Archives for 11 Feb,2019

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Change Agents

solutionHow to be a change agent or a catalyst for change within your business.

Every change you try to implement within your business, whether large or small, will require one or more change agents.  A change agent is anyone who has the skill and power to stimulate, facilitate, and coordinate the change effort.

The success of any change effort depends heavily on the quality and workability of the relationship between the change agent and the key decision makers within the business.

Change agents can be internal, such as managers or employees who are appointed to oversee the change process.  And for just a smidgen more information on how to be effective as an internal change agent follow me

But quite often they are external, these ‘outsiders’ are not bound by the firm’s culture, politics, or traditions. Therefore, they are able to bring a different perspective to the situation and challenge the status quo.

However, because external change agents lack an understanding of the company’s history, operating procedures, and personnel, to offset their limited familiarity with the business external change agents are usually paired with an internal business partner.

This download is designed to highlight the key characteristics a successful change agent will possess , as well as some hints and tips to develop your skills as a change agent.

change-catalyst

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Assessment by Design

Totem-AC 400x265How do we go about designing an Assessment Centre?

It’s probably best to clarify what we mean by Assessment Centre – because others may describe them as development centres, others still as screening days.  What we’re talking about here is taking a group of people and assessing their skills and behaviour against certain criteria.

It could be that you’re recruiting for hundreds of store managers, or you’re looking at the development needs of two or three senior law firm partners – the premise is the same (the execution is obviously different!)

So what does make a great performer in certain roles?  Does ‘good performance’ mean the same thing if the role is say, externally or internally facing?  How does geographic location effect performance – and the assessment?

And let’s make it super interesting, are there differences across the brands being represented if you’re working in a multi-brand organisation?

In order to better plan recruitment and development activity across your organisation, you’re going to have questions similar to these.  You’ll probably have some baseline performance measures in place already – think competency framework here, but is that framework up to the job?

The outcome you’re looking for here is a clear understanding of the consistent and individual behaviours that differentiate high performance – leading on to a better selection or development process for every role under the microscope.

Jelly Bean Diversity

So where to start? 

First up is understanding what good performance actually looks like in your organisation or a specific role.  Start by reviewing any key metrics you use across the roles and then sense check them with a few key stakeholders.  Take the time here to conduct a few exploratory interviews with line managers, regional managers etc – the feedback from these sessions will give you a deeper and more realistic understanding of where your exiting metrics are and aren’t working.

From this you will have a clear sense of how to identify the measures of great performance and where to explore specific behaviours and contexts.  This will enable you to invite the right people to focus groups.

Which leads us on to step two, focus groups.  Having identified high performers using the metrics from step one, you’ll need to run focus groups with these people to understand what they’re doing in more detail.

It’s a great idea to include high performers across brands, roles and locations (if applicable) in order to understand where there are consistencies and where there are important differences.  It would also be ideal to meet with line managers of high performers to understand their perspective too.

Your role in these groups is to use a range of job analysis techniques to understand the what and how of high performance.  What are people doing that’s delivering the strong metrics?  How are they going about it?  What are the behaviours that make a difference?

Totem Gummi Bears

Now you’ve done the hard work, it’s time for step three and the design work itself.  A good place to start is with a little job analysis.

Think of this analysis like a funnelling exercise.  You need to filter through all the talk about what good looks like to find the highest differentiating characteristics that are consistent across roles, locations and brands.

Once you’re clear on these differentiators, you can begin choosing exercises that give the candidate or attendee the best opportunity to show the desired skills or behaviours.  For example – if charming and disarming customer service is a key requirement for a role, give the candidate a role play exercise with a potentially awkward customer.

You could also choose from a more formal face-to-face assessment, an actual staff interaction or possibly some form of desk analysis if that is relevant.

Particularly in assessment centres, it’s vital to give individuals two opportunities to show the behaviour that you’re after.  Sticking with the customer service role example – some individuals may perform poorly in a face to face environment, but excel in a contact centre environment so build this flexibility into your assessment centre.

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Learning Technologies Event Pt.2

LT-Totem 400x265Part 2 of our little jaunt to the Learning Technologies event

In case you missed the first part, you can find it here.

Blame Taylor

We can all be guilty of thinking that problems can be addressed with a one-size-fits-all solution.  With an elearning course or even a blended learning journey – it’s “we design, you consume.”  Saffron Interactive spoke at the event of Taylorism – the principles of management devised by Frederick Taylor (not to be confused with the fandom of Taylor Swift!).

Taylorism worked really well in the early 1900s manufacturing world, where working out the most efficient and effective way of doing something, then teaching everyone else to do just that, in that way, gave great results.  As decades, technology, lifestyles, attitudes and ways of working have moved on, Taylorism has all but disappeared, except, this speaker argued, in L&D.

That sounds rather harsh – are we really saying that L&D teams sit in a dark room working out what people need to know and how they should learn it, then force out that model for consumption?  There have certainly been examples of this, but we see plenty of examples of the opposite too: L&D professionals working with people to identify the root cause of an issue and generate solutions together that suit each person.  There is also the challenge of making individually-tailored learning and problem-solving solutions scalable.  We can’t deliver something bespoke to every person in a global corporation, can we?

Totem Lollipops

Playlists

One suggestion of how this individually tailored approach might work was from Saffron Interactive.  They seem to have taken what works well in the consumer world – YouTube channels and iPod history – and presented the idea of playlists for learning.  This works particularly well if your online learning system is a curated set of user-generated insights, on top of the L&D-generated material.  The idea is that an individual’s line manager would look at the content and suggest a playlist for someone in their team.

You would hope that playlist would be based on the individual’s recent reviews, goals, strengths and development needs – as well as interest areas.  Then the manager has been directly involved in the development journey and encourages the individual to use the content recommended.  When the individual looks through that playlist, views content, rates it as useful, adds their comments, recommends it to others in their team – there we start to see the level of engagement with learning we might dream of.

Work problems not learning needs

But does all this miss the point, that we don’t think we need learning?  Another study conducted by Scott Bradbury highlighted that managers are highly confident in their abilities as people managers.  They consider that they have plenty of experience – and it’s this experience that is most beneficial when someone faces an issue, not external best practice insight or learning.  Now that’s a challenge: If someone doesn’t think they need any development, why would they choose to login to a learning system at all?

Perhaps this brings all of these considerations back to the overall trend in learning and development: We need to be helping people with their work challenges, not offering them learning.  Rather than a “leadership programme” we need to be offering “what to do when you’re pushed to deliver more with less.”  So does that mean you should stop all elearning?

That seems a bit drastic considering the content could be useful.  But certainly there is a need to reposition what’s on the system as helping with challenges rather than giving learning.  And if your system is mostly used for compliance training, there is a far wider question to be explored about the culture of the organisation and the behaviour that is encouraged – is it in line with, or counter to the content of the compliance training?

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Learning Technologies Event Pt.1

Totem-LT-Logo1 400x265“Stop your elearning!”  Wait, what?

There was plenty of myth busting going on at the Learning Technologies event, some well-founded and others perhaps a bit too harsh.

“Forget 70:20:10, there’s no empirical evidence for it” was on the harsh side, given that the idea of 70:20:10 was never published as a proven theory for how we learn, more a sensible approach for supporting learning in the workplace.

“Stop putting compliance training online, it doesn’t work” may be one we need to pay attention to.  We saw the bankers of 2008 (who it has been pointed out will have all completed their compliance training) following a set of behaviours that were certainly not in line with that training.

And the 2012 HBR article stating that “diversity training doesn’t work” made some very good points about emphasising difference rather than developing good communication skills and understanding.

But should we stop providing elearning altogether?  Here we’ll explore the different evidence and theories on why elearning doesn’t achieve what we want it to, and consider some recommendations for L&D teams as a result.

Just Google it – obviously!

A few firms have carried out research to understand where and how people learn when they need to.  A key point here was to ask people what they do when they face a challenge they don’t know how to work through – as that’s a more relevant question than “how do you learn?”  Ask the latter question and people think back to education, not everyday life skills.

Good Practice shared their finding that the most frequent things managers do when they face a new challenge are to have a conversation with their colleagues and do an internet search.  Looking at in-house online learning or resources was 5th on the list.  Considering an internal or external face-to-face course came 10th and 11th on the list.

Why is that?  Why don’t people use the resources L&D have provided for them?  The suggestion, from both further data and anecdote, was that we all want to use things that are quick, easy and relevant.  In fact ease of use was the greatest determining factor in deciding what or who to go to for help (not how useful the insight might be!).  Isn’t it easier to ask someone, or Google it, than it is to log in to the company LMS, search for a course and find the specific aspect relevant to the particular challenge faced?

Good Practice recommended a test for your elearning, intranet or LMS: Ask someone to think of a challenge they might face at work, then time them finding something that will help them with that on your system.  Now time them finding a pair of shoes they would like and getting to the point of purchase.

That’s the difference perhaps summed up most beautifully: Our experiences as consumers teach us to expect everything to be easy to find, relevant to our needs and quick to buy.  Our experiences with company learning systems and intranets is that they’re hard to navigate through, it’s difficult to find what we want and it’s slow.

There’s a further update from this remarkable event and it can be found here!

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