and 25,000 that use only the Web-based service. The report was released in late February based on data collected in May 2013.

Years after HR departments first started using mobile to find and recruit potential employees, more are integrating it into internal workforce management functions as well.

It shouldn’t be a surprise given Americans’ obsession with all things mobile. Today, 90 percent of U.S. adults own a cellphone, and 58 percent own a smartphone, according to a February Pew Research Center study titled “The Web at 25 in the U.S.”

Mobile-device users average 7.2 page views a month looking up information such as gross pay or withholdings, and 4.1 page views a month checking medical, vision or dental coverage, as well as benefits such as flexible spending and health savings accounts and long-term disability, the ADP report states.

Based on additional mobile-based HR processes that ADP provides and monitors, employees use iPhones, Androids and other smartphones even more frequently to punch in and out of work, request time off, view their W-2s and access a corporate directory, said Roberto Masiero, vice president and head of ADP’s Innovation Lab, which also produces the company’s widely read monthly employment report.

“Once they’ve used mobile, they don’t go back,” he said.

Companies especially rely on mobile to connect with younger workers. At MyCorporation, a Calabasas, California-based business that helps companies incorporate, roughly 20 percent of 42 employees use their phones to look up 401(k) account and company match information. “We’re a young group, so encouraging the team to focus on saving and planning for the future via simple, mobile tools is a true win-win,” said Deborah Sweeney, MyCorporation’s CEO.

At retail chain Aéropostale, employees use Ceridian’s Dayforce HCM mobile app to view work schedules, update their availability and swap shifts. “For Aeropostale’s vast, part-time workforce comprised of high school and college students, mobile scheduling has empowered employees to work on their time,” a spokesperson said.

It’s not just younger workers, or employees in retail or services industries, using mobile devices to look up their HR and benefits records. In its report, ADP found employees in such industries as construction, mining, natural resources, manufacturing and hospitality are just as likely to use mobile devices to look up information.

The extent to which employees have flocked to mobile caught the HR services vendor by surprise, Masiero said. When ADP introduced mobile-friendly access to W-2 information last year, 1.5 million people used it in the first month. “People just want everything on that device,” he said.

About the Author:

Michelle V. Rafter is a Portland, Oregon-based writer. Reprinted from

Using ‘Scribe’ Videos to Tell Compelling Training Stories

If you are one of the 11 million YouTube viewers who watched Daniel Pink’s animated TED Talk about motivation, you already know about the learning power of scribe videos. The trend that started with the UPS whiteboard campaign has exploded in popularity; even the White House is using a scribe video to explain Obamacare.

The current format was popularized by the Royal Society of Arts, whose RSA Animate videos had 46 million views in 2011, making it the number one not-for-profit channel on YouTube.

What It Is

The scribes, or whiteboard animation videos, feature sequential artist sketches drawn on a whiteboard with audio narration. Most scribe videos feature the hands of an artist drawing cartoons, headlines, diagrams, and arrows; while at the same time, we hear a narrator talk. The video typically is quickened, which creates a time-lapse or stop-motion effect.

A plethora of different artistic formats are emerging: napkin drawings, mind maps, chalk on a blackboard, water color paintings, and graffiti spray paintings. Some are decidedly modest or even crude. Khan Academy has attained 300 million YouTube views with hand-scribbled equations and diagrams in neon colors on a computer blackboard.

Why It Works

Whether they feature artistic drawings or doodles, most scribes have an invisible presenter who talks in a conversational and casual style. The effect is an intimate feeling of someone sitting next to you explaining a concept. It’s a refreshing break from most e-learning programs with their bullet point lists, clip art, and voiceovers that have been vetted and watered down by a 10-person committee.


A scribe is best used to explain complicated concepts, persuade people to change their behavior, or teach a conceptual skill. Scribes also can be used as communication vehicles for important announcements, such as learning about business objectives for the year.

The development of a scribe starts with a script that tells a compelling story. Many of the most successful scribes introduce a hero confronted with a challenge. They show the hero’s journey to overcome obstacles and achieve her goals.

The two-column format is usually the most effective way to write the script, with the voiceover in one column and illustration ideas in the other. When the script is completed, it’s turned over to a professional illustrator who creates the drawings.

The illustrations can be detailed and in color, or simple in black and white. The pacing of the illustrations is important; they need to be fast enough to keep viewers engaged, yet slow and clear enough that they will understand the content.

For an international audience of non-native English speakers, it’s advisable to slow down the pace. Subtitling a scribe can work, but it looks rather clunky and might be redundant if the scribe already shows many keywords on the screen.

Most scribes feature a professional voice-over talent recorded in a studio. The TED model of turning a speech in front of a live audience into a scribe is another successful formula. To enhance credibility, sometimes it’s important to cast a CEO or other senior person as the narrator. It’s usually a good idea to have narrators introduce themselves in the beginning since they’re not seen.

The Khan Academy videos feature Salman Khan explaining the topic off the cuff without a script. That can work if you have an instructor or subject matter expert of Khan’s caliber.

Once the audio is recorded and the storyboard is approved, the video editing process can start. Although scribes offer the illusion that you’re watching over the shoulder of an illustrator, most are produced digitally in video editing programs. Digitally editing a series of still images of the illustrator’s hand provides more control, and allows you to go back and fine-tune the timing of each drawing.

Once the video editing is finished, music and sound effects are frequently added, including the sound of the pen against the whiteboard.


The finished scribe can be launched on any platform, from the smartphone to the big screen at a company event. A QR code on a poster in the lunch room can trigger an employee to view a scribe on a smartphone or tablet. They can be posted on YouTube or be embedded on a company’s internal site. Scribes can go viral and create a buzz.

They also can be used to “flip” the classroom. Students can learn about a subject from a scribe before class, freeing instructors from giving lectures and instead focusing their time on conversations and applications. It’s essentially having lectures for homework and doing homework in class.

Video is taking the Internet by storm, and scribes are rapidly becoming one of the most popular instructional video formats.

Carol Hedly, a leadership development consultant at Microsoft, is one learning professional who is using scribes. Her challenge was to improve the way Microsoft managers coach and develop the company’s high-potential employees. Hedly partnered with the Gronstedt Group to develop a 10-minute scribe video.

“The video tells the story of a high-potential employee who is about to leave the company because he doesn’t get support from his manager,” Hedly explains. “Things turn around when the high performer gets a new manager who recognizes him and discusses his progress and development.” The short, animated, storytelling video fits the busy lifestyles of Microsoft managers. “The feedback we’re getting is very positive,” concludes Hedly.

About the Author:

Anders Gronstedt, Ph.D. is the president of Gronstedt Group, which helps global companies like GE, United Healthcare, Deloitte, Microsoft, Kimberly-Clark, Jamba Juice, and government clients like the city of New York improve performance with innovative learning approaches. These include next-generation digital simulations, gaming, and immersive 3D virtual worlds. His articles have appeared in the Harvard Business Review and he hosts a weekly speaking series.

Reprinted from T&D Magazine

What’s the Big Deal About Big Data?

Big data can be daunting, but its analysis is making significant differences in organizations. By analyzing complex data sets across functional silos, organizations are gaining insights to help catalyze change, improve access to experts, speed onboarding, retain talent, and identify root causes for complicated issues. It improves the learning environment, and even the Learning & Development organization itself.

The people who drive value for an organization aren’t necessarily those in authority on the formal organizational charts. They often are those with depth and breadth of expertise, who influence others, know how the organization really works, and can reach beyond silos to accomplish results.

Extracting Value

Water engineering firm NWH Global, for example, used big data analytics to identify the company’s top collaborators and then deployed them as catalysts to help consolidate activities as the company transitioned from a function-based IT structure to a shared services model.

“The company identified the top change agents and publicly recognized them as role models. After six months, NWH Global saved $25 million,” recounts Cecyl Hobbs, SVP, Business Development and Marketing, at social network analytics company Activate Networks. By improving access to internal experts, the company was able to overcome bottlenecks and barriers more quickly than otherwise would have been possible and distribute information more effectively throughout the network.

Halliburton worked with Activate Networks to improve communication among its global sites when a network analysis showed multiple clusters with few ties among them. Based on that analysis, Halliburton began strengthening cross-platform ties by creating mixed project teams, rotating well-connected individuals to other platforms, and creating an electronic expertise locator.

Nine months later, connections had increased 25 percent and operational productivity 10 percent, costs caused by poor quality were slashed 66 percent, and customer dissatisfaction decreased 24 percent. New product revenue increased 22 percent.

The improvements were attributed to the ability to make shared decisions more efficiently and to exchange best practices and innovations.

Other organizations use big data analysis to retain talent. “Engagement, performance, and social connectivity are key elements of flight risks,” Hobbs points out. “Are employees sought out for their expertise, considered critical to a project, sidelined, or overloaded? You can look at this over time and understand where an individual fits. Those who are becoming more isolated and less energized may be flight risks.”

For onboarding, the extent of individuals’ networks is the key to their success. “If a consultant isn’t well-integrated within 30 days, it’s a cause for concern.” Hobbs gives corporate execs a bit longer. Within 60 days, he says, it should be evident whether new executives are working closely with the necessary people and departments. “If that’s not happening or if the network is lopsided, that’s a key indicator the executive isn’t thoroughly onboarded.”

Improving L&D

Defense Acquisition University (DAU) takes a different approach, using big data analytics to gauge the effectiveness of its learning programs. DAU provides training for more than 151,000 active and reserve procurement and IT personnel throughout the U.S. military. Recognized as the best corporate university of 2013 by the Global Council of Corporate Universities, DAU worked with Knowledge Advisors to integrate data from multiple systems—including human resources, budgeting, and accounting—with learning databases and student information.

Consequently, “we can benchmark against a decade of surveys, looking at courseware and facilities, and how individual courses affect the organization’s performance,” says Dr. Chris Hardy, director of Strategic Planning and Learning Analytics, DAU.

Hundreds of thousands of post-training surveys on course quality and instructor effectiveness are completed each year immediately after course completion and 60 days later to assess the effect of the course upon students’ job performance and business outcomes.

Key findings indicate that courseware quality is more important for younger learners—who prefer e-learning—and for those with some graduate-level education, than for older learners, who prefer traditional classrooms and effective instructors. Instructor effectiveness was earmarked for improvement because analysis revealed “a huge relationship between instructor effectiveness and courseware quality.”

By comparing benchmarked data, Dr. Hardy learned that DAU instructors are more influential at DAU than at other organizations. Guest speakers triggered higher levels of individual learning, which were reflected later in job impact and business results.

Dr. Hardy is advancing DAU’s capabilities with a new learning analytics team that performs trends analysis across business lines.

“Looking reactively, you don’t see the trends,” he says. “But when analyzing data for things such as graduates vs. return rates, perceived course quality, course location, business unit differences, etc., trends become evident. Then, their root causes can be identified and any issues can be addressed. For example, we used Knowledge Advisors’ Metrics that Matter software to analyze why distance learning return rates were dropping. We learned the government shutdown and furloughs had lowered morale,” so students weren’t completing surveys or attending classes.

Currently, Dr. Hardy says, “we’re connecting the system to the student information system to link business outcomes to training.” DAU already tracks training locations, quality, costs, student evaluations, and applicability to the job. When finished, the linked system will operate like a talent management system for learning, linking to knowledge-sharing systems with features such as templates, regulations, and just-in-time training.

Leveraging Hidden Information

Sophisticated analytics capabilities are the key to unlocking the information buried in data that organizations already have but either aren’t using or don’t realize they have. This approach to big data analysis combines network science and behavioral science to improve collaboration and employee engagement.

As Hobbs elaborates, “we gather information to identify networks, individual influence in the community, and the effects on the group. We’re using scalable solutions to give both a micro and macro view of key professional relations.” Influence isn’t necessarily a function of authority, he points out.

Activate Networks’ Activate Social Platform for Enterprise software solution can map networks from millions of individuals. For example, it aggregates and analyzes the metadata and header information from e-mail traffic, including the sender/receiver and time stamps (but not the content of the e-mail) to identify individuals’ communication networks. “By running advanced analytics, organizations can get qualitative insights that identify the information brokers and the information bottlenecks,” Hobbs explains.

When identifying the information brokers, the company “builds a profile of descriptive data, such as location, gender, and tenure, and then layers on behavioral information, including their network and e-mail data, engagement, and additional skills. The result pinpoints the real energizers who empower people in an organization,” Hobbs says.

Understanding those relationships “drives time to market, simplifies organizational complexity, enhances collaboration, minimizes predictable errors, and helps organizations monitor the results of changes over time. That, in turn, can accelerate revenue growth by shortening sales cycles, and generating warmer leads and a seamless customer experience for internal and external customers,” Hobbs says.

But even with advanced analytics, some data can remain unreachable. Physician narratives in medical records are a good example. These narratives are critical, particularly in difficult or chronic cases, yet require natural language analytics to unlock the information so it can be applied to other subsets of patients. Donald Farmer, VP, product manager, Qlik Technologies, calls this “water cooler collaboration,” because it presents information in a way that mimics how the human mind naturally absorbs data.

“A question is never just technical. Humans share through dialogs and stories,” Farmer says. “Natural analytics is a combination of technologies and experiences that builds upon cognitive techniques and innate skills,” and, therefore, can leverage value from those stories.

Ultimately, big data analytics will increase in value as organizations deploy them to make cross-functional connections. These will foster insights that address the heart of issues that affect learning and, thus, productivity and profits. And that is a big deal.

Do Companies Have Big Data Skills?

Only 1 in 4 organizations indicated they have an ability to meet their analytics needs, while another 17 percent plan additional hiring to do so, according to the American Management Association’s global survey of 800 respondents from more than 50 industries conducted by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp). The majority of respondents (47 percent) plan to invest in training to meet their capabilities gaps. Human Resources and Sales are seen as lagging in analytical skills when compared with other organizational functions. The survey found that lack of resources and corporate culture are the biggest impediments to an organization’s ability to leverage big data.

Quick Tips

HR professionals have a critical role to play in creating and shaping the new analytical workforce, notes i4cp’s report, “The Age of Big Data: A Progress Report for Organizations and HR.” Here are some lessons learned from today’s market leaders on how to get started, as reported by i4cp’s Cliff Stevenson:

  • IDENTIFY ANALYTICAL NEEDS IN YOUR ORGANIZATION. Assess your workforce for analytical capabilities and use that data to determine where to focus first. Any departments that fall well below where the acceptable level is should be dealt with first, but if all else is equal, work on increasing the analytical abilities of top leaders either through executive development or recruitment.
  • BUILD ANALYTICAL STRENGTH. To build analytical acumen, training should focus on using data to make better decisions rather than on specific tools and data-crunching techniques—although those are still important for some jobs. This type of training will help employees approach problems from a more empirical point of view. Some functions within your organization already may have the needed skills and can be tapped as subject matter experts to help educate others.
  • PREPARE TO MANAGE THE FLOW OF BIG DATA. The hubbub regarding big data is mostly about that first word: big. If organizations are planning on making use of the enormous data sets available to them, infrastructure must be in place beforehand. Enterprise-wide HRIS may or may not be able to leverage the massive amounts of data collected, so it’s important to understand what you are hoping to find before plunging into the overwhelming current of big data.
  • EMBRACE THE ANALYTICAL DECISION-MAKING MINDSET. Changing from an instinctual, experience-based decision-making organization to a data-driven one isn’t as simple as increasing your organization’s analytical abilities. The very way in which problems are viewed has to be changed, which is why it is so important to have leaders who understand and use data-based/evidence-based decision-making. Merely having more data accomplishes nothing if that data isn’t used to make better, more fact-based decisions.

Reprinted from Training Magazine

Unleashing the Power of Introverts in Your Workplace

What do Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Mahatma Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, Charles Darwin, J.K. Rowling and Rosa Parks have in common? They are all people who made a large impact on their world. They are also introverts.

In today’s corporate boardrooms, they might be completely overlooked and go unnoticed. In previous centuries our culture valued quiet integrity and introspection. However, in today’s culture the emphasis on personality and striving to be noticed has propelled a certain type of person to be valued.

That person speaks fast, loud and

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a lot. They think while they are speaking. This is the extrovert. The introvert, who articulates their ideas in their mind before speaking, and is quiet and reserved, has been pushed to the background. As a result, it is not always the person with the best, most creative ideas that is heard, but the loudest.

Introverts were predicting the housing bubble crash long before it happened. Nobody was listening. The result of this kind of discounting has been a loss of ideas and capabilities of some of the finest thinkers in organizations. That is a huge waste of talent that companies can ill afford to lose.

Understanding Introverts and Extroverts

One of the common misconceptions regarding introverts is that they are shy and extroverts are outgoing. Those traits are only the outward actions and appearances that we observe between the two groups.

Carl Jung, who made the terms extrovert and introvert popular, claimed that the difference between them was how they gained energy. Introverts gained energy from spending time alone. When around others for too long they find their energy drained. They are not necessarily shy or withdrawn, they just need to get away to recharge themselves.

Extroverts, on the other hand, gain energy from others and find their energy being drained when they have to spend time alone. The other important finding that came from Jung was that introversion/extroversion are extremes on opposite ends of the scale and most people fall somewhere between the two.

In fact Jung had this to say about the two extremes:

“There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum.”

Psychologist Hans Eysenck claimed that the different levels of arousal resulted in the difference between introverts and extroverts. He proposed that introverts are aroused quicker and extroverts need more stimulation to be aroused. This explains why introverts can become overstimulated and need to get away and recharge.

Finding it harder to become stimulated, extroverts need to work harder by putting themselves in situations with others, creating novelty, adventure and change in their lives.

I am in no way suggesting that organizations should, or need to, totally change to conform to the needs of introverts. There are, however, some basic things that can be done to help introverts feel more comfortable, accepted and appreciated in the workplace.

Creating Introvert-Friendly Environments

Organizations can deliberately create an environment that is friendly to “thoughtful introspection” and allows introverts opportunities to make use of their talents and abilities. Everything from how ideas are formulated and implemented can be set up in a way that shows they are valued and makes introverts feel that they are important members of a team.

Open discussion forums, teamwork projects, unstructured meetings and informal company events are activities that lend themselves more to the outgoing gregarious nature of extroverts. Here are some ideas for managers, supervisors and leaders to make workplaces more introvert friendly:

1) Allocate time for all members to speak and be heard. Limit the time and ask everyone to come to the meeting with prepared items or speaking points. Make it understood that the speaker is not to be interrupted until the end, at which point anyone can ask questions.

I remember belonging to a men’s group in which we had a talking stick. The man holding the stick was the one speaking and if another man wished to speak he asked for the stick. This allowed the man holding the stick to collect his thoughts and not have to worry about the conversation continuing to another topic. This would work well for the introverts in your group.

2) Ask for written discussion items to be forwarded to the chair prior to the meeting. This not only helps introverts who tend to like to think things through but cuts back on time wasted on chatter and people rambling on and wasting everyone’s time.

3) Encourage everyone in your organization to become a member of Toastmasters where they can develop skills and confidence in public speaking. As well they will develop the ability to speak succinctly and clearly on a topic. This will help introverts feel more comfortable in a group. As an alternative, initiate your own version of Toastmasters on the worksite.

4) Create opportunities for everyone to take turns leading meetings. This will give everyone, extroverts and introverts, an opportunity to experience different leadership styles and interaction, resulting in better understanding of how the other works.

5) Ask for written ideas on new and innovative ways to improve. When giving feedback on an idea, give special attention to careful thought and creativity in an idea, even if unable to use it. It will let introverts, who put a lot of attention and thought into ideas, know that those attributes are noticed and appreciated.

6) Give notice of changes and events that will impact them as far in advance as possible. Remember that it is important for them to be able to think things through and be prepared.

7) When creating ideas for a new project, be clear on deadlines and that the avenues for communication are open until that deadline. Often introverts process longer and more precisely on the details.

8) When asking something of introverts, give them a chance to mull things over and then ask them to get back to you instead of giving you an instant response.

9) When part of a team, introverts work best when they are assigned to work on a specific area rather than brainstorming and working collectively as a group.

10) When planning team building activities, retreats and staff conferences keep in mind that introverts feel more comfortable and perform better in a small group or individual activities rather than large group events.

About the Author:

Harvey Deutschendorf is an emotional intelligence expert, speaker and internationally published author of The Other Kind of Smart: Simple Ways to Boost Your Emotional Intelligence for Greater Personal Effectiveness and Success, published by AMACOM of New York. For more information, visit

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