Josh Bersin makes a surprisingly bold statement in this article.

Not only should your organization understand the basics of training and development, but you must integrate it with the company’s talent practices (career progression and leadership) and also create a “culture of learning.” As Peter Senge and many others have uncovered, learning culture is perhaps the most important asset a company can build. (emphasis mine)

Think of all the other assets that could have been listed.  Patents, authors or musicians, physical holdings, even its brand.  But a learning culture was ranked higher than all of these.  Why?  There is a direct link between learning and innovation.  Patents are a result of innovation.  A brand is developed and established through innovation.  Knowing what talent or physical asset to pursue is influenced by innovation.  The one thing listed above that cannot be acquired is innovation.  It must be developed and a structured learning program that provides formal learning opportunities and supports informal collaboration is a necessity to support innovation.

Think about the history of companies like Nokia who lost their market to new competitors like Apple, or the many search companies who lost the search market to Google. These companies don’t fail to innovate. They simply fail to learn.

Bersin’s company created a hierarchy for corporate learning.  The model provides a model for companies looking to improve their corporate learning program.  Of course, Bersin would love to send in a team to help you, for a fee.

I want to highlight a few more points from his article.

[W]hen there is no formal training at all, managers and staff tend to coach each other to try to do their jobs more effectively. This form of organizational learning can be effective, but it doesn’t scale well and is dependent on the skills of the senior people.

This is the case even when there is a training program in place.  Nevertheless, this approach is dependent on the skills of supervisors and other management staff.  Even the most conscientious supervisor struggles to balance employee development with his or her regular responsibilities.

Today companies tend to have a lot of level 1 training taking place, even if they have a well run corporate university (Level 2). There is never enough money or resources to take on every training problem, so incidental, manager-led training is going on all the time.

Not only is there never enough money, but there is also a limit to what can be accomplished through formal “training.”  It has to be supported by upline management and tied to organizational goals.

 

At Level 4, which few organizations have achieved today, companies bring together these formal and informal tools with a laser focus on direct job capabilities. Here the organization should turn itself inside out: rather than thinking about skills and job needs, they look at “audiences” and “audience profiles.”

What, for example, does it take to turn a good sales person into a leading sales person?  What does it take to develop a good engineer into a great engineer? The answer is not some form of “training” – it is a combination of training, coaching, performance support, and employee assessment. And the answer is likely unique to your organization.

The focus of this level of talent development is capability development.  An example Bersin provides for this level is ” is the US Military. As one General put it to me, ‘We have only two missions:  to train and to fight. When we aren’t fighting, we are training. And when we are fighting, we are learning.'”

This is the mindset required to be successful.  It takes the highest level of organizational leadership to make it happen.  Everyone in the organization has to value learning and look beyond their job duties.

I believe most organizations have a vast amount of capacity and capability that is untapped.  Putting the proper learning program in place and supporting it with the right mindset is a key to the getting the most of an organization’s talent.

Advertisements

This is the final entry on morale killing behaviors and how to avoid them.  Click here for part 1 of this series. Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6

7. “Employees need to know what is expected of them and need to be given the training, tools and resources to accomplish their goals.”

I work in a Training department so naturally I would gravitate toward the training aspect of this quote.  I have to point out that training is not the answer.  We crank out a lot of training.  If that is all that was required we should be successful, right?  But we’re not.  Why is that?  Is it quality?  In some cases, yes.  Is it because the training is not linked to a clear organizational goal?  Sometimes. Definitely.  There is another problem that often goes overlooked.  The mindset of the organization.

Why was it decided that there would be a Training Department?  Training has such a passive quality about  it.  It implies that all one has to do is attend the seminar or read the handout and you will know what you need to know and be able to do what is required to do your job.

I prefer “learning” over “training.”  There is shared responsibility with learning.  The instructor is responsible for providing learning with clearly stated goals, objectives that will achieve the goal, and learning activities that ensure the focus is correct, the objectives have been met, and remediation is provided as necessary.  A learner is expected to be an active co-participant in this process.  The learner is responsible for being fully engaged in the learning and making sure they acquire the knowledge and skills being taught.  The instructor holds each learner accountable and models engagement.  When this is done right it creates a dynamic environment where all participants, instructor and learners, are equally engaged.

If a learner walks out of a class and cannot clearly articulate what they learned and the ability to apply that knowledge or skill then it was a waste of time.  They also need to know how the learning links to their responsibilities and what they are expected to do with their new learning.  If this isn’t true, somebody failed and it wasn’t the learner.  The materials may not have been adequate or appropriate for the content.  Maybe the instructor wasn’t right for the subject matter.  The learner may have needed a higher level course or more challenge.

The bottom line is that effective learning requires planning.  Its an active process.  This kind of learning is a morale booster not a killer.  It shows a commitment to provide support and a desire to equip employees for success.  Subjecting employees to bland training with no link to their job duties or concern for their unique needs or preferences does the opposite.

 

When employees are engaged they are emotionally attached to the vision of the organization. They believe in what they do, the organization’s vision and the direction the organization is going. Employees who are engaged put their heart and soul into their job and have the energy and excitement to give more than is required of the job. Engaged employees are committed and loyal to the organization.

This the penultimate entry in my series on morale killers.  Click here to read the post that introduced this series.  Scroll down to see what’s new today.

  1. “Organizational leadership is responsible for communicating the vision and keeping it in front of the employees.”
    My organization adopted a new vision last year.  It was announced with great fanfare at our annual sales meeting but since then it has drifted into the background.  Promoting and reinforcing an organization’s vision and mission does not have to induce groans or seem patronizing.  If the vision truly reflects the priorities and culture of the organization then it should be an easy “sell” and encourage employees.  The key is doing it the right way and for the right reasons.  Subtle but sustained focus can make a big impact.  Supplementing informal messages with intentional efforts to incorporate the vision into everyday activities will further infuse the organization with the message.
  2. “Good communication within the organization can be one of the most important things an organization can do to foster employee engagement.”
    I have a saying, “you can’t over-communicate what’s important.”  That sounds like an over-simplified cliche.  Yet every organization I have worked for or project I have worked on has missed this point.  When times are tough rank-and-file employees need to hear from their leaders…frequently.  And I am not talking about employee meetings, which have a place, but informally.Leaders need to be visible and available.  Taking an hour once a week to walk through cubicle land means a lot to the rank and file.  Simply showing genuine interest in the people who are in the trenches is meaningful and translates to commitment and trust.  Tough times means everyone has to put in extra time and work under tight timelines.  Employees who feel a connection to their leaders will be more engaged.  Work assignments that come from distant unseen leaders have the opposite effect.
  3. “Strong employee engagement is dependent on how well employees get along, interact with each other and participate in a team environment”
    I’m not saying everyone has to be friends but the nature of the interaction has to be genuine and authentic.  Some of this goes back to the frequency of the communication but it also has to do with the nature of the communication.  Focusing exclusively on action items and deadlines and never considering the other things that are going on in people’s lives is a morale killer.
  4. “Employees are constantly watching leadership to see how their decisions affect the strategic direction of the organization and if their behaviors reflect what they say”
    I am sure everyone reading this blog has seen a leader who does not practice what they preach.  Its hard to stay positive when the news always seems to be bad.  It takes discipline to maintain your composure in trying times.  Everyone has to work hard to remain professional when times are hard.  I am not saying a person has to ignore the obvious.  Quite the contrary.  I believe a person can keep their cool better if they acknowledge that times are tough and routinely take stock of how they are handling the stress of the situation.
    I have seen leaders press on with their agenda despite having no indication that things are improving.  This can reflect confidence but can also make them seem aloof and possibly in denial.  Leaders need to be aware of how they are perceived.  They need good and trusted partners who provide this information.  What’s more they need to act on the information, which illustrates the second point, and communicate with their employees.  Leaders need to be visible and available. Their presence has a calming effect and builds morale.
  5. “Employees need to feel validated and that they are a valued part of the organization.”
    This does not mean elaborate signs of recognition.  Make it personal.  Don’t rush it.  As a department head, make a mental note when you learn something significant about a direct report.  If that doesn’t come easily start by writing down something significant about each person on your team.  Take time to acknowledge it with the person.  They’ll be shocked (in a good way) when you ask about it.  Be respectful of their preferences.  Some people don’t want to be recognized in front of their peers (that’s me) while others are comfortable with that type of recognition.
  6. “Employees need to feel like they are part of the process, that their thoughts and ideas matter and that they have a voice in how their work is performed”Morale suffers if a person always feels like something is being done to them rather than with them.  All organizations need a hierarchy and they cannot be run democratically.  However, there is also a point everyone can make a contribution that will improve the final product and that point varies depending on the project or skill-set of the individual.  Nevertheless, everyone loses together when an organization fails to meet goals and/or expectations.  Since this is the case shouldn’t everyone get an opportunity to apply their unique talents to prevent this from happening or, even better, contribute to its success?

    By contributing I mean more than simply delegating tasks.  I’m referring to a mindset.  You can tell leaders who are truly open to ideas.  They are energized by new ideas instead of threatened by them.  They seek input rather than simply providing it.  They find resources to support worthy ideas instead of hoarding them.  They recognize and compliment team members who make meaningful contributions.  They motivate through positive messages rather than fear.  People want to be around them.

 

When employees are engaged they are emotionally attached to the vision of the organization. They believe in what they do, the organization’s vision and the direction the organization is going. Employees who are engaged put their heart and soul into their job and have the energy and excitement to give more than is required of the job. Engaged employees are committed and loyal to the organization.

Day 5 of my series on morale killers.  Click here to read the post that introduced this series.

  1. “Organizational leadership is responsible for communicating the vision and keeping it in front of the employees.”
    My organization adopted a new vision last year.  It was announced with great fanfare at our annual sales meeting but since then it has drifted into the background.  Promoting and reinforcing an organization’s vision and mission does not have to induce groans or seem patronizing.  If the vision truly reflects the priorities and culture of the organization then it should be an easy “sell” and encourage employees.  The key is doing it the right way and for the right reasons.  Subtle but sustained focus can make a big impact.  Supplementing informal messages with intentional efforts to incorporate the vision into everyday activities will further infuse the organization with the message.
  2. “Good communication within the organization can be one of the most important things an organization can do to foster employee engagement.”
    I have a saying, “you can’t over-communicate what’s important.”  That sounds like an over-simplified cliche.  Yet every organization I have worked for or project I have worked on has missed this point.  When times are tough rank-and-file employees need to hear from their leaders…frequently.  And I am not talking about employee meetings, which have a place, but informally.Leaders need to be visible and available.  Taking an hour once a week to walk through cubicle land means a lot to the rank and file.  Simply showing genuine interest in the people who are in the trenches is meaningful and translates to commitment and trust.  Tough times means everyone has to put in extra time and work under tight timelines.  Employees who feel a connection to their leaders will be more engaged.  Work assignments that come from distant unseen leaders have the opposite effect.
  3. “Strong employee engagement is dependent on how well employees get along, interact with each other and participate in a team environment”
    I’m not saying everyone has to be friends but the nature of the interaction has to be genuine and authentic.  Some of this goes back to the frequency of the communication but it also has to do with the nature of the communication.  Focusing exclusively on action items and deadlines and never considering the other things that are going on in people’s lives is a morale killer.
  4. “Employees are constantly watching leadership to see how their decisions affect the strategic direction of the organization and if their behaviors reflect what they say”
    I am sure everyone reading this blog has seen a leader who does not practice what they preach.  Its hard to stay positive when the news always seems to be bad.  It takes discipline to maintain your composure in trying times.  Everyone has to work hard to remain professional when times are hard.  I am not saying a person has to ignore the obvious.  Quite the contrary.  I believe a person can keep their cool better if they acknowledge that times are tough and routinely take stock of how they are handling the stress of the situation.
    I have seen leaders press on with their agenda despite having no indication that things are improving.  This can reflect confidence but can also make them seem aloof and possibly in denial.  Leaders need to be aware of how they are perceived.  They need good and trusted partners who provide this information.  What’s more they need to act on the information, which illustrates the second point, and communicate with their employees.  Leaders need to be visible and available. Their presence has a calming effect and builds morale.
  5. “Employees need to feel validated and that they are a valued part of the organization.”
    This does not mean elaborate signs of recognition.  Make it personal.  Don’t rush it.  As a department head, make a mental note when you learn something significant about a direct report.  If that doesn’t come easily start by writing down something significant about each person on your team.  Take time to acknowledge it with the person.  They’ll be shocked (in a good way) when you ask about it.  Be respectful of their preferences.  Some people don’t want to be recognized in front of their peers (that’s me) while others are comfortable with that type of recognition.

 

When employees are engaged they are emotionally attached to the vision of the organization. They believe in what they do, the organization’s vision and the direction the organization is going. Employees who are engaged put their heart and soul into their job and have the energy and excitement to give more than is required of the job. Engaged employees are committed and loyal to the organization.

The quote above got me thinking about employee engagement in difficult times.  Click here to read the post that introduced this series.  Below is the fourth installment.

  1. “Organizational leadership is responsible for communicating the vision and keeping it in front of the employees.”
    My organization adopted a new vision last year.  It was announced with great fanfare at our annual sales meeting but since then it has drifted into the background.  Promoting and reinforcing an organization’s vision and mission does not have to induce groans or seem patronizing.  If the vision truly reflects the priorities and culture of the organization then it should be an easy “sell” and encourage employees.  The key is doing it the right way and for the right reasons.  Subtle but sustained focus can make a big impact.  Supplementing informal messages with intentional efforts to incorporate the vision into everyday activities will further infuse the organization with the message.
  2. “Good communication within the organization can be one of the most important things an organization can do to foster employee engagement.”
    I have a saying, “you can’t over-communicate what’s important.”  That sounds like an over-simplified cliche.  Yet every organization I have worked for or project I have worked on has missed this point.  When times are tough rank-and-file employees need to hear from their leaders…frequently.  And I am not talking about employee meetings, which have a place, but informally.Leaders need to be visible and available.  Taking an hour once a week to walk through cubicle land means a lot to the rank and file.  Simply showing genuine interest in the people who are in the trenches is meaningful and translates to commitment and trust.  Tough times means everyone has to put in extra time and work under tight timelines.  Employees who feel a connection to their leaders will be more engaged.  Work assignments that come from distant unseen leaders have the opposite effect.
  3. “Strong employee engagement is dependent on how well employees get along, interact with each other and participate in a team environment”
    I’m not saying everyone has to be friends but the nature of the interaction has to be genuine and authentic.  Some of this goes back to the frequency of the communication but it also has to do with the nature of the communication.  Focusing exclusively on action items and deadlines and never considering the other things that are going on in people’s lives is a morale killer.
  4. “Employees are constantly watching leadership to see how their decisions affect the strategic direction of the organization and if their behaviors reflect what they say”
    I am sure everyone reading this blog has seen a leader who does not practice what they preach.  Its hard to stay positive when the news always seems to be bad.  It takes discipline to maintain your composure in trying times.  Everyone has to work hard to remain professional when times are hard.  I am not saying a person has to ignore the obvious.  Quite the contrary.  I believe a person can keep their cool better if they acknowledge that times are tough and routinely take stock of how they are handling the stress of the situation.
    I have seen leaders press on with their agenda despite having no indication that things are improving.  This can reflect confidence but can also make them seem aloof and possibly in denial.  Leaders need to be aware of how they are perceived.  They need good and trusted partners who provide this information.  What’s more they need to act on the information, which illustrates the second point, and communicate with their employees.  Leaders need to be visible and available. Their presence has a calming effect and builds morale.

What does engagement look like?

  • Emotionally attached
  • Heart
  • Soul
  • Energy
  • Excitement
  • Committed
  • Loyal

The list above is from an article I read recently on the impact of cost cuts and staff reductions and how organizations can maintain employee engagement.  This is part 3 of my series of posts.

Click here for all of part 1.

  1. “Organizational leadership is responsible for communicating the vision and keeping it in front of the employees.”
    My organization adopted a new vision last year.  It was announced with great fanfare at our annual sales meeting but since then it has drifted into the background.  Promoting and reinforcing an organization’s vision and mission does not have to induce groans or seem patronizing.  If the vision truly reflects the priorities and culture of the organization then it should be an easy “sell” and encourage employees.  The key is doing it the right way and for the right reasons.  Subtle but sustained focus can make a big impact.  Supplementing informal messages with intentional efforts to incorporate the vision into everyday activities will further infuse the organization with the message.
  2. “Good communication within the organization can be one of the most important things an organization can do to foster employee engagement.”
    I have a saying, “you can’t over-communicate what’s important.”  That sounds like an over-simplified cliche.  Yet every organization I have worked for or project I have worked on has missed this point.  When times are tough rank-and-file employees need to hear from their leaders…frequently.  And I am not talking about employee meetings, which have a place, but informally.
    Leaders need to be visible and available.  Taking an hour once a week to walk through cubicle land means a lot to the rank and file.  Simply showing genuine interest in the people who are in the trenches is meaningful and translates to commitment and trust.  Tough times means everyone has to put in extra time and work under tight timelines.  Employees who feel a connection to their leaders will be more engaged.  Work assignments that come from distant unseen leaders have the opposite effect.
  3. “Strong employee engagement is dependent on how well employees get along, interact with each other and participate in a team environment”
    I’m not saying everyone has to be friends but the nature of the interaction has to be genuine and authentic.  Some of this goes back to the frequency of the communication but it also has to do with the nature of the communication.  Focusing exclusively on action items and deadlines and never considering the other things that are going on in people’s lives is a morale killer.

Cost cuts are staff reductions are a modern-day reality but they are morale killers too.  How can a leader maintain morale while making the hard decisions that keep a company competitive?  This is is part 2 of my series on avoiding morale killers.

Click here for all of part 1.

  1. “Organizational leadership is responsible for communicating the vision and keeping it in front of the employees.”
    My organization adopted a new vision last year.  It was announced with great fanfare at our annual sales meeting but since then it has drifted into the background.  Promoting and reinforcing an organization’s vision and mission does not have to induce groans or seem patronizing.  If the vision truly reflects the priorities and culture of the organization then it should be an easy “sell” and encourage employees.  The key is doing it the right way and for the right reasons.  Subtle but sustained focus can make a big impact.  Supplementing informal messages with intentional efforts to incorporate the vision into everyday activities will further infuse the organization with the message.

  2. “Good communication within the organization can be one of the most important things an organization can do to foster employee engagement.”
    I have a saying, “you can’t over-communicate what’s important.”  That sounds like an over-simplified cliche.  Yet every organization I have worked for or project I have worked on has missed this point.  When times are tough rank-and-file employees need to hear from their leaders…frequently.  And I am not talking about employee meetings, which have a place, but informally.

    Leaders need to be visible and available.  Taking an hour once a week to walk through cubicle land means a lot to the rank and file.  Simply showing genuine interest in the people who are in the trenches is meaningful and translates to commitment and trust.  Tough times means everyone has to put in extra time and work under tight timelines.  Employees who feel a connection to their leaders will be more engaged.  Work assignments that come from distant unseen leaders have the opposite effect.