Bridging the Performance Gap: Training is Just Part of the Solution

Posted by Reni Gorman on Jul 1, 2010 11:11:00 AM

by Reni Gorman

I have been designing and delivering learning interventions for nearly 20 years (dare I say), and I always tell my clients that the learning intervention is just the start of creating change in behavior. There are many other components and models but I boil it down to the most necessary:

1. Goal setting—people need to know what is expected of them. Sounds simple? Too simple? I agree and yet many people do not even consider it. I have seen this assumption so many times. We as learning professionals know better than to make assumptions. Help your clients check their assumptions! All you have to do is randomly ask a couple of learners. If goals are not clear then depending on the level of behavior change needed you can address it multiple ways:
    • The easiest and the simplest is a communication strategy and plan, however that is only for simple changes, like learning to use new software.
    • If, on the other hand, you are changing your sales model, a pretty important and difficult change, you need a change management strategy and plan.
    • Finally if you are totally reengineering the way people work because of, for example, a merger (not uncommon these days) then you need a new or adjusted performance management strategy and plan in addition to a change management strategy and plan.

2.  Learning intervention—I think we all have this one down!

3. Reinforcement and feedback—As we all know, learning is a process, not an event. Therefore, there always has to be some reinforcement and feedback to truly affect performance. This could manifest in:
    • Providing short snippets of content to remind people what they learned, as well as,
    • Setting up informal learning opportunities such as a social media site,
    • However, what is MOST IMPORTANT is manager coaching and feedback. I have heard clients tell me that while the training program their employees went through was great, they ended up going back to their day-to-day and doing the same thing they did before. Why? Primarily because the managers did not reinforce the new behavior. In some cases the managers did not even know what their teams were taught so they couldn’t reinforce the behavior if they wanted to. Without including managers the learning intervention weakens over time and information learned is forgotten. (See Wikipedia’s explanation of the forgetting curve.) Finally, remember that managers are also responsible for setting goals—see #1 above. Therefore getting the managers onboard is key!
So, the lesson learned, to use L&D lingo, is: make sure every one of your training plans at lease considers these topics and ask your clients the tough questions. They may not understand and resist at first, but you will start them thinking, and that, is the first step to recovery.

Topics: Performance Improvement, Organizational Learning, Talent Management

How to Train an Executive: Quick, Relevant Content and Meaningful Conversations

Posted by Rich Mesch on May 27, 2010 6:15:00 AM

by Reni Gorman and Rich Mesch

55 and Older Execs Don’t Like Training

reni gorman 092412Reni: I read an article on The Economist titled: Executive education and the over-55s: Never too old to learn. The focus was about the trend that older executives are shunning corporate training. The reason? To put it bluntly: They are sick and tired of going and sitting in training. Why? Many assume they will not learn anything earth shattering, while others just don’t have the patience/time away from their job. Training has to be “worth it”. The article goes on to discuss what does work, one being sending executives to prestigious schools. They won’t go to internal executive training, but they will go to external training at reputable institutions. Why? Probably because they feel like they will really learn. So, it is not really that they don’t like learning, rather they don’t like corporate training.

The Generational Lie

RichM 001Rich: I attended several learning conferences this year, and at each one, I heard some variation on this message: it's time to get past old school training models, because the generation of 20-somethings entering the work force don't learn that way. We need social media for the 20-somethings, because that's how they learn. We need virtual environments for the 20-somethings, because that's how they learn. And every time, I wanted to scream from the back of the room, "HEY! I'M A 40-SOMETHING, AND I LEARN THAT WAY, TOO!"

Where on earth did we get the notion that because employees of a certain age have greater exposure to "traditional" learning methods that we like it better? Or that we're somehow resistant or techno-phobic? Every generation has its share of resisters, but most of us like trying new things, and we especially like making good use of our time and being successful.

55 and Under Don’t Like Training Either

reni gorman 092412Reni: I don’t know about you, but all of the above applies to me and I am not yet in the over 55 category. Perhaps the under 55s “fake it” better and at least show up to training but most of the time don’t you want to run screaming? I know I do—and I admit that even though I am a learning and development professional. Yikes! What does that say about most corporate training? I also know when I go to internal training events I am antsy and can’t wait to get out and go back to work, but I am attending graduate school at Columbia University’s Teachers College and, most of the time, once I get there, I really enjoy what I am learning and am really focused and “present”.

Henry Mintzberg and the Role of the Manager

RichM 001Rich: The driver behind the article in The Economist is researcher Henry Mintzberg. I might have guessed that we'd find Mintzberg at the bottom of this. Mintzberg did a groundbreaking research many years ago about what managers actually do each day. Prior to his research, there was a general belief that they sat in big offices, smoked cigars, and made big strategic decisions. Mintzberg followed managers around for weeks and recorded everything they did. Ultimately what he found was that a manager's day is a series of meetings, most of them 5 minutes or less, and that they are generally focused on dozens, if not hundreds of things at once. For us today, that seems pretty obvious; but when Mintzberg originally did the research, it was startling, since it didn't fit the perception of the role. He effectively changed the perception of management, and a lot of the way we perceive management now can be traced back to Mintzberg. Glad to see he's still trying to change our perceptions.

So How Do You Train an Executive and What is the Role of Training?

reni gorman 092412Reni: Short bursts/chunks of training, making content really relevant to the workplace, and learning from peers such as through mentoring and communities of practice. I don’t know about you, but when I read this bells went on and my experience and intuition said: YES, but not just for 55s and older—for the rest of us too! At the end of the day we all want the content quick and relevant, and the conversations (with peers and SMEs) meaningful. We learn from each other best and most of all. My first thought when I am stuck is to ask a peer and/or expert. The content snippets are just an appetizer. So, what training professionals could best do is provide the short snippets of content and help put learners in situations, where they can have the conversations. Mentoring meetings, communities of practice gatherings are perfect for such things. Perhaps give people a learning guide to spark the conversation and then let it go where inquiring minds want to take it and learning will surely flourish. 

What does this come down to? Highly interactive, excellent, out of the ordinary instructional design. It is possible, just ask yourself: would I run screaming from what I am designing or would I get into it? Be honest with yourself and great design will flow and flourish too!

Topics: Performance Improvement, Learning Theory, Leadership, Talent Management

Attributes of Effective Coaching: Coaching Appreciatively

Posted by Rich Mesch on Apr 26, 2010 3:46:00 AM

Coaching is one of my favorite topics to research and discuss. That might surprise you since I’ve written the majority of my blog entries on transformative learning; however, there’s a distinct synergy between the two. Think of coaching as an enabler of the transformative learning process. Coaching can be a catalyst for personal perspective transformation.

Yet, the focus here is firmly on coaching—more specifically, the coach. My manager asked me yesterday to share my opinion on why some individuals don’t make effective coaches. I cited the propensity some people have to “tell” versus “ask.” Some coaches struggle with asking powerful and probing questions. But these were my opinions based upon my study of the topic and experience as a coach; I wanted more time to chew on his question some more and synthesize my thoughts.

In the end, as I look across the literature on coaching and recount my own personal experience, I’d have to say that it appears to boil down to the coach’s approach to the coaching relationship.

Approach 1: If the coach approaches the relationship intent on addressing the coachee’s gaps or weaknesses, then problem-solving becomes the main goal of the coaching interaction. The relationship is built on addressing the coachee’s problems or deficiencies.

Approach 2: If the coach approaches the relationship intent on having the coachee reference past achievements and capitalize on key strengths to achieve a vision for success, then positive change becomes the main goal of the coaching interaction. The relationship is built on positive exploration in service of meaningful change.

What approach is more motivating and inspiring? What approach is more likely to lead to sustained change?

The second—and more positive—approach to coaching appears to be more effective in eliciting individual and organizational change. The evidence is well presented in the text Appreciative Coaching: A Positive Process for Change. Its authors are scholars and experienced consultants in the area of organizational development who have built a coaching model on the core precepts of Appreciative Inquiry. As one of the authors aptly states, “We get more of what we focus on.” Therefore, it would stand to reason: Focus on problems, get more of them. Focus on positives, get more of them.

So, to answer my manager’s question, which is what provoked this blog entry in the first place: Effective coaches are ones that adopt an appreciative approach to change and coach to possibility instead of deficiency.

Topics: Series, Performance Improvement, Coaching, Leadership, Talent Management

Talent Intelligence

Posted by Rich Mesch on Dec 3, 2009 4:35:00 AM

by Sherry Engel

I recently read an article titled Talent Intelligence: Cut Through the Chaos. So much of this article resonated with me. As learning professionals, we have started to talk about measuring the impact of learning.  However, as performance consultants, have we considered the overarching value of talent? This article discusses how to develop a strategy that answers two questions.

1.  What are we trying to impact and improve?

2.  What talent levers can be triggered to affect the desired outcome?

The article examines a Talent Intelligence Framework which when implemented helps organizations more strategically align their talent for business results. 

So how does a company begin implementing this framework? The article outlines the following five steps:

1.   Identify client stakeholders with talent decisions to make.

2.  Beg, borrow, and steal people with sufficient analytic and performance consulting competencies.

3.  Keep HR and non-HR stakeholder’s engagement through the talent intelligence life cycle.

4.  Standardize metrics and analytics definitions.

5.  Pick the most cost-effective tools to deliver metrics and analytics to stakeholders that need them.

Check out the full article!

Topics: Performance Improvement, ROI, Talent Management