Increasingly, organizations are realizing the power of making their employees a partner instead of merely a subject in development. Let’s not pretend that it’s easy — this shift in thinking requires overhauling content libraries to be more consumer-grade, adjusting company policies to adopt continuous performance conversations and more. But there is one step that is an important gap: how to deal with the expectations for growth and reward.
More recent generations have brought a marked shift from merely wanting to be satisfied in their work to an attitude for continual development and growth. Gen Z and Millennials see their roles as opportunities for development. What do they do when they don’t feel challenged and rewarded? They leave because the mere act of moving to a new company presents more opportunity for growth in itself than looking to the available development resources at a company.
Understandably, hiring firms have been exasperated since this requires more than just updating your talent management system or changing the frequency of check-ins. This means actually changing the way that work is done. The good news is, technology can step in to help build the important partnership to harness and unify the energy of employees and the organization to drive meaningful development.
Decomposing and decentralizing growth opportunities
The opportunity to develop through work has been inhibited to some extent by the definition of work itself. Roles have been built to be very static: you have a list of responsibilities, key tasks, skills, relationships and key performance indicators housed underneath a title. In many cases, the opportunity to actually practice, demonstrate and perfect these aspects are often limited to actually advancing into that role. But what if we broke up the role and allowed development-hungry employees the opportunity to shadow, practice, and assist in completing tasks as a means to grow?
New technologies like talent marketplaces or career exploration tools promise to do just that. These tools are essentially recruiting tools turned toward employees to allow them to explore where they can take their experience and skillsets. However, it’s important to recognize not all employees define progression the same way. Some employees define progress as moving into new roles and some see progress in incremental growth whether large spurts or small. The bottom line is we won’t solve the problem in maintaining the development of employees if we just dress up old tools for internal promotion in new facades — we must provide continuous, iterative growth opportunities.
To create this type of structure, providing feedback and further growth opportunities can’t only be managed by talent management teams alone. The model just wouldn’t scale. Managers, SMEs and other leaders in the organization are key in engaging and developing the workforce along this continuous path. However, they need to be equipped with tools to have structured conversations, content to help build their own coaching abilities and ways to prescribe development resources to employees. Again, skills come in here to help identify people with high aptitudes, connect them with workers who want to develop and focus their efforts meaningfully.
Development in the flow
We’ve already discussed learning in the flow of work, but it’s time to introduce its close cousin, Development in the Flow of Work. The market has many options for productivity tools, many of which monitor tasks. There’s immense potential here to capture meaningful, timely feedback on defined tasks (which again can be tied directly to our backbone of skills).
Let’s unpack this. Imagine if you are working on a project with a team and you deliver a milestone. The completion of the task in the project management system prompts an email to your team to provide you a quick rating and feedback. A handful of teammates provide feedback that your work was high quality, but you could have done more to minimize risk in completing the milestone. That data is now available for a development conversation with your manager, personalization of your development in your talent management system and a recommendation of new tasks you can take on to practice.
Sure, there are considerations to make this consistently meaningful and useful, but the underlying principle is there is an opportunity to deliver feedback as close to the time of performance as possible to help encourage additional growth. But also, the matrixed nature of work almost requires it. Managers have poorer and poorer visibility as individual contributors work with more and more teams. The manager needs better, more timely data to also assess fairly and coach meaningfully.
Safe spaces to practice
Technology is perhaps most promising in enabling more close-to-live opportunities to practice. When considering the employee experience, it’s important to think about how employees can practice, experiment and innovate on their work in places that are safe to fail. For instance, video practice tools are abundant in the market with the ability to practice privately, with a manager or with a team. Exemplary videos can be maintained in a library to teach others about new concepts or techniques.
Even the implications of more emergent technologies aren’t fully understood. Many mistake virtual reality as just another modality of content. They aren’t completely wrong on that front — but they also don’t understand the massive amount of data generated in a single 10-minute VR session makes it a prime assessment and practice tool. One particularly interesting, but heart-wrenching, VR scenario available in the market is learning about how to fire a direct report. In the scenario, the direct report reacts to your talk track, and even cries with certain lines. This practice scenario is difficult to simulate but is critical to get right in real-world situations.
Combining these technologies with hackathon-style formats can also be powerful. The concept of setting aside a week or so for teams to self-form and develop entrepreneurial concepts within the context of an existing company has rapidly permeated tech engineering in software companies. But what’s stopping, say, a marketing organization to do the same? To experiment with the thought of how to do work differently, employ new skills, use new technologies, develop cheap prototypes and pitch ideas to a “panel of VCs.” Members of each team can experience new roles for a week, practice new responsibilities and maybe even discover new passions. Oh yeah, and they can get feedback through Development in the Flow and plan their future development.
Why these criteria
The focus of Human Capital Management (HCM) technology in its early days was to scale existing top-down operations. In the meantime, the nature of work has dramatically shifted, and tech has failed to keep up, especially in how to capture the inherent energies of employees to develop themselves.
To meet the immense challenges of preparing for the rapidly transforming nature of work, employees need to also own and have resources to prepare themselves. With the organization involved to help shape that energy in a meaningful way, there’s less waste with ineffective content or misguided efforts. The hope of a promotion isn’t enough anymore, the new generations of the workforce have said that loud and clear. A carefully constructed set of footholds will help keep employees engaged, retained and growing.
This post originally appeared on Toolbox HR.
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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.
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.
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