Category Archives for "Thinking Performers"

Three ways that a responsive Learning Management System supports learning

‘Responsive’, in this context, means that the software adapts to different browser and device sizes, so that instead of needing separate plugins or systems, your content will be resized and rearranged to fit all screens

The goal of responsive design is to build web-based pages that detect the user’s screen size and orientation and change the layout accordingly. This matters because frustrated users, who are unable to use their software simply and effectively, will simply stop trying!

So, in what other ways does a ‘responsive’ design support learning?

1.      It Provides an intuitive and Uniform User Experience

In my experience, and probably yours, most people accessing a web-based system reach for their smartphone or tablet. As a person who is often away from my desktop computer, I stay in touch via my phone, but I expect the same user experience as I get at home.

Responsive systems are designed to deliver the ‘best learning experience’ on every device. Responsive means that your mobile users do not have to sacrifice features and usability. This is important because so many users, myself included, use many different devices during the day. I may start a learning experience on my iPad at home, do some more on the train on my phone and complete it later on my desktop.

The bottom line is that this ensures that you get great return on your investment, as users are more likely to use your systems routinely and access your content repeatedly.

2.     Provides on the spot Support

Some years ago, if I wanted to get some support, I would have to call a hotline and wait my turn.  Today, my expectation is that I can turn to my phone and access a knowledge bank instantly. The same applies to your LMS. If you have a user who needs to ‘know’ something immediately, they will be able to access your LMS for the answers, no matter where they are or on what device.  Imagine the positive impact that has on their ability to do their job.

3. Easy to roll out and keep up to date

There are apps for everything, all needing different interfaces and build considerations. If you have an LMS, which seamlessly works across all devices, you cut down on user roll-out and training.  Plus, it will be easier to keep your users up to date. Gone are the days of device recall to make sure they work with the latest software update.  Additionally, all users potentially become your training advocates.

Investing in a responsive LMS is the best decision that you can make if you are looking for a more satisfying and consistent learning experience and greater levels of active engagement…..and you also reduce your medium and long-term implementation costs!

Why The ‘Blended Approach’ Is The Only Real Solution

The blended approach

Whenever I speak with businesses about training, there are two typical questions that are often raised: –

  1. There are so many training delivery methodologies available how do I go about choosing which would be best for my learners?
  2. How can we make the most of our investments in training programs, such that they contribute to the continuing success of our business?

What, ultimately, we need to come back to is ‘what is the business problem that you are trying to solve?’  Without knowing what the end goal is, we cannot propose the right blend of solution.  Of course, this is just the start.  We also need to know about your people; where they are, how they like to learn and how they fit into the wider issues that you may be trying to address?

It is similar to solving a jigsaw puzzle when a child looks upon a box of broken bits and then works out how to connect them to recreate the big picture on the box. The child uses an array of methods to construct the picture – colours, edges, patterns, trial and error, asking a sibling or parent. Blended learning is about finding the best blend of methodologies to enable you to make real your vision – to turn your picture of success into a reality.

Workshops are often a key element in a blend, as they enable the interaction – both planned and spontaneous – of learners.  A skilled facilitator, with a motivated group of learners, can generate great leaps forward in skills, knowledge and behaviours.  However, without both a clear goal and follow up with practice, coaching/mentoring, feedback et al, then the chance of turning the learning into action, and a permanent positive change in the workplace, is greatly diminished.  The net result is a poor return on investment and a potentially negative impact on morale.

The key to unlocking both individual and organisational performance is to create the right mix, which empowers the individual to improve his or her job performance and enables the organisation to reach their goals.  The right blend.

Re-thinking the way in which you deliver training will help you to break from the traditional idea of ‘putting on a menu of workshops’, and it will enable you to envision learning as a continual program of development, which is embedded and aligned with business objectives.

Learning, like businesses, is multidimensional.  The 70:20:10 rule tells us that most learning takes place on-the-job or through social interaction with colleagues, with only 10% of learning delivered through direct training interventions.  At a crude level, this suggests that if your training sessions aren’t formally integrated into immediate deployment, practice and feedback then they are likely to be a waste of money and resources.  When we grasp that concept, it becomes clear that all effective training requires a blended approach, in order to deliver real change and bottom line return on investment.

The world of day to day work and learning is inseparable; it can’t be any other way. We believe that learning should be embedded into every day processes and this learning should be available to everyone through a variety of channels.  This needs careful thought and careful resourcing – think less of cost-cutting and more of value adding.  Do it badly and you will waste money – directly and indirectly; do it well and you will create value – directly and indirectly.

Blended Learning is available to everyone

Blended Learning is available to everyone

Blended learning continues to catch the attention of many HR and training departments. We have always known that people learn in different ways and most learning take place on the job (the 70:20:10 principle). Blended learning has always existed, it just didn’t have this name.

If we accept that the evidence shows that learning is acquired in the following way: –

  • 70% from tough jobs
  • 20% from people in our organisation (mostly the boss)
  • 10% from courses and reading

Then, typically, once a piece of formal classroom training is over, people carrying on learning as they do their jobs, by noticing, listening, asking questions and through trial and error. They also learn from their managers, colleagues, customers, peers, and people they come into contact with.

Blended learning is an increasingly exciting concept, because we can ‘structure’ our 70:20:10 mix by utilising increasingly effective and efficient new technologies and well thought out work projects and work based activities. While this is undoubtedly the way to go, you need to ask yourself some key questions before unveiling it to everyone in your organisation:-

  • Are blended learning initiatives combining technology, learning methods and work based projects effectively?
  • Are training objectives aligned with business objectives?
  • How will you measure performance improvements?

When deciding upon a blended solution remember that the increased flexibility allows these solutions to be tailored for the individual’s learning preferences – if you blend purely from the organisation’s perspective and forget about the individual’s needs you are missing a trick. What we want is the best result, not the cheapest solution.  This gives you the cost/benefit you will be seeking.

Learning on demand means that content can be made available when the learner is available – 24/7 and 365 days per year. Yes, there will be times when classroom based learning is the necessary option – that’s fine….it’s all part of the blend after all.

Blended learning will not work unless it carefully considers the organisation’s specific needs, individual learning styles and preferences, learner capabilities and expectations, and the workplace environment.

What we propose is that organisations create an environment where learning and work seamlessly integrate and are not seen as mutually exclusive, and phrases such as “Yes, that’s fine in theory but this is the real world” are banished.

A thoughtful and responsive blended approach will turn learning into action, and employees at all levels into ‘thinking performers.

How to create the right balance

  • Assess the employee’s attitude towards learning
  • Assess the employer’s attitude towards learning
  • Assess the employees learning style
  • Create a learning culture that rewards learning and application of learning
  • Deliver the right content, at the right time and in the right way

By designing blended approaches in the context of business objectives and learner outcomes, budgets will be utilised more effectively and more learners will be actively engaged in a process of continuous improvement and positive change.

‘Learning in a virtual environment doesn’t have to be lonely’….

Learning in a virtual environment doesn't have to be lonely

There will always be those that are ‘for’ e-learning, and those that are ‘against’ e-learning, and one of these arguments against that we recently encountered was that ‘e-learning is lonely.’

Of course it could be, if what you were learning wasn’t being applied back into the workplace. All learning benefits from purpose, which helps put it into context, and we subscribe to the view that learning is much more effective when it is part of a work based project or activities.

We know and understand that to learn people require social contact and interaction. That contact can come during the learning, if say the learner has an on-line mentor, coach or an accountability buddy (someone that holds you to your commitments!).  In simple terms, someone to call to discuss their e-learning with, in the way that you would interact with someone in a classroom environment. The obvious benefits of this are that you and your mentor can arrange times to speak that suit you both, and you are not limited not just when the class is being run.  The interaction can also be confidential, and less threatening than an open forum such as a workshop.

Ways of combining work and learning strategies have been enhanced by the introduction of learning and knowledge management portals. These portals are designed to allow users to learn individually, but also be able to choose when to socially interact and take the best parts of social media to deliver ‘social learning’ experiences.

Online learning is already a vital business tool. Organisations use these amazing technologies to train on-line, capture and disseminate knowledge, and gain competitive advantage.  Technology is a key enabler in modern learning and we need to drop our prejudices and assess its value in the context of our own individual and organisational development.

 How to reduce lonEliness

  • Assign a mentor, coach or accountability buddy to all learners
  • Ensure that each learner has a work based project or specific practical deployment plan to reinforce and embed their learning
  • Make it social and encourage the use of learner and knowledge forums
  • If you have a number of individual learners undertaking the same topics, set up Action Learning Sets
  • Reward staff who make use of e-learning
  • Ensure your e-learning has interactive content with leader boards and module comments
  • Make sure there is a feedback loop for assignments and project based work

 The goal is to build a sense of sharing, community and interaction.

E-learning content should be well constructed, but just as important is the environment you create for your learners.

Playing to learn

Children playing

How often do we dismiss a colleagues gaming activity as juvenile and a waste of valuable time? But, what if this was actually contributing to your colleague’s ability to learn?

Games are brilliant for helping to develop a range of attributes, including:-

  • Engagement & interaction
  • Patience
  • Understanding how we learn and process things
  • Challenging yourself and others

We know from our own learning experiences that trainers keep students engaged in the learning process by varying the classroom experience to include a combination of taught session, individual assignments, group work, videos, case studies and games amongst other things.  The aim of the professional trainer is to achieve the required learning outcomes by catering for different learning styles, as well as to keep the session interesting.

Blended learning is just that – a blend of ways to engage and motivate our learners, but it goes beyond the physical boundaries of the classroom and introduces the learners to a virtual world of learning, which has no boundaries!

What would be the benefits if you could design your learning so that it included companywide learning games?

Your Learning Management System (LMS) is the perfect host for your blended learning, including games. Plus, if you add in the social learning, imagine how your employees might further extend their interaction with each other?

Playing to Learn. How can game based training strategies help you?

  • Games based on specific learning outcomes that include various levels and objectives help retain learner attention and motivation
  • Trainees and learners find themselves enjoying the learning process
  • Experiential learning through games allows students to assess their own knowledge and areas for personal development in a non-threatening way, which enables them to plan their own course for success without fear of failure
  • Games encourage critical thinking and help develop students’ reasoning and decision-making skills
  • Games build teamwork skills
  • ‘Networked’ activities, which can be coordinated through your LMS, can increase the scope of engagement, interaction and learning

Research has shown that by incorporating the rising web technologies like social bookmarks, vodcasts, podcasts, blog posts, VOIP solutions and interactive PDFs (that store responses), the learner is more readily and consistently engaged, enabling them to participate in sessions in a way that he/she feels most comfortable.

By including games in your blended learning mix, the teaching experience and the learning experience are taken to a whole new level, making the learning process something exciting that is eagerly anticipated by learners.

If you are still not convinced, watch your young children or listen to a group of proud parents who say things like ‘my child is amazing, they can use the computer much better than me and they are only three…’

Food for thought.

To find out more about Learning Management Systems, blended learning, game based learning and developing your own bespoke training, please do contact us for further information or an informal chat.

Why Mobile Learning Is The Future Of Workplace Learning

Learning technology

You must have heard this before, but know first hand as to why Mobile Learning is the revolutionary way of conducting your learning programs through our comprehensive infographic.

Responsive & Mobile Learning closes the Multi-generational learning gap

Responsive and Mobile Learning

Every generation has it’s ‘toys, technology and gadgets’, and with each generation there comes the challenge of learning ‘new’ things in ‘new’ ways.

Mobile learning is shaping up to be the latest way to deliver training, and with that comes the generational challenge.

There will always be the early adopters, those who will rush to embrace technology.  It is as if it is part of their DNA.  They enjoy exploring the new features and opportunities afforded by the technology, and they enjoy being in the minority and ahead of the pack!

The technology savvy learner will be demanding and want easy access to learning materials from a multitude of devices. They want and expect a quick, if not immediate, response.  They like to digest information in short bursts at a time and place convenient to them.

Then there are people who are scared of technology, like those featured on the current Barclays Bank adverts, who sometimes can’t even remember where the on/off button is and needs to make copious notes before trying anything. They much prefer classrooms, 1-2-1 and stuff they can print out and read.

So what can you do as the person responsible for development?

This will sound simple… and it is, but it will take careful consideration, time and budget. The challenge is to think about maximising ‘value’ and return on investment.  If we are willing to do this, then we can take advantage of responsive and mobile technology, which can be combined with traditional methods of training delivery, to make your learning interventions more effective.

Mobile learning is not necessarily the first port of call for learning, but it can be incredibly effective to reinforce learning concepts and make access to learning easier…..and it can be used in a variety of ways.

Think mobile and responsive as a way to support your blended learning programmes. Mobile is learning support in the moment – on the job – just as it is needed.

Change the way you design and deliver content

Before you go any further, stop and assess your learning delivery and consider how you can make best use of what you already have. Think about how you can upgrade it to make it available to suit your future needs and the needs of your multi-generational learners.

What is wonderful about responsive and mobile learning is that those who wants to adapt to it and use it to its fullest, will, because it will have been designed with multigenerational and multiplatform considerations in mind.

Remember:-

  • Short and sharp wins the day – Our tech savvy learners will want five to ten minute sound bites (or maybe shorter). These can, of course, be a part of a much bigger learning programme and when used in this way, will help get great buy-in.
  • The user experience is all important – Every device must show the content utilising that particular devices capability.

What next?

If it all seems too much, talk to a learning provider who understands what is possible.  They will help you reconcile what you might call traditional learning with methods of blending, so that the final intervention makes full use of technology as an enabler, not an inhibitor!

 

Choosing the right LMS

LMS Screen

Blended Learning strategies are perfect for holding learners attention and keeping them engaged in the learning process. These strategies also provide trainers with unprecedented resources and support.

Depending on the specific training needs of the organization, there are a number of strategies for implementing Blended Learning programs, and each of these can be ably supported by a Learning Management System (LMS).

Tips for choosing the right LMS

Here are some tips on what to consider if your organization is considering which LMS solution to choose:

Long term cost effectiveness: Whenever you buy anything, you should not just look at the up-front acquisition cost, but the total cost of acquisition. Often systems seem cheaper, but if you haven’t accounted for the cost of maintenance, ownership, licensing and support along with other issues that might arise over the course of your ownership of the product, then you might find yourself coming unstuck.

Customization: Although most systems come with the same basic functional elements, you may need to optimize them for your culture and ways of working.  Can the LMS you are considering be customized to support your organization’s learning goals and strategies? Can it also be used as a knowledge management system?

Durability: What are the credentials of the organisation providing the solution? Will it be supported with periodic maintenance and upgrades? Does the organisation stay abreast of technology and business needs?

Scalability and adaptability: Your LMS and any learning programmes should be able to handle any number of people and courses at any point in time (supporting technology allowing).

Cloud-based system: This has minimal hardware and software cost implications for your organisation, and ensures that your LMS is always up to date with the latest changes in technology.

SCORM compliancy: Your courses need to be able to communicate with your Learning Management System, so your LMS needs to be compliant with Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) guidelines.

The table below provides the basic steps to be followed in choosing the perfect LMS solution for your organization’s Blended Learning objectives:

LMS steps

Interested in learning more about managing effective Blended Learning with an LMS solution? Please call us.

 

Do you have a learning management strategy?

Learning Management Strategy

The logic is simple: if you have an overall business strategy, one assumes that you also have a learning management strategy…..and that learning strategy provides you with a plan of what is needed, where it is needed, and details how you measure the success of these interventions.

Firstly you need to know what you need to train and why. Secondly you need to know what to measure and how.

In a perfect world your strategy with consider the overall business strategy, people, processes, timelines and future plans. What about risk mitigation and planning for unforeseen events?  Also, how are you going to coordinate and manage the complexity often involved in deploying your strategy?

So, as part of your learning management strategy, have you considered a Learning Management System (or LMS)?

Learning Management Systems save organisations valuable time and money by enabling them to easily manage the training of every employee, through a web-based environment with anytime, anywhere accessibility.

Not only that they can handle a wide range of other documents, which can transform your LMS into something even more valuable, a Knowledge Management System.

When the LMS and the KMS are integrated your learning management strategy has a tighter fit with your overall business strategy.  Learning and content delivered where you want it, when you want it and in a way which is measurable.  Perhaps more importantly, the LMS becomes a repository for a wide range of your organisation’s knowledge – capturing best practice, reliable methods, demonstrations, words of wisdom from process and product champions, and emerging learning where on-line communities within your organisation can discuss, debate and develop key ideas.

To find out more and to discuss how to create an all embracing learning management strategy, call us!

 

 

Coaching conversations for Thinking Performers

coaching conversations

Coaching conversations for Thinking Performers

What role can coaching play in creating a motivated organisation where employees put their knowledge and skills into action

A lot has been written about coaching.  To the uninitiated, it can take on the appearance of ‘smoke and mirrors’ – just another initiative that repackages old management theories and sells them under a new banner.  This could not be further from the truth.

For those that have really embraced the concept, it has a fundamental and powerful impact on both the individual, the organisation and across the whole supply chain. When someone suddenly realises the possibilities for personal growth and for achieving aspirations, they will happily step out of their comfort zone and take the first steps towards releasing their potential and impacting positively upon the bottom line.

So, what is coaching?

Coaching is a personal development process designed to enhance a person’s success in achieving her or his professional objectives within the context of the organization.

But what does that mean?

It means that despite it being focused on the individual, it is important that everyone understands that within an organizational context the ultimate goal is to improve effectiveness and efficiency, i.e. profitability.

Coaching is a structured conversation, where the coach asks high quality questions and listens actively. The coachee reaches deep inside to unlock hidden resources and then chooses to use them for their self, their community and/or their organisation.

For me the keys are:-

  • Good questions
  • Great listening

…and the understanding that we already have all of the resources to achieve many of our goals within us!  We just need some help in liberating them.

According to the ILM:-

  • 90% of organisations with over 2,000 employees use business coaching
  • 95% say that coaching has delivered tangible benefits to their business

This doesn’t mean that coaching only works in large organisations; it means that we now have some benchmarks for the validity of using coaching as an intervention for improving performance.

Thinking Performers are people who not only receive coaching but adopt a coach/leader mindset themselves – they walk their talk every day.

What can the organisation expect from someone who embraces a coaching mindset?

They generally have a vision and they happily share it, empowering others to connect to the objectives of the organisation.  They put ideas into action – they are Thinking Performers!

They co-create an environment where being proactive is rewarded and where team members are aligned towards organisational objectives.  Better listeners ask better questions and reach quality decisions in a shorter time frame.  They help others align their personal vision with that of the organisation.  They are ‘brand ambassadors’, working to help others connect their own personal brand values to that of the organisation.  They understand and demonstrate the concept of know, like and respect, which builds trust.

Thinking Performers understand accountability and hold themselves and others accountable for their actions.  They shares personal experience, learning and wisdom freely with others; they want others to grow.  They see the unrealised potential in others and help them to see it for themselves through coaching – both formal and informal.

They are committed to continual learning and personal development and will share that learning willingly.  They understand logic, however, they are equally comfortable with intuition and imagination, and they use all of these to improve communications, reduce conflict and improve consensus.

They know how to, and can, challenge others without making them feel criticised – they are passionate about helping others succeed.  They know that no team wins when any of its members are losers.  They coach and mentor others to improve performance and to help them to develop continually.

A Thinking Performer looks for win-win outcomes at every opportunity.  They do not look to thrive built on the ‘failure’ of others – they look to thrive built on the ‘success’ of others!

What makes a good coach?

Looking at the list above, you can easily identify key attributes.  Mary Connor and Julia Pakora, in Coaching & Mentoring at work, suggest that these might be some of the skills and behaviours[i]:-

Attribute

  1. Supportive
  2. Sounding board
  3. Challenging
  4. Networker
  5. Respected
  6. Assertive
  7. Open
  8. Transparent
  9. Creative
  10. Visible
  11. Interpersonally skilled
  12. Strategic
  13. Kind
  14. Genuine
  15. Just

Others include:

  1. Active listener
  2. Questioning skills
  3. Empathetic
  4. Goal focused
  5. Credible
  6. Accountability
  7. Intuitive
  8. Positive & enthusiastic

Look at your organisation and ask “what behaviours do I see” and “what behaviours do I want to see?”

What makes a good coachee?

Be prepared

Don’t just turn up flustered and un-prepared; your brain will still be focused on the last activity that you did and you will be thinking on the next thing you have to do. Go through your notes and remind yourself what you committed to do.

Consider the issues you face

By fully understanding where you find yourself and thinking about how you can explain your issues to your coach, you will save time and will gain much more insight.

Set outcomes

Start with the end in mind and think about what you want to get out of the session and the whole process.

Ask yourself what you want to change

A good coachee knows that coaching is about change and needs to know what it is that needs to change and why.

Be a good listener

Not only does the coach need to be a good listener, so does the coachee. A good coachee is listening to the questions and will allow themselves time to think.

Asks good questions

A coachee needs to ensure that they understand the questions being asked. They will clarify if they are not sure.

Understand the art of reflection

Too often, we jump in and agree actions. It is acceptable to ask for time to reflect. By that, I do not mean days and days, but a few minutes to mull things over works a treat.

Show your emotions

Coaching is not a test, it is a supportive sounding board, and letting ‘stuff out’ can really help to get to the heart of an issue. Just remember that your coach is not a counsellor.  They will provide the questions…..you will provide your own answers!

Be honest

Find the courage to admit that you feel a failure or frustrated or angry. Your coach will ask you good questions to get to the root cause. From there you will get clarity and find a resolution.

Be grateful for this fantastic opportunity

You are really lucky to have your organisation invest in you, really maximise this opportunity and get the most out of it.

Conclusion

Organisations that embrace coaching, and know what to look for in a coach and coachee, will ultimately reap the rewards and impact the bottom line.

The coaching process is designed to bring out the best in people, with a focus on organisational results. These results create Thinking Performers who will enable

  • Improved effectiveness and efficiency
  • higher employee morale
  • better employee relations
  • other key goals that you set as your measure of success

Coaching produces Thinking Performers who will act as Brand Ambassadors, building and maintaining a culture for continuous improvement and increasing success.

Resources

https://www.i-l-m.com/Why-ILM/organisational-development/coaching-and-mentoring

Please contact Thinking Performers on info@thinkingperformers.com or call on 0844 800 2958 to request more information.


[i] Connor M & Pakora J 2007. Coaching & Mentoring at Work. Open University Press, McGraw Hill Education, P47