Thursday, May 30, 2013

HR Manager: I Don't Need Big Data, I Have a Feeling

In this Forbes piece by Josh Bersin, he cites the Deloitte Human Capital Trends 2013 report to urge HR professionals to think like Economists when it comes to talent issues in their organizations. In other words, when thinking about how to address an organization's talent issues, an economist would look at talent as a supply and demand issue. An economist would proceed to solve any talent issues by tackling the demand side and/or the supply side of the issue.

Economists are also data driven (as are most scientists) in that they prefer to make decisions based on the presence of evidence. In this case, an HR  manager would say, "Before we spend all this money on conflict management training, let's find out specific negative effects in the organization of this 'so-called' poor conflict management."

Instead, most managers say, "I just had two managers in my office yesterday complaining about how their people don't know how to get along. We really need conflict management training around here."

This reminds me of the recent announcement by the United States Golf Association that they will ban belly putters. I am only a mild golf fan, but when I read the reason for the ban, I winced. Golf Traditionalists think like HR professionals (and not like economists).

Here are the two reasons that USGA president, Glen Nager, gave for the belly putter ban:

Reason #1:
Intentionally securing one end of the club against the body, and creating a point of physical attachment around which the club is swung, is a substantial departure from that traditional free swing.
Reason #2:
Anchoring creates potential advantages, such as making the stroke simpler and more repeatable, restricting the movement and rotation of the hands, arms and clubface, creating a fixed pivot point and creating extra support and stability that may diminish the effects of nerves and pressure.
OK, reason number one is fine with me. As far as I am concerned, anyone can have any reason they want for making a decision. If the USGA wants to make a rule that says that the club, any club, must be swung freely, then fine with me.

It is reason number two that I have a problem with; specifically the part that reads, "anchoring creates potential advantages." 

First of all, what is wrong with creating advantages. I can create an advantage for myself by practicing more hours that you or by being more fit or by hiring a better coach or because I grew up living on a golf course in Arizona with rich parents and private lessons my entire life.  Should the USGA ban rich parents because they create potential advantages?

Second of all, the USGA does not say that a belly putter actually creates advantages, just that it might? It might? Maybe? Who knows, but that's just our guess?

Really? That's your argument? 
What bothers me is that the USGA can choose to know precisely whether a belly putter creates advantages for a player. And it has all the data it needs that a college freshman math major could tell you exactly whether there is an advantage. And they could do it on a Google Spreadsheet for free.

All they would have to do is compare the number of puts per round of players who use belly putters and of golfers who do not use belly putters. The number of puts is collected for every player on every tournament during the PGA gold season. So there would be sufficient data to run a reliable test. 

If the data shows that golfers who use belly putters make (statistically) significantly fewer puts per round than golfers who swing their putters freely, then we could conclude (with reasonable confidence) that belly putters create an advantage.

But the story gets worse. The USGA president goes on to say that:  
What matters here is whether, by diminishing obstacles inherent in the traditional stroke, anchoring may advantage some players at other times. Statistics are not necessary to resolve that issue.
Sounds like an HR manager to me. "We don't need to look at employee complaint data to know that we need conflict management training."


I think the USGA president should just say, "You know they say, 'there are only three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics.' so we're going with our gut on this one."

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

How to Increase Participation in Social Learning

The problem with social learning and virtual learning environments is the difficulty in creating an environment in which people feel like they are part of a group and that people get a reasonable feeling that other people are also present. Without this "presence," a virtual classroom (virtual learning or social learning environment) is just another e-learning course in which an individual learner takes in the content on a one-on-one basis (whether by listening to a presenter in a live ILT session or reading slides in an asynchronous e-learning session).

Golden Present Jewellery Box with Bow Isolated
I said, "Presence" Not "Presents."
There can be no doubt, and most of us know this from personal experience, that the face-to-face interactions we experience with peers and instructors in training classes contributes to our experience. In face-to-face training, it is obvious to see that others are present. In fact, in social presence theory, face-to-face interactions rank highest in terms of presence. 

This "presence" is more difficult to achieve in e-learning (whether social learning or in virtual learning environments). Certainly virtual classrooms and virtual learning environments (and even enterprise social networks) make presence easier to achieve. But it takes deliberate design to achieve. And I think social presence theory sheds some light on how LX Designers can improve social and virtual learning designs.

Social Presence Theory

Social Presence Theory dates back to 1976 and is well-accepting is academic distance learning courses as a means for creating a sense that other students (and the instructor) are present in the course. Social Presence Theory (Short, Williams, & Christie, 1976) shows the degree to which learners are perceived by peers as present. 

Why is this important? Because higher levels of social presence is related to higher levels of interaction? 

So what? 

While it does not reach the level of a like to performance, as us HPT'ers would like, social presence theory can help instructors address a common problem of improving learner participation. 

In a 2002 study, researchers showed a positive relationship between social presence and online instruction. Well, that is good news. The study also noted that social presence is not about frequency of participation. Social presence is about a social context, online communications, and interactivity. In other words, are there productive social relationships among peers, can participants operate the communication tool, and do participants interact with each other in an effective manner. 

There is much more to be written on this topic, namely how LX designers can use social presence to increase learner interactions in virtual and social learning interventions, but I thought I would provide some food for thought here to get your juices flowing.

I think this topic is worth pursuing. What do you think?


Short, J., Williams, E., & Christie, B. (1976). The social psychology of telecommunications.

Tu, C.H., McIssac, M.. (2002). The relationship of social presence and interaction in online classes. The American journal of distance education 16(3). 131-150.

How to (and Why) Produce High Quality Audio for E-Learning

This post was originally published on the Daily Mindflash blog. Included here is the lead and a link to full post.

Let’s get one thing out of the way right from the start and answer the question, “Should you use audio narration in your e-learning courses?” Ruth Clark, author of E-Learning and the Science of Instruction: Proven Guidelines for Consumers and Designers of Multimedia Learning, answers this question clearly when she recommends that you should have all speech as audio rather than as text on the screen, especially when describing a visual of some kind. Clark offers a wide variety of evidence to support this recommendation in her book, which is a must read for anyone who designs e-learning.

[Read More]

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Want to Use Feedback As a Development Tool? Ask, Don't Tell

This post was originally published on the CornerstoneOnDemand blog. Included here is the lead and a link to full post.

The honest truth about performance feedback in business, as I've observed it over the years? Typically, it's been a top-down process used simply to satisfy requirements for annual reviews. And usually, it's a chore that both managers and employees loathe. When I joined Accenture in 2008, however, I discovered a slightly different way of running the feedback process: The company had a philosophy and system that made feedback the responsibility of the individual, not the manager. In other words, if you wanted feedback, you had to ask for it.

Although I used the traditional process myself to collect feedback when I rolled off a project, I should have asked for feedback during times when I struggled or just wanted to improve. That would have been much more valuable to me than simply going through the motions of collecting feedback (usually in a rush) just ahead of my annual performance review.......

Monday, May 20, 2013

Best Practices in Delivering Training Overseas

This post was originally published on the Daily Mindflash blog. Included here is the lead and a link to full post.

One of the reasons that e-learning is so successful is that it solves a problem of delivering training to audiences that are dispersed across the country and even around the world. Our workplaces have never been more global and the more global organizations are the more scalable and efficient e-learning delivery can be. 
However, that global reach makes it necessary to consider local cultureswhen developing and conducting training. If you deliver training to global audiences, here are a few things to consider when designing and delivering your training.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Getting Sick and Coming Back

Right in the middle of training for the Colfax Half Marathon, I got sick. My training had been going very well, and I could feel myself getting stronger. Then...wham! I get the flu. And if that wasn't bad enough...I had a relapse and was bed ridden for two days. All in all, I was sick for two weeks.

If you look at the graph below of my training log, you can see fairly consistent mileage until that gap right in the middle. That's when I got sick.

I did not run for two weeks. And then I took two more weeks of gradually easing back into my regular mileage. Essentially, I lost four weeks of training.

Lessons Learned

Some good did come out of this black hole.  I learned that:
  1. This was just my body's way of saying I needed to rest. I was training pretty hard, and I think I needed the rest. Recovery is as important in training as the hard workouts.
  2. I could recover fairly quickly, if I ease back into training slowly. On my first run after two weeks of being sick, I walked much of the four miler. If I ran for too long, I started to I walked. The next day, I walked less. And so on. I told myself that I would ease back in slowly, and I stuck to that. In two weeks, I was back on track and strong as ever.
  3. My bias towards rest works to help me be more consistent in my training. My philosophy during this training cycle was run today, so I could run tomorrow.  Meaning that I should not over do it on any given day so that I could not run the next day. Consistency in training is the most important thing in training.
Looking back on that four weeks, it does not even seem like a blink. But during that period it seemed like an eternity. However, looking at the big picture, these downtimes can be over come to the benefit of the longer term goal which is simply to be a consistent runner. 

Next time I get sick or injured, I will better understand what to do to come out of it stronger than ever.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A "Smart" Consistency is the Hobgoblin of Strong Runners

Since December, I have been training for the Colfax Half Marathon. This race is this Sunday, and I have been doing two things. First, I have been resting, so I am ready for the race. Second, I have been reflecting on my training over the past 6 months as a way of mentally preparing for the race.

Overall, my training went well. But there was one frustrating part of my training. We had a late winter in Denver this year. After having very little snow fall during December and January (maybe even February), the skies opened up in March and April, and we had several significant snow falls.

Mostly, I like running in the snow. I see it as an adventure and a dress for it. However in March and April, I planned to run some very specific, speed workouts. And guess what.....most of these snow storms occurred on days when I had my speed work scheduled.

So that was frustrating. It was also frustrating that the temperature was often very cold. This screen shot below was taken on March 24. End of March at it was two degrees? Two? Seriously?

But guess what....I went out for a run anyway. Here is a shot on one of my go to routes in easy days and snow days.  It's like my favoriate fishing spot on the Truckee River in California or the Madison River outside of Ennis, Montana. I am just not going to tell you exactly where it is.

On snow days, I wear my trail shoes. Brooks Adrenaline ASRs. They grip the road like Bridgestone Blizzak snow tires. 

Since I am from California, I have not grown up running in the snow. But I soon discovered that wearing glasses is just as valuable (critical) as wearing goggles when skiing in a snow storm.....just to keep the snow from blowing into your eyes. Light tint, of course.

Anyway, in reflecting on my training, I think it will be very helpful on Sunday that I went out for my runs during snow storms, freezing cold mornings, and on days when I just-plain-DID-NOT-want-to-run. And we all have those days.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

What I See When I Run On Trails

While training for the Colfax Half Marathon this winter, I spent most of my training time on dirt trails splitting time between the Bluffs Regional Trail, High Line Canal Trail, and South Valley Park. There isn't anything technical about these trails, but they are close, fun, and in the case of the Bluffs and South Valley, there are just enough hills for working on strengthening the quads with hill repeats.

Below are a couple of pictures I took on December 22, 2012 at the Bluffs. I came around a corner in the trail, looked up and say this guy.

Hmmm...should I go after the deer or that wise guy
standing over there with an iPhone.

He was pretty close, but wasn't much interested in me. Here's why.

There's a coyote nearby?
Around the next corner, I saw these white tails just hangin' out. I am no animal expert, but I don't think a coyote has a chance against deer no matter how hungry he is, which is why the deer look so calm.

Hopefully, all that running up these hill climbs will help me make it strong through the race this Sunday.

Webinar Recap: How Yammer Uses Mindflash For Training

On Thursday, May 9, Mindflash hosted a webinar to discuss how Yammer uses Mindflash to conduct training. It was a very informative webinar, and I thought I would recap some of the highlights so you can learn how to use Mindflash and Yammer together to develop and deliver training in your organization. In this webinar, Yammer discusses three challenges that it needed to overcome, what they were looking for in an e-learning authoring tool, and how Yammer actually uses Mindflash to conduct training for employees and customers.Mindflash + Yammer
Yammer is an enterprise social network used by the vast majority of Fortune 500 companies to improve team collaboration, empower and engage employees, and overall just connect different parts of companies together. Because of its rapid growth, Yammer needed to think differently about how to develop and deliver training. The following challenges needed to be overcome......

Monday, May 13, 2013

Frozen Gatorade, Numb Fingers, and a Chemist in Disbelief

This is my second installment of the series of blog posts on my training for the Colfax Half Marathon.

I started training in December 2012 for the May 19 race. December is the coldest month in Colorado. Although Denver winters are fairly mild compared to most of the country, there is always a week or two during the winter when it gets really cold. I discovered that in early December.

Now that is cold!
This was the temperature on a Sunday. I do my long runs on Sunday. And on this particular Sunday, I was planning to do a two hour run on the trails at and around the Bluffs Regional Park on the south end of Lone Tree, CO. I have run before at this temperature, but for a much shorter time. My wife wanted me to go to the gym and run on the treadmill.

Treadmill? Hogwash! I am not a fan of running inside.

The first hour was tolerable. I did dress in warm clothes, and I am a skier, so cold weather is something I am used to. However, the second hour of the run, things started to deteriorate. My hands and face became numb, and during the last 30 minutes, I was running into the wind, which made things feel even colder. I was in a bit of pain to say the least.

I was carrying two Ultimate Direction hand-held water bottles, one in each hand, which means my hands were exposed to the wind, and even though I was wearing gloves, my hands were completely numb. When I ski and get cold hands, I will pull my fingers out of the slots and make a fist in the palm of the gloves to warm them up, but because I was holding a water bottle in each hand, I could not do that.

The last 30 minutes of the run was excruciating.

When I got home, I opened one of my water bottles and this is wat I found. In the inside of the cap, iced had formed. As you can see in this picture.

Ice formed on the inside of my water bottle cap.
Early December 2012 in Lone Tree, CO.
In the top of the bottle, the water froze and looks like it was closing in on the nozzle which means if I had stayed out much longer, the ice would have closed the top of my water bottle, so I would not have been able to drink through the nozzle.

Any longer and the ice would have closed off the nozzle.
Finally, at the bottom of the bottle, you can see ice starting to form. Imagine all of the sloshing that the gatorade did as I ran with the bottle in my hand......and it still froze. As my uncle-in-law (a chemist) described it, "It must have been really cold because the definition of ice is water that does not move."

How does it freeze when it has been
sloshing around in my hands for two hours?

Yes, Gil. I was really cold.

I took the longest, hottest shower I ever took, and I don't think I warmed up until the next day.

Perhaps because I ran on days like this, I will have a great race this Sunday.

Big Race This Weekend

On Sunday, May 19, I am running the Colfax Half Marathon in Denver. I have been training pretty hard since December and have set a goal to achieve a person record (PR) of 1:39:59.

My last half marathon was the San Jose Half Marathon in October 2011. I finished that race with my current PR of 1:43:44. So, I hope to beat my record by three minutes and forty five seconds. This is an aggressive goal, and perhaps not even doable, but I have trained hard and am much faster than I was in 2011.

I am extremely excited about the race, and it is just about the only thing I can think about this week. So expect my blog posts to be about the race and about some of my training experiences since December.

Look for posts this week on how I designed my training program, frozen gatorade, chasing coyotes, getting sick, and braving April snow storms.

Create Maps or search from 80 million at MapMyRun

Friday, May 10, 2013

Four Ways to Ensure You Have Useful LMS Reporting

This post was originally published on the Daily Mindflash blog. Included here is the lead and a link to full post.

Unless you are among the fortunate learning and development leaders who does not care about tracking and reporting the training activity and results that are occurring in your organization, you likely have a beef with your learning management system (LMS) when it comes to its reporting capabilities. In fact, a recent ASTD Learning Circuits article says it best:

[Read More]

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Do You Really Want to Develop Your People? Prove It!

This article in Training Magazine is an excellent and practical example of what a manager can do to develop people on his/her team. The purpose is to train your team for life's challenges by learning a new skill oneself and then sharing that new thing with your team. If you do this, you will learn a new skill and you will help inspire individuals on your team to perhaps learn the new skill as well. 

I like this. 
Which direction will you take? It is entirely up to you.

It demonstrates to your people that you care about them…enough to share what you have learned. 

A big win for any manager.

The only thing missing is that the manager could become a bottleneck. I would much prefer to transfer the ownership of learning new skills to the individuals on the team and encouraging them to do something similar. 

Of course, by doing this oneself and sharing it, a manager certainly could inspire people to take this on themselves.

When I managed a really good, high performing team (you guys know who you are, if you are reading this), I took this approach one step further. I told everyone on my team that they could not earn the high rating on their performance review unless they did something to develop themselves beyond what was offered in our company. They needed to attend a conference, speak at a conference, attend a course, earn a credential of some kind. 

Of course, to back this up, they each had a budget sufficient enough to one or more of the things above. I removed a excuses except for ambition are drive…..which was on them. 

At first there was resistance. Over time, I believe most people understood why I took this approach. I believe they came to realize I was doing this not to put a road block to earning a top rating, but to do more than just encourage personal development. 

I gave them a clear expectation and provided the means for them to accomplish it. But in the end, it was still up to them to execute on it. Many did. And for those who did not, that was OK with me. This was an option, a choice for them to make. I respected both choices.

That was a great team.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Study: Enterprise Microblogging Reduces Information Overload

I came across a study (well, I have had this paper saved in my Things To Do list for a few weeks, and I am just getting to it now) on enterprise microblogging that reviews a series of case studies of companies that use enterprise social networks and the benefits they report.

According to Stocker, Richter, and Riemer (2012), who analyzed case studies at three large corporations, the benefits of enterprise microblogging include:
  • improved problem-solving
  • reduction of information over-load
  • improved awareness of tasks and work coordination
The benefit I found most interesting is the reduction of information overload. This seems counterintuitive. It is difficult to believe that by adding a communication channel to people's workflow (in addition to email) there would be less information that people have to deal with. 

However, as reported in one the the case studies in this paper, the microblogging functionality allows for streams of information to be posted to groups in the context of a specific team or project, rather than posted for everyone to see. This allowed project teams to see only information related to what they are work on (if they choose). It also increases awareness of team members of tasks that are being worked on and what progress is being made.

I find this study an important step in discovering a way of working outside of email and share drives that make actually help work teams to work more efficiently together, especially remotely.

The only problem I have is that these benefits are self-reported. In other words, people say that they see these benefits, when in reality they may only think they do. Where is the evidence that performance improved? 

A direct relationship between working on an enterprise social network and actual job performance needs to be discovered before enterprise social networking becomes more prevalent. 

But this study does show promise. 


Stocker, A., Richter, A., & Riemer, K. (2012). A Review of Microblogging in the Enterpriseit-Information Technology54(5), 205-211.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Inspire People To Action in a Common Direction

This is a very good article in Chief Learning Officer Magazine discussing an important topic in our field about taking our existing learning content and re-purposing and re-organizing it into smaller, more easily consumed packages, organizing learning into distinct, stand-alone components, and offering a more personalized learning experience. 
See the Future!

The article refers to these three trends as miniaturization, modularization, and mass customization.

Way back when, when I was a training manager I led an undertaking of our existing e-learning content to do something similar to what this article talks about. We wanted to "chunk" up our e-learning into short, easy to complete modules to that our audience (call center agents) would have a better chance completing product or service training during downtime.

The phrase "chunk" turned into a fun project name. We called this project "Chunky Monkey." 

The company where I worked at the time had a fun habit of naming projects. Chunky Monkey caught on beyond our little L&D team and people all over the company would talk about Chunky Money and asked about our progress. 

It was fun.

The name itself guided the project mission and provided a vision for what we wanted to achieve. That is the best of all worlds, when people on a team know the mission and have a clear vision for what it looks like in the future. 

Anyway…my advice….if you can, name your projects with a phrase that let's people know what you are working on. It will inspire people to action in a common direction.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Why I Use Get Work Done

One of the main reasons I use Twitter is because I can have conversations with people all over the world and learn great new ways of doing things in my profession.

Below is an example.

I have been working on a blog post talking about the idea of using principles of MOOCs as a learning method inside a company to develop people. I wanted to find examples of companies that are doing it. It is an emerging method, so I thought it would be difficult to find examples.

One approach I took in finding examples is ask a question on Twitter. Below is my question and a response I received.

What a great response, and I want to thank Rachel for helping me. Her example will enhance my blog post, and most importantly make more concrete a topic that is just beginning to become known to early adopters.

You can the follow the entire conversation here.

Why do you use Twitter?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Let's Review: Five Most Popular Posts in April

Here are the top five posts on the LX Designer blog for the month of April. Since learning requires reflection, I thought we could reflect on what we learned from the most popular posts over the past month. 

We all need to be careful with fads, buzz words, and opportunistic organizations selling solutions. This is certainly true of social learning, which is too often described synonymously with social media. 

I even sat through a presentation from someone on the topic of social learning, most of which was focused on consumer social services like FourSquare, Pinterest, and the usual suspects including Twitter and Facebook........

High potential programs sound so good, but are so hard to do well. Once people get busy, these programs get dumped into the abyss of "nice-to-have" programs. Selection is difficult and those meetings with stakeholders to determine the selection criteria are mind-numbing and frustrating experiences that make you want to go back to your desk and talk to screaming customers.

Certainly there must be a better way. And why are we trying to select high potentials. If someone has high potential, are they going to volunteer and self-select? Think about it, do people with high potential really need to be told, "Hey, you have high potential......"

Hey, what can I tell you...I am perhaps one of the few training professionals who has largely ignored the field of emotional intelligence as a means for developing people in organizations. I did read Goleman's book many years ago, before I was in training. I remember it being smart and interesting, but I remember reading it as an intellectual (define irony) exercise...and then I moved on. I just didn't see it.....

I found this blog post, The Future Employee Must Posses the Skill and Will to Learn, an important statement on the duality between employer and employee when it comes to training, skill, and career development.

The bottom line is that employees need to take more responsibility for learning the skills they need to perform their existing job and to prepare them for future jobs. Employers quite simply cannot provide everything that is necessary......

Certainly social learning is a hot topic among learning and development professionals. And we all know intuitively that people learn informally and socially, but our experience so far is that when we bring up social learning to executive management as a means to improve performance in our organization, we are met with a blank stare and/or downright skepticism.

But we know social learning, if designed properly, can improve performance in organizations, and we know that the future of learning and development interventions will include more and more social learning.

So what is the problem?

Friday, May 3, 2013

Yes! You Can Improve Employee On-Boarding with Your Enterprise Social Network

This post was originally published on the Zyncro blog. Included here is the lead and a link to full post.

On-boarding new employees is a major undertaking for many organizations. In fact, for most training departments, on-boarding is most of what it does. A lot of money is invested in on-boarding new employees, but there are staggering statistics that show that all of this time, energy, and effort is largely wasted.

For example, according to the Wynhurst Group, 22% of staff turnover happens in the first 45 days of employment and the cost of losing an employee is at least three times the salary. This means that organizations are spending thousands of dollars per new employee to on-board them only to see many leave, costing the organization even more money to replace......

[Read More]

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Important Trends in Organization Learning

I have often been asked how I stay current on trends, methods, and techniques in learning and development. I would like to say that I attend every conference and pay very close attention, but sadly, this is not the case. However, I do manage to pay attention to conference follow-ups like this video with Elloitt Masie from the most recent CLO Symposium.

Isn't it amazing that with Twitter backchannels and recorded video, we can stay somewhat current on what happens at conferences that we cannot attend in person?  

Anyway, Masie talked about four important trends that learning professionals should not only be aware of, but should be thinking about how to implement in their organizations. 

These four trends are:

Personalization: How can enterprise learning systems do what does by personalizing your learning experience at work?

Mobile Learning and BYOD: How can organizations make available learning assets to employees on their own devices in a secure and accessible way?

Flexible / Telework: How can organizations structure work in such a way that is flexible enough to enable the most productive environment possible?

MOOCs: How can organizations leverage the power of massive open online course to develop people?

I suggest you watch this video and ask yourself these questions for your own organization.