Developing in house or not… that is the question.

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I am a Learning and Development team of 1. I don’t think this is unique, as many people I talk to seem to be in a similar position.

It does, however, present some challenges. You have to be a time management pro. You definitely have to know when to say no. You have to also be good at setting appropriate expectations, as you cannot possibly do all task in a day.

One of the things I have learned recently is that it is also important to know when you should develop materials in house or look for another company that may already have this content developed. This is HARD to admit. I think it’s natural to want to develop and deliver your own courses all the time. But sometimes this is not practical AND sometimes there are people who have more expertise in a particular subject and would serve your learners better.

I recently did just that. And it was not nearly as bad as I thought to the ego. I worked with the other company customizing the content to fit the needs of our organization. And when we launched the program it seemed the learners were just as responsive or more than if I did it all myself. The best part, I get to watch and learn how another skilled teacher teaches.

While it is not the same, it does remind my of Brookfield’s idea of team teaching. By having more teachers you can capture more learners, as each teacher will use techniques that fit their style and interest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Operationalizing Mobile Technologies

kioskRecently I was asked for more information about the POS industry. I wrote a piece about the trends in the POS industry about a year ago and it can be found here.

Being in the technology sector, things are constantly changing. Mobile continues to be a huge driver in the new POS technologies available. Kiosks are one of the fastest growing products. The Kiosk is the restaurant’s answer to self checkout. These are growing in popularity as it is a way for restaurants to reduce labour costs and also meet their customer’s expectations of technology integration.

I have seen Kiosks implemented many ways. My first interaction with a Kiosk was in France back in 2012. Many of their fast food chains, such as Quick and McDonalds had Kiosk stations where you could order and pay. You would then pick up your order when they called your number. I particularly enjoyed this experience, as it allowed me to hide my terrible French conversational skills.

One of the most impressive interactions with a Kiosk was to follow in 2015. I had a layover at Pearson International, so I decided to sit down for a meal. This particular outlet had tables upon tables populated with Ipad minis and charging stations. The Ipad mini’s were free to use for anyone. On these Ipad mini’s you could order and pay for food at the restaurant. It would then be delivered directly to your table. The picture at the head of this blog is from that experience.

While many businesses are embracing these new technologies, many are failing to operationalize mobile technologies. Have you ever had the experience of placing an online or mobile order and go to the restaurant at the specified time only to discover your order is not ready? I have experienced this many times! Smaller companies seem to suffer the most, as they do not have the benefit of having IT and operational teams that create workflows and processes that accommodate these technologies. Google’s mobile play book ranks this as a primary concern for mobile technologies (see http://www.themobileplaybook.com/en-us/#/home).

When we start using new technologies, we often take operationalization and learning for granted. Just implementing new technology will not automatically work, increase efficiency, or reduce costs. We first need customers to start using these new methods AND we also need to provide an acceptable experience.

When I first began my leadership career in restaurants, I was introduce to the idea of consumer training. Why is it that an out the door line up at Tim Horton’s will only take a few minutes to get through, but the same is not true of other businesses? Consumer training! Customers at Tim Horton’s are taught how to order their coffee efficiently with terms like double double.

Learning and training does not stop with employees, it also involves our customers. Just a thought to ponder…

 

 

 

 

A Facilitation Win!

This week I was presented with a bit of a problem where I needed to a large number of employees to fill out a form for an upcoming training program. There were a few tricky fields on this form, which I knew would tie up most participants. We were also on a very tight deadline and need to have these forms submitted in a couple days.

Previous situations like this I would email the form to all participants, give them a deadline and let them know my door is open if they need help or have any questions. This usually leaves me scrambling and having to visit most employees personally taping my foot and begging them to complete.

This time I took a different approach. I set up group meetings with all participants as a working session to complete these forms. And it worked! Instead of having to spend a day or two chasing people down I was able to get this done in an hour.

This actually seems like a thing that should occur more often in situations where you need forms or paperwork completed. Not only are you making yourself available for any questions that may arise, but it also blocks time off participants calendars to specifically complete the form, so that it does not end up getting pushed to the bottom of the pile of an endless stream of more urgent tasks. Some of the participants even commented that it was a much more efficient and fun way to get this task done.

Give it a shot next time you have one of these tasks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goal Setting: Training and Job Aid

I have been working on this project to develop a performance goal setting process. In association with this process, there will also be goal setting training. The process will kick off during training with the goal setting cycle starting shortly after.

But I got thinking. In my years of business, I have seen goal setting emerge, maintain, and disappear as an organizational practise many times. Sometimes there can be practical reasons for this, such as the cycle being too frequent that it becomes onerous to maintain. Making it less frequent should then make it more likely to be sustainable…right?

I’m not so sure. Goal setting is a skill. If you don’t use it often, it could be easy to forget the best practises. And if backslide and start doling out vague or ambiguous goals, the process quickly becomes meaningless and will be dropped to save morale.

As with many, I follow and teach the SMART goal setting method. Even though this nice mnemonic should guide users to create clear goals, it can be difficult to remember the best practises associated with each element.

So it occurred to me—why can’t the goal setting form also operate as a job aid? Instead of creating a generic form that has spaces to outline the goal and deadline, why not create a form that requires users to fill out each element of SMART. Not only does this help ensure SMART goals are being created, but breaking down the goals like this on the form can help managers discuss and get employee buy in as it’s transparent.

The Power of Mindset

A few posts back, I posted a video about “Growth Mindset”. It’s interesting because it connects to a project I am working on for customer service training.

I was researching some different ways to approach customer service training. One of the most interesting ideas I ran into were about building a “service mindset”. A service mindset is customer focused. This seemed perfect to me as one of our values at my company is customer focus.

What really appealed to me about this “service mindset” is that it penetrates all activities. You do not have to deal with customers to be customer focused. Rather, the customer is at the heart of what every actions and choices you make. For an example, if you are a developer, you don’t work tons of hours non stop to get a promotion. Rather, you do it because that work leads to enhancing the product for customers. A truly customer focused person thinks in terms of how your actions and choices impact customers.

Another important aspect is internal dialogues. As with anything, that running dialogue we have in our head can affect how we behaviour. If you have a negative self talk before giving a presentation, there’s a good chance you’re not going to be going in with full confidence. Well, the same concept influences customers service too. If you have a negative customer dialogue, you’re setting yourself up to impact your service.

This idea of service mindset makes me think of our roles as educators. While we are all aiming to help our learners, I think there are many factors where we may not fully hit the mark when it comes to our mindset. Career pressures, different stakeholders, fatigue, and workload can all set us off course. We too need this service mindset. Our students are our customers.

In many ways, most of our practises as educators put the learner at the forefront. Most of our actions are influenced by our learners. Our textbooks and continuing education practises all emphasize the centric position of our learners. We have the impact thinking down pat! While it is woven into our practise, I think we need see this as a mindset, so we can catch any detours that come our way.

 

Traps of Evaluation: Education and Management Intersect

I have been reading “The Art of Evaluation” by Fenwick and Parsons.

Amongst many different topics on evaluation, they introduce 4 traps of Evaluation

  1. Evaluating what’s easiest to measure
  2. Underestimating the learning embedded in evaluation
  3. Unexamined Power
  4. Reductionism

Upon reflecting on these ‘traps’, I realized that these are very similar to some of the difficulties in goal setting and performance evaluation.

Take good old customer service as an example. It is often very easy to report on how many phone calls or customer contacts a representative has. However, it is way more complex to measure the quality of those interactions or customer satisfaction.

In goal setting with employees, all too often we select goals that are easy to measure, rather than what is important or has value. I think this brings in reductionism too. By limiting the goals to what we can measure, we are reducing development to a tiny box. Not only will this lead to missing opportunities, but it can also affect employee engagement. Limiting the options could lead to easy or repetitive tasks and not valuing development in other areas. I’ve worked in these circumstances—it is very demotivating!

Another aspect is the learning in evaluation. All too often training in corporate environment lacks evaluation. This is a missed opportunity. It is an important tool for educators to develop better programs. Also, evaluation is valuable to learnings, as it gives them insight into the direction where they should apply more effort. Without this, it is like working in the blind, which again can be demotivating. One might argue that training is evaluated through work performance, which is fine. But all too often feedback in the workplace is scarce. Lack of feedback without fail is one of the main reasons employees look for other jobs.

Finally, power. Power is becoming one of my favourite topics in education, as you saw in my examination of “Whole Brain Teaching”. There is an inherent power authority in evaluation. Most people have some form of anxiety surrounding evaluation already, but with adults it can be all the more as they may be uncomfortable submitting to the criticism of others. Team this with other factors, such as coercive management or an authoritarian teaching style and you could have some really stressed out learners! With adults, as educators we need to look for ways to limit this unequal power. Transparency in the evaluation is a good first step.

Evaluation, whether employee performance or learning, is an important tool. Personally, I see it as a tool for growth and development. Avoiding these traps is important to keep with that philosophy.

One of my professors sent me a link in relation to this topic. Growth mindset–check it out!

 

 

Needs Analysis: Dead ends become forks

I had an interesting experience recently. I was asked to look into an issue that may lead to either a coaching or training need. The subject matter was in my area of expertise, so as I began my needs analysis, I was finding much of what I expected. Some job aids and a refresher and all should be good.

But then I was chasing what normally should be a dead end. Instead of getting my quick fix like I expected, I discovered that there were actually more stakeholders that should be involved in this project.

We often take fore granted how intertwined departments are within an organization. This is why need analysis is important. Without it, you could be only addresses part of the issue. You could also unintentionally create issues elsewhere in the organization. And worse of all–you could end up creating training that is not valuable or needed.

 

Kahoot!

Please see the below video that a fellow learner created on the teaching strategy Kahoot!

This is a great outline of a way to introduce gaming to the classroom.

In a workplace training environment like my teaching context, this would be a very easy strategy to organize and implement because it takes away some of the ‘cons’ indicated in the video. In a workplace environment, you typically have company supplied devices, like phones or laptops, and usually wifi connection. Additionally, it is likely that you would have a shared communication tool, such as skype for business or go-to-meeting. These programs typically have polling features built it, so setting this up would be as easy as scheduling a meeting.

This is also a great way to engage remotely located learners. When you are training remotely, it can be difficult to gauge whether learners are understanding the material. If you’ve ever attended a conference call, I’m sure you can empathize with the doozy feeling you get from listening and watching a screen that just does not progress fast enough. Or on the flip side, the frustration of screens that move too quick and comments that make you feel like you missed the first half of the meeting. Using polling or “Kahoot” can be a way to keep remote learners engaged AND feel like they are part of the team!

Focused Conversation Model

A while ago, after a few courses requiring the use of the focused conversation model for reflective writing, I wanted to learn more as it seemed to me that it would have some interesting workplace learning applications.

What I did not expect to find was that is actual a model that was designed for the workplace! The main reference book on this topic is:

Stanfield, B., & Canadian Institute of Cultural Affairs. (2000). The art of focused conversation: 100 ways to access group wisdom in the workplace. Gabriola Island, B.C: New Society Publishers.

This book is a great reference guide to facilitating discussion and meetings using the focused conversation model. Along with a clear outline of the different stages (eg. Objective, Reflective, Interpretive, and Decisional), it also outlines the different roles of stakeholders in the discussion. It offers guidance, tips, strategies, and advice for facilitating in a wide variety of different workplace contexts. As a reference book, it offers a sample of 100 different types of workplace conversations with suggestions on how to facilitate these conversations with the model.

I have not personally used this model in the workplace yet, but I think it would be a vary efficient way to structure meetings, particularly those meetings where some type of learning needs to occur. I think this would be very useful for analyzing the success/failure of a project. So often when we examine these situation, the focus is on facts only. The reflective component of this model allows for reactions and emotions, which as much as we try, cannot be avoided. The interpretive then allows for both the facts and emotions to be synthesized to an integrated position, with the decisional being a result of this synthesized view.

Getting the Most out of Mistakes: After Action Reviews

Have you ever been involved in a multi-departmental project that did not go as planned? In the days following, did you feel the frustration of fingers pointing? Did you also feel that this was a great learning experience except that there was no way to synthesize the lessons learned?

After Action Review look to solve this!

After Action Reviews were first introduced by the US army as a way to evaluate and learn from actions (successful or unsuccessful) to improve future actions. Since then, this methodology has found a home in many organizations as a way to integrate view of multiple stakeholders and improve organizational processes:

http://executiveeducation.wharton.upenn.edu/thought-leadership/wharton-at-work/2012/04/after-action-reviews

There area many different ways to perform an After Action Review. Some organizations develop their own structures, forms and paper work to guide users how to hold a review.

If you are new to this process and would like a few guiding principles, the following is a great article that offers a start:

http://betterevaluation.org/en/evaluation-options/after_action_review

This is a methodology I am looking to implement at work. In the past few years, we’ve had successful rollouts and implementations and some less successful. This can offer us a way to examine our successes to optimize this going forward.