Do You Have a Learning Management Strategy?

Do You Have a Learning Management Strategy?  – written by David Vance and originally published in CLO magazine.

on August 25, 2013 · Comments · in The Business Of Learning

In the last blog I asked if you had a learning measurement strategy. Now I pose the larger question: Do you have a learning (or talent) management strategy? Previously, I suggested that measurement is a means to the end, and not the end in itself. We don’t measure just to measure, or at least, we shouldn’t. We measure because we need to know how we are doing against the goals we set. We need to know whether we are on track to deliver what we promised (the plan). Only by measuring and reporting the measures can we actively manage programs and initiatives to deliver planned results.

And where do these “planned results” come from? They come from your learning management strategy, which should answer the following questions:

  1. What programs or initiatives should we work on for the year?
  2. Are they well aligned to my organization’s goals? In other words, are these the right programs or initiatives to be working on?
  3. What are my SMART (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-constrained) goals for the year or for a particular program or initiative?
  4. How will we execute with discipline throughout the year to ensure we achieve the SMART goal and deliver the planned results?
  5. How will we measure, evaluate and report results?
  6. How can we continuously improve?

So, do you have a learning management strategy to answer these questions in your own organization? Are these questions even raised? Ideally, you will have (or can implement) a strategy consisting of processes, timelines, and roles and responsibilities to address these questions.

For example, you might have a well-defined business planning process which includes the department head meeting with the CEO and other senior leaders to find out what the company’s goals are for the year, their priority and the names of the sponsors who are responsible for them. Then the department head and senior learning leaders could meet with the sponsors to determine if learning might help achieve the company goal, and if so, what that program might entail. Then the sponsor and the learning leaders would agree on the expected impact of the initiative on the goal and on other important measures like number of participants, expected application rates, due dates, etc. These become the SMART goals for the learning function. The planned programs, their alignment to company goals and the SMART goals could then be shared with the CEO and other senior leaders for feedback and approval, resulting in an approved business plan for learning.

Thought also needs to be given to the monthly execution of this plan and to measurement and evaluation. Perhaps your management strategy calls for monthly two-hour meetings for the department head and direct reports focused solely on reviewing progress against plan and taking appropriate actions to get back on plan when it looks like plan will not be achieved. This may require a reallocation of resources and priorities for the year. Likewise, you should have a measurement and evaluation strategy (the subject of the last blog), and a way to learn from each major initiative (like the Army’s after-action reviews). In some cases, the measurement and evaluation strategy may be included in the business plan.

Now, some may not want to go through the business planning process described above, but you still need a management strategy to answer the questions. What is yours and how well is it working? Does everyone have clear direction at the beginning of the year? Do you have to make a lot of disruptive “course corrections” during the year? Do you have trouble executing the plans you make? A good management strategy, while it takes some time to create, will pay big dividends in increasing the impact, effectiveness and efficiency of your department.

David Vance

David Vance

David Vance is the former president of Caterpillar University, which he founded in 2001. Until his retirement in January 2007, he was responsible for ensuring that the right education, training and leadership were provided to achieve corporate goals and efficiently meet the learning needs of Caterpillar and dealer employees. Before this position, Vance was chief economist and manager of the business intelligence group at Caterpillar Inc., with responsibility for economic outlooks, sales forecasts, market research, competitive analysis and business information systems. He now consults with organizations on learning and performance issues, with a focus on launching corporate universities and designing effective strategies for managing the learning function, including alignment, governance and measurement. His firm is Manage Learning LLC. Vance was named 2006 CLO of the Year by Chief Learning Officer magazine. He also was named 2004 Corporate University Leader of the Year by the International Quality and Productivity Council in its annual Corporate University Best In Class Awards. In October 2010, Vance published The Business of Learning: How to Manage Corporate Training to Improve Your Bottom Line. He can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.

Stop Making Excuses and Just Start Measuring

Stop Making Excuses and Just Start Measuring

Originally published by David Vance on June 5, 2013 ·  Comments · in The Business Of Learning  CLO Magazine
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Stop making excuses for not measuring the impact of learning and just get started. This was the consensus among the panelists at a recent Skillsoft Perspectives Conference in Orlando, Fla. The panelists were Laurie Bassi of McBassi & Associates, Jay Jamrog of i4cp, Kendall Kerekes of KnowledgeAdvisors, Patti Phillips of ROI Institute and myself, with Kieran King from Skillsoft moderating. We had 1,000 in the audience, a provocative subject and a great panel.

King set the stage by sharing research from Jack and Patti Phillips showing CEOs want to see the impact and ROI of their learning investments but instead receive only activity and satisfaction data (confirmed by research from Bersin and many others). So, why aren’t learning leaders measuring impact and sharing with their CEOs? After all, this is not exactly a revelation. According to a survey by Cushing Anderson in May, the leading reasons are lack of resources, lack of support from the CEO, lack of funding and lack of skills. My take: these are all just excuses which strongly suggest that many of today’s CLOs (or vice presidents of training) should be replaced.

I did not have the resources or funding I wanted at Caterpillar, and I never asked the CEO to support my measurement or impact strategy. I also came to my position with no knowledge of training, let alone the knowledge or skills to measure impact. These limitations did not stop me from putting a measurement strategy in place, and they should not stop you either.

To begin, there are numerous books and workshops available to help anyone new to the field or to measurement. And there are many great consultants and providers to help you (like the panel members). Even if you cannot afford hired help, you can quickly come up to speed on the basics.

Next, you need to adopt a management mindset and resolve to do the best you can with whatever resources you have. Forget perfection: perfect data, absolutely consistent data and comprehensive data. Stop waiting for the new LMS or for a bigger budget or for a dedicated staff person, or a completely automated system. Start with what you have and where you are. Focus. What are your key programs in support of the key goals of your organization? Start there even if it is only for one program. You can use a sample of participants to gather the required data to estimate impact or you can use a survey. This does not have to be expensive or a major undertaking. You can make a start.

Adopting a management mindset with regard to measurement of impact also entails working with the sponsor upfront to agree on the expected impact of the initiative and on the roles and responsibilities of each party (training and the sponsor) to achieve the desired impact. Once you have an agreed-upon plan with the sponsor, then you will need to manage execution on a monthly basis. Reaching agreement with the sponsor on expected impact requires NO additional resources, just a little time. And monitoring progress against plan on a monthly basis can be done on an Excel spreadsheet (which is what we did at Cat).

Bottom line, the panel agreed there is a lot you can do to measure and manage impact. So, stop making excuses and just get started, even if that means starting to manage and measure impact on just a few select initiatives or even only one. Don’t wait for new systems or technology or a bigger budget, and don’t wait to be asked for impact. Start now to whatever extent you can, and look forward to improving in the future.

David Vance
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David Vance is the former president of Caterpillar University, which he founded in 2001. Until his retirement in January 2007, he was responsible for ensuring that the right education, training and leadership were provided to achieve corporate goals and efficiently meet the learning needs of Caterpillar and dealer employees. Before this position, Vance was chief economist and manager of the business intelligence group at Caterpillar Inc., with responsibility for economic outlooks, sales forecasts, market research, competitive analysis and business information systems. He now consults with organizations on learning and performance issues, with a focus on launching corporate universities and designing effective strategies for managing the learning function, including alignment, governance and measurement. His firm is Manage Learning LLC. Vance was named 2006 CLO of the Year by Chief Learning Officer magazine. He also was named 2004 Corporate University Leader of the Year by the International Quality and Productivity Council in its annual Corporate University Best In Class Awards. In October 2010, Vance published The Business of Learning: How to Manage Corporate Training to Improve Your Bottom Line. He can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.

Make E-Learning Globally Competent

The following article was written by Nic McMahon and published in the CLO Magazine on 6.5.2013.

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With budgets tightening and workforces becoming more diverse and dispersed, here’s how to develop global e-learning programs efficiently and on budget.

As the world gets more interconnected, workforces are becoming increasingly more diverse and dispersed. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. multinational companies increased employment to 34.5 million workers in 2011, with the bulk of the growth taking place abroad.

Developing training programs to keep employees around the world engaged can be incredibly challenging, time-intensive and expensive. It doesn’t have to be. By preparing e-learning programs with global distribution in mind, learning program managers can reduce the cost and time, as well as improve retention and engagement.

Global e-learning initiatives, however, can present technical and content design challenges. A typical course will include one or more learning objects or modules made up of many digital elements called assets — text, graphics, simulations, audio and video. Each asset is usually constructed, captured or authored with different software tools, which can often complicate localization. Therefore, it is essential to identify important components of design and delivery in advance to help guide the content creation, cultural adaption and localization of the course.

Adapting the course for every country and cultural nuance is rarely feasible, but staying reasonably neutral with iconography and stories can improve training effectiveness for multicultural audiences. For example, a course developed around baseball or the term “Uncle Sam” may not resonate clearly in countries outside the United States.

Internationalizing Design and Delivery

Localizing e-learning courses after the fact often requires a complete or significant rework. This can be costly. When possible, it is best to include support for e-learning courses meant to serve multiple locations around the world.

For example, Intel’s Core Launch course was so successful in English the company recently asked VIA Technologies Inc., the course’s provider, to expand it into 10 other languages. The course included a text illustration made up of 150 individual images that had not been built.

But proper internationalization guidelines were not followed, such as allowing users to type in their native alphabet and numerical system and formatting. As a result, the cost to “localize” the output graphics ended up being roughly $15,000 more than it would have been. By identifying localization content in advance, the course can be designed to allow for easy deployment, modifications and updates to the actual e-learning application framework or source files.

Blog Post Ideas that Inspire Useful Content

A new blog article has been written by Alec Biedrzycki:

How to Generate Blog Post Ideas that Inspire Darn Useful Content

Al Biedrzycki is an Inbound Marketing Consultant on the VAR team at HubSpot. He works with HubSpot’s partner agencies to help them achieve success through their Inbound Marketing efforts. He enjoys teaching his clients the best practices of Inbound Marketing and is thrilled when they succeed.

Blog idea droughts are the worst.

Any marketer who creates content has almost certainly experienced one. Sometimes, inspiration comes naturally and the blog content practically writes itself—other times, an idea drought rears its ugly head. This is bad news because blogging for the sake of blogging doesn’t always inspire useful content. A lack of useful content is problematic also because the reason for creating it is the foundation for any marketer’s blogging strategy. If the foundation collapses, you’ll be hard pressed to see results. So how do you survive an idea drought? A flood of contact-curated questions, that’s how! Let me explain:

Like any Inbound Marketer who blogs, I experienced an idea drought about a month ago. I had no ideas left in my queue that would make for a useful post. But before throwing in the towel, I took a step back and asked myself, “Why does my audience read my blog?” The main reason is for the value of free marketing advice, tips, and insight. To exhibit this value, I’ve historically written posts based on what I thought my audience would find beneficial. The more I thought about this content creation strategy, the more I realized it was part of the problem.

This is when the idea hit me: Instead of writing about what I thought would be beneficial to them, why not just outright ask? The idea was so simple but seemed so powerful. I could ask my connections what marketing challenges they were struggling with and offer my advice in a blog post. This would not only help fill up my idea drought, but also provide the help that my audience actually wants. It’s a mutual exchange of value for free.

What follows is a step-by-step methodology that you can follow to create your own content creation strategy that inspires useful blog posts.

Step 1: Identify the Problem to Design Your Offer

The first part of launching this content generating campaign is to identify what type of problem you’re offering to solve. Your target persona is struggling with something. That’s why you have a product or service that helps deliver a solution. Design your offer by honing in on what your audience is struggling with and offer to write advice by simply signing up.

Step 2: Create the Conversion Path

Once you’ve identified the offering you’ll be promoting to solicit blog post ideas, you’ll need to build a conversion path so your audience can sign up. Along with the call-to-action button. Lastly, there’s the thank you page

Step 3: Write your Email

If you have a list of contacts or subscribers who would be good candidates for this offering, you’ll want to create an email that can be used to promote it. Keep it short, simple, and to the point. Be sure to convey the value of the offer in the subject line of the email and the body copy (after all, they’re getting a question answered for free). Lastly, tell your readers exactly how to sign up and how the process will work.
Also, the subject line I used was “FIRSTNAME, let’s solve your marketing questions together!”

Step 4: Choose your List(s)

If you wrote an email in step #3 above, you’ll want to pick the right list to send this to. I’d recommend testing your email on your most engaged contacts first, as you’ll likely get the best responses from this group. Remember that you may have to adjust the email’s messaging slightly depending on the type of audience you’re tapping into. I simply reached out to a select group of my LinkedIn contacts who I thought would be receptive to the campaign. You can do something similar, or tap into a network you know will get some response right away.

Step 5: Spot Check Your Work

I always triple-check my work before launching any campaign, and this example is no different. Review the email, the hyperlinks, the landing page, the form, the thank page and the call-to-action. Make sure typos and grammatical errors are eliminated and all the pieces of the conversion path connect together seamlessly.

Step 6: Promote the Offer

Once you’ve spot checked your work, let the campaign fly!
Think beyond email too—what social channels can you post to in order to get the most amounts of people involved? Craft unique messages for each channel as you see fit.
Step 7: Write the Posts

Once the submissions start piling in, begin writing the posts. Before publishing a post, I always recommend sending it to the individual who submitted it for approval. You also might consider outlining this on the landing page or in a follow-up email post-submission. You’ll gain their respect early on and they’ll appreciate the gesture.

Step 8: Continually Engage

We’re not done yet! Once the blog ideas are flying off the presses, you’ll want to think of ways you can continually engage your audience with content you just produced. Put together a weekly blog recap newsletter or send your latest posts to the contacts who never submitted during the first round—maybe the awesome pieces you’re writing will entice them to submit their own.

Why Learning Measurement Matters

This recent article “Why Learning Measurement Matters” by Michael E Echols definitely hits the bulls-eye. Your comments are appreciated.

Why Learning Measurement MattersMichael E. Echols –  4/5/13

Innovation leads to improvement only when it’s measured. Without metrics, it is not clear that change is going in the right direction.

In metrics, the “what” of our work is about what we measure. Well known in learning and development work are levels 1 through 4 by Donald Kirkpatrick. In the Bellevue University Human Capital Lab work with Verizon Wireless, the what consists of business outcomes. These are key performance indicators (KPIs) for the enterprise.

In our measurement of impact for the Bellevue University Professional Retail Sales & Management education program, the what of the metrics includes change in sales, turnover, mobility and performance.

The what of an issue is not to be taken lightly in measurement work. The operations management team’s alignment, for instance, is a critical component of business impact. Good measurement work is of little value if the measurement is not about something management cares about.

The second element of this metrics conversation is the “how.” The how makes the what possible. In our metrics work, examples of how include surveys, dashboards, multi-variant statistical analysis, level 1-4 survey results and others. We spend a lot of time and energy debating the how. It’s an important conversation, but is it really worth all of the effort various measurement advocates invest in the conversation? I will leave that up to you to answer.

Lastly, I want to discuss the “why.” The central question is: “Why are we doing this work at all?”

My belief is that the why is driven by innovation. Innovation is a priority for nearly every management team today. It is critical to future competitiveness. Here is some of the language related to innovation I’ve heard repeated in today’s business environment:

• “The key to our company’s growth is innovation.”
• “To compete as a nation we need to innovate.”
• “Innovation is the key to Apple’s success.”
• “Business has only two functions — marketing and innovation.”
• “America’s growth has been fueled by investment, education, productivity, innovation and immigration.”
• “Innovation is the central issue in economic prosperity.”
• “I believe in being an innovator.”

The central role of innovation in our future has become a part of our collective business DNA. We line up behind the innovation mantra as we hurtle into an ever more uncertain future. The message is not yet dogma, but it’s getting close.

Here is where the why of the metrics conversation steps to center stage. We have a mad dash to innovate as the key to future value creation. That means we are dashing into the future with a near compulsive desire to do things differently. Our networked world acts like a super charger, accelerating the effects of change.

Without metrics to guide our change initiatives, the dash is taking place in total darkness. Under this scenario we are literally groping in the dark.

There are two specific problems with this in the absence of measurement. The first is direction. The second is magnitude. Without metrics it is not clear that a change is even going in the right direction. In the past, things moved slowly enough to wait and see the results after the fact. In today’s world of hyper change and great uncertainty, metrics allow management to decide much faster whether to keep a change in place or to replace it with another innovation. In today’s world, time is the scarce resource that the metrics helps manage.

The second dimension is magnitude. Here the implications involve cash and investment, and the implications are less obvious. Let’s assume the innovation leads to improvement. Measurement gives senior executives guidance on the biggest dilemma the C-suite faces today.

We have to address the what, the how, but most importantly the why of measurement. We need metrics to have a more precise way to accelerate innovation and make more valuable investment decisions. These are goals all of our senior managers can support.

Article Keywords:   measurement   metrics

Do You Even Need A Vacation Policy? – Erin Osterhaus

Do You Even Need a Vacation Policy?

A small but growing number of companies have done away with “fixed-number-of-days” vacation policies, instead giving employees–with the approval of their managers–the freedom to decide when and for how long to take time off. These companies have, in essence, an “unlimited” paid time off (PTO) policy. Of course, this lack of a vacation policy is, in fact, a policy of sorts.
These unlimited policies aren’t common; only one percent of U.S. companies offer them. And the top 10 of Fortune magazine’s top 100 best places to work in 2013 favor traditional or flex-time models. Even some forward-thinking employers like Google don’t have an unlimited policy, instead allowing employees to accrue more vacation days the longer they’re with the company.
Is an unlimited PTO policy something you should consider for your company? Software Advice explores the most commonly cited benefits–and drawbacks–that you should consider as you weigh your decision.
Productivity and Morale

One of the primary benefits touted by proponents of unlimited PTO is increased employee efficiency and morale. Holly Bock, CEO of leadership and management consulting firm Fierce, Inc., implemented an unlimited plan in June 2012. Bock says she’s received a wealth of positive feedback from her staff, and believes that the plan has helped boost productivity and her employees’ enthusiasm for their work.
“You can feel it as a sort of buzz around here,” says Bock. “There’s just a lot of energy, because when employees show up here, they are here absolutely because this is where they want to be … and with that comes great energy and focus.”
However, if unlimited PTO is implemented without guardrails, it could potentially be overused. While Bock says Fierce hasn’t had any problems with abuse of the policy since its implementation, there is still the very real possibility that employees might try to take more time off than they should, thus decreasing productivity.
Bock was careful to note that at Fierce, “It’s not a free-for-all. You do still need to obtain approval from your supervisor, and assuming that’s okay and your deliverables are in check, then you are free to go.”

At the other extreme, without a set number of vacation days allotted, some employees might err on the side of caution and take fewer days than they would like for fear of being seen as a “slacker” by their boss or colleagues. If employees don’t take vacation, the purpose of the unlimited policy–to allow staff to de-stress and re-energize when they need it most–is obviated.
For Bart Lorang, the founder and CEO of software vendor FullContact, this was the primary factor when he decided on a more traditional policy of 15 days paid vacation. “I looked at some of the data, and the data’s showing that some of the people actually take less vacation when they have unlimited vacation. So I said, well, that’s not good.” Lorang added, “If you get a number, you will actually use it.”
Recruitment

Attracting top talent has been a chief goal for employers, and generous vacation policies have been particularly prevalent in the highly-competitive tech sector. Companies such as Chegg, Gilt Groupe, TIBCO Software and Zynga offer unlimited vacation benefits to catch the eye of the best candidates.
However, unlimited PTO might not be enough to attract engineers in a field that has begun to offer the policy more frequently. As a consequence, companies like FullContact have had to think even further outside the box.
Lorang contends that the recruiting incentive was a key reason behind FullContact’s paid, paid vacation plan, implemented in July 2012. In this unusual twist of a policy, the company actually pays employees $7,500 for taking a week-long vacation, on top of their salary.
Lorang says when FullContact’s unique policy was implemented, his number of applicants skyrocketed. “We got 4,200 engineering applicants, which is just unheard of. And engineers are really hard to find in tech. So it’s helped, for sure.” He adds, “I think we have a first mover advantage in this.”
On the other hand, while companies may see gains in the quantity of applicants to due to an unlimited PTO policy, Bock says the quality of applicants to Fierce has remained largely the same. “I wouldn’t say it’s improved the level of candidates that we’ve had. I will say we probably get more applicants. Yet we’re still weeding out for very specific skill sets.”
Employee Retention

A liberal or innovative PTO policy cannot only help attract top talent, but also retain it. At FullContact, Lorang says the policy has improved retention–“nobody’s quit,” he notes. However, more data needs to be collected in order to prove a correlation between vacation policies and retention. And there are some kinks.
For established organizations that currently have a seniority-based vacation policy, switching to an unlimited model could be tricky. Some senior employees could view that as a penalty, or a benefit being taken away from them, because they might feel that they had to work for years to “earn” their vacation time but younger or new employees don’t.
Simultaneously, if junior employees don’t need to work up to a certain number of vacation days, they may have less incentive to stay with the company long-term.

Administrative Costs

Unlimited PTO could cut down on HR costs, or at least save your organization time. For Bock, the policy has been a timesaver. “As someone who previously would need to sign off on a lot of time sheets, or engage in a lot of conversations about, ‘Well I traveled on Sunday, can I take a comp day here?’ I am sure I have saved several weeks–no kidding–of time, just not having to engage in that.”
However, in order to circumvent purposeful or unintentional favoritism on the part of supervisors, larger companies would most likely need to train managers on how to communicate the policy to their teams. The cost of training could then offset any savings the HR department had made by avoiding the time-consuming task of tracking time accrued in a fixed-leave policy.
What’s The Verdict?

Obviously, whether the benefits of an unlimited vacation plan outweigh the costs will depend entirely on the specifics of your organization.
But if your company is to reap all the benefits of increased productivity and morale, more effective recruiting and retention, all while saving on administrative costs, there seem to be two core values a company must have: accountability and open communication. If your company is strong in these two areas, unlimited vacation days could save your company both time and money.
As Bock says, “I wouldn’t recommend it carte blanche to every company. Because you do need to have some things in place before you uncork the bottle. You need to have a culture where people understand that it is up to them to achieve their objectives.”
What type of vacation policy does your company have? Take our survey and let us know!

Learning Trends by Elliot Masie

Learning TRENDS by Elliott Masie – January 30, 2013.
#759 – Updates on Learning, Business & Technology.
55,879 Readers – www.masie.com – twitter: emasie – The MASIE Center.
Host: Learning Directions Blended Seminars

1. Mini-Tablet Usability Soars.
2. Sleep and Memory Evidence.
3. Learning Directions Seminar.

1. Mini-Tablet Usability Soars: My full size tablets are getting very lonely!  Over the past six months, I have migrated to the small, mini sized form factor for my tablets. First, I fell in love with the Amazon Kindle Fire – shifting from the full sized to a palm ready version. Then, when the iPad Mini came out, it was so-long to the full size tablet.  In fact, though I have six different tablets at The MASIE Center Lab and at home, I have not put a finger on a full-size device in 3 months!

Why? It is a clear case of Usability. In fact, as I travel around the country I am watching this size format shift in action. Here is what we makes the smaller format a use winner for me:

* Less Disruptive Visually:  I can set it up at a restaurant while eating, at a meeting while using notes and viewing documents and on my lap while watching TV or a movie – and it is less disruptive! It fits into the scene and into other activities easier and with fewer space and visual conflicts.

* Fits into Pockets, Purses and Lab Coats: The mini goes simply into the inner pocket of my winter coat and I have seen women place it in purses and a team of doctors/nurses slip it into the pocket of their white lab coats.  The “wearability” adds to the use and acceptance.

* Fingers Fit Typing Naturally: My typing is easier, either using 2 thumbs from the side, or all fingers for traditional use. And, add the voice recognition element and I have no trouble responding to emails or creating new documents.

* One Handed Video: I am using the video camera for shoots with the great advantage of one handed, none tiring holding.  Makes it easier to use for even longer shoots.

* Hold While Speaking: At the recent TedX Broadway conference in New York City on Monday, the keynoter host used his iPad Mini for all notes and introductions.  It fit into this hand and was a digital set of note cards that made the day.

We think that the smaller sizes will rapidly challenge the larger tablet format. My one concern was that reading larger forms on the Mini would be impossible.  But, almost all forms are either in PDF, eBook or Browswer formats – which can be resized and shaped easily. It has not been a problem to access and use all size forms and documents.

What is next for the smaller tablets?

* I’d love my iPad Mini to also allow for telephone calling with a bluetooth earpiece.  It would replace much of the need for my phone.
* More inputs and outputs.  Love to see all tablets have a USB input and more easier HDMI and other media outputs.
* Better Lens.  I would pay an extra fee to have top end camera lens to facilitate great photo and video capture.

Watch for this form factor ahead!

2. Sleep and Memory Evidence: Here is a great article to read about the role of Sleep and Memory. From a summary in the New York Times:

“Scientists have known for decades that the ability to remember newly learned information declines with age, but it was not clear why. A new study may provide part of the answer. The report, posted online on Sunday by the journal Nature Neuroscience, suggests that structural brain changes occurring naturally over time interfere with sleep quality, which in turn blunts the ability to store memories for the long term.” Check it out at: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/28/health/brain-aging-linked-to-sleep-related-memory-decline.html

3. Learning Directions Seminar: There are seats available in our Learning Directions seminars, focused on what is up, down, hype and opportunity in our learning field.  I will be leading this in six cities around the globe.  Check it out at http://www.masie.com

Yours in learning,

Elliott Masie
email: emasie@masie.com
twitter: @emasie

MASIE Center Seminars, Events and Services:
* Learning Directions Seminar: Blended and in 6 Cities Globally.
* Learning 2013 – November 2013 – Orlando, Florida.
* Membership in The Learning CONSORTIUM
Info and Registration: http://www.masie.com – twitter: emasie

The MASIE Center, PO Box 397, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866 USA

Driving Tip – Don’t Veer for the Deer….ACD Learning Solutions & Michael Angelo Caruso

I was reading my email this morning and came across this customer service comment by Michael Angelo Caruso. www.michaelangelocaruso.com  It reminded me of one of the issues that confronts my relatives living in upstate New York. Also about the time many years ago, when my daughter as around 10 years old and I hit a dear. Not much car damage but when we got home, she ran into the house to tell everyone of the incident. :-)   www.acdlearningsolutions.com

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It’s autumn and everyone is talking about the dangers of “deering while driving.”  It got me thinking about how humans handle problems. There are 1.5 million car-deer collisions annually.  Deer crashes kill some 150 people per year.  The deer don’t fare well, either, mostly because few of them are wearing safety belts.

Here’s a surprising driving tip

The article lists three ways to avoid an unwanted wildlife encounter:

1)  Stay alert.  Deer are the most active at dawn and dusk.

2)  Deer travel in herds If you see one animal, there are probably many more nearby.

The third piece of advice is rather surprising:

3)  Don’t veer for deer.  Experts say that swerving is much more dangerous than hitting the animal.  Veering could easily introduce oncoming traffic or an unforgiving bridge abutment into the equation.
Sometimes, it’s best to face a problem head-on. The “don’t veer for deer” lesson is a good metaphor for other types of problem-solving.  Of course, it’s always a good idea to stay alert for communication problems related to customer service, marketing, and such.  And yes, these problems often “travel in herds.”

Lots of us try to avoid problems by ignoring them, procrastinating or even denying the problems exist. Yet, in many cases, it’s best to confront the problem head-on.  Face the problem as if you would position yourself directly in front of a camera. Let the conundrum collide with your personal life or your work routine.  This will create a unique opportunity to uncover a solution.
Solve problems better, faster
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Allen Krom, ACD Learning Solutions, www.acdlearningsolutions.com

Management of Web Helps Goal Execution

As an entrepreneur, you understand that management of the web helps goal execution. BUT.. how much time do you spend surfing the web each day? Are you checking email, reading the world news, googling, tweeting, or using any of the other 150+ social media sites available to connect with your business contacts? Do you spend time finding business contacts on Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter?  Does the web take the place of face to face networking meetings? Do you manage the web of is it managing you?? Where are you in the learning industry focal point?

In previous corporate life, I felt very confident in my time management skills especially as it related to handling email, phone calls and business related tasks. In fact, I taught a class on the “4 Habits of Execution” for those business executives needing help understanding the skills necessary for accomplish their goals.
HOWEVER….. 3 years ago, I vacated the corporate world to begin my trek as a business consultant, advising companies on developing learning strategies and goal achievement.  www.acdlearningsolutions.com .

One of the first things that I noticed…. my time management skills had abandoned me. Yes, as a new startup business in the learning arena, my email as well as my hard copy mail levels had drastically increased, but worst of all…. I had to review it all and do something with it. No longer did I have a team to assist me. No admin help; no marketing help; no business planning help. I am the team. I sure am glad that I developed a business plan.
Of course as all entrepreneurs know, sales only occur when potential customers learn who you are as a business.  Who are you, what do you do??

Each morning I would enter my office in a similar manner as the previous 20 years BUT that is where the similarity would end. I would build my task list, however many of the tasks were outside of my knowledge base. How do I learn to accomplish my new tasks? Of course… google it, or check YouTube. Do I tweet business friends to inquire? More and more of my time was taken up in the arena of learning what I did not know. Most of my morning hours were spent online. Thus by noon, my inbox was full with inquires and requests for meetings from potential clients and vendors. For years in the corporate environment, I would receive emails but I could delegate the response to many of them to other team members. Now, the decision to delegate was not an option. But which ones do I ignore, which ones do I respond (short reply or long)?  If I do not reply, without customers or vendors, how does my business prosper?

So by the end of that first quarter, I found myself spending a minimum of 6- 8 hours a day online either searching the web for information or responding to email. WHAT IS THAT YOU SAY !!!  A full day spent on the computer??  Do you ever see your customers face to face? When do you provide services to your customers?

I finally remembered something that I had heard in a seminar years ago….

Ask yourself the question…

How will the task that I am working on, move my company forward?
If you cannot answer that question to your satisfaction, ignore that task….

Thus I got off the web, and back to my business plan.
• Develop an external business advisory board
• Outsource those necessary services that you cannot perform
• Hire project contractors to address customer needs that you cannot provide
• Hire temp staff to handle the admin and marketing needs
• Your job is to address strategy and to locate clients

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Allen Krom is the Principal and Chief Learning Strategist of ACD Learning Solutions, a leadership consulting company working with companies to provide leadership and customer service skills training.

We are the missing piece to your training puzzle.

For more information, visit http://www.ACDLearningSolutions.com
Email: info@acdlearningsolutions.com
Phone: 972.768.6073

Keywords: Learning, Allen Krom, ACD Learning Solutions, training, learning management systems, employee training, strategic learning development plan, improving customer service, developing a learning management plan, learning program

Customer Service – Employee or Management Responsibility??

This past weekend, my wife and I were at the local mail shopping and since  we were hungry we decided to stop into a sandwich shop located in one of the out buildings of the mall. As we entered the shop, I could smell the great aroma. Since I had never been in this shop before, I took a quick look around the room and the dining area was approximately half full. The service counter had 3 or 4 people in the process of ordering their sandwiches. As a consultant and a trainer, I am always interested in observing learning and training for the employees and the provision of customer service.

One of the pleasant experiences was the welcome expressed by many of the employees as we entered the shop. What I like best was that although the voices overrode each other,  the volume was not overbearing as in some other restaurants that I have visited. However, a downside to the welcome was that as soon as I acknowledged the welcome, all of the employees returned to their central focus which appeared to be making the sandwiches. There was no comradery with either the customers or other employees. Apparently, these employees had not learned the skill of multi-tasking… making sandwiches and interacting with the customers simultaneously. This would have been an improvement in the customer service provision.

As my wife and I made our way to the order station, I continued to observe the employees making sandwiches. They all appeared proficient  and it was apparent that the employee trainer/program was sufficient.

Upon our arrival at the ordering station, I was surprised to see that this employee appeared to be the youngest of the team. Most of the counter staff appeared to be either in their late teens or early 20’s. During the conversation with the cashier, he mentioned that he was a junior in high school. BTW, he is also the shift supervisor for the sandwich shop. Based upon my observations, he was doing a great job keeping the other employees focused upon their specific tasks.

HOWEVER…..  since we were the last customers in the line, once our sandwiches were completed, the employees had some unproductive time on their hands. This is where the inexperience of the shift supervisor began to show.

Almost immediately, the staff began to congregate and discuss their experiences from the previous night’s party scene. The supervisor also took part in this conversation as if he were at school recess. Please understand, I am not saying that employees should not have fun at work. I have always believed that when your job is not fun, then it is time to leave. But employees and especially supervisors/management must realize that when customers are within earshot, the conversation must be kept below the decibel level of a Rolling Stone’s concert.

Customer service does not stop! Customer service must be provided to any and all customers from the opening bell of the shop to the final customer leaves the shop that evening. I do not blame the lowering of customer service in America today to the youth of today but rather I blame two things:

  • The management philosophy of “Doing More with Less.” Employee training has become a tertiary focus over the past few years.
  • A new focus of the American consumer…. expecting the highest level of customer service to be received by them BUT a minimal level of customer service provided by them at their jobs.

It is the apex of these two theories that can cause frustration for both parties…. the employees and the customers.

Many years ago, a CEO of a major international hospitality corporation told his employees that there are three focal points to the corporate success triangle….

  • employees
  • customers
  • shareholders

His thoughts were that you must address all three points of the triangle equally. If you ignore one of the points of the triangle, you will not succeed.

BTW.. if you are wondering… I did have a short conversation with the shift supervisor and gave him my business card. My company,  www.acdlearningsolutions.com can help them provide quality customer service to all three points of the triangle.

 We are the missing piece to your training puzzle

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Allen Krom is the owner of ACD Learning Solutions, a leadership consulting company working with companies to provide leadership and customer service skills training.
For more information, visit http://www.ACDLearningSolutions.com
email allen@acdlearningsolutions.com info@acdlearningsolutions.com
phone 972.768.6073.

Keywords: Learning, Allen Krom, ACD Learning Solutions, training, learning management systems, employee training, strategic learning development plan, improving customer service, developing a learning management plan, learning program