Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Have you left it too late to secure future talent?

PwC have posted an interesting view point about the future of talent on their website.

If you want to hear about:

what the leading companies have been doing in the people space during the recession

what the HR function should be focusing on right now

how the talent landscape will change in the next 5 years

....then take a listen.

Or you can click on this link to see the video too.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Taking the change journey

One of the parts of my job that motivates me is finding ways to help organisations change their behaviours in order to achieve something different. It is often a really tough challenge and I don't think even Mr Kotter has all of the answers.

Of course training and capability development is a really important change leaver that can have a powerful impact if used in conjunction with the many other levers that you can pull.

Holger Nauheimer published a Change Journey Map that helps people understand all of the different aspects of change that need to be addressed in order to be successful. The concept is simple but I like the insights he provides into the various places where you need to visit on your journey.

For example:

The Mall of Human Needs - a place to explore people's aspirations and potential reasons for resistance or The Gym of Skills and Capabilities - where we identify and grow the essential skills we need for the future.

If you are involved in change (who isn't..) the it is worth taking a look. If you want to know more then take a look at this video

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Who is setting your capability development agenda?

I read an interesting article written by McKinsey earlier this week discussing who is setting the agenda for capability development in organisations.

They have published a survey with some interesting results:

"Nearly 60 percent of respondents to a recent McKinsey survey say that building organizational capabilities such as lean operations or project or talent management is a top-three priority for their companies. Yet only a third of companies actually focus their training programs on building the capability that adds the most value to their companies’ business performance."

The article brings out a couple of key points:
  • Most organisations do not focus on developing the capability that they need the most
  • When senior executives are involved in setting the focus for capability development companies are more successful at aligning those agendas with the capability most important to business performance.
When I think about the different organisations I have worked with and worked for I have seen a wide variety of ways in which L&D budgets and focus areas are set. Some organisations follow a rigorous training needs analysis each year from which they recommend the focus areas for capability development. Other organisations just take a punt on what feels right to focus on. Are either of these right or wrong?

For me the most important part is looking at the business strategy of the organisation and then looking at the capabilities needed to achieve this. Whether you do this through some detailed analysis or not you have to make sure that there is a clear link. Having the 'top team' involved in this process is critical and without this you are having to second guess what the priorities really are.

The key question is how do you get the 'top team' engaged in the process? In some organisations (the successful ones) they already are engaged but for others there is still work to do....we'll leave that to another post though I think (I feel a discussion about HR having a seat at the board table coming on...!).

PS. This is my first post for a while following a bit of a break from blogging to focus on some other stuff. I doubt if anyone noticed but if you did......thanks!

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Do you want me to listen or to read....?

I attended a couple of days training this week, delivered internally. It was an interesting course and I met some great people. However there was a consistent bug bear for me throughout the course in the way that Powerpoint slides were used.

The web is full of discussions and articles about how to use (or not use) supporting slides for presentations (my favourite site is Presentation Zen). My particular pet hate is when a person stands at the front of a room and feels that they must have a slide behind them full of lines of bullet points or with a diagram so complicated that it needs 20 minutes to explain! Why do I hate this?
  • My style of learning is quite auditory. I like to listen to people tell me something and I like to hear people discuss things so I can hear different points of view. Putting up a visual slide doesn't really do much for me and actually makes it more difficult for me to concentrate on what someone is saying.
  • Do you want me to listen to what the presenter is saying, read the slide or do both? If you put a slide up then I am going to try and read it. When I am doing this then I won't be listening properly to the presenter. If the slide is full of lots of text then it is going to take me a while to read it.
  • The slide should be something that complements the presentation - not something that works against it. Just show something very simple on the slide - perhaps a handful of words or a picture that reinforces what you are saying.
Rant over.......

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Learning that is free....and there's no catch!

I read a great article in the Sunday Times last week that described a variety of learning resources that are available via the internet.....for free. I thought it must be too good to be true so I did some browsing of the sites and wanted to share my thoughts with you.

If you want access to completely free material of a high quality then read on.

This is an offshoot of the Open University that offers a large variety of courses covering a wide variety of subjects ranging from Arts and History to Business and Management to Mathematics and Statistics.....a truly broad curriculum.

The courses are available to download in a variety of formats (although I couldn't find audio of video) and each course has its own discussion forum. A facility to post a video log (vlog) is interesting and you can also create Learning Groups to learn with others wherever they may be. A browse through the Business Management sections found some courses that interested me:

Each course is about 6 hours and divided into various modules and you will find a student rating for each course (most of which have 4 or 5 stars).

You Tube EDU

This is a specific channel on YouTube devoted to educational material. Again you will find a variety of subject areas to choose from including Business, Literature, Law, Science and much more.

The format is the usual YouTube style video clip but there is some interesting material in there. A quick browse revealed some interesting clips:

Again some great material to use as part of a wider learning intervention or simply to learn in an interesting way!

This site, containing actual course material from MIT's course offerings is attracting 1.2m visitors per month. I think it is a really clever move by MIT that promotes their position as a thought leader and reinforces their brand.

There is an absolute plethora of material on the site with a large variety of formats ranging from actual course notes to multi media clips and material. The quality is second to none. The material includes course from the world famous Sloane School of Management including titles such as:

Many of these not only include the actual course material but also video lectures and notes - fantastic!

As part of the iTunes store there is a special section called iTunes U. This contains a massive bank of free material provided by a variety of top educational sources such as Cambridge University, Stanford Business Management School and Oxford University. The format is the usual iTunes format (audio and video) so you can simply download to your iPod to listen to at your convenience. Here are a couple of examples:

- Leading Change: a conversation with Ron Williams

- Managing the Leaders by Dr Mark De Rond

- Let's have less pride and more shame in the work place

Again an incredible library of free resource.

The Sunday Times article had an interesting observation:

A small study by the University of New York in Fredonia claims that downloading a lecture can be more effective than actually attending one in person. Researchers compared 64 students, half of whom attended a lecture and half of whom received it via a podcast. In a subsequent test, those who downloaded the podcast performed better - possibly because a podcast allows you to replay difficult parts as and when you want.

So I really do recommend having a look around these sites - there is some great material out there that is definitely worth exploring.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Kolb - is it useful?

I was asked to deliver a short session on Kolb recently which made me think about his models and how useful they are in practice. As I reflected on Kolb's model it made me remember how useful a tool it is for helping think about how people learn.....but of course there is a flip side too...

As a quick recap David Kolb is an Organisational Behaviour Professor who is probably best known for his work on experiental learning. Along with Roger Fry he created a model for learning that is generally known as the Learning Cycle.
I won't go into the detail about how the model works but for me it highlights a useful way of thinking about how people learn. Other sites have described this in some detail and I particularly like this one that shows it in an interactive way.

As well as the Learning Cycle, Kolb put forward 4 learning styles with each style representing a combination of two preferred styles. Kolb came up with the terms Diverging, Assimilating, Converging and Accommodating for these styles - see below.

Why is this useful?

  • A training course is not the complete answer! I have often heard about how the model can really help design a high quality training course. Using the styles and learning cycle we can create a rich experience that caters for the diferent ways that people learn. All of that is true but for me largely misses the point. Kolb's Learning Cycle shows how people learn in a continuous cycle based on a set of experiences. A training course may provide all of these experiences.....but only at a single point in time. So you may design the most fantastic training course but once people have gone back to their 'day job' how do you help them reflect on what they learned? How do you help them experiment and think about how they will use these new skills? How do you give them a set of experiences in which they can apply and develop further these new skills?

  • Coaching: I think Kolb's model is a useful one to support you as a coach. Clearly coaching has a strong role to play to help people reflect on their experiences but a coach can also help people think about new concepts, how they may apply them etc. In fact a coach has a role to steer people around the cycle many times... (I also think that Action Learning links strongly to Kolb's model too - read more about this here, here and here)

  • Understand your audience: If the only thing the model helps you to do is to think about your audience more and to adapt your approach accordingly.....then that is a good thing. Not everyone learns the same way that you do and you are very likely to have a mix of people in your audience - how will you cater for all of those different styles?

......and the flip side?

For me there are a couple of drawbacks to the model which means that whilst useful I don't think it should be taken to literally.

  • Simplistic: The model of 4 learning styles may be a little simplistic in practice. There may be many other styles that are appropriate to specific situations eg. simply memorising something through repitition. There are many other models on learning styles. For example Honey and Mumford developed Kolb's model further to create their Activist/Reflector/Theorist/Pragmatist model.

  • Realistic: The concept of learning stages doesn't necessarily fit with reality. People may jump around the stages at different times and out of sequence.

  • Evidence: I am not aware of much empirical evidence to back up the model

  • Culture: In my own experience, understanding the culture of your audience can have a huge influence on how you design a learning intervention. Compare a UK audience to a Saudi audience and you have two completely different styles just based on cultural difference.

So, Mr Kolb I like your model and have found it useful to keep my thoughts about learning and development on the straight and narrow - thanks! But it is not something that I use in a literal sense.....but I doubt that you expected people to do that anyway.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

A model for culture change

As a training professional we work hard to make sure we define our learning objectives correctly, we design the course to match the learning styles of our audience and sometimes we even evaluate whether it was all successful. Training can be a powerful lever of change…….but of course it isn’t the only one.

I am currently working with a client where they are looking to achieve a real shift in behaviour…..a culture change. Culture is one of those strange things…..people can usually recognise the culture in which they work or live…..but it can be difficult to describe. Some people say that it is just ‘the way things happen around here’ – which isn’t a bad description. In most organisations a culture just seems to develop over time – sometimes it is highly influenced by a couple of individuals (such as Google) whereas in others it has grown over many many years (IBM, Marks and Spencer etc). Most organisations would say that culture is something that differentiates them from their peers – for good or for bad!

So what happens when the culture in the organisation needs to change? Maybe it has morphed into something where decision making is no longer quick and easy, maybe people just don’t seem to enjoy working there anymore, maybe the organisation is becoming more sensitive to it’s environmental responsibilities….there can be a million different drivers. But how can you change the culture….is it possible? Well actually you can change organisational culture but it takes a huge amount of effort and coordination.

I really like the model shown above that helps understand the things that shape the way people behave in an organisation. Let’s take an example – imagine that the culture of an organisation prevents people from raising issues and concerns because there is a fear of retaliation. Look at the model but work from
right to left….

What is the result? The organisation isn’t performing to it’s potential. Staff turnover is high and motivation levels are low.

What is the impact? People will be exhibiting the behaviour of not raising any issues and concerns they may have. They know what they should do but would rather keep the problem to themselves rather than risk the possibility of some sort of comeback by ‘management’

What is the manifestation? People have a belief that if they raise an issue then there will be a negative personal impact.

What is the shaper? People have this belief because they see role models that reinforce this through their actions. There are no processes that make it easy to raise issues and concerns anonymously. There are no people in the organisation to turn to for advice etc.

The shapers in the model are the important element here. These are the levers that you can pull in order to influence the culture and behaviours that you desire. So let’s revisit the example again but this time moving left to right.

Shapers: Let’s imagine that a series of training interventions were introduced for first level managers on how to create an environment with their people to discuss and raise issues openly. This was coupled with a communication campaign over an extended period that raised awareness and reinforced how important it is. The CEO and other senior managers regularly discuss the subject and even start to hold open session with people as a new forum for discussion. In addition new processes were introduced that enabled people to raise an issue anonymously and new roles were created in the organisation to provide an independent view and even an investigation if required. Competency and performance measures are introduced that encourage new behaviours. People start to ‘test the water’ – they raise an issue and wait to see what happens. If things go OK then they get some confidence back, they talk to their colleagues about their experience…..and the snowball starts to grow.

Manifestation: People’s beliefs have started to change. They now believe that they can raise an issue or concern without there being any negative impact.

Impact: As a result of changed beliefs, people’s behaviour starts to change. Managers are starting to have constructive and open conversations with their staff. You may see the new processes being used as people raise issues. Things start to change in the organisation as a result –maybe some people even get dismissed or disciplined. New people joining the organisation are selected based on a new set of criteria etc

Result: The organisation starts performing better. People are happier in their jobs and staff turnover goes down. The organisation is able to hold onto its talent and can even attract new talent in. As a result of people being listened to real improvements start to take place. Whereas previously people were afraid to raise their concerns about product quality or about a new market venture, the new environment is one where challenge is the norm – in fact the behaviour is encouraged and rewarded.

So it’s about identifying the suite of shapers - the levers you need to pull in order to impact the values and beliefs in the organisation. This is where the skill is – identifying the right levers, implementing them effectively and creating the necessary momentum. That’s the difficult bit and an area where consultants can play a really valuable role…..