L&D: Disrupt or be disrupted

This month, the CIPD have been reporting on some latest research with 7,500 L&D professionals and how many feel overwhelmed by a disruptive tsunami of change in the way people engage with learning.  Their internal customers were also surveyed and felt L&D were maximising potential opportunities that new technologies offer.  The research found that where new methods had be adopted, adapted and absorbed into the organisation, they could expect 14% increase in productivity, 28% improved capability to deal with change and 11% higher revenue.

So, how are the trailblazing development professionals meeting the challenge?  Reflecting on my own experience in this environment, I’d suggest a few key challenges to ways of working around professional development have been:

  1. To do your internal market research – segment the workforce by their learning styles, preferences and needs to understand whether a three day face-to-face course is needed or whether people want a quick five minute ‘good practice’ briefing before taking swift action on their issue at hand?  Design of programmes of learning that aides timeliness, pace and a range of learning methods should be informed by this research.
  2. Always question the need for content creation – do we really need to create content? There is so much accessible learning content in our expanding digital world, that sometimes that which is already created is good enough.  Our job is to signpost people to that content and then to develop people’s active learning to the organisation’s context or problem.
  3. Take time to evaluate new technology – one thing I value most when networking is understanding the technologies that other organisations are using.  Why are people raving about Slack or Trello – what are they?  YouTube is full to the brim of real users tips on these products in addition to the sales videos.  Ten minutes gives me a reasonable time to brief myself on whether the functionality of these systems meets our current or potential needs.
  4. Engagement of learners.  More than ever, I find I focused on competing for time in the diaries of employees. Encouraging them to keep their professional development as a priority for their time is the greatest single challenge I face in my work.  This requires some ‘nudge’ marketing: stories of what peers have been doing, regular recognition of their progress, data about the loss or gains of doing or not doing something, and a realistic sense of skills relative to peers.  An active internal marketing campaign.
  5. Help solve the business’ issues.  People want more just-in-time learning that addresses a specific problem in their day.  Hence the rapid growth of team coaching, action learning and facilitation over the last few years at all levels of the organisation to help people reflect on the specific issues at hand. To stay ‘business relevant’, it isn’t enough to have a ‘learning organisation’, this learning needs to help address the specific hurdles the business faces.  This requires speaking the language of that organisation’s strategy, capabilities, content, organisation development and market differentiation.

It really has been a disruptive rollercoaster ride for development professionals over the last twenty years.  I’m strapped in for the thrill of the ride for what the next twenty years will bring….

“Don’t be helpful” says the CIPD… really?!

People ManagementCIPD's People Management magazineIt seems counter-intuitive advice to me as someone who believes positive relationships are the way to do business. But there is some curious research reported in People Management magazine this week, see here, that suggests its best simply to not to help others. Research conducted by Michigan State University suggests that being proactively helpful can actually negatively affect someone’s confidence, sense of autonomy and motivation. Much better impact is reactive help – only giving help when asked for.

It struck me that appreciating the value of situational leadership is essential to managers navigating the right balance between directive help and space creating coaching in any given situation with a direct report. To simply wait for someone who is struggling to ask for help could create all sorts of obvious risks to their wellbeing and performance. The underlying message of this research to me is to have a constructive conversation with someone about their feeling of confidence and competence around a significant task. If they feel they want autonomy, then great, only offer help when asked. If they feel they need more direction, then you are more likely to have their permission to offer some proactive help.

So much is situational, eh?

Glassdoor reviews: Hotel managers offer tips from grappling with Tripadvisor

Glassdoor has landed in our industry with a stealth like bump.  Talking to some Resourcing professionals about it and ears prick up about this ‘new site’ that isn’t even on their radar.  If you have checked your organisation’s reviews and actively encourage them from your employees, well done you!

For many of us, there is a little surprise waiting when we first access our organisation’s page on the site of the Tripadvisor style comments that have been made about you as an employer.  And the impact of Glassdoor and similar sites is increasing as it is routinely used by seven in ten young people who use it as part of their critical research about would-be employers.

Fortunately, a few industries have been here already such as the impact of Tripadvisor on the hospitality industry.  So what tips do the Hotel Managers I’ve talked with recently have to offer on embracing this social medium:

  1. Own your page. Respond to both good and poor reviews.  Thank people for their time to share their experience. You should take time to check regularly whether there have been any new responses.  To make this easy, add Glassdoor to your bookmarks.
  2. Be gracious no matter what was said.  See every comment as an opportunity to take the feedback and respond to it. Your responses are there for the world to see.  If someone has said something you don’t agree with, stay polite, give your view and evidence, and be gracious in how you respond.  Don’t get into an argument – your first response should be your only one online. If you anticipate more debate, include in your message the suggestion to get in touch with you directly to discuss further.
  3. Reflect and take action. Is there anything in the feedback that indicates you need to take action? If someone has complained, if it’s a fair comment, think about what can you do and fix this. If possible include this in your response.  One hotel manager suggested that you have to be careful to strike a balance between taking action with your employees to make an improvement and ensuring that they feel confident to maintain good service – don’t jump to act at every comment but address any trends.
  4. Be open with your current employees.  If you have had bad reviews, share these with your current employees.  Ask for their views, ideas, ways to improve.   This is a massive opportunity to engage with people and make improvements.  They are part of the audience reading your reviews and can add their own review too at any time.  Several hotel managers indicated that sharing the reviews had prompted good conversations with their teams and some had actively added reviews to the site.  As current employees, they are also more committed to supporting the organisation’s reputation as it reflects on them too.
  5. Encourage employees to give feedback generally.  You should aim to be in a position that any fair comments made in a review are never a surprise. Some of the Hotel managers noted there is one type of review that posed the most challenge – the one who smiles but then complains online.   Encourage a feedback culture from when people join all the way through to when they leave you.  Don’t wait until an exit interview to ask people, they have already emotionally detached from the organisation and have no incentive to help.  Asking people regularly for their views gives you a way to ensure you have a balanced view of the real issues that require your time.

Take some time to review your favourite hotels and restaurants and note those that are actively engaged with their Tripadvisor ratings. Next time you pop in, talk with the manager and see whether they have any tips of their own and what impact it has had. Most enlightening.

Great Gender pay gap report – John Lewis

John Lewis logoLove the John Lewis report on its gender pay gap. They have clearly looked at and explained the numbers so clearly that any audience can understand the merits and limits of the methodology currently employed to understand the gender pay gaps.

Enjoy the read here.


What we must not do is fall into the trap of focusing too heavily on the numbers in this report, as that could lead us to unhelpful or regressive actions. For example, trying to fit people into jobs to influence statistics. Instead, we need to explore new opportunities to ensure that all our Partners are able to reach their full potential.”

Tracey Killen, Director of Personnel, John Lewis.

Avoid getting walloped by gender pay gap reporting

Although fundamentally well intentioned, the Government’s requirement for employers of more than 250 employees to start reporting staff pay in 2017 could have an unfair impact on the reputation of many employers. Read more ›

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Do strong leaders make good decisions?

We all admire a strong leader. They help people feel they can move mountains when faced with the impossible. As with all personality types though, great strengths are always combined with a downside. So are those with the big personalities best placed as the figurehead of your organisation or someone to avoid placing at the decision making board table? Read more ›

Do you have a ‘corporate psychopath’ in your midst?

Like 100 other people, I attended a talk yesterday evening by Prof Clive Boddy from Middlesex University.  He shared his research into who can be considered a ‘corporate psychopath’ (CP) and why they can do serious damage to an organisation – destroying customer, employee and community relations – whilst senior managers may be none-the-wiser about the impact they are having.  At the same time, they can appear charming, results driven and have seemingly successful careers.

As Prof Boddy was talking, I couldn’t get the character Catbert (from the Dilbert cartoon strips) out of my head.  These individuals account for around 3.5% of senior managers, 2% of other managers and 1% of the general population. So what can you do to spot them? And is it possible to bring out their good qualities at work and limit the risk of damage? Read more ›

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Are you a tiger or meerkat? How the changing economy has affected your career prospects

Career animalsThe changing economy has created winners and losers when it comes to current career prospects.  Some workers have had access to great opportunities emerging from organisational change. Others have faced a very different world with unstable career prospects.

Over the last 15 years, we’ve been conducting employee surveys for our clients and we’re seeing a change in attitudes.  The curious change in the profile of worker attitudes isn’t about their intention to stay with an employer, but their sense of resilience to face whatever happens.

When we ask people about their intention to stay with their employer, many have looked to hold on to their current job. Some have reported a ‘bumper’ time for their career growth – finding new opportunities that may not be available in a more stable workplace. However, others have had a very different experience and have a very different attitude to employers – with lower levels of trust and sense of  job insecurity.

Read more ›

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The value of plants in your office

Image courtesy of Cambridge Plant Interiors

Our recent research around workplace wellbeing looked at a variety of factors that influence whether people feel they can maintain their wellbeing.  These included individual, job, environmental and cultural factors.  One aspect of our study looked at the impact of plants in the work environment on wellbeing. Our research found that a third of people (31%) feel their wellbeing is affected if there is a lack of plants in their work environment.  We found this affected productivity and worker resilience. So how are plants actually contributing to people’s health? We talked with local expert – Lizzie Duckworth from Cambridge Plant Interiors – to unpack the science. Read more ›

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Wellbeing creates 40% improvement in engagement

Workers who feel they can maintain their wellbeing at work are a whooping 40% more likely to feel engaged than other workers.  Our recent workplace wellbeing research found that 66% of people who felt they could maintain their wellbeing were engaged with their employer. This compares to just 27% of workers who feel engaged but are struggling to maintain their wellbeing.

There are clear implications here for the effort and investment that organisations make around maintaining the wellbeing of their workers. Read more ›