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Case Study: Volunteering as an Employee Development Approach

March 13, 2012 09:26 by Halelly Azulay


Guest post by Halelly Azulay, Talentgrow

Volunteering involves providing your knowledge, skills, and abilities, as well as your time and energy, without establishing an employment relationship and usually without any monetary compensation. Employees who take on volunteer roles are able to build new skills and practice existing skills in a different setting from their day-to-day job. They can try something that is different from their usual work and bring back those skills, thereby adding value to their employer by improving their current job performance. They may even enhance the succession management efforts of their employer because they become ready to move into positions of greater responsibility faster and more effectively than they would had they not taken on the volunteer role. The best part about this employee development strategy is it doesn't cost the organization nearly as much as sending the employee to costly training workshops or hiring a coach. In fact, it often costs the organization nothing.

In my ASTD Press book, Employee Development on a Shoestring, I describe 11 different ways to develop employees outside the classroom, including a chapter on Volunteering as an employee development method. In it, I define how volunteering can serve as an employee development method and explain who should try it, how it benefits learners and the organization, the competencies it can develop, and how it works. I also give tips for establishing volunteering as one of your approaches to employee development and conclude with a case study that depicts the success PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) enjoyed as a result of offering this type of development method.

Volunteering as Employee Development: PwC’s Project Belize

The case study describes how 200 PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) volunteers—partners, staff, and interns from across the United States—traveled to Belize City, Belize, in the Summer of 2011 as part of Project Belize, an initiative that builds on a three-year relationship with schools in Belize City, and is primarily focused on financial literacy and environmental sustainability. The PwC team connected with more than 1,200 students in 10 schools in some of Belize’s poorest areas and focused on hosting a youth financial literacy camp, leading a scholar's mentoring program for current and former Belizean students, providing financial and technology training to teachers, and building “Learning Landscape” playgrounds using repurposed materials.

According to PwC participant Justin Suissa, “the experience [building learning landscape playgrounds] was valuable on so many levels.” Justin was out of his element—construction is not where his expertise lies—and had a tight deadline and clearly defined “deliverables,” but many pitfalls and unexpected obstacles to overcome. Having to pull together as a team to build six playgrounds for the children through pouring rain and intense heat and humidity in five days was a challenge that developed his leadership and team-building skills. Justin developed his flexibility and agility competencies to figure out new technical skills in an unpredictable environment. “While I did not expect it, it was like a learning playground for us, the volunteers. With high stakes and a tough deadline, my teammates and I had to solve problems creatively and let go of pre-established hierarchies in this new environment.”

For another volunteering employee, Jack Teuber, this experience meant a change in his environment and operational mode—from an unconsciously competent managing director leading a team to a novice middle school teacher in a foreign country, working with children and with a totally new and mixed team of associates and interns. Jack understood that his challenge was “to get out of people’s way and encourage them to grow, solve problems, and develop their leadership skills.” He developed his ability to collaborate and support others’ success through coaching. Jack reflected that he and his teammates all needed to rise to the challenge based on “soft skills” in this new environment—building relationships, establishing empathy, communicating, and partnering. These skills are “extremely important back in the PwC environment because they help us serve our clients better and be better leaders and team players to our colleagues.” Finally, Jack gained tremendous partnering and networking benefits—“the team members still keep in touch after returning home and all of us have developed greater access to and understanding of other areas of the business, which serves to break down barriers, especially the hierarchical ones. Belize affected my self-awareness and has caused me to want to do this for my own team [at home].”

While this case study describes a large and generous company undertaking a big expenditure, the same principles can be applied and the same developmental benefits can be yours for absolutely no money. Volunteering can be done in your local community—no international flights needed. Volunteering can be conducted by individual employees joining other members of the wider community or as a team effort—sending a group of volunteers from the same organization on a volunteer mission. The learning that took place for those Belize Project volunteers could happen in your local neighborhood. I hope you give it a try!

Employee Development on a Shoestring has lots of additional tools, checklists, self-assessments and other supports to help you implement the various development methods, consider some of the objections you might encounter, and provide ways to overcome them. Catch my presentation at ASTD ICE on Tuesday, May 8, 2012, from 4:00 – 5:30 p.m. about this topic to get even more ideas!


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Employee Development: Outside the Classroom and Outside the Box

March 6, 2012 09:44 by Halelly Azulay

Guest post by Halelly Azulay, TalentGrow

All over the world, professionals like you are faced with a challenging task of helping employees grow and develop their knowledge, skills, and competencies in the face of shrinking budgets and timelines and ever-increasing pressures to ‘do more with less.’ Supervisors and employees desperately need alternatives and complements to the usual approach of employee development training or e-learning events, because formal learning is not enough. And so many of us are so overwhelmed with a growing workload that we simply don’t have the time or the requisite knowledge to come up with new, creative ideas for developing skills within the parameters that are presented to us.

Case Study: Toby’s Flexibility

Toby is a star performer on whom you can always rely. He is smart and decisive and has a strong sense of accountability. He has been getting feedback from peers, other stakeholders, and you about needing to respond in a more flexible and nimble way to unexpected information or quick changes in plans. He wants to develop his Flexibility competency and you concur—it will help him move to the next level of leadership readiness. But how?

Here is an example of three of the 11 development methods I’ve outlined in my book, Employee Development on a Shoestring (ASTD Press, 2012), centered on this one sample competency of Flexibility. I hope that it generates some good ideas on how to develop employees year-round, outside the classroom, outside ‘the box,’ and with a low budget.

Developing Flexibility Outside the Classroom

You need to help Toby develop a SMART (specific, measurable, aligned, results-oriented, and time-bound) goal and plot specific actions that will lead him to achieve this goal. Assuming that a training class or e-learning program on flexibility is either not an option or already covered, here are three ideas for development outside the classroom and ‘on a shoestring.’

Development Goal (SMART):
(Phrased in active, present tense voice)

Toby quickly adapts his behavior and work methods in response to new information, changing conditions, or unexpected obstacles. He adjusts rapidly to new situations warranting attention and resolution.

Development Activity 1: Self-Directed Learning*

Toby will read at least three books on change and flexibility and write a summary of the key lessons he can apply from each book.

1. Resources and Support Needed

a. Identify and purchase first book or loan from library.
b. Repeat for second and third books.
c. [Manager name] will be available to meet with Toby for each report for one hour.

2. Timeline and Deadlines:

a. Obtain first book by Friday of next week.
b. Complete reading first book and write report by the end of the month.
c. Discuss with [manager name] by first Friday of next month. 
d. Repeat for second and third book.
e. Complete all three books by end of second quarter.

3. Measures and Criteria for Success:

a. Toby has read and reported on at least three books about change and flexibility by the end of second quarter.

Development Activity 2: Special Teams**

Toby will join an action-learning taskforce where he will take on a more observant, quiet role during problem solving and project planning meetings to allow and understand multiple views and perspectives for each problem. He will also personally write down three alternative explanations to each idea or judgment that he thinks of before articulating his opinion in meetings.

1. Resources and Support Needed:

a. Journal or record-keeping notebook or electronic document for insights and generating alternatives.
b. Inform team members about this challenge and develop a special hand signal they could give him when Toby becomes active when multiple other views have not yet been expressed.

2. Timeline and Deadlines:

a. Begin immediately and conduct this behavior during every team meeting where a deliberation of a problem and possible solutions occurs.
b. Journal as soon as possible after a meeting to reflect and capture insights and lessons learned.
c. Check in with [manager name] to report progress and insights once every two weeks for the first two months, less frequently after (based on mutual agreement at that time).

3. Measures and Criteria for Success:

a. Toby will have regular journal records of attempts showing increasingly more observant and less active behavior during deliberations.
b. By the end of second quarter, Toby will have 85% success rate of withholding his ideas and comments from deliberations until at least ¾ of those present have actively participated with their ideas, as reported by   him in his reflection journals.

Development Activity 3: Job Rotation Assignment 

Toby will complete a job rotation assignment in a department/location that is known to be under a lot of stress and pressure to gain a new perspective on organizational issues and develop new ways of working, especially in a challenging environment. He will keep a journal of his challenges and insights and debrief his manager afterward to identify what was most challenging or difficult for him and how he could handle those aspects more effectively.

1. Resources and Support Needed:

a. Identify location for job rotation.
b. Correspond with rotation manager and ensure availability of rotation assignment.
c. Determine a succession plan for Toby’s current role for the duration of the rotation.
d. Communicate plan to staff and management and gain their support.

2. Timeline and Deadlines:

a. List 5–8 possible assignment ideas by end of month.
b. Finalize the target assignment location by end of second quarter.
c. Identify succession plan by end of second quarter.
d. Communicate plan to staff and management by mid-July.
e. Begin rotation by end of August.
f. End rotation by the next January.
g. Conduct a debrief discussion within two weeks from return to current role.

3. Measures and Criteria for Success:

a. Toby will have successfully planned for and completed a six-month rotational assignment with a focus on developing flexibility under pressure and new perspectives for organizational issues by year’s end.

Toby should be able to demonstrate a substantial improvement in his ability to respond flexibly to changes and new situations as a result of this plan. Then, you can begin to focus on a new development goal. Maybe Toby will be ready for that promotion you’ve been considering for him?

Employee Development on a Shoestring has lots of additional tools, checklists, self-assessments and other supports to help you implement the various development methods, consider some of the objections you might encounter, and provide ways to overcome them. Catch my presentation at ASTD ICE on Tuesday, May 8, 2012, from 4:00 – 5:30 p.m. about this topic to get even more ideas!

What unique employee development methods, which didn’t require any official ‘training’ events or lots of resources, have you tried? Please share your ideas, experiences, and questions in the comments, below!

Source: Employee Development on a Shoestring by Halelly Azulay (ASTD Press, 2012).
* Self-directed learning is covered in Chapter 2 of Employee Development on a Shoestring
** Special Teams are covered in Chapter 7 of Employee Development on a Shoestring
*** Job Rotation is covered in Chapter 6 of Employee Development on a Shoestring

Credit: Photo by Hamed Saber via Flickr Creative Commons


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5 Ways to Develop Employees Without Spending a Dime

February 29, 2012 08:59 by Halelly Azulay

You’re busy, busy, busy. So is your staff. There are skills and competencies that they need (or want) to develop, but you don’t have the budget to send them off to some three-day training seminar. Or maybe that’s not even an option for the content or experience you’re looking to develop. Or you’ve been there, done that. What to do?! Relax! There are actually lots of things you could do, right now, to develop your employees. And many of them won’t cost you a dime. Here are five ideas to get you started:

  1. Let them fly solo. By reading books or blogs, listening to podcasts or audio books, watching educational videos on TED or YouTube, or apprenticing and trying to practice a new skill with a master or a role model, employees can use self-directed learning anytime and almost anywhere. Libraries, online resources, and other employees are all examples of freely available resources that are all around us. Let your employees assess their learning readiness and learning style, and choose some self-directed development goals to achieve.
  2. Encourage volunteering. Employees who take on volunteer roles are able to build new skills and practice existing skills in a different setting from their day-to-day jobs. They can try something that is different from their usual work and bring back those skills to their current job, thereby adding value by improving their current job performance. Volunteering usually takes place on employees’ own time and doesn’t require anything but your moral support.
  3. Facilitate mentoring. Whether acting in the role of the mentor or the protégé, participating in a mutually-beneficial mentoring relationship (within or outside your organization) allows employees to develop a variety of new knowledge and skills and takes no resources (except a little bit of time). Employees can learn tricks of the trade and technical information as well as develop ‘softer’ competencies such as leadership, networking and partnering, coaching and listening skills.
  4. Give time for creativity. Allow employees to work on something that doesn’t fall within the parameters of their day-to-day job for a specific amount of time—a dedicated “Innovation/Creativity Zone.” During this time, employees can chase down an idea, do an experiment, or conduct research. The only requirement is that the employees report back what they have accomplished during that dedicated chunk of time away from work. Companies like Google, Facebook, Atlassian, 3M and Twitter, among many others, have used this method to not only allow employees to develop their own creativity and problem-solving skills in a hands-on way, but to realize organizational benefits in the form of new solutions and products.
  5. Promote social networking. Employees can collaborate with others using various online tools to share knowledge, build relationships, and interact with content and with other members of the online community. Also known as Learning 2.0 or Enterprise 2.0, these tools allow learners to learn independently, more quickly, and more efficiently, and to be more productive and effective as a result. Most of the content in these systems is user generated and user rated for interest, relevance, and helpfulness. There are lots of externally available social networking platforms we all use and love like LinkedIn, Facebook, and YouTube, as well as firewall-protected enterprise network solutions like Jive, Microsoft SharePoint, and Yammer.

Additional Resources:
In my forthcoming book, Employee Development on a Shoestring (ASTD Press, 2012), I describe these and six other creative employee development methods that help you keep your budget and time investment to a minimum. Dan Pink describes the Creativity Zone idea in his 2010 book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Excellent resources on Learning 2.0 ideas and tips are Tony Bingham and Marcia Conner’s The New Social Learning: A Guide to Transforming Organizations Through Social Media (2010), Jeanne Meister and Karie Willyerd’s The 2020 Workplace: How Innovative Companies Attract, Develop, and Keep Tomorrow’s Employees Today (2010), and Jane Bozarth’s Social Media for Trainers: Techniques for Enhancing and Extending Learning (2010).
What are ways you’ve developed your employees’ knowledge and skills without spending an arm and a leg? I’d love to hear your ideas, stories, and questions in the blog comments below!

*Photo by Alan Cleaver via Flickr Creative Commons

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Five Steps to Great Technical Training

September 19, 2011 11:00 by L&D Community

Contributed by Sarah Wakefield, Author of Technical Training Basics

Technical Training can be hard to create. Course developers are doubly challenged: they must complete all the regular challenges of writing and putting together courseware, but they must do it by using words and concepts they don’t fully understand. And this is just one obstacle they may face. Among other things, constant updates in product offerings and changes in best operational practices can leave them confused or frustrated. It is no wonder that many technical training projects fade into oblivion or never get finished on time.

However, not all hope is lost. Technical Training Basics explores strategies available to streamline technical training development. Some of these tactics include:

Create the right development team – Of course this involves selecting the subject matter expert (SME) that’s right for the job, but it also includes making sure that you as the developer also focus on a few things – namely, communication skills.

Start the project off right – Asking the right questions is important at the beginning of a technical project. Sometimes irrelevant technical content is included in a class because, well, no other content seems to exist. This doesn’t make it right, however. Technical Training Basics explores how to ask questions to your SME to lead you to relevant and valuable content and it also offers suggestions for internal and external sources of information.

Effectively work with your SME – Yes, we are returning to the communication theme again. Many of the strategies mentioned in the book are really targeted communication strategies. Learn about the different ways you can effectively work with your SME – everything from explaining project roles to preparing your SME for the pilot course.

Make your course interactive – Just because you have a highly technical topic doesn’t mean that you have to have a highly boring course. Like any good training design, technical course design should include exercises and activities to support your course objectives. Suggestions and ideas for exercises are included in the book.

Hang in there! – Technical training development is not for the faint of heart. Common challenges and solutions to technical training development are discussed in the book, and you will find that a lot of what makes you successful as a developer is your own ability to problem solve, communicate and persevere.

Technical training development is always going to have its challenges. But with a little focus and preparation, you can be successful in your projects and produce a valuable end product.

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Tips for Effective Cross Cultural Emails

June 10, 2011 10:35 by Kristen Fyfe

Here's an interesting post from Maureen Rabotin, author of the ASTD book, Culture Savvy. As business becomes more global, the need for effective communication becomes critical. Maureen's got some great tips on how to make sure that thing we all take for granted - email - is used to its best advantage when communicating with international colleagues.

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ASTD 2011 Interview With The Change Book Authors

May 25, 2011 09:15 by jllorens

We spoke at the International Conference & Expo with Change Book authors Mary Stewart and Tricia Emerson. The two talked about culture, getting executives aligned with change initiatives, and why it's all about the research.

Q: Let’s first scratch the surface: Visually, The Change Book is a very unique business book. How do you feel this look and feel help to drive home your ideas and strategies?

Mary: One of the big principles that we explore in the book is taking the learner’s point of view. One way to think about that is that we’re talking to people like ourselves, but we are also talking to people with a variety of learning styles. And we asked ourselves, what would we want to read if we were reading a business book about change. There are different kinds of people with different perspectives, different cultures and styles of learning. How do we incorporate both of those things: What do we want from a reader's perspective?

So we thought about that and we came up with a couple of different things: First of all, we are busy. So we don’t have a lot of time. If I start to read a book that’s very linear in fashion and it's 300 pages long, I might not feel as though I've gotten what I should get until I’ve read the 300th page. So that might be an investment of time for me.

So we wanted a book that delivered content in small packages—each chapter is something you can literally open up, read (each chapter is probably 3 pages long), and then you can close the book, and you’ve gotten something from it. Another thing is, we know a lot about some things and not others. What we thought about with our book is that maybe we want people to go directly to the topic they want to learn about. We want people to go directly to the table of contents and say, 'For the questions I have, I want to look at this chapter or that chapter, and maybe that’s all I need for now.' And they can skip the ones that they feel they have a handle on already.

Tricia and I are both visual learners and so we didn’t want to rely too heavily on words. We wanted to layer the content. All people learn on different levels. Maybe some people are persuaded more by stories and metaphors. Some people (like us) are persuaded by visuals---if I can imagine the four quadrants of a model in my head, then I can remember it, and I can teach it. But if I have to read everything in a narrative form, sometimes it doesn’t stick as well.

So we tried to layer these things: words plus visuals, plus stories, plus metaphors, plus tools you can use. So maybe one of those ways appeals to you, and that’s what resonates with you. We also need the ability to transfer knowledge to others so that we have something we can take away, and a lot of words on a page doesn’t really facilitate that.

And finally, the last thing that we need at the end of a long day is something that’s grim and dry. So we try to make it kind of fun. If I’m reading a book about work, after work, I don’t want to feel like it’s more work! I want to feel engaged and have something that cheers me up. We wrote a book that we liked!

Tricia: I think that if something is fun, the ideas will resonate. We wanted to be not only playful, but deep, and based in research. The challenge was that people already know a lot about this topic, so we said, let’s challenge them by capturing those ideas in a way that is playful and fun, but meaty.

It would be easy to dismiss the book as a 'puff' piece because it is so visually pleasing. But because it is grounded in evidence, that was the fun part: Making the hard work seem fun. That’s what expertise is: Doing something really complicated and making it look easy.

Q: You insert a bit of Jungian theory in the book in terms of “archetypes.” What inspired you to connect these ideas in writing about culture change?

Tricia: As world-class 'nerds,' we’re always looking for research and seeing what comes out of the universities. There was work being done by a woman named Carol Pearson out of the University of Maryland. She latched onto her ideas as she was doing work with CAPT (formed by Isabel Myers who was administering her surveys from there). What I thought was compelling was that she was working with PR firms taking the research around stories and around Jungian archetypes and associating it with brand. The reason why archetypes are so important for change is that stories define who we are as people.

I can define myself as a caregiver, or jester, or a hero, and you’re going to know exactly what I mean. So it goes primarily to who I am as a person. Carol was saying that organizations have similar story lines. If I tell you that I work for Google, you’re going to make some assumptions about me. If I say that I work at Apple, you’ll say I’m a creative anarchist, and wear black t-shirts to work [laughs]. There are assumptions based on that brand. That's compelling because it attracts people whose personal stories resonate with the brand story. That’s how culture comes about.

So whenever you start to implement a new change, you have to be aware of the aggregate of all those individual stories and how that plays out from an organizational standpoint. People often come to me and say ‘I want to change our culture.’ And I’ll say first of all, 'Why?' And secondly, I get them to understand that they are changing the course of a river. So there has been 'water hitting those rocks' for many years, and the truth is that that organization was created by a lot of people gravitating  toward the story that it projects.

So If I am going to go there and change the culture, I’d better know what that story is, and if I’m going to work within that culture, I need to understand the overriding culture and the substories. And if I want to implement change, I'd better bring some dynamite, and I’d better build some dams. It’s better to work with the course of the river than to try to reroute it!

So I think it was a perfectly logical extension on the Jungiuan work into the culture arena. I think we in the profession need to be thinking very hard about that.

Q: Harnessing the right kind of people power is a huge part of change undertakings, so how can change leaders combat the dreaded competing silos in shaping their initiatives?

Mary: There’s a finding in sociology that people can be motivated by a superordinate goal. That means a goal that affects everyone, that is compelling and that is more important than the goal of one's own group. One thing we talk about is not shying away from the pain of the current state of an organization. In thinking about moving from state A to state B, organizations don’t like to use negative messages that say, 'things are going to be bad if we don’t change,' and they say instead, 'things will be a little better if we do change.’

We recommend that they do say those difficult things because that creates the difference between that terrible future we don’t want and the great future that we’re all moving toward. So that can create a really compelling sense of urgency in their organization so that they stop competing with each other and instead compete with 'the world' as a group.

Tricia: It’s base-level. You see what people call “the common enemy” … that’s an expression of the superordinate goal. Essentially, what we’re talking about is executive sponsorship. Leaders have to be aligned. Often,  the first thing we do in embarking on a large change is to put the executives in the same room together and have them come up with the four words that define what this change is about. This is basd in political science and political commnication. We get them on message. Because if they are not in agreement, it’s not going to happen. It has to happen at the very beginning; at the very top.

Often, what companies do in a change initiative is create communications (slides or memos) for their executives. But when you meet that executive in the hallway, they’re not on message. And it doesn’t come from the heart. People look to the senior executives during changes, and if they’re not talking about it, people are going to assume this is a flavor of the month, and they’re not going to pay attention. So the upfront conversation has to be about why the status quo is no longer acceptable.

Systems theory tells us that we don’t change until the current system no longer works for us. We have to be clear that the current system is broken. People don’t want to say that, but we’ve got to get executives on point with that. Second, we need to say 'this is what the vision looks like'---the 'shining city on the hill.' It has to be graphic. Then we show them the first steps. This is why we equip them with those four words.

Also, groups self-correct. There are unspoken rules that are created when people come together. This is the concept of emergent norms. This is also true of cultures---unspoken rules. People eventually come to understand what’s correct and what’s not. And they behave accordingly. When you pull the executives together and have them come up with these messages, the norms come out. This is all grounded in research.

It’s time for us to start employing these principles in trying to have an impact on our organizations. We tend to start with the learning solution, which is great because that’s how you sustain change. But it’s really about behavioral change first, and how you get the system to work to your benefit.

Q: In a sentence, what is one pearl of wisdom you’d like your readers to go forth with after reading The Change Book?

Tricia: HPI and change management is a field of discipline that requires study. People need to read more research!

Mary: Change is hard, but don’t be afraid of the negatve stuff because you can make it work to your advantage.

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Telling [Still] Ain’t Training: Interview With Harold Stolovich and Erica Keeps

May 22, 2011 18:00 by Ann Pace

To mark the release of Telling Ain’t Training: Updated, Expanded, Enhanced, Harold Stolovich gave an informal author chat at ASTD 2011 in Orlando, where listeners enjoyed activities, listened to the personal experiences of the authors, and got the chance to ask their own questions about the second edition. Stolovich and Keeps spoke with The Conference Daily after the event and offered some insight into what’s changed and what remains solid in the classic learning book.

Q: How has world of technological innovations impacted the Telling Ain’t Training models?

Technology hasn’t affected Telling Ain’t Training models at all. We’re more focused on how people learn and the triggers for learning than the delivery mechanisms. Technology is the delivery mechanism. As such, technology can improve efficiency of instruction, but not the effectiveness of learning.

Stolovich: The key thing is that frequently, we substitute the means for end-thinking. Technology is a means for increasing productivity and efficiency with fewer errors. Technology does all that. But when you choose outputs poorly, you’ll get the learning efficiently, but you won’t get what you’re looking for. For example, organizations buy large technology systems with libraries of e-learning courses, or they try to save money by delivering to learners’ desktops rather than them all travel. But the libraries they purchase may not be totally appropriate to the jobs people do. This turns people off, and we see that completion rates of these courses are very low. Another problem is that the environments of learners’ desktops are not always conducive for learning. They may be in an office where workers need to be on the phone selling. Who will give them time off (or will they even give themselves time-off) to actually take the courses?

So technology gives us delivery and access means, but what’s provided maybe inappropriate or boring, or the conditions don’t give learners the opportunity to use it. One banking company planned to deliver e-learning directly to its branches so that part-time employees didn’t have to come to a central location for training. Sounds good! But the problem was that the managers (trying to save money) only brought these part-timers in during peak periods when there was no time for training; or there weren’t terminals available for workers to learn on because they were being used for other things. Additionally, the environments just weren’t conducive for learning—they were overloaded with noise, confusion, and interruptions. In our book, we talk about the potential things technology can do, and the realities show us some enormous discrepancies. So what a training vendor might tell you is possible, in your environment, may not be. In other words, you have access, but you don’t have bandwidth.

Q: What’s new in the 2011 edition of TAT in terms of what we understand about human cognition and knowledge retention?

Keeps and Stolovich: There have been numerous discoveries since 2002 in the neurosciences. Some of these confirm or add weight to what we know, and there are others that modify our knowledge of learning.

Many critical new findings support what we wrote previously about how we learn and process information. And some of what we know about what it takes to retain knowledge by attaching new learning to things we already know—analogies, mnemonic devices, mental engagement—these have changed. More and more, neuroscience, and specifically, very refined neuroimaging, allows us to see more concretely how humans process information. For example, with short-term memory, previous studies showed that we can remember seven, plus-or-minus two, chunks or items at a time. This is what we believed for roughly 50 years. But more recent studies show that this number is actually closer to four chunks unless we do something with the information coming into our short-term memory. If we keep it stagnant, we can holder fewer than we thought before. We also used to believe seven plus-or-minus two was a static number for everyone. But there is evidence of individual divergence, and expertise may affect the number that you can hold on a particular topic as well. So it’s more varied than we believed before, but also more modest.

Also, many have been drawn to ideas about the right versus left brain hemisphere. The research done on it even won a Nobel prize. But in retrospect, the original researchers have noted that the study was done on people in whom there was some pathology, illness, or damage done in the brain. When we look at normal people, the right-versus-left principle doesn’t seem to hold true. There is much more fluidity of interaction between the right and left brain. Each hemisphere supports the other in a much more complex way than the simplistic view of “right brain=creative” and “left brain=logical.”

We also now see some specific differences between men and women from a physiologic point of view in brain structure. A recent study pointed to six of these differences. But from a functional view, they don’t seem to be important. Although there is evidence in one area—the listening area. Apparently, language and listening is done in both hemispheres in women, but then tends to be more localized in one hemisphere in men. And this may have some impact. But it’s all a bit dodgy. You take a bit of science and then generalize. What we are finding is much more refined. It’s the same with learning styles and sensory modes. There are endless varieties of tests for what sensory mode is yours. Yet, what seems to be the accumulated evidence is that these tests aren’t stable. It’s also the same with enjoyment. Some think enjoyable training means better learning. That’s not substantiated by the literature anymore, and a great deal of evidence shows that its not so. It’s probably more so that how well you do in your learning generates more enjoyment of the learning. These are new things and there are many many more explained in the book.

Q: “Trainers” aren’t the only ones relied upon to impart knowledge. How can people such as line managers, for example, use this book to make an impact in employee performance?

Everyone trains. And there is a lot of training that goes on in an on-the-job fashion as well. We can divide trainers into two groups. There are professional trainers, and most of their job is associated with training others or creating instruction and using it to train others. And then there are those whom we call occasional trainers, who are brought into the training realm to deliver some form of learning. They may do it once or twice a year, or once or twice across their entire career. The book’s original 5-Step Model, which then continues in the second edition, can be used for multiple situations—one-on-one, informal, as well as formal training. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a classroom of seven or a thousand. The size is not relevant to the model itself. Then, the activities presented can also be incorporated, for almost any aspect of skill and knowledge development, and appropriate to small groups as well as large ones.

And we must not forget that the Beyond Telling Ain’t Training Fieldbook is really a guide for how you can incorporate the principles of Telling Ain’t Training into your organization in a planned way, moving chapter by chapter in terms of what you can do to own these principles and make them work for you. It allows for the kind of adoption and adaptation that one would expect when you bring them into different organizations in different places on the path to becoming more learner-centered and performance-based.

Stolovich: There are several messages in the book for managers. First, training does not equal performance improvement. It may be necessary but it is never sufficient. Second, it is in the active engagement of trainees that learning occurs. It is important that managers not cut these out in an effort to save time. Also managers must remember to work with those whom they ask to train to “do it right.” We know that expertise does not produce learning in others. On the contrary. The greater the expertise, the greater the distance in the way that experts and novices process information. A final caution to managers: Don’t rely on technology to produce superior training results.

Q: Can you tell us about one specific update/expansion/enhancement from the 2011 book that excites you the most?

Keeps: The Technology Section with two brand new chapters. The first chapter addresses the underlying fundamentals and considerations for integrating technology into total learning systems. The second is more pragmatic on steps to take and also resources and types of technologies you can use. Certainly, given the timeframe, technology has had its impact, and these sections help us to understand what it all means and how it will affect us gong forward.

Stolovich: There is a deep commitment on our part to continuously search the research to support or modify what we present in our book. While it is unobtrusive, we provide a real treasure trove for any reader who wants to dig into a particular topic. The endnotes and references were based on nearly two years of study and investigation. Thank goodness that there now is an index that allows readers to quickly locate specifics of what they are looking for.

Q: Any thoughts to share in closing?

Keeps and Stolovich: Doing a new, updated, expanded, and enhanced edition of Telling Ain’t Training was both fun and difficult. Human learning doesn’t change much in 10 years, but our world sure did!

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Help Write a Book! ASTD Author is Looking for Social Learning Tips, Tricks, and Tools

May 10, 2011 15:52 by Kristen Fyfe

Darin Hartley, author of 10 Steps to Social Networking for Business is writing a new book on social learning and wants the input of learning practitioners who are using social learning every day. Here's Darin's message:

I am working on a follow-up book to 10 Steps to Successful Social Networking for Business (ASTD Press, 2010) called: 101 (or so) Tips, Tricks and Tools for Social Learning (ASTD Press, 2012). The market is saturated with books on social media and networking in general, but there are fewer books available on the practical application of social learning. Many of you are interested in leveraging social media for learning…but aren’t sure of some of the capabilities of the technology or your own capabilities to implement. You want to use the technology but might not be clear on some ways to harness the power of these systems to help support learning readiness in your organization. This book will be full of ideas (101 or so) for lots of ways to implement aspects of social media into your learning and performance programs.

In the spirit of these technologies, and because, I believe that real-world practitioners, like yourselves will have the best, most practical tips, I’m reaching out to you for your input. Please send me your social learning tips, tricks, and tools—I have created an intake survey here:

The survey can be used to gather contact information and the highlights of the social learning best practice you want to share. The best part of this is if your input becomes part of the book, you will be recognized in the book, as well as receive a copy after publication!

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What You Need to Succeed & The Change Book

March 23, 2011 12:45 by Kristen Fyfe

Written by: Maureen Bridget Rabotin, CGEC, author of Culture Savvy

In The Change Book, authors Tricia Emerson and Mary Stewart bring to the surface the underlying currents of culture that, if not understood, bring conflict to communication and resistance to change initiatives.

Culture is the result of implicitly learned values, beliefs and assumptions that teach us how to behave – “how we do things around here.” By revealing the intricate elements of culture, Emerson and Stewart do an excellent job of simply stating that when taken into consideration, culture becomes the added value not the detrimental difference. Just as with positive psychology, change initiatives need to not only look at what is not working but what we want to do differently while being attuned to what makes the system stable - the cultural foundations in place.
Through repeated and reinforced behaviors, subcultures are adhered to in exchange for recognition and rewards. Being alert to these cultural influences keeps us focused and aligned. In turn, new consistent behaviors replace the old and no longer true ones as organizations seek to succeed in today’s gyroscopic world of globalization. The Change Book underlines the importance of being culture savvy.

This blog is cross-posted on The Change Book blog.

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ASTD Press releases new book that promises excellence in internal consulting!

March 10, 2011 15:13 by Tora Estep


“I don’t get no respect” could be a catchphrase for an internal consultant—but not anymore. A few days ago, ASTD Press published Consulting on the Inside, 2nd edition, and once internal consultants get their hands on this book and start applying its lessons, they will get respect in spades.

How are internal consultants different from externals? Well, let’s look at external consultants first. The external consultant—often perceived as having a lot of expertise, experience, and credibility—is brought in by senior executives to “facilitate a client-requested change without having the formal authority to implement the recommended actions.” He or she is often viewed as an objective outsider, someone who has a lot of broad business experience and knows all the latest and greatest business thinking. Often he or she is viewed as a hotshot who is trusted by the executive team to fix an organizational problem.  

Internals, however, sometimes seem to lack credibility and aren’t taken seriously. They can be viewed as having an agenda, as not being objective. Also, they lack the broad business exposure that external consultants gain as part of their everyday work. 

However, internal consultants do some advantages externals don’t have: They have deep knowledge of the organization—its culture, its lingo, its history, the ways things are done—which can give them an edge in getting projects off the ground because they know who to talk to and how to make things happen.

In Consulting on the Inside, 2nd edition, Beverly Scott and B. Kim Barnes provide all that an internal consultant could need to leverage their advantages and minimize their disadvantages. The book provides an eight-phase consulting model that allows for the often nonlinear and iterative nature of the internal consulting process.

One of the new additions to this second addition is a section devoted entirely to the interpersonal skills that are required for success in internal consulting (and in business in general). The skills that B. Kim Barnes brings her considerable experience and in-depth knowledge to include influence, negotiation, innovation, change, and team effectiveness.

And finally one the real values of the book are the tools provided both in the hard copy and on the web. These include meeting agendas, self-assessments, processes, models, flowcharts, and more.

So read the sample chapter at the Consulting on the Inside webpage, pick up a copy, and get some respect!


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