This article was originally published on Forbes.com, under Jeff Miller's Forbes Human Resources Council column.
One of my favorite TED Talks is called "Everyday Leadership" by Drew Dudley. In the six-minute video, Dudley describes his realization that you don't have to be in a leadership position to be a leader. Instead, you can inspire people in everyday moments — what he calls "lollipop moments."
For me, the talk holds an important lesson for the workplace about seeing beyond job titles. Today, whenever I come across an employee who's struggling to find their place at work, I recommend Dudley's talk.
This is the power of microlearning: Twenty years ago, it was more difficult to learn a new idea or skill in six minutes. Today, there are thousands of mini courses available online, whether it's a YouTube video, a TED talk or in a company's learning management system (LMS). Bite-sized learning appeals to our waning (or at least selective) attention spans, too, and is easy to fit into a busy workday. And it works. Micro-courses can increase learning retention when compared to longer courses, and at least one expert estimates they can increase the speed of development by 300%, which is key to staying competitive amid today's rapid technological changes.
According to one study, 80% of companies have adopted, or plan to adopt, microlearning as a way to support employees. But in my experience, few organizations take full advantage of microlearning because it's seen as the domain of the learning and development team. But once these common pitfalls are addressed, managers and employees can start actively curating and using microlearning — and companies will start to see the positive impact on ROI.
Mistake No. 1: Managers don't recommend specific courses to employees.
I often see managers tell employees, "Your communication needs work. Go find a course in the LMS for a refresher." But the problem there is the manager is asking the learner to both look for content and evaluate the relevance of that content, all without understanding what the manager is looking for. While the employee may end up learning something, you can't ensure they'll learn what you need them to learn.
Instead, managers need to review the courses personally. I know, for example, that my team could do better with creating more strategic presentations. So, I'm going to find a series of microlearning courses that I'm confident will hit the gaps in their knowledge that I'm looking to address.
Mistake No. 2: Managers fail to follow up.
It's also common for managers to assign learning to employees, but never debrief the learning. In fact, research by LinkedIn suggests getting managers involved in employee learning is a top challenge for HR professionals.
When I assign my team specific learnings about presentations, I also schedule meetings to ensure they understood the courses. This gives my team a chance to ask questions. Once they draft presentations to practice the skills they learned, I can evaluate those presentations with the microlearning in mind. The courses give us a common touch point to refer back to when discussing areas for improvement.
Mistake No. 3: Employees don't use microlearning proactively.
Beyond the courses their managers assign them, employees should feel empowered to access microlearning to address their own deficiencies and be proactive about their growth. For example, I found myself in a position of having to give a tough performance review several years ago, and I decided to watch a microlearning video on how to approach the situation. I was reminded to make sure to have Kleenex and water on hand, and I also learned something new: to seat the person by the door in case they felt they needed to leave the room.
Employees should be coached to see microlearning as a resource for situations like this, as well as for their broader career development needs.
Mistake No. 4: Employees don't consider themselves content curators.
While managers can assess whether a course addresses the learning that they're hoping employees will gain, the employees themselves are best able to rate its quality and efficacy. Was the course engaging? Easy to understand and apply? When using microlearning, L&D teams and managers alike should encourage employees to rate and share feedback about courses to help curate the best ones.
It can also be impactful to help employees share great courses with each other. People on my team regularly create "playlists" of microlearning content based around a specific theme (such as management) or time of year (such as holidays). It's another great way for employees to discover learning.
By addressing each of these common microlearning missteps and getting managers and employees involved, microlearning programs can evolve into a vital, positive piece of growth — on an individual level and for the organization by extension.
Photo via UnSplash
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Taking A Company-Wide Approach to Learning & Development
There’s a lot of coordination that goes into a company’s learning and development programming, from identifying skills gaps and creating engaging content to scaling initiatives company-wide. And because there’s so much complex planning involved, organizations can sometimes get caught up in the details, and overlook how L&D fits into broader organizational goals. A recent survey—titled "The Revolution is Now: New-Skill Your Workforce to Catalyze Change"—from Cornerstone People Research Lab (CPRL) and the Human Capital Institute (HCI) found that only 55% of organizations believe their L&D programs are well-aligned with their company’s overarching strategy. But CPRL and HCI’s survey reveals two logical ways to overcome this challenge. First, there’s a need for L&D executives to participate in strategic conversations around organizational goals to ensure that L&D planning aligns with broader business plans. And second, it’s important to share responsibility for learning effectiveness. If facilitating continuous learning is a part of everyone’s role, it becomes easier to integrate it organization-wide. Promote Cross-Departmental Collaboration and Responsibility To better align L&D efforts with overarching business goals, learning executives have to participate in strategic conversations about organizational direction. For instance, when business leaders gather to discuss goals and KPIs for the coming year or quarter, HR and L&D leaders should be involved in those conversations. And the opposite is also true: Business leaders need to help direct the learning outcomes framed against those goals. According to the "Revolution is Now: New-Skill Your Workforce to Catalyze Change" survey from CPRL and HCI, only about half (51%) of learning leaders report being involved in these discussions. During these business planning discussions, it’s important to establish accountability, especially among people managers. CPRL and HCI found 67% of people managers report being involved in the creation of content, but only 47% are involved in the accountability for the results. By holding more people accountable to the success of L&D programs, it can be easier for a company to spot pitfalls or opportunities for improvement. It creates shared goals for measuring effectiveness, and establishes a process for making changes. For example, by getting people managers involved in L&D initiatives, L&D leaders can work with them to get a better understanding of a specific team’s skill gaps or what reskilling or new skilling solutions will work best for them. All leaders in an organization, in fact, should be eager to participate and own their team’s newskilling, reskilling or upskilling efforts. Ask a people manager in the IT department to reiterate the importance of learning to their team, and track the amount of time their employees spend on learning content. This approach will not only create a shared commitment to continuous learning, but can also help leaders outside of L&D and HR get a better idea of what content or formats work best for their teams and recommend adjustments accordingly. Continuous Learning Is Everyone’s Responsibility Aligning overarching business plans and strategy with learning and development efforts can improve each’s efficacy. The more cross-departmental collaboration that exists, the more information that HR and L&D leaders have about their workforce and its needs, strengths and weaknesses. And with more accountability, all stakeholders in an organization can become more involved in ensuring the successful partnership between L&D and a company’s overall strategy. To learn more about the findings from Cornerstone’s "The Revolution is Now: New-Skill Your Workforce to Catalyze Change" survey and its recommendations for using cross-departmental collaboration and accountability to help with L&D efforts, click here to download and read the full report.
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Why supporting neurodiversity is essential for any successful workforce today
When we think of diversity in the workforce, we typically think of it along the lines of race, religion, sexual orientation or gender. But focusing only on those four is its own sort of constraint. To truly create a successful and diverse workplace, you need to ensure you're also embracing neurodiversity too. Understanding neurodiversity In the late 1990s, a single mother in Australia named Judy Singer began studying Disability Studies at University of Technology Sydney. Her daughter had recently been diagnosed with what was then known as “Asperger’s Syndrome,” a form of autism spectrum disorder. As she read more and more about autism as part of her studies, Singer also suspected that her mother, and she herself, may have had some form of autism spectrum disorder. Singer describes crying as she realized that her mother, with whom she'd had a tumultuous relationship throughout her childhood, wasn’t purposefully cold or neurotic as she had thought. She just had a different kind of mind. In her honors thesis, Singer coined the term “neurodiversity.” For Singer, people with neurological differences like autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or dyslexia were a social class of their own and should be treated as such. If we are going to embrace diversity of race, gender, religion, sexuality, etc., then we must embrace a diversity of the mind. The following video is an excerpt from the "Neurodiversity" Grovo program, which is available in the Cornerstone Content Anytime Professional Skills subscription. Neurodiversity in today's workplace Recently, neurodiversity has become a trendy term in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging spaces. And many organizations are working to hire more neurodivergent people, as well as give them opportunities to thrive at work. That’s why, at Cornerstone, we recently produced a series of lessons on neurodiversity. If your organization hasn’t prioritized neurodiverse inclusion yet, here are some reasons why it both supports your people and organization. 1) Neurodivergent people are underemployed Neurodivergent people, especially people with autism, are widely under-employed, regardless of their competence. In the United States, 85% of college graduates with autism are unemployed. According to a 2006 study, individuals with ADHD have higher rates of unemployment than individuals without. However, there is no evidence that neurodivergent people are less competent or less intelligent than neurotypical people. Organizations are missing out on talented people. 2) Neurodivergent people are more common than you may think Neurodiversity manifests in many different ways. It can encompass autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, Tourette syndrome, and many other conditions. And as scientists have learned more about what makes someone neurodivergent, they're identifying more and more people. According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 160 children have some form of autism spectrum disorder. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 1 in every 162 children have Tourette Syndrome, and roughly 8 percent of children under 18 have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. And that's just children. How many adults, like Judy Singer's mother, have struggled their whole lives without a diagnosis? People who are neurodivergent are everywhere. Diverse organizations are stronger Diverse organizations and teams not only have better financial returns than less-diverse ones, but they also perform better. Having the different perspectives presented by people who are neurodivergent can help your team solve more difficult problems. Different perspectives and different ways of thinking lead to creativity and innovation.
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Why Selecting a Leadership Development Program Is Way Too Complicated
Many organizations face a leadership gap and cannot find the talent needed to grow. We could blame the retiring baby boomer phenomenon, the free agent nation, or the lack of investment made in developing leaders. But since blame is a lazy man’s wage, I will not entertain that debate because there are too many options out there for developing leaders. There are many leadership development programs in the market. In minutes, with a simple Internet search or over coffee with your head of human resources, you can discover myriad high-quality leadership development programs that you could use in your organization to develop leaders. The problem is not finding a good program, but in choosing one. Answer the Right Questions So how does one choose? The problem we face in evaluating leadership development programs is that we get caught up in evaluating the content rather than asking a simple question, "What do we want our leaders to be able to do?" Each organization is unique in how it answers this question. And that is where the secret lies. If an organization can select a program that matches the answer to the question above, the selected program will likely be the right one. After all, each leadership development program is very good in some way. It is not so important which one you select. It is important that you use the one you select. In other words, the key is to not let it become another un-opened binder on the bookshelves of your management team. Be An Effective Leader Let me give you an example: If an organization’s answer to the question above is, "We want our leaders to be proactive and focused on the things that drive results," your choices are narrowed down to only a few programs that would deliver on that answer. And if I had to pick one program that would deliver on that answer, without hesitation, I would choose, "The Effective Executive" by Peter F. Drucker. It is a classic, and all five of the behaviors of effective executives taught in the book remain vital skills that any leader should practice if he or she wants to be effective in his or her organization. In the book, Drucker teaches that effective executives: Know where their time goes Focus on contribution and results Build on strengths Concentrate on first things first Make effective decisions This is not a book review or a plug for "The Effective Executive," though I do believe if you had to choose one set of skills to teach your leadership, it would be the five from Drucker’s book. This is a challenge for every organization to simplify the selection of leadership development programs, and ask, "What do we want our leaders to be able to do?" Answering this question clearly will help you choose the right program. After all, many programs are excellent. The secret to success is not in which program you choose, but that you get people to apply the program you choose. Photo: Can Stock