Tag Archives: training

Helping Employees Find Best Career Path

According to a recent Gallup study, more than one in three employees have changed jobs within the past three years. Among this group, common driving forces behind the change included gaining an improved work-life balance, having opportunities to do the work they want to do in the best environment possible and feeling valued as an employee over time. Feeling valued is arguably the most important among individuals and employers today, given the increased competition in the corporate world. Without a deep connection to a company, employees are likely to be on the prowl for a different opportunity elsewhere.

One of the ways employees and their management can eliminate the urge for individuals to leave because they feel less than valued is through strategic collaboration revolving around career development. Team leads and employees have an opportunity to come together to develop well-defined, achievable career goals based on both individual needs and corporate goals. This is most effectively accomplished when a realistic plan of action is in place, including the mechanisms listed below.

Meaningful Discussion About Career Progression

It is nearly impossible to create strong career paths for employees in a collaborative environment without both individuals and management teams taking part in the process. This begins with in-depth discussions about what an employee wants and how that fits in with the company’s overarching vision. Sitting down with employees to talk through possible career paths, professional development opportunities and training requirements is a necessary step in collaborating. These conversations should cover what the employee wants over time, what the employer needs and how that can be accomplished based on current and future skills and competencies.

See also: 4 Keys to Charting Your Career  

Provide Training Opportunities

Collaboration on career path progression also requires some form of corporate training and professional development opportunities for employees. Based on the career goals of employees and objectives of the organization, individuals and managers can come together to better understand what training initiatives are needed and wanted. Leaders should be willing to ask employees what professional development tools they required to move forward in their career, and how they are able to acquire new knowledge and skills.

Similarly, employees need to feel confident that their wishes are heard and acted on in corporate training offerings. This collaboration leads to a more effective development program that helps improve the success of career pathing for leaders and employees.

Using Integrated Technology Solutions

In today’s business world, the use of technology has made collaboration a much easier process for companies and employees, regardless of location or size of the organization. Using a digital platform like career pathing software provides a streamlined way to define clear career paths for employees based on organizational needs. Through this technology tool, employees can select the skills and competencies necessary to achieve career progression while linking these to the necessary training and development courses. Employees can then easily see what they need to accomplish over time to move toward their selected career path.

Once new skills are achieved, managers can offer recognition to employees and select those who are ready for a promotion or lateral move. Not only does this ease the process for both managers and employees, but it also offers more flexibility in and control over career movement over time.

Connecting Individual and Corporate Goals

Collaboration in career development among employees and managers also requires a connection between company goals and individual wants and needs. With the help of performance management tools, an organization has an opportunity to integrate career scenarios and employee accomplishments with the larger objectives of the company on an continuing, consistent basis. When these crucial aspects are clear and trackable for both management teams and employees, there is a greater opportunity to develop career paths that are beneficial to both parties.

See also: Time to Formalize Insurance Career Path  

Organizations that focus on a collaborative work environment in the realm of career development are known to thrive more than those that separate managers and employees in the process. Coming together to discuss career opportunities, designing professional development and training programs and using technology solutions to do so gives both employees and managers a voice in the process.

Training Should be Hard — Here’s Why

Here’s a quick experiment: Think of what you ate for dinner last night. Not too difficult, right? Now think of what you ate for dinner exactly 15 days ago. Chances are you have a harder time coming up with it, if you can remember at all. Unfortunately, the same concept applies for a lot of on-the-job training, especially if it isn’t challenging enough. Employees know the material when they learn it but struggle to recall it when it comes time to use it on the job.

The issue, researchers say, is that there are two primary components to how we learn and remember. There’s “storage strength” – how well we learned something. Then there is “retrieval strength” – how easy it is for us to access that information later.

Robert Bjork, professor of cognitive psychology at UCLA, says the interplay of these two elements creates challenges in training for learning and development pros. So much of the focus of today’s workplace training is on delivery methods and ease of access. Increasingly, online modules and self-directed training are replacing sessions where the trainer and students have to be in the same room together. These advances make it easier for agencies and other employers to offer workers the training they need to improve. But they don’t guarantee training is effective or that workers retain information for when they need it on the job.

In fact, make training too easy, and it can be detrimental to long-term retention. Just because someone can retrieve information during training or in a follow-up evaluation doesn’t mean they’ve learned the material enough to retrieve it when they need it on the job. Researchers point to two effective solutions based on practically opposite ends of the spectrum. Selecting the right approach depends on the kind of training you’re conducting.

See also: Training Millennials: Just Add Toppings  

Testing improves memory

Training should include more tests — and those tests should be more difficult. Most employees won’t like this solution, but testing does more than determine how well the test-taker knows the information, Bjork argues. Every time information is successfully retrieved, the memory of the information changes, making it easier to recall in the future. Tests that challenge students’ understanding of the knowledge in different ways make those connections even stronger. Questions should be nuanced and presented in many different forms (think a mixture of fill-in-the-blank, short answer and longer responses). The more difficult the test, the more storage strength the material will have in students’ minds.

There is one time when basic evaluations like multiple choice tests are still preferred – during pre-testing. A multiple choice test offered before training can help prime students for the material they’ll soon learn. In these situations, Bjork’s research has determined that even though learners will score poorly on the pre-tests, they’re more likely to pay attention to concepts offered as multiple choice answers during the actual training.

For example, if the training topic is commercial property risk management, a multiple choice pre-test should cover common terms in business income insurance, equipment breakdown, builders risk and causes of loss forms, etc. The evaluation following the training session should use different formats to keep trainees on their toes. And the test should be hard — every minute employees spend struggling to come up with an answer boosts storage strength.

The case for the case method

If you’re fortunate enough to have a group of trainees in a classroom with a subject matter expert leading the training, tougher testing may not be the most effective way to get the material to sink in. This research also makes a strong argument for teaching styles like the case method, according to the Harvard Business Review.

It points to Harvard Business School (HBS) as a shining example of the case method in practice. These classes downplay testing, and professors are “choreographers of discussion” who don’t provide answers, but rather a pathway to discussion. Lectures become in-depth discussions where students debate the best course of action and are constantly forced to reassess their ideas. The school offers these tips for preparing and leading the discussions:

  • Have a complete set of objectives. Don’t confuse discussion for vagueness. Preparation should include specific information student must learn and some questions or discussion points that will get students there.
  • Let trainees take ownership. Students should guide the discussion and offer new perspectives based on what they feel will be most useful to them. Trainers should ask questions to keep the discussion relevant to the training topic at hand and focused on outcomes that will benefit the organization.
  • Listen. In traditional training models, instructors speak at least 80% of the time, and workers speak 20% of the time. The case method flips that, putting the onus on students to keep the discussion going.

Say you’re leading a session on handling auto claims. Rather than a traditional classroom session on analyzing liability, assessing damage or dispute resolution, create a fictional scenario based on an actual auto claim and let employees hash out how they would approach the situation with targeted guidance from the trainer.

See also: Security Training Gets Much-Needed Reboot  

This kind of in-depth preparation and delivery isn’t ideal for every on-the-job training session. It requires more preparation for instructors to lead a discussion of a real-life dilemma. But these discussions are great during onboarding and especially during scenarios involving complex concepts or customer service techniques. If you present the material the right way and make it challenging enough, trainees will understand the information better and be able to access it when they need it on the job.

Security Training Gets Much-Needed Reboot

Using innovative strategies, some companies may be erasing employee security training’s reputation for ineffectiveness.

Security training “got a bad rap, because it was so bad,” says Steve Conrad, the founder and managing director of MediaPro, a Bothell, Wash.-based security awareness training company with such clients as Microsoft, Yahoo and Adobe.

Old training methods “usually consisted of slide presentations — or their online equivalent — that were super dull and could last an hour or two,” he says. “Employees were expected to sit through this, either at their desks or in a group and come away with knowledge gained. And that was it. Awareness training was once and done, and it just didn’t work.”

See also: How Good Is Your Cybersecurity?  

Stu Sjouwerman, founder and CEO of KnowBe4, a security awareness training company founded in 2010 and based in Clearwater, Fla., says “old-school security training” often stems from “classical break-room sessions where employees are kept awake with coffee and doughnuts and exposed to death by PowerPoint.”

Those days are over, according to officials of the two companies.

MediaPro — which was founded in 1992 and has focused on security awareness training programs as a product since 2003 — says it’s an e-learning company that bases its training on proven adult learning principles, providing educational content in a way that learners remember.

“This concept extends beyond the training courses themselves,” Conrad says, “to our focus on consistent reinforcement of key learning principles through extracurricular content such as games, videos and posters, as well as phishing simulation exercises.”

Phishing exercises help change behavior

KnowBe4, Sjouwerman says, sends frequent simulated phishing attacks to train employees “to stay on their toes.”

Both companies believe that employees’ most common security mistake is falling for an email phishing scam.

“Bad guys have come up with all sorts of creative ways to convince employees to click on a link or send sensitive information via a spoofed (sender) address,” he says.

Clicking on a link in a suspicious email and opening an infected attachment can be avoided, Sjouwerman says, “by recognizing red flags.” Red flags include receiving an email from a suspicious domain or address you don’t ordinarily communicate with, or one sent at an unusual time, such as 3 a.m.

No company is immune to such scams, Conrad says, “but simulated phishing campaigns aimed at an organization’s employees teamed with comprehensive cybersecurity education can go a long way toward changing risky employee behavior.”

Technical safeguards against phishing scams exist, “but no organization should rely on those alone,” he says. “Social engineering — the basis of phishing scams — is such an effective way into the sensitive data of an organization because it completely bypasses these technical safeguards and goes after what is most companies’ weakest link: the human.”

Workers’ weak spot

Why do employees engage in risky behaviors when cybersecurity threats are so abundant?

“It’s likely a combination of being busy and being exposed to so many technological sources of distraction on a daily basis,” Conrad says.

Sjouwerman mentions another reason: “No one ever took the time to enlighten them about the clear and present danger that risky behavior can really cause, especially in an office environment.”

A 2016 study by PhishMe, a Virginia-based phishing threat management company, found that 91% of cyber attacks — and the resulting data breaches — begin with a spear-phishing email.

Another study done last year by LastPass, a Virginia-based password management service, found that 91% of respondents know it’s risky to reuse passwords for multiple online sites, but 61% do it anyway. The study also found that the No. 1 reason respondents changed their password was because they forgot it, and only 29% changed it for security reasons.

Employees’ risky behaviors have triggered an increasing number of companies to provide better security training.

“I think this is a really exciting time in the market. Huge numbers of companies are committing to doing real education, and we’re seeing exciting innovations in the variety of content that is available,” Conrad says. “I like to think that the age of boring people about security is over and we’re entering an era where people are going to be motivated and engaged by education around these issues.”

See also: Cyber, Tech Security Start to Merge  

Repetition is key

Employee training, Conrad says, needs to be more frequent than an annual affair.

He says, “Learners need to hear something more than once for it to stick — just ask any ad executive or marketing jingle writer,” he says. “Think about what makes up an advertising campaign: a series of messages that share a single idea or theme, transmitted via different media channels on a regular basis, for an extended period of time — with the singular goal of influencing consumer behavior.

“A great security awareness initiative should look like a great advertising campaign. Repeated, consistent messages delivered throughout the month, quarter or year — whatever cadence is appropriate for a given organization.”

This post originally appeared on ThirdCertainty. It was written by Gary Stoller.

How to Choose a Great Coach

The Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) published a report titled “Coaching for Success: The key ingredients for coaching delivery and coach recruitment.” There’s plenty of interesting snippets of research findings and practical advice.

If you have time, it is well worth a read, but the points that caught my eye were a three-stage process for coach selection. I agree with the ILM that the selection of coaches often still lacks a robust structured process and so am going to share their recommended process as a good example.

This process can be used by individuals for themselves or by someone selecting on behalf of an organization. It assumes that a long list of possible coaches has already been found. To achieve that, you could go as Wild West as a general Google search on “coach”/”leadership coach”/”executive coach.” However, I’d recommend starting with a pre-qualified list like the Association for Coaching (AfC) directory of coaches or equivalents from other coaching bodies.

Here are the stages that the ILM recommends, to be used like a checklist of questions to ask (I’ve added what I’d say if asked):

Stage 1: Long-list to Short-list

  • What experience of coaching does the coach have? (I could evidence my number of coaching hours and cite previous mentoring experience within a large corporation)
  • Can the coach demonstrate an understanding of the leadership challenges in your industry? (I’ve found some clients value my experience in customer insight leadership or within the insurance industry)
  • What training do they have? (I could evidence my ILM Level 7 qualification in Executive Coaching and Mentoring)
  • What ethical standards do they work to? (I share with clients a copy of the AfC code of ethics and explain that I abide by that)
  • What supervision does the coach have in place? (I use AfC/University of South Wales co-coaching forums)

Stage 2: Getting down to the last few

  • What coaching methodologies does the coach use, when and why? (my primary tools are active listening, Socratic questioning, goal-oriented models and, where relevant, positive psychology tools like Strength Finders)
  • What price do they charge? (average fees can vary around the country, but between £100-250 per hour is typical; I normally charge £150 per hour)

Stage 3: Final selection

  • What does the coach he can achieve for the individual coachee/client? (this is where a free introductory meeting can help me clarify where I may be able to help or if another intervention other than coaching might help more)
  • What do they believe they can achieve for the organization? (it’s always worth doing your homework on an organization and discussing context with a client, before you can offer a view on this)
  • Will the coach and the coachee/client get on? (at the end of the day, a lot comes down to personal chemistry, so I will meet up for a chat over a coffee and let us both assess if we feel it can work)

I hope you find that helpful, especially if you are facing this challenge. The ILM also suggests that competency frameworks from leading global coaching bodies can help, but I like the clear simplicity of the above list.

Has anyone found another approach to selecting a coach worked for them? Please share your experience.

3 Main Mistakes in Change Management

In my last blog, my engineer self admitted that the root causes for why core systems replacement projects don’t hit the mark in the business case are more likely related to people, not the technology. I stated that the business only changes when individual contributors each do their jobs differently.

Now let’s take a more detailed look.

There are many models out there that provide a framework for understanding change. One that we use frequently at Wipfli is the Prosci model, which is focused on understanding change at the individual level. Boiling it down to its simplest form, this model says the change must progress for each individual from awareness to desire to knowledge to ability to reinforcement.

Understanding that, Mistake #1 to avoid is measuring the need for change management based on executives’ paths, not their people’s. The executives responsible for the program and ultimately for the change management strategy, approach and investment are by definition the leaders furthest down their own change paths. That is, they are, in all probability, way beyond the awareness and desire stages. (Hint, hint: That’s why this core systems project is underway). And, not uncommonly, because of where they are, they may not understand the need to make a significant investment in change management.

Once you embrace the need for change management, there are an array of tools and techniques at your disposal. These include communications, sponsorship, coaching, training and resistance management. Mistake #2 to avoid is loading everything into communications as a one-and-done approach. In fact, I would guess that when most of us hear the term change management, we immediately think of communication. That’s good because change starts with awareness. But did you know that it takes something like five to seven communications for a message to be truly heard and understood by all? Remember that perfect project kickoff email you sent last week that summarized everything perfectly? Yeah – maybe 20% of your audience remembers it today. So communication must be multiple messages using multiple channels coming from multiple stakeholders.

Multiple studies over the years have reaffirmed the significant correlation between a project’s success and change management’s impact and, more specifically, the importance of the project sponsor’s role in both. Succinctly, the earlier the project sponsor is engaged in the project and the earlier the project sponsor embraces change management, the better the chance for success.

Mistake #3 concerns the project sponsor and her change management role. Just because you have a smart and engaged leader as your sponsor, don’t assume she knows what’s supposed to be done every week in a transformational core systems project if she hasn’t played that role before. For example, does the project sponsor know to build a coalition among the key managers and supervisors whom the affected employees will most want to hear from? At the end of the day, the employee will turn to his immediate boss and not the project sponsor to really get the WIIFM (what’s-in-it-for-me).

You get the idea. As much as agile project management and delivery approaches and methodologies have been embraced, used and hardened over the past 10 years, we need to do the same for change management.