Blog Post

What to Know About Learning in Times of Change

Cornerstone Editors

Companies entering 2020 were already set to face their own unique changes, from growing skills gaps to the continued rise of technologies like AI and automation. More and more companies are looking to provide employees with learning opportunities to help them adapt to these shifts. Encouraging and enabling skill development on an organization-wide level, research shows, will ultimately foster an environment for growth.

But learning during times of change can be extremely difficult. We’re seeing this currently amid the COVID-19 crisis. Expanding employee skill sets increases adaptability and prepares us for the next version of normal. The nuance is understanding that people need time to process and adapt before turning their attention to the future.

In fact, pushing learning opportunities on your staff at the wrong time could lead to them feeling unsupported or overwhelmed. Poorly timed new programs or opportunities have potential to be misconstrued as attempts to wash over the adjustment period—moving directly into how to profit moving forward. By understanding how employees move through change, managers can more aptly assess when to encourage growth, how to support individual team members and successfully innovate through big moments of change.

Start by Understanding the Stages of Change

As change happens within an organization or in broader society, employees will need time to acclimate and move through what expert Ann Salerno calls the change cycle. Everyone experiences the same five stages in the same order—starting with loss, doubt and discomfort followed by discovery, understanding and integration—but at different rates and in different ways,

The early stages of loss and doubt are not the time for learning, according to Cornerstone VP, Strategic Initiatives, Mike Bollinger.

"Change is typically about loss—it's not the way it used to be," he said on a recent episode of Cornerstone’s podcast, HR Labs. "Managers have to be mindful of the individual employee's state, if you will. Are they in a loss? That's not the time to insert a new set of learning. That's just going to create more discomfort and more doubt. Rather, find ways to make them comfortable so that they can grow."

As employees process feelings of loss and doubt, listen to them, field questions and create a space for voices to be heard. Eventually, employees reach a discovery stage where "how can I do this?" replaces thoughts of "I can't do this" or "I don't want to do this." Business leaders need to prepare to support employees with learning at this key moment. This, Bollinger says, is the time to implement company-wide learning opportunities.

For example, Cornerstone’s platform saw a 40% increase in user logins during March 2020, many of which were centered on topics like "tips for working remotely"—evidence that, as employees were adapting to their new circumstances, many looked to learning for support. Simply making sure people know how to find the resources they need can help employees feel empowered to overcome change more quickly.

To Lead Through Change, Practice Empathy

Because everyone moves through change at different paces, not everyone will be ready for learning opportunities at the same moment. That means it’s up to managers to be tuned-in to how their employees are feeling during the change process. Setting up systems for more individualized check-ins can help ensure that no one is being rushed through the process.

Remember: these are not performance reviews. Instead they’re conversations that start on a human level—things like, how are you coping? How are you feeling?—before moving onto work-related topics.

"You have to be genuinely curious during the check-ins," Bollinger said. "You’ve got to be incredibly open and vulnerable because your employees are listening for clues and authenticity."

The more comfortable employees get with change, the more they’ll look to learning. Bollinger says that Bob Mosher’s five moments of need can help explain when employees are likely to look for learning in various ways:

To learn something new

To expand on something they’ve already learned

To try to apply something they’ve learned

To solve a problem

To correct something that’s gone wrong"

Often, finding out what they need is as simple as asking: Research suggests 55% of employees, when they’re looking for learning, will start by asking a colleague.

Bollinger says it’s critical that managers make good suggestions. And doing so requires that managers themselves be actively learning, so they can recommend courses that they’ve taken that were useful, or guide employees to a particular type of course. Understanding how the employee learns best should also guide this advice.

Managers should be on the lookout for these circumstances and drive employees to the right courses for support.

A Formula for Learning Through Any Kind of Change

Employees are likely adjusting to the current remote work environment created by COVID-19. There have likely been layoffs, pay cuts and culture shifts. But many are adapting and already seeking out learning, signalling that there’s a growing level of comfort with change. This is the time to reflect as business leaders and address what resources you have made available to your employees. If these resources are there, they need to be properly communicated company-wide.

Change is always going to happen. On the other side of this pandemic, we’ll continue to acclimate to new normals. This approach to learning can be applied to any change cycle, at any scale. It is about providing your staff with the tools needed to succeed and understanding them on a human level.

Related Resources

Want to keep learning? Explore our products, customer stories, and the latest industry insights.

Taking A Company-Wide Approach to Learning & Development

Blog Post

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

Blog Post

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

Blog Post

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

Schedule a personalized 1:1

Talk to a Cornerstone expert about how we can help with your organization’s unique people management needs.

© Cornerstone 2022