Archives for March 2016

Tips for Increasing Engagement in Online Learning

Often times, tips for engaging learners in corporate online learning include external features and novel delivery methods. These range from using animations, “real-life” scenarios, game-design, leaderboards, and badges. But with learners actually spending more time learning and developing themselves outside of the corporate learning infrastructure, knowing what is appealing for them could have us directing our efforts and attention in a more focused approach that leads to greater engagement, activity and—more importantly—results.

Here are some tips based on learner preferences that could give you the results that you are seeking.

Contextually relevant content

In a recent survey of over 4,000 business people, the preferred way of learning in the workplace was overwhelmingly “knowledge sharing amongst the team.” When you also consider that learners are predominantly motivated to learn online so they can do their jobs better and faster, then contextually relevant content is a no-brainer. Linking learning to the work—and the organization—will help learners to make the connections between content and application. However, in the traditional world of eLearning this would be far too expensive and time-consuming, and that is why rapid content-creation tools are becoming more popular, so that the people who “know” and “do” can share what they know and do with those who need it—quickly and easily.

Respect learners as adults

The external features and novel delivery methods I mentioned above are fine, when used intelligently. However, if your online strategy is to design games, leaderboards, and mostly animated content then you had better have one outstanding game-design team. Even Disney initially struggled to crack the games market. This is because it is incredibly difficult and… Wait a minute, why am I talking about games when people just want to be better at their jobs? If your online learning is off the mark, then adding game-design and animations won’t improve your results. And anyway, is that how you prefer to learn? Quite likely not. Instead, just get people who know and do to explain what they know and do and the impact it has for them.

Make it real. Get real people involved—and see real results.

UX (User Experience)

People today have access to almost infinite resources online that can help them to understand and learn what they need for their professional development. The internet has provided quick and intuitive access to information, expertise, and know-how. This “consumerization” of learning means that people have developed preferences for what they want and don’t want to engage with. In an interview in May, 2015 Josh Bersin pointed out that “people today are finding the learning experience inside their company is not nearly as nice as the learning experiences on YouTube or other external providers.” LMSs are often shunned because they are clunky, not at all intuitive, and content within them (regardless of how useful it might be) is buried several clicks within the platform. For greater engagement, learning professionals need to think outside the LMS if it’s not delivering results. And if you’re worried about another system making sense to learners, look at your smartphone and all the applications you have. I bet you ignore the ones that don’t work for you and use the ones that do. We all do.

And on that topic…


We often grab the information we need, when we think of it—or more importantly, when and where we need it. Google goes so far as to say we’ve been “trained to expect immediacy and relevance in our moments of intent.” We often go to our devices during downtime, when we’re travelling, waiting, or filling time in other ways and employees are learning far more from outside of the corporate infrastructure during these periods.

It’s no longer forward-thinking to have a mobile L&D offering—it is the world we’ve been living in for quite some time. So, to not offer mobile learning now could be deemed as backward.

Build trust

If 67 percent of millennials believe they can learn anything from YouTube (as the previous link to “Think with Google” says), the fact that they can or they can’t is irrelevant—they have enough experience and trust to believe they can. You can’t build this level of trust overnight—especially with more than 70 percent of employees going to web-search as their first port-of-call when they want to learn something for their job. The opportunity for our online learning is to help people to grab what they want when they need it to perform.

Make content short, make it contextually relevant, use video, and make it real. Create the place employees know they can go when they want to be better at their jobs.


David James is a seasoned Talent Management, Learning & OD leader with more than 15 years of experience in the field. Until recently, David was Director of Talent, Learning & OD for The Walt Disney Company’s EMEA region and has since joined as Learning Strategist.

Reprinted from LEARNING SOLUTIONS Magazine


Prevent Exit Interviews With Stay Interviews

We haven’t thought about them for a while, but stay interviews might be making a comeback. They’re defined as structured interviews designed to learn the reasons that employees stay with a company or the conditions that might cause them to leave. As the talent wars continue, stay interviews can be a valuable way to engage and retain employees.

During the Association for Talent Development’s (ATD) International Conference and Expo, I had the chance to hear Dr. Beverly Kaye, co-author of the international best-seller “Love ‘em or Lose ‘em: Getting Good People to Stay” discuss her new book “Hello Stay Interviews, Goodbye Talent Loss” which talks about the dynamics of stay interviews. What I thought was interesting about the renewed stay interview conversation was the idea of having recruiters conducting stay interviews.

Yep, that’s right. Recruiters doing stay interviews.

I asked Dr. Kaye about the role recruiters can play in stay interviews. “In my research, I’m finding that retention is the new measurement of recruiting success and different players have a role in the outcome. Clearly the employee’s manager is the best bet to conduct a stay interview. But, the missing link is the recruiter who is often the first to really connect with the new hire. I believe that new recruits do bond with the person who gives them the interview and invites them to join the organization.”

In her book, Dr. Kaye focuses on providing managers with practical ideas they can use to conduct stay interviews with their employees. But I must confess that I’m still focused on the idea of recruiters getting involved with stay interviews. So I asked Dr. Kaye if she could share some sample questions:

  • What was something your last organization did well that we don’t do?
  • Is the job turning out to be what you thought it would be? How so? How not?
  • What did your past job offer that you feel is missing in this one?

I totally get this. I’ve worked for companies where we asked employees these questions during their first 30 / 60 / 90 days of employment. They have a fresh set of eyes. It’s smart for the company to get their feedback. And there’s research to show that 40% of employees who leave their job do so within the first six months of employment. Making a connection with the company quickly is important and the recruiter could be a key individual in the employee’s success.

But I also want to bring a degree of realism to this conversation. I’m sure one of the biggest objections to doing stay interviews is having an employee suggest something that you know the company won’t consider. Which leads me to my one note of caution when it comes to stay interviews. Please don’t do them if you’re not prepared to listen. The absolute worst thing you can do is ask someone for their feedback and not do anything with the information. Dr. Kaye recommends a 4-step approach for handling employee responses that cannot be accommodated:

  1. ACKNOWLEDGE – Listen to the employee and acknowledge what they are saying.
  2. TRUTH – Tell the employee that their request isn’t a viable option.
  3. CARE – Express a sincere concern to work with the employee.
  4. ASK – Find out if there is another option that might be satisfactory.

Another objection to stay interviews might involve time. Some recruiters and/or managers might say they don’t have time to do stay interviews – “I’m overworked, underpaid and stressed out.” To that I have a couple of responses:

1) Don’t forget recruiters and managers are people too. If the company is serious about retaining talent, they should conduct stay interviews at every level of the organization. That includes the recruiting, human resources and management team.

2) If you don’t have time to conduct stay interviews, then chances are you don’t have time to deal with an employee resigning, hiring their replacement and training them. Stay interviews will definitely take less time.

Objections behind us, it’s important to find time to conduct a meaningful stay interview. (Translation: the stay interview while multitasking isn’t a good idea.) While it’s ideal to conduct stay interviews in person, Kaye shared with me some strategies for conducting stay interviews with virtual teams. “I have seen managers with virtual teams use Skype to do their stay interviews. Being able to see the individual gives the manager the opportunity to pick up clues from gestures and facial expression. If this can be done for virtual employees it can be as effective as face to face meetings.”

Stay interviews have tremendous potential for the organization. Yes, it’s possible the company will still lose the employee (even after conducting a stay interview). There are some offers that are just too good to pass up. But the company will have learned something. And to quote the great B.B. King, “The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you.”


Reprinted from HR BARTENDER

Invest in a Productive, Modern Office

An organization’s office is among its biggest talent management investments. After all, the office is one of the biggest drivers of employee productivity and engagement. It’s the place where employees come every day to work, collaborate and connect with colleagues — all of which play a heavy hand in the organization’s output.

But what makes for an ideal office space? It’s a question on the minds of many talent managers as companies seek to bolster offices to drive higher employee engagement and to appeal to a new generation of workers keen on nontraditional office elements.

The nuances of office design differ from person to person, said William Hanley, vice president of strategic partnerships and editorial director at Kontor, a social media platform for designers and product manufacturers. Still, there are common office design trends that run parallel to the nature of corporate life.

“The ‘Mad Men’ office with secretary pools and private offices gave way to the efficiency-obsessed cubicle farm,” said Hanley, who spent nearly seven years visiting corporate offices as a senior editor of digital media at Architectural Record.

“What we’ve seen with the advent of mobile technology, when people can work anywhere at any time, the office plays a much different role in the functioning of a company than it did before,” Hanley said. “It’s no longer this kind of utilitarian place where you have your phone at your desk and you go there because it’s the only place you can work. The office is much more of a social space now.”

To be sure, such a social space is different for each company, Hanley said. No two businesses will operate in the same way, so different types of spaces are needed for different types of work.  Ultimately, Hanley and other design experts say leaders should focus on providing employees with a space that satisfies three criteria: functionality, flexibility and beauty.

“A well-designed office is much more enlivening, much more fun to be in than a drab space that’s designed for efficiency,” Hanley said. “A gorgeous space will go a long way to making it much more pleasant to get your job done there.”

‘It’s no longer this kind of utilitarian place where you have your phone at your desk, and you go there because it’s the only place you can work. The office is much more of a social space now.’ —William Hanley, vice president of strategic partnerships and editorial director, Kontor

The Office of My Eye

In most cases, the beauty of an office space also contributes to its functionality.

Consider Target Corp.’s bright, loft-style office in Manhattan that houses the retailer’s marketing and public relations team. Lauren Rottet, president and founding principal of the office’s design firm, Rottet Studio, said the space’s vibe was driven by the nature of its employees’ work.

“The whole idea is that the space is a very neutral, white, beautiful, clean canvas for Target because this is where they look at their products,” Rottet said.

It is also to this end that the space is designed more like a loft than a formal office. “That alone is something that a lot of people are starting to realize is helpful to today’s worker because we’re working 24/7,” Rottet said, adding that “stiff and uncomfortable” offices don’t lend well to environments where workers are spending more of their discretionary time.

Flexible workstations also help reduce such stiffness. Working locations at the Target office include desks, a lounge area and a high-top table outside of the kitchen. This provides a variety of settings to work, ranging from casual to formal.

Variety in the types of spaces an office features has become increasingly necessary as companies sometimes aim to reduce square footage per person to mitigate costs. Additionally, advances in mobile technology, which has enabled workers to work more remotely, have reduced the need for in-office storage space.

Aside from saving on real estate costs, engagement is a major benefit of centralized offices, said Dean Strombom, a principal at architecture and design firm Gensler. Research shows that “employee engagement increases exponentially when people feel they are valued and that the work that they’re doing has purpose and they’re part of something that’s bigger than themselves,” Strombom said.

Gensler is working on a campus for a global energy services company with this thinking in mind (Editor’s note: Strombom declined to name the firm). The firm is consolidating the company’s five Houston-area offices into one, with the aim of “trying to get their employees to think more about working for the entire organization, not just their particular group or them as individuals,” Strombom said.

Moreover, when employees see branding on a daily basis along with seeing that their work is relevant and benefits the greater good, there’s a better understanding of the organization’s mission. Strombom calls this a motivator, which is a design principal Gensler has identified through its own research. The other nine factors, according to Strombom, are activity, ergonomics, air quality, lighting, restorative environments, acoustics, nature, nutrition and user control.

Having a choice as to where, when and how employees work leads to health benefits that affect engagement and profit, according to researchers Robert Karasek and Tores Theorell in their book “Healthy Work: Stress, Productivity and the Reconstruction of Working Life.” They found that employees who have control over their work have better health outcomes than those who have little choice.

According to 2014 research by design firm HOK, flexible work policies help 68 percent of respondents “work more effectively on individual tasks,” wrote Leigh Stringer, workplace specialist at architecture and engineering firm EYP, in a blog post. Flexibility also increased employees’ productivity by 66 percent.

Let There Be Light

Sunlight should have a strong presence in office environments. “If there are people in the space, there should be access to sunlight,” Stringer said.

Circadian lighting, which stimulates the body’s sleep cycles, is important to psychological wellness, especially in dark, northern climates, Stringer said. In the morning, natural blue light triggers the body to wake up. Throughout the day, light transitions to yellow, then red, telling the body to go to sleep. This rhythm influences production of melatonin and cortisol, which influence sleep and stress, respectively.

Circadian adaptive lighting can be installed with special light bulbs. However, if wanting to harness natural daylight, Stringer suggests moving desks and communal spaces near windows. Disruptive glares on computers can be an issue as well, so Stringer suggests putting special films over screens. “Before you close a window, consider technology,” she said.

Lexington, Kentucky-based Valvoline’s future office space is designed to provide a lot of natural light, said Chris Liu, associate principal and design director for SCB Chicago Interiors, the architecture firm leading the office’s design.

Less than 10 percent of the new building’s population will be in enclosed offices, Liu said, leaving many walls open for natural light to pour in. The designers also opted to include lower cubicle panels in an effort to filter light throughout the space and better connect employees with colleagues.

The new Valvoline office also has two angled wings, with a core area and main lobby that features the company’s colors of blue and red, along with industrial metal or polished concrete. Valvoline’s 150-year history will be depicted by a historical chart that runs throughout the building, along with company artifacts and products on display.

And while current Valvoline offices don’t have collaboration spaces, the new office will feature designated meeting areas that are nearly enclosed and are close to individual workstations, which “helps move the noise away from the workstations,” Liu said. These spaces will be far enough from workstations to reduce noise but close enough that people can have an instantaneous meeting. If meeting areas were too far, the spaces would be less than ideal, Liu said.

To determine the workspace needs of these different Valvoline workers, Liu’s team went as far as to conduct anthropology studies, which involve documenting space use for a given period of time, typically between two days and two weeks. A common finding was that large conference rooms are often booked by a small number of people, largely because employees have few other spaces to meet. As a result, Valvoline will have more conference rooms that seat fewer people compared with previous designs.

Gensler’s Strombom said collaboration between company and designer is important in creating the best possible environment, as is making employees feel engaged. He suggested an inclusionary design process that gains input from top leadership and employees.

“If employees are not engaged in the process and they feel like a solution is being forced upon them, then the natural human reaction is to push back or challenge that direction,” Strombom said.

Lauren Dixon is a Talent Management associate editor. Comment below or email


How Does Your Salary Stack Up?

Average training salaries grew nearly 3 percent to $83,494 in 2014-2015, according to Training magazine’s Annual Salary Survey of 1,280 readers.

The average increase in salary in the last 12 months (not including a promotion or change of employer) also remained at just under 3 percent, the same as in 2013-2014. The majority (48 percent) of respondents typically work between 40 and 44 hours per week. Some 44 percent of respondents said their salary was low relative to their responsibilities, while another 46 percent said it was equitable. Only 9 percent (down 1 percent from last year) believe they are well paid relative to their responsibilities. Some 55 percent of respondents said they received a bonus in 2014, and 59 percent are eligible for one this year (both answers are the same as last year). The average cash bonus was $10,603, up from $9,866 the year before.

Only 2 percent said employers asked them to take a pay cut in 2014-2015, down from 3 percent previously. Some 39 percent of respondents said their organization cut budgets in the last 12 months, 6 percent less than in 2013-2014. Travel was trimmed by 36 percent of respondents, down from 41 percent. Some 12 percent froze salaries vs. 14 percent in 2013-2014. And 6.5 percent eliminated bonuses compared with nearly 8 percent the year before. Employee layoffs decreased a bit, from 24 percent to 21 percent.

Most training professionals continue to enjoy what they do for a living, with nearly 73 percent saying they wouldn’t choose another career if they could do it all over again. Of those who preferred other careers, answers ranged from cybersecurity expert, Human Resources director, and petroleum engineer to actor/performer, cosmonaut, and fiction writer.

Click here to read the full article.

Reprinted from TRAINING Magazine

Are You Developing Female Leaders?

When mentoring young women, Skillsoft’s Priti Shah always makes it a point to urge them to advocate for themselves.

“It’s always a quid pro quo,” said Shah, Skillsoft’s vice president of leadership product strategy and corporate development. “The moment the company gives you the opportunity to advocate for yourself, take the bull by its horns — make sure you’re making the most of the development opportunities that are being given to you.”

Shah counts herself fortunate to have worked for companies supportive of her leadership development over her career, but she isn’t naive about the broader reality: a dearth of women in positions of leadership, especially at the senior and C-suite levels.

So she said she was surprised but not-so-surprised at the results of a November survey that revealed not only a lack of women in positions of leadership but also a lack of support to facilitate their mobility to such roles.

In “The Impact of Women in the Workforce: A Skillsoft Survey Report,” while more than 90 percent of female respondents “agree” or “strongly agree” there is an imbalance of women in leadership roles in business today, and just over half of respondents said their organizations having programs targeted to developing female leaders was important, only 24 percent of participants said their organization had a strategy or program in place to that end.

Shah said part of her lack of shock at the survey results was due to the fact that public awareness of the value of women in leadership is still in its infancy. Much of the research substantiating the impact of gender-diverse leadership has only started surfacing in the last 18 to 24 months, she explained. Only now are organizations receiving more pressure to take action.

Research shows that organizations with high levels of gender diversity are more likely to exceed financial performance averages in their respective industries, and further, that organizations with better financial performance or more likely to have women in leadership positions.

“There’s so much research out there that shows if you do have more gender-balanced representation in your executive staff, on your boards, it’s not only the right thing to do, it also has a direct impact on the financials of a company,” Shah said. “The moment you start bringing facts and figures in to amplify what the moral issue is here, there is a lot of awareness.”

Strategically turning this narrative around requires a number of tactics in addition to educating both men and women about the need for leadership development in women.

Build champions: Until boardrooms make a mix of gender representation a business objective, “we’re not going to see the dial move as much as we’d like to,” Shah said. Driving organizational support of the measures necessary to nurture female leaders from within should come from the top down.

“Less talk, more action”: Once stakeholders have been made aware of the issue, that is. Shah called formal and informal mentorship and sponsorship programs for women critical to change the status quo.

“In order to break the barriers of the ‘old boys’ club,’ it’s absolutely necessary for women to know it’s OK to network. It’s OK to have champions and sponsors and mentors who are advocating for them and proposing their name for the right projects, so that they get the opportunities to showcase their hard work, their potential.’

Shah said in instances where mentees worked at organizations without a strategic focus on developing female leaders, she’s encouraged them to actively seek out mentors within their respective organizations. If the advancement of women into leadership is valuable for a company’s culture and mission, such initiatives should be normalized and encouraged.

Further, initiatives should develop women at all levels. Shah said companies that haven’t experienced the type of success they would have liked may be narrowly focused on only a select group of women.

Leverage the power of big data: Research and data have revealed a problem — a disparity in gender representation in organizational leadership. Research and data also have revealed the associated consequence, and they point to an opportunity to change directions. Shah said data analytics now available and used for a range of purposes can inform and add value to corporate decision-making when creating programs and strategies to develop female leaders, and they can measure the effect of those efforts.

“They’re able to measure and track everything, and they can feel good about the fact that as they’re making these investments, they’re getting the return on investment,” she said.

This article first appeared in Talent Management’s sister publication, Chief Learning Officer. Bravetta Hassell is a Diversity Executive associate editor.


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