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Welcome to The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, where we talk about embracing joy in the workplace. I’m JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink, an HR consulting firm, and with me is my good friend and co-host Susan White, owner of Susan Tinder White Consulting.
Our topic today is “Investing in Employee Development – Your Competitive Advantage.” In a white paper from Harvard Business Review titled “Create a Culture of Learning,” they identified five critical strategies around developing this type of culture. Susan, I thought we would list those top five and discuss, but before we get into that, I’m curious. How do you learn best and how do you like to learn?
Hmm, I think I do best by hearing it first, and then I love to see it, and then I actually like to do it. So I’m a person that if you want to tell me something, that’d be great. But if you give me a chance to, like, watch it on a YouTube video, go back look at it later, I love lectures, because i’d love that, hearing it first. And then I just love any type of experiential training opportunity you’ll give me, so let me get my hands dirty. Let me really practice what it is that you’re teaching.
Yeah, yeah. You know, I learned early on, even back in college…my best friend had the same major. We were both accounting majors, and she always wanted to study together and work together to prepare for exams or homework or whatever. And I learned at that point how well I learned by teaching someone else. And I felt like it gave me a way to articulate it out loud to someone else, and I think that’s why I enjoy training and teaching so much now, because it forces me to understand it in a way where I can explain it to someone else.
That makes great sense. I think you’re right. When you’re going to teach, you’ve got to know it inside and out, and I think you keep learning it right over and over every time you teach it. Right?
Yeah. So let’s talk about those five critical strategies from Harvard Business Review. So the first one was to personalize learning to the employee with an engaging experience and learning resources aligned to the employee’s interest and skills development needs. Now, that might seem sort of obvious, right? Like, why wouldn’t you? But of course, a lot of our corporate training is not done that way. Right? And it’s difficult to think about, if you have lots of people in your organization, how will you individualize that for every single person on your team, but here’s some ideas they had. Consider content that covers a lot of different areas, helping people with getting better at their day-to-day tasks by acquiring a competence that’s just emerging as a new need, keeping their eye on a longer range career prize, you know, maybe if I get through this training, I can get promoted, or I’ll have the opportunity to be promoted. But just having a wide range of content that…that people can choose from. Of course, making it actionable. You mentioned that for you, Susan, you want to be able to apply it. And having them have an opportunity to put it to an immediate use. The sooner we can use our learner…our learning, the better off we’ll be.
They always say use it or lose it. Right?
Right. And then also think about just different types of content – maybe you do a quick tip sheet, maybe it’s a long article you want them to read, maybe it’s a podcast, or something in writing – so that people can choose different ways to learn that material. And the last one is if we can connect it for the employee or have the employee connect it themselves to personal goals that they have, that will help to keep it top of mind for them.
Yeah, I think that’s very smart. You know, even compliance training, which feels like in every industry, every business, we’re doing more and more of it, right? And people tend to get this fatigue. Oh my gosh, every year, I’m going to have to say I’m not going to steal or I’m not going to, you know, do money laundering or whatever it is.
And I think it’s important that you always let people know why this is a critical component, why it relates to you and your successful career path. So great points.
The second critical strategy from this article was make learning a habit by putting resources in place to help employees make learning a habit, not just an occasional event. I think this is really smart, and I think, as an employer, if you believe that you’re going to promote an environment of lifelong learning, you got to be ready to pony up and make sure that you are continuing to bring new resources forward. And it could be that you have a subscription to the Harvard Business Review that you make available to everyone through your website. Maybe it’s LinkedIn learning, you go ahead and pay for it so that your employees can can freshen up as new soft skills or technical skills become available. You want to make it easy for learners to access what they’re interested in.
And it doesn’t have to be super expensive. You don’t need a huge training staff to do it, although you certainly could. Or you could bring in outside consultants that could be part of your regimen of bringing fresh, interesting, relevant resources. But you could also do things that are videos, articles, tips. One of the people who used to work at Purple Ink, Erin Brothers, recently was talking about the fact that she hosts…I think it’s a book club every month for a particular client she has, she does consulting…she had done consulting with, and isn’t that great? I mean, buy a book for everybody on the team and then get together and talk about it once a month.
I think that’s super healthy.
So figuring out tools that make sense in people’s really already busy schedule, but you as the employer, you make that statement that you’re going to be doing lifelong learning here and ask them, what is it that you want to keep learning and growing in and how do we deliver it?
Love it. Critical strategy number three is to get social with learning by building a community that shares learning across the enterprise. I love this one, not…not that is a new revelation. But just really in articulating the importance of this concept, really, and I think how we learn from our peers and managers and mentors and teams sometimes as much or more so than a traditional L & D format, even thinking, you know, I think about how many times I text articles that I see on LinkedIn or I share an article on LinkedIn with other people, and we can learn so much just from that, how we collaborate on all types of social media or certainly blogs of things that can start up interest or result in conversations about a particular topic. So I think people are looking for opportunities to share learning with each other.
Yeah, I know that you often recommend books that you’ve read.
Yeah, I know, I love that you are…I feel like you’re my thought leader out there seeing what’s coming in the world of work. Alright, so strategy number four is create effective learner-driven experiences to accelerate learning adoption and build required skills. And what this article went into about this was it’s about figuring out for your employees…helping them figure out, where are my gaps in the career path that I want? And then how do you, first of all, help them identify those gaps, not only figure out their gaps, but then figure out the learning path to fill in those gaps. So I was part of an organization one time where we kept hearing on our employee engagement surveys that people felt there was nowhere to go. And the company that I was the Chief HR Officer for, we had 5,500 jobs, and we could never fill all these jobs. And there were so many places to go, that people felt so married to the job they were in. So if I’m in credit, I could never be in sales. If I was in sales, I could never be in credit. And so we spent a lot of time working with people in the job, working with management to figure out…what are the competencies needed in all of these jobs and how do we provide learning resources to help people fill in what they don’t have? And so we actually, like, plotted out paths, communicated it, we put it on our website, and then we started highlighting people who had started on these paths and where they ended up. And I think it really shined a light on it. And I think that’s what this means here. We’ve got to help define learning paths and get people excited, engaged in the ones that interest them.
Yeah, I love it. And the last strategy is to measure the traction and take action to ensure that learning is effective and your learning investment is optimized. And I think, you know, there’s been a sense for many years that…I mean, it’s difficult, right? It’s difficult to measure that learning directly. But yet, lots of different things we can do to benefit from data, right, to incorporate as much data as we can to ensure that we have individuals with needed skills, so that they understand what they need, as you talked about, Susan, having those defined competencies, right, so that people know a way to measure the competencies and whether they have them or not. But we have to also understand whether that program has traction. You know, are people choosing those particular classes? Are there active users? Are there new adopters? Are there return visitors? Are people recommending…maybe there’s an evaluation score, as we know from using Yelp or things on Google, people are attracted to things where other people have evaluated them. And are they popular by those? Is there social interaction? Are people talking about those or sharing those, as well? So lots of different ways you can think about measuring the return on the investment of those as well.
Our guests today are all about creating a culture of learning. Jenny Budreau and Michelle Baker from FORUM Credit Union have joined us this morning. Jenny is the Chief Operating Officer for FORUM Credit Union and is responsible for all aspects of talent acquisition, support, and development, as well as for service delivery through their branches and call center teams. Jenny will soon celebrate her 36th anniversary with FORUM. She’s a graduate of both Ball State and Butler University, so Jenny chirps and barks. If you’re from around here, you know Ball State are the Cardinals that chirp, and Butler is the Bulldogs, who bark. Michelle Baker is the AVP of Organizational Development at FORUM, and she is the voice of the popular blog Phase (two) Learning. She serves as a national advisor for chapters with the Association for Talent Development and also serves on a local ATD chapter board. Her first book, “Talent GPS: A Manager’s Guide to Navigating the Employee Development Journey,” was published in 2017. We invited Jenny and Michelle as experts on this topic today, because FORUM was once again recognized in Training Magazine’s top 125 in the United States. FORUM is very focused on training and development and invests a great deal in their people.
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So Jenny, how does FORUM measure the value of employee development?
Well, we look at development in a lot of different ways. I will say that it’s a…it’s a component of our annual business plan, so definitely, it is a key objective for FORUM, and in fact, this year, I think we had two different key business plan initiatives that were focused on employee development. One about launching a new revised leadership development program, which, we’ve had an ongoing leadership program that Michelle might be able to talk about a little bit more, but we’re relaunching a new program. And along with that, kind of re-kickstarting our Emerging Leaders Program. So we measure our progress, we share that business plan with our employees, and our board of directors approves it. And so it’s a key initiative, and so that’s…kind of tells you a little bit about the importance of it. And we measure our progress on it for achieving those development objectives as we move throughout the year, but we also probably specifically, with regard to the value, we look at a lot of feedback from employees. And that feedback can come in the form of just some informal conversations with team members to tell us what they like or what they need or what they found to be valuable, what helped them to perform better in their roles. Sometimes it’s surveys. We use SurveyMonkey to provide some feedback on what employees would like and what they find valuable and what works for them. And exit interviews. Employees who have left, they’ll provide some some feedback to tell us what they found to be a value or what we missed or what we could have done more of for them. But then the internal promotions and transfers that we have, that’s a really valuable measurement to us with regard to how employees are perceiving opportunities to grow and continue to develop in the organization. We think that internal transfers help us to move knowledge from one space across the organi…organization to another. And so many of our team members who work throughout the organization got their foundational pieces in a…as a frontline member, advisor, or teller in our branches. So we’ve got this really great foundation of products and services and knowledge and member service, and they spread out throughout the organization, and it’s great to have fans of our retail team that understand what rolls into helping our members throughout the organization. But that…really that internal transfer, that promotion tells us a lot about the value that employees place on development and opportunities to continue to grow.
Yeah. I love it.
I love it, too. How many employees do you have, Jenny?
Altogether, 365. We have about a third of those folks, not quite a third, that work in our branch locations, which are around the greater Indianapolis area with 13 branch locations. And then we have another about 25 to 30 that work in our member services call center. And so those folks that are branches and our call center, they comprise our retail delivery team, the folks that work hands on, face to face, voice to voice with our members. And those individuals are key to providing success for the credit union. So that’s a big group of our folks and that’s where a lot of our employee development occurs.
For an organization your size, I am so impressed that you have a leadership development program.
And an Emerging Leaders Program. Tell me a little bit about your executive leadership team. Like, why did they put this high up so that it’s part of your strategic planning, it’s obviously part of your budgeting?
Absolutely, yeah. And I will say, along with that, too, we have seven professionals on our organizational development team, which for an organization with 360 employees to have seven folks…
It blows me away. I love it!
Yeah! That’s huge.
It’s strong. It’s strong. Yeah. Well, I will tell you…so, I kind of cut my teeth at FORUM. I’ve been with the credit union for almost 36 years, and I helped to start our training program at FORUM and our development program. When I first began, you spent about a day kind of filling out your paperwork, and then you were on the job training with somebody else. And so somewhere along the line, after my career moved along at FORUM, we saw the value…I saw the value of what it meant to actually learn before you just started to do. And we’ve just kind of…we’ve grown from there. And I’ve been fortunate that I could build that…that belief in organizational development among my peers. And so, yes, we participate, the executive team participates in talent development. The very first day an employee walks in our doors, our CEO, our CFO, and the other three of us that are part of our executive leadership team, we spend time with those employees. The first half of your day is with us, including lunch. And all of our employees, our new employees, give that feedback to say they’re blown away by that, that the CEO, who’s…our CEO, Doug, is very down to earth, and he’s very approachable, and he gives a tour of the facility…well, he did prior to COVID, walk around the building. Yeah. And just very real with employees so that they know who’s leading the organization and what’s important to us from the very first day. So when you have executive team members who are part of that employee development and we’re participating in it, I think that just sends the signal of importance throughout the organization.
And Jenny, you have so many things to be proud of. And, I mean, all of the things you you just mentioned are really amazing. And especially…they’re amazing for any organization, and especially for one your size. But what are you most proud of with regards to the performance and development of the teammates and of the overall organization?
It’s kind of a tough question, JoDee, you’re right. There are so many things that I am proud of. Training Top 125 is such a great achievement. Being recognized as a Best Place to Work in Indiana for almost…for, like, the last decade, we’ve been on the list. I think most of all, I’m just really proud of the collaboration and the flexibility and the adaptability that our organizational development team has, and our organization as a whole, with regard to how we embrace change in learning and development and communication across the organization. And probably a great example of that for me, about…not quite two years ago, we went through a mainframe system conversion, and this was big for us. We’d been on the same computer system for almost 40 years. I was kind of hoping I’d have my whole career at FORUM and never have to. But we we actually ended up combining four systems into one, and so this impacted every single employee. Our talent development specialists worked day and night to develop programs and systems and online training and classroom instruction and so many different opportunities for people to learn that, but our number one goal was that on day one, when we flipped over to that new system, our 160,000 plus credit union members really wouldn’t know that we’d gone through this huge change. And we pretty much met that goal. And that’s because we worked really hard to make sure that folks had an opportunity to learn things, grow, and that set a really great foundation for so many people who maybe hadn’t bought into training or who thought maybe development wasn’t as important. I think anyone who was here at that time understood the value of what our development programs were all about, because we…it really was pretty seamless. It was really…I think there were an awful lot of members who had no idea that this big conversion had happened.
Well, I know our listeners can’t see me. But I swear half of my gray hair is going through systems integrations and all of that, so I say kudos to you for doing it flawlessly and doing it right.
That’s very good.
So Michelle, I’d love to ask you a few questions. The first one is the fact that you’ve been recognized in Training Magazine’s award of Top 125, plus, you’re consistently achieving Best Places to Work. What elements do you think that the organizational development programs actually provide that maybe contributed to these honors?
Yeah, since the Top 125 is measured on both quantitative and qualitative factors, it has always been really important to us to balance the business impact with creativity and innovation. And I think there’s a few different elements that really helps set them apart. Number one, and Jenny alluded to this a moment ago, but FORUM’s ongoing investment in employee development. Jenny and the rest of our executive team, they just demonstrate unwavering support, certainly financially, but also, as she mentioned, they show up, they participate, they’re a big part of our program. And that top down buy-in sends a really strong message that FORUM is just a great place to grow and learn and develop a career. I would say into that is talking about innovation and creativity, but the variety and the depth of the programs that we offer for every employee at every stage of their career. So from that employee’s first day in the door, for connections, which is our orientation program, clear through providing training and development opportunities for managers and senior leaders and really everyone in between, there…there is something for everyone and just a variety of methods and resources. Some are on demand, some are scheduled, but just a wide variety and depth to that for anybody.
Michelle, can you give us some examples of some of the different types of training you have?
Yeah, absolutely. So I mentioned orientation, which is for all employees, regardless of your path, we have three sort of concurrent programs or tracks that run with our orientation program, depending on your destination in the organization. So we’ve got a plan for everybody when they start, but we follow a whole person development sort of mindset, where there’s a focus on that FORUM skill and development. So system training, compliance training, which is big in our world, with financial services, learning who we are as an organization and where your place is in that, but also professional development. So developing our leaders, we have a manager development program. It’s a cohort called Peer to Peer, where it truly is driven at the peer level, managers sort of supporting other managers, as well as emerging leaders that meet regularly and are developed kind of in place. And then we have, in addition to sort of the in-person training, we also do a lot with personal development. So we have online resources, on demand videos and courses. And even right now, like, as we’re recording this, we have a virtual Excel training that’s happening right now just to give some tips and tricks for beginners getting started, and we did one recently with Outlook to help people stay organized and think about how to manage tasks and priorities, especially right now when things are a little crazy.
And do you have someone internally that’s facilitating that or do you bring somebody in to do that?
We do. The majority of our work is done in house.
Oh, that’s great.
As Jenny mentioned, we have a large team. And so they’re very talented and creative, and they do the majority of the development and delivery of our content.
Yeah, so impressive.
I know a lot of our listeners are HR professionals as well as business leaders, and I think that we all envy being recognized by a national publication like Training Magazine. Tell us a little bit. Like, how much time do you spend on getting that recognition? Is it a body of work, or is it now they know who FORUM is, they’re all over you each year?
No, every year it is. It is a body of work every year and nothing shy of a dissertation, I’ll be honest.
Michelle puts in a lot of hours to do this.
There’s a lot of hours. And I mean, it’s certainly a team effort, from the development of content to writing the application to pulling data to put into the application. Just this last year, the application was, I think, 60 pages long.
Oh my gosh.
Closing in on 40,000 words or something like that. It really does take months to do. It’s not for the faint of heart.
But it does…it demonstrates your commitment to training, first of all, and I…What a beautiful message to your employees that you…A, go through the effort, but B, that you’re recognized for doing this right.
Makes good sense.
Yeah. You know, I had a friend ask me last summer shortly…shortly before the application for last year was due. And he asked me…I think he was interested and just wanted the lowdown on the application process. And as I talked to him, you know, asking him about, well, what would you include, and what are you currently measuring? It was clear, there was about maybe six weeks before the deadline, it was clear that they weren’t quite ready. But you know, I said, download the application, look through it, talk it over with your team, because the exercise of just reviewing what you do and asking yourself, why does this matter?
You know, where are we at? How does it measure impact? It’s tough, but it’s eye opening. Yeah, so even if you don’t have the intent of hitting the submit button, it’s certainly worth exploring. And, you know, when we first applied and we made the list, you know, you don’t know what you don’t know. We were just thrilled to make the list. And so every year, we’ve tightened that up a little bit, we’ve…our evaluation has gotten a little bit better, we’ve been able to pull a little bit cleaner, better data that really tells our story more effectively, you know, with data. And, you know, it’s important to note, just, we don’t…we do it for FORUM first, Top 125 second.
Because the whole point of it is to make an impact on our business, on our employees, and ultimately to serve the members of FORUM Credit Union. The Top 125 is wonderful. It’s a great recognition, it’s a huge honor and something that’s really special, but at the end of the day, you know, we’re doing it to make FORUM a great place to work.
I want to come work there.
We are hiring.
Michelle, when you talked about tightening it up every year, that has also been reflected in your results, I think, in that you have climbed up the list or…or do you say climbed down the list? Because you’re…
I don’t know what to say.
…higher on the…you’re lower numbers, which means you’re better, right? So, yeah.
Where were you this most recent year? What number?
Wow, that’s fabulous.
Yeah, we were thrilled.
So I think you sort of answered my next question, which was going to be…Why do you think companies should participate in these types of programs? And I think you’ve answered at least part of that by saying it’s…it’s not about the award. It’s about how you can get better internally. But other thoughts on that, too?
Yeah, you know, I think…and Top 125 is certainly not the only one out there. There are different programs that certainly measure different things, and I feel that it’s a question that you have to ask. Are you trying to make an impact? And if so, how are you doing it? And you know, at the end of the day, if we’re not aligned to our business goals and objectives, none of it really matters. And so it starts…Jenny mentioned that before that we were part of that business plan in some way, shape, or form every year, and finding that correlation or that link between what is going to move our business forward and how does learning or organizational development…how does it help? You know, is it employee retention or engagement? Is it improving performance? It’s, honestly, it’s all of the above. But knowing where we contribute, and then if we can put that into an application, that is just the icing on the cake, especially when it’s recognized. So if there’s an organization out there that’s wondering, should I…should we do it, you know, do we have something that could be recognized, you know, we’re doing some cool stuff. Take a look at, you know, if not Top 125, I know ATD has great awards, Brandon Hall has some great awards. SHRM, I’m sure, does other awards, as well, you know, just looking at those organizations and seeing where…what they’re measuring, it puts you under the microscope, which only makes your strategy and your programs better. Even if you never go through with applying, it’s just…the process is is really special and eye opening.
Yeah, what I like about that is that I think we all recommend doing our own internal needs assessments, right? On the training front, on employee relations, all different fronts. What a great way to do it, because when you have to answer those questions and hold yourself under microscope, it’s…I think it’s a great way to have a tool to assess how well are we doing?
Yeah, the Top 125 in particular has a very specific focus on the Kirkpatrick models and that…that methodology for evaluation, so level one, level two, level three, level four, and so having a good understanding of that, you have to really prove every program that you do, but also every method that you employ, has to contribute to those different levels and ultimately working toward business outcomes. So if you can’t prove it, why are you doing it?
And so it’s a challenge to stay on top of that. And it also makes you have to push back sometimes instead of…training sometimes falls into that order taker mode, hey, we need training, we need training. Okay. Are you trying to check a box? Are you trying to improve performance? And, you know, knowing the questions to ask to guide people if training really is the answer, or maybe something else is the right solution, and just having that credibility in the organization to say that, the courage to speak up and be that voice.
Right, well done. So Jenny, you you mentioned, or you both talked about also being winners of the Indiana’s Best Place to Work awards. Do you think these awards have gone hand in hand? Have what you’re doing with regards to learning and development helped you with the other awards and, again, even bigger than the awards, just truly creating a Best Place to Work?
Absolutely. I think they go hand in hand. A couple of the questions that are on the Best Places to Work survey specifically ask employees if they feel that they have as much initial training as they need and if they feel that they have as much ongoing development as they need. And so it is…a part of one is a part of the other. Because we are developing our staff, we become a Best Place to Work and because we are Best Place to Work, we develop our staff, so I truly do feel like they’re in partnership.
Yeah, very nice. Well done.
While recording this, this is May 2020, and we are in the middle of a stay at home order where we happen to be, in the United States. What types of development program changes did you have to make or maybe create in response to COVID-19?
You have to remember, we are an essential business, and so, as a financial institution, we have not closed our doors. Our branches have continued to operate, through the drive up, primarily, and by appointment in our lobbies. It happens to be, at this particular time, an extremely low mortgage rate environment, and so our mortgage lenders have been extremely busy. And of course, there’s been this commercial small business loan program that’s been developed by the government, and so…by the SBA, and so our commercial folks have been swamped. Our call centers have handled a record number of calls and chats and texts and so forth. So in all of that, it’s not been a time that we really have had capacity to necessarily have a lot of employees having opportunity to attend any type of development, because we’ve been so busy for all of this. However, we have had a few things, and I think Michelle could kind of address some of those things that we’ve done, how we’ve continued to keep that train moving along.
Yeah. You know, it’s certainly been interesting, that’s for sure. You know, all year, it’s funny, because even before COVID, and, you know, everything that’s going on, I’ve been talking with my team about the importance of demonstrating the value of L & D before we’re asked to defend it and not resting on laurels. Hey, we got this Top 125 again, number 16. Aren’t we great? Keeping it humble and saying, now more than ever, we have to continue to demonstrate our value and show our worth. And now here we are in the global…middle of this global pandemic, and, you know, that has never been more important.
And what we have found is, it’s important to pivot and prioritize and just keep an ear to the ground of what’s happening in the organization and looking for those opportunities to add value and do things that are meaningful. It’s not just about, we got to do it for the sake of doing it, because as Jenny said, there’s not a lot of bandwidth for that right now in some parts of the company. But where can we add value and add the most impact now in our current state? One example is, and this was really exciting for me, is our orientation program is a wonderful program, and it is primarily face-to-face, and it’s several days long, and it’s very robust, and we’re very proud of it. But right now, you know, being in person and having, you know…it’s challenging, and so we needed to modify that temporarily. And one of the things that we’d wanted to do was to create some supplemental online content to use, but it’s always been one of those “nice to have” projects, we never really had the capacity to build them out. But we had a couple of new employees that had very time sensitive start dates, and so we made the time and we created a series of on demand tutorials that give an introduction and a foundation to our core operating system, the system Jenny referred to that we converted a couple years ago, and we’ve been able to employ that as a component of our modified orientation program right now. This is wonderful. It helps us right now. But it’s also going to yield long term results for us, because now we can use those modules for on demand refresher and remedial training well into the future. So it’s been, in some ways, a gift of time, that we’ve been able to shift gears and look at some opportunities where we can make some updates and change some…change some of our content around to make it even better than it was before.
It was great learning about your organization. Thank you so much.
Yeah. Well, well done. Great information that can help our listeners in thinking about their own learning and development programs. And just an opportunity to rethink about how that impacts your entire organization, and also the importance of having that support from the top down. But congratulations on your awards, and thanks for sharing with us today.
Yeah. Thanks for having us.
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We have another guest today, Ann Godmere. Ann, welcome. JoDee and I know you as an instructional designer at the Society of Human Resource Management, SHRM, and we know you as a wonderful person to work with, but we would love to learn more about you, so thank you for coming today.
Thank you for having me. It’s so nice to be with you ladies.
Do you mind giving our listeners a little bit about your background? What have you done professionally, and what brought you to SHRM as an instructional designer?
Sure. So I have been in training and development for the past 30 plus years, and specifically as an instructor…Instructional Designer for 20 years, and I have a master’s degree in instructional design as well. So from my experience, it’s sort of all over the place. I’ve worked in the corporate environment, Federal Government, the association or nonprofit world, and I’ve had my own business as an instructional design consultant. I’d say that I created training on numerous content topics. Just to name a few to show you how broad it is…HR, of course, being with SHRM, but I created a course on how to administer tuberculosis drugs in third world countries, how to operate machinery in a plant that produces windshields for Ford products, and sustainable best practices in building development and maintenance. So those are just a few of the topics.
You must think you’ve died and gone to heaven when now you get to talk about HR!
When you get to train on that.
Wow, I love the variety, Ann.
Me too. It’s, um, that makes it fun, you know. As a designer, once that light bulb moment goes off and you’ve worked with a subject matter expert and you’re starting to understand the content and you become what I call the mini-expert, that is the most fun. It’s just really fun to become that mini-expert on the content.
Wow, I would think that you must have a real love of learning to spend all these years in instructional design and to keep learning about all these different industries and whatnot.
I do. I love to learn, you know, since I’m not a spring chicken, when you hear something new or learn something, it’s so much fun. I love that. I love learning something that I know nothing about. But to go back to your question, I currently do work for SHRM, and have for about two and a half years, and I’m a boomerang employee. So I worked for them in…I think I started back in 2006, and then left and had my own business, and then came back to them. So it’s a it’s definitely a full circle event.
Ann, speaking of things new, what do you see as some of the current trends in training?
Well, you know, like everything else, right, there were trends coming upon the scene and then COVID hit. But before COVID, I went to this…I was thinking about this just yesterday, I went to this amazing conference put on by Training Magazine, and the trends breaking out at the time – this was in late January of 2020 – were, everything was going to empathy and just design thinking and designing from the heart and using more joyful colors, and it was very interesting how the whole conference was about this, so it was so uplifting. The keynote speakers were incredible. But there was a lot about self care and humor in training. But of course, humor, right, you have to be very aware of your target audience, because you don’t want to…some groups find humor funny, some don’t, depending on the humor. So we did a lot of improv classes there for exercises. It was really fun. So there was this overall, this emphasis on returning to kindness and civility, that, you know, culturally, that that also filtered down to training. So those were the things that were happening then. And that conference was less about things like AI and AR, artificial intelligence and augmented reality. That was there, but that wasn’t the theme, and it was very interesting, because I attended some of those sessions and, man, the cost of that is so incredibly high that I think a lot of orgs and designers, those without a ton of money for training, are going away from that and kind of going back to more simplistic, kinder, empathetic approach. Then, of course, COVID hit, right? And so everybody focused on triage and getting everything they had into a virtual environment. And I’ll tell you that it surprised me, because I did…I wanted to give back in some way, so I did some pro bono work with some associations, trying to help them get up to speed on virtual. And I was surprised at how many didn’t have any of it, and how we had to start at step one. So at SHRM, we were very lucky, because we had to transfer folks in from in-person classes to virtual, but as you two know, because you’re two of our great instructors, we were able to do that pretty quickly, because we’ve been doing it for a decade. So we really felt good about that and that we were kind of on the higher curve, you know, than…than many. So I met a lot of great people through that, but some other trends after that, you know, personalized learning or needs-based learning is big, micro-learning, blended learning, more asynchronous and more expert-based reviews, like having the students create or go through a capstone activity and having people like yourself, subject matter experts, review and talk to them about their answers and help them if, you know, if they didn’t understand the concept. And then there’s, you know, things like coaching with actionable steps. Same thing, with people like you, the experts help them with that. And then adaptive learning with the algorithms…algorithm, excuse me, based on your answers, point you in the right direction of where you need more training. And then lastly, soft skill is very big again, right? And that ties into all this empathy and well being and kindness and all of that. So some soft skill examples are communication, leadership, emotional intelligence, problem solving, interpersonal skills. So those are all on the horizon. I was doing some research for this and I saw a statistic that said 75% of your success in your job will be based on your soft skills. So there’s a return to that.
I like that. That’s…gives me hope.
Yeah, me too.
Me too. I really…I really, really like that. It, you know, it was different when there was such a low unemployment rate, but things have changed, so. Changed quickly. Yeah.
I’m hoping that employers are going to realize even though the job market is tilted now more in their favor, with so many people unemployed, that these trends just make such good sense, because treating people right is never out of style. It’s never out of date. And if we can train people to be better people, and more balance back in the workplace, we’re all gonna win. So let’s hope this persists.
And if your corporation, if your, you know, employees trust what you’re doing, they find that leadership is trustworthy, is kind, and treats them well, then your engagement goes up, your productivity goes up, your bottom line goes up. So it’s a win win. And I think we got away from that for a bit. So I’m glad we’re kind of back there.
I know you’ve mentioned about AI and AR and augmented reality, this stuff is very, very expensive. Are you hearing about any other technology or digital breakthroughs happening on the training front that may not be as costly or may not be as complicated that you think HR professionals or business leaders would be interested in hearing about?
Yeah. So in fact, at SHRM, a colleague of mine is developing a course in the digitization of HR…sorry, it’s a word that doesn’t come easy for me, so I’ll say it slow. So, you know, just like, remember SAP back in the day in the late 90s, early 2000s, where everything was a centralized hub of data so you didn’t have anything not talking to each other. So it’s the same with HR, but also with the training and development items, like in a learning management system or content management system. So all that data will talk to each other so you can get more same space training data. And so those are the things that are really on the horizon, that are being talked about more, and as I said about folks not really having a virtual environment ready to go, there are lots of organizations that haven’t even begun to start this. So I know that SHRM’s new course in it takes your level into mind and then tells you how to go from whatever level you are. So I think that’s where all the data talks to each other, workforce planning, individualized training needs, of course, all these meld together and upskill the employees, they become more engaged, and, you know, that all flows into higher production, etc.
Sounds like lots of opportunities and lots of individualized options for people and organizations, which is great.
Yes, very much. So there’s a lot, and it’s always changing and evolving. That’s a good thing about training, too. It’s sort of, you know, in many ways, the last thing that HR thinks of. It’s sort of the last arm of HR, really. It…Sometimes it felt very separate, but it’s a very important part of it. And there’s there’s a lot there for everybody and always changing and evolving.
Yeah. Well, and anything else with regards to training that we didn’t talk about today that you’d like to share with our listeners?
Well, I think I’d just like to say for those budding instructional designers out there, people who want to get into training that, you know, it’s a really great field, it’s…especially instructional design, because you’re needed during times of high employment or times of low employment, during crisis, no crisis, your skills are always needed. And it is a certain, you know, set of skills that you learn over time and become better at and, you know, the reason why people hire ISD internally or as a consultant or contractor is nobody wants to do it, right? Because everyone thinks it might be easy, but when you get into it, each program is a very big job. And so people just say, oh my god, I don’t, you know, I don’t want to do this. So I just…just for those out there, that it’s a great field to be in.
Well, you’re a great representative of the field, and we love working with you.
Oh, thank you.
Well, thank you.
I love working with you two! Thank you.
JoDee, our listener question today is “What HR metrics are the most powerful today in day-to-day HR Business Partner roles?”
Yeah, so great question, but unfortunately, I don’t have a solid answer to that one, because it really just depends on what is most important in your organization. Right? And that might change over time. It might change year to year, and it might change quarter to quarter. If one of your strategic goals, for example, is to reduce turnover, then turnover statistics are going to be really important. It might also be reducing your time to hire, or increasing the amount of hours of learning and development for your employees. So lots of different things we could measure. But I do think…one thing, I’m always fascinated by this topic, because I think that there is sort of a mindset at times of what metrics should be. For example, if we talk about the time to hire, a lot of organizations are focused on reducing that number, like, we’ve got to hire people faster, which can be a goal, but it can also create a problem if you’re rushing to get people in faster and not taking the time to go through the proper channels or get enough people to interview them or use an assessment tool or do a background check or whatever your purpose…process might be. So just simply saying we’re going to reduce the number of days to hire is not always a good strategy. I know I worked at one organization where my goal was actually to increase our turnover.
Which most people don’t think about, but our turnover was so low that we were actually creating a bottleneck at our manager level where they didn’t have any room to grow, and we needed to really rethink about…did people have the competencies, or were they performing at a high rate that they should be promoted, or was it time for them to move on from the organization? So there’s no magic number on metrics of how high or low they should be. The important part is to connect to them with the overall goals of the organization.
Yeah, I think that’s very true. And don’t measure things that don’t matter. And so if there’s things out there you’ve always measured, I think sit down with the business leaders and say, here’s what we’re tracking. How are you using it? And if you’re not using it, both of you should say, I could…there’s better things for both of us to be doing than talking about these numbers. Some of the ones that I see are pretty popular, and it just depends on the organization, the industry, so on and so forth, but I think are worth considering if you’re thinking about starting metrics, I would bounce off the leaders…how valuable might it be to figure out source of hire tied to productivity? So where are we finding the very best candidates that are ending up performing the best? And I think that it takes a lot of work. It takes a, you know, partnership between the business and the HR staff to really figure that out. How are we going to measure productivity? And then let’s trace it back to where do we find these people? So I want to go to the well I get the best results. If it’s employee relations that you’re responsible for, I think it’s important to really be tracking where do you see common themes, common issues popping up, and making sure that you’re feeding that back out to the leadership team. And then you’re figuring out, what do we do to get ahead of these trends? You know, we’re seeing a nasty trend in XYZ presenting itself and it happens to be in this part of the organization. Let’s do some planning some work to figure out how do we stem the tide? On the diversity and inclusion front, I think that if you’re an affirmative action employer, it’s really important to be tracking how are we doing against our affirmative action goals? And if even if your your business client says that that’s not important, you know, I think it’s important to educate them on why it is important that we are tracking how we’re doing, let’s not just look at it annually and figure out…do we make progress? Do we not just set the same goals? Again, that’s not truly living it. And then finally, I think if you’re paying any kind of incentive compensation, I think it’s worth exploring. Should we be tracking how our incentive compensation is tying to the revenue we’re producing or the productivity? I think you as the HR strategist ought to be insisting and demanding that you can show that correlation, or you want to rethink your incentive compensation program if it’s not being tied to seeing lifts in revenue or productivity.
Yeah, love it. And for our listeners, if you need some additional resources or some ideas on HR metrics, you can go to shrm.org, S-H-R-M dot org. Even if you’re not a member of SHRM, there are some free resources and articles out there on HR metrics.
In our in the news section, one of the most anticipated employment decisions of the year came out in June of 2020 when the Supreme Court found that an employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch said an individual’s homosexuality or transgender status is not relevant to employment decisions. That’s because it is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual basis of sex. This particular ruling provides a much needed clarity and finality on the court’s interpretation of Title VII’s protection, which gives us much more clear guidance and a greater opportunity to create a world of work that works for all. One of the reasons I wanted to share this particular item, although this was really big news when it happened, I wanted to remind people to think about updating their employee manual for this. So if your employment policies don’t already provide for this non-discrimination, be sure and update them to explicitly include those groups.
Good idea, and it was such a great day in America.
Yeah, yeah. All right. Thanks for listening today and make it a JoyPowered® day.
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