Archives for the month of: November, 2011

Gallup reported today that 71% of Americans are disengaged at work.

As an HPT practitioner, it’s difficult to pinpoint a distinct cause for a national issue. Despite the overall trend, it comes down to individual issues at each organization. Disengagement can be caused by a business’s culture, how it handles employee motivation, career advancement, etc. But, as Gallup reports, disengagement creates problems for organizations that gravely affect the bottom line. In sum? If your employees aren’t engaged, you need to bring in an expert. Slapping a one-size-fits-all solution certainly won’t work.


We usually envision training as the teaching of ideal performance in an organization. Apparently, ideal performance at Salt Lake County is dishonesty:

“At a training session soon afterward, the bailiff recorded Warnick telling those at a training session, “We are not going to show them our errors” and also instructed those at the session to leave some information out of incident reports, according to the charges.”

What does the socioeconomic ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement have to do with employee development? Everything.

T&D pointed me to this Business Week article about employee engagement. Why aren’t employees motivated? Writes Dov Seidman, “We cannot “motivate” engagement (or innovation, growth, or succession for that matter); instead, we must inspire the kind of outcomes we want by rooting ourselves in a set of values, being in the grip of an idea worthy of dedication and commitment, connecting around a meaningful and shared purpose, and aligning around a common, deep, and sustainable set of human, societal, and environmental values.”

Although ‘Occupy’ is a conglomeration of many ideas about economic injustice, the overarching theme I’ve interpreted is that of fairness. And it’s not just the people who are willing to camp out in a park to get the discussion going – it’s any employee you talk to in a depressed economy. In a survey, 83% of employees reported that they either do not discuss career goals at work, or only have the discussion once per year. Many have become disillusioned as they watch benefits dwindle while news report indicate millions in bonuses for some CEOs.

I don’t want to start a discussion on the so-called 99% vs. 1%. That argument is for someone else to make. What’s important here is an employee’s perception – whether he or she is valued, connected, and has a meaningful purpose, as Seidman wrote. Are businesses using those key attributes when developing performance goals? Should they? Why or why not?

It’s easy to snooze through instructor-led training. In my high school days, a friend of mine perfected sleeping in class – he rested his head on his hand, holding a pencil, still looking forward! These days, if I’m forced to sit through an hour or more of PowerPoint slides, I find a cozy spot in the back and take time to catch up on work.

Why aren’t learners excited? Why are they checking their iPads and mobile phones during the presentation we took days to prepare? It may be because we’re not asking them to do something – not during the ILT, and not after.

As a designer at Allen, I’ve been particularly inspired by a process called Action Mapping (created by Cathy Moore – read more at Designers are commonly asked by clients to ‘inform learners’ or ‘make employees aware’ of something. Certainly, knowledge is important in the training process – after all, you can’t bake a cake without a recipe. Reading the recipe, however, won’t mix the batter and pop it in the oven!

Moore’s Action Mapping model emphasizes behavior change. Using a targeted Business Goal, Moore breaks down Knowledge and Activities to achieve the final result: Behavior.

In our cake example, we can define each part of the Action Map:

1. Business Goal: Bring a cake to a birthday party.
2. Knowledge: Read the cake recipe.
3. Activities: Practice baking a cake a few days before.
4. Behavior: Bake the birthday cake.

Think about the next time you’re preparing to design knowledge-based training. Do learners need to know about a new policy? If so, what is it about the policy that will affect what they do? Without clear expectations of behavior change, you may end up providing your attendees an afternoon to catch up on their e-mails.

I just finished a fascinating blog post by Michael Noble, CLO at my company. In this case, I’m not reposting for the company’s sake – I was geniunely intrigued by Noble’s takeaways from Masie’s.

Previously Now and in the Future
Learner recall Transactive memory (Sparrow)
Individual expertise Ambient intelligence (Oblinger)
Digital ADD Decision science (Begley)
Sports & entertainment heroes (models) Culture shift toward science & technology (Kamen)
One-time interventions Systems & systemic change (Clinton)
Expert-dictated design Mass customized learning (Hodgins, Schwahn, McGarvey)
Pedantic approaches Storytelling (Lithgow, Karet)
Teacher/student models Mentoring (Myers)
Classroom/podium models Spatial design, learning spaces (Fouchea, Vredevoogd)
Self-contained knowledge Cloud learning (Casserly, van Dam, Jindrich, Beaudry, Prabju)

Look at how learning development has changed (and think about how we’re approaching it vs. 50 years ago). How do we approach our clients, who may consider the ‘Cloud’ approach a fad? Or what do we say when she insists learners memorize key tasks that can easily be referred to in a job aid?

Six Sigma has always been a thorn in my side.  While I recognize the obvious success cases in its implementation, I have hesitated to wholly endorse it.  This entry in the Harvard Business Review by Tom Davenport really illustrates my misgivings.

Davenport emphasizes the fact that no one solution is really right for an organization; instead, it could be a useful tool among many.  “So what’s the best alternative to Six Sigma for process improvement? Well, there really is no one alternative that’s best for all processes and circumstances. Companies really need a combination of tools and approaches. The best companies in process management already have such a combination,” he writes.

Consider also that, in my opinion, Six Sigma misses the mark on valuing personnel. Because it’s so wrapped up in statistical reporting, it doesn’t delve into some of the human performance concerns that crop up in any improvement initiative.   An excellent comment by David reports, “Problems that had previously been successfully and quickly resolved by creative, empowered, informed, problem-solvers (engineers, quality technicians, supervisors, customer service reps, etc.)now take weeks or months to complete, as each problem is diligently logged into some nifty six sigma tracking database, assigned a project number, and dies a slow death under a crush of committees, forms, spreadsheets, approvals, meetings, and reports.”

Sound like a nightmare out of Office Space?

I’ll be honest. The reason I decided to start a blog was based on an article on Having recently established myself in the world of training and development, I’ve been pondering how to keep myself A) relevant and B) continually challenged. It seems a blog that shares my insights on the ever-changing training industry is an excellent tool; I can quite easily tap into articles, journals, conversations with colleagues, etc., and create what I hope are helpful reflections for others in the business.

Here’s to being late to the (blogging) game!


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