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Year in Review in Learning - 2018

As I usually do at this time of year, I’ve selected five blog posts from the past year that seem to have had the most interest from readers. With the publication of my new book, Minds at Work: Managing for Success in the Knowledge Economy, I have continued to focus my blog posts on a manager’s role in supporting continuous learning for all employees in the workplace. And I have examined an employee’s responsibility for continuous learning in the Knowledge Economy. But I have also been influenced by current events and what a hostile work environment does to individuals, teams, and organizations. Here are the five blog posts I've selected with a short selection from each.

1) This Is What I Believe About Learning in Organizations

I wrote:

The Purpose of Business is Learning

Yes, the purpose of business is to make a profit, retain customers, be sustainable, satisfy shareholders, and, for some, make a difference in the community. But none of this is possible without learning. At its core, any high performing organization is about learning; continually using new information to become smarter, better, and more effective.

This post was selected by Jane Hart for her 30 Favorite Blog Posts and Articles of 2018. She published the list in her magazine, Modern Workplace Learning Magazine, under the title, “Jane Hart’s Pick of the Year”.

2) This Is What I Believe About Learning in Organizations

eLearningLearning featured another part of this post. eLearningLearning wrote: …let's revisit @sjgill's fascinating dive into the realities of modern #corporatetraining, and the essential nature of a #learningculture.

I wrote:

Work is No Longer Work. The nature of work is changing. This world is one in which humans no longer make things or fix things or sell things or provide basic services. Work has become mind-intensive instead of hand-intensive.

3) Learning in a Managing Minds Company

This post was selected for the “2018 eLearning Learning MVP Awards”. The post is a selection from our new book, Minds at Work. We wrote:

Learning independently. In a company that manages minds, people need to take responsibility for learning what they need to know and do. This means that they need to be aware of what they’re doing now and what they may be called upon to do in the future. They need to know what is relevant for them to learn and be empowered to learn what is necessary today and in preparation for tomorrow. They need to understand that what they learn will help the company meet its business goals. They must be able to develop and maintain their own learning plans and portfolios, and be prepared to act as teachers and mentors for other people in the company. Independent learners are capable of successfully meeting the requirements of learning projects they choose, whether it’s completion and a passing grade, measures of competency, or an actual project deliverable.

Badge-elearning-small

 

 

 

4) Managing for Success in the Knowledge Economy – The Podcast

Listen to my conversation with David Grebow and Andi Simon as we explore changes in work, management, and learning. In the podcast, David says:

For the first time in history, in the last 50 years, most people have been using their minds to produce work. We no longer need to manage hands; we have no choice but to restructure our organizations and change our approach to management and learning to reflect this historic change. In this mind-intensive knowledge economy, we must learn to manage minds to get the smartest, most creative, and most innovative results.

Podcast: Stephen_Gill_and_David_Grebow_-_Edited (1)

 

5) Short Course on Evaluation of Training and Learning in Knowledge Economy

I was asked by LAD Global, in partnership with the Singapore Training and Development Association, to make a short course on evaluation of training and learning available online, for free. This blog post announces the course and provides the links.

I explain the purpose of the course:

My emphasis in this course is on using measurement and evaluation for learning. Much of evaluation in organizations today is still focused on formal training programs and limited to Kirkpatrick’s “level one”. LAD course on evaluation In other words, L&D professionals are using “smile sheets” that measure immediate reaction to classroom instruction, collected at the end of training. Of course, we all are curious about what participants think of our programs and us as trainers. Great to know for marketing purposes…But this information is not particularly helpful to the organization.

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This Is What I Believe About Learning in Organizations

Work is No Longer Work 

The nature of work is changing. This world is one in which humans no longer make things or fix things or sell things or provide basic services. Work has become mind-intensive instead of hand-intensive. People are no longer being judged on the basis of how hard they work or how much they produce. Work is no longer about simply doing a job; it’s about becoming adapting to new jobs, new technology, new ways of
working with others, and anticipating the unanticipated. Automation, robotics, and AI are eliminating Brxxto-495156-unsplash tasks that had been mundane, routine, monotonous, and, in some cases, dangerous. Now tasks done by humans are being enhanced by the Internet, providing the collective knowledge of the world at their fingertips. This is a future in which workers are smarter, more agile, and more innovative. The skilled worker today wants a different kind of experience. People realize they need interpersonal skills, creativity, reasoning, and empathy. As globalization increases and communities become more diverse, the competitive advantage of any organization will be its collective knowledge and its expanded expertise. In the past, people tolerated poor work conditions and didn’t expect much from their leaders, but now people want to be treated fairly and respected for their contributions. People want meaningfulness and joyful workplaces.  For all of these reasons, the fundamental nature of work is being transformed. 

 

The Purpose of Business is Learning

Yes, the purpose of business is to make a profit, retain customers, be sustainable, satisfy shareholders, and, for some, make a difference in the community. But none of this is possible without learning. At its core, any high performing organization is about learning; continually using new information to become smarter, better, and more effective. Every industry is faced with disruption, whether it is aviation, health care, manufacturing, mobility, hospitality, retail, education, philanthropy, etc. To survive and thrive today, industries need innovation which is essentially about learning. Innovation is how to use products and services in new ways that rapidly respond to changing market demands and create new products and services. Companies must learn more deeply about their customers and markets. They must learn how to build an organization that becomes increasingly effective in achieving its goals, learn how to use new technology to improve efficiency and safety, and learn how to compete with every new technological and competitive threat. Whether learning how to operate a machine, learning how to make decisions in a team, learning how to function more effectively as an organization, the organization must learn continuously to adapt for success.

 

Training Is Not Learning

Training is not and never has been enough. Organizations waste billions of dollars per year on training. Data indicates that less than 20% of participants apply learning from formal training programs. Unfortunately, companies continue to spend most of their employee development budget and most of their time and effort on training programs and systems tracking training activities. Companies continue to emphasize training with little payoff while these programs are more costly and less effective than other kinds of learning interventions. We know that people learn most from their co-workers and from on-the-job experience, yet we invest the most in formal, training programs. Consider the alternatives: just-in-time e-learning (desktop and mobile), coaching, mentoring, simulations, on-demand video, and experiential-learning. And in some situations people might learn best from the workflow, through action-learning conversations, through self-directed experiences, or from apprentice and internship assignments. Traditional, formal training programs are often almost never the best solution to a performance deficit.

 

Manager’s Role is People

The biggest barrier to learning in organizations are the beliefs and attitudes of managers and leaders. If they have a fixed mindset, people are not likely to learn. And if they are not invested in people succeeding, if they worry that they will be “found out”, if they come to work in fear, then managers will prevent other people from learning. Managers are the catalysts and gatekeepers to learning, so if they don’t open that gate, employees will not have access to knowledge. To be effective gatekeepers, managers MUST set expectations for learning, show people how to learn, provide opportunities for learning in the workplace, structure opportunities for application of learning, and communicate feedback for improvement. Managers are key to employee engagement and retention. Managers must be committed to developing people and, in particular, growing future leaders. Managers must learn how to learn and help employees learn how to learn. Learning is always about managers creating an environment of openness and trust among relationships. The most important role of a manager (and leader) is the learning and development of its employees.

 

It’s the Culture

Learning is not the result of a program; it is ingrained in the culture of an organization. A learning culture is expressed in the assumptions, values, environment, and behaviors of the organization. To learn, people must have a growth mindset. Learning must be valued and advocated throughout the organization. Learning must be reflected in the routines and rituals of employees. The physical setting must create an environment that supports learning. Asking questions, giving feedback, and encouraging debate and alternate viewpoints, must be the routine activity of the organization. This is even more powerful when its leaders and managers ask questions, listen deeply, and follow-up with action. Sharing successes and failures are done openly and without disapproval. Employees tell stories to draw lessons and learn from their experiences. Action-learning is essentially part of how people do their work. Managers encourage their direct reports to acquire new knowledge and skills and apply that learning throughout the organization. They advocate for collaboration in teams that promote psychological safety. The work environment is one of respect and trust and transparency. People do not feel harassed, teased, and bullied. They are not ignored and marginalized.  Importantly, people are deeply listened to each other. Feedback is considered an opportunity to develop and grow; an occasion for learning. A learning culture is all of this and more. An organization that is creating and maintaining a learning culture, is truly ready to compete in the world today!

Photo by Brxxto on Unsplash

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Reprise: Training Will Not Eliminate Racist Behavior in Starbucks

In a letter that Howard Schultz, Executive Chairman of Starbucks, published in today's New York Times, he describes what his stores and offices will be doing this afternoon to address the problem of racial bias in the company:  

More than 175,000 Starbucks partners (that's what we call our employees) will be sharing life experiences, hearing from others, listening to experts, reflecting on the realities of bias in our society and talking about how all of us create public spaces where everyone feels like they belong - because they do. This conversation will continue at our company and become part of how we train all of our partners.

Again, I commend Starbucks for attacking the problem but I continue to have my doubts about the long term effects of their approach. On April 19, 2018, I wrote about these concerns. That blog post is repeated here:

 

In response to a racially charged incident at a Starbucks in Philadelphia that resulted in the unnecessary Clem-onojeghuo-228522-unsplash arrests of two black males waiting for a friend, the company has announced that it will “…close more than 8,000 of its stores on May 29 to conduct anti-racial bias training for nearly 175,000 employees.”

While this response is commendable, if that’s all Starbucks does to eliminate racism among its staff, it will be a significant waste of time, money, and effort. I understand, putting all of their employees through training is good optics for the company and might provide some protection from lawsuits. But change in the culture requires so much more.

In the wake of the Starbucks incident, The New York Times asks the question, “Can Training Eliminate Biases?” The answer is “no”. Diversity and inclusion in companies is not achieved through a workshop. That’s not how people change behavior. Only culture change can eliminate biases. Training might be a good first step in raising awareness for some, but attitudes and actions must be supported consistently by the entire organization over time. Diversity and inclusion must be rooted in the processes and life of the organization.

As I wrote in a blog post on May 31, 2008 titled, From Diversity to Inclusion and Engagement:

Third Sector New England has, from its nearly five decades of experience, identified the following as key drivers of successful diversity initiatives:

  • A diversity committee/task force, representing all levels of the organization, that regularly communicates with the entire organization
  • Unflinching commitment by the CEO to convey the benefits of organizational diversity to the organization’s mission, vision and values
  • An organization-wide assessment or cultural audit to determine major challenges and barriers
  • Prioritizing those challenges
  • A clear designation of key participants, action steps and timelines to address challenges
  • Skill-building for moving beyond differences to develop an organizational language and culture of inclusiveness
  • Alignment of diversity planning with the organization’s strategic plan, so the former includes an assessment of funding and other resources needed to support the effort
  • A consultant to facilitate developing and implementing a diversity plan
  • Evaluation of progress at regular intervals
  • Reassessment of priorities as needed

In addition to these elements of comprehensive planning, an organizataion has to make some fundamental changes in how it works. Employees need to hear their senior managers talking frequently about diversity and inclusion. It’s not enough that the value of diversity and inclusion is listed on a laminated poster in the employee lounge. This value must be visible in the day-to-day actions of the company. Employees must see diversity in hiring and promotions, as well as among Board members and executives. The ability to accept differences must be in the criteria for hiring. Employees must see evidence that their company partners only with other companies that make a sincere effort at improving diversity and inclusion and eliminating racism. Managers need to step up and take responsibility for creating a welcoming and supportive culture in every part of the organization.  

Managers must recognize that not everyone has the same receptivity to change and act accordingly. Amber Madison has identified four archetypes of diversity and inclusion: the champion; the newbie; the bigot; and the bystander. She suggests that managers address each type differently. I recommend hiring "champions" and "newbies" and avoiding hiring "bigots" and "bystanders" as much as possible.

As we argue in our new book, Minds at Work: Managing for Success in the Knowledge Economy, managers must help to develop the people around them. And this means eliminating the discrimination that contributes to a hostile work environment. Racism is bad enough, but if there is racism, then there is sexism and antisemitism and antimuslimism and every other kind of discrimination. In addition to the immorality of that kind of workplace, that environment is not conducive to learning and people doing their best work, whether you’re a barista in a store or CEO of the company.

In fairness to Starbucks, a company that I admire, let me say that they are facing the same kind of racism that all companies face and is ingrained in our society. With over 27,000 locations worldwide, it's surprising more incidences of racial bias haven't been reported. But that's not an excuse and the company must do more to ensure that diversity and inclusion permeate its culture. However, training is not the answer.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

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Learning in a Managing Minds Company

Following is an excerpt from our new book, Minds at Work: Managing for Success in the Knowledge Economy (Chapter Two). Minds-at-work-150

The future of how we learn in our organizations is a popular topic. But unless you are responsible for developing, delivering, managing, and measuring training and learning, keeping up with the latest learning technologies can be overwhelming. It’s also irrelevant to the discussion of managing minds.

The training and learning technology discussions miss the point. Unless a company is making a basic change in the way it manages people, the tools will never have an impact on the way people think, act, and grow every day, and they won’t boost performance or drive business results. A company managing hands can buy and use every tool in the training and learning toolbox, but if the use is not mandated or pushed by the organization, if sharing knowledge is not a basic tenet for working, if the knowledge isn’t available anytime and anywhere, if collaboration and communication are absent, if there is no feedback, then the new tools and technologies will not make the company any smarter.

Our approach is to suggest new ways of facilitating learning that fit into managing minds. All L&D tools and technology can be utilized in this context. The three keys to successfully managing minds are essentially the competencies needed to move forward and succeed in the knowledge economy.

  1. Learning independently. In a company that manages minds, people need to take responsibility for learning what they need to know and do. This means that they need to be aware of what they’re doing now and what they may be called upon to do in the future. They need to know what is relevant for them to learn and be empowered to learn what is necessary today and in preparation for tomorrow. They need to understand that what they learn will help the company meet its business goals. They must be able to develop and maintain their own learning plans and portfolios, and be prepared to act as teachers and mentors for other people in the company. Independent learners are capable of successfully meeting the requirements of learning projects they choose, whether it’s completion and a passing grade, measures of competency, or an actual project deliverable.
  2. Learning interactively. Technology is and will continue to be an integral part of managing; people need to use the tools available today, and look for and be willing to adopt any tools developed in the future. This includes knowing the most efficient and effective way to use the technology to communicate and collaborate, as well as being confident enough to interact with the technology in ways that actively provide input to help others learn. For example, smartphones can provide workers with just-in-time information to solve a problem, operate a machine, or collaborate more effectively with an employee.
  3. Learning socially. Being part of the collective group, acting as a dynamic node in an interconnected web of people learning continuously, is also important. To be a successful social learner means being able to empathize and relate to others, communicate effectively, collaborate cooperatively, resolve conflicts, and balance different perspectives and opinions. Much of learning in organizations is social; therefore, it makes sense to be intentional about creating opportunities for people to connect.

These three competencies are how people learn in a company that is successfully managing minds. They differ dramatically from the ways people learned when they were in organizations that managed hands.

Differences Between Managing Hands and Minds:

Managing Hands

Managing Minds

Passive

Active

Dependent

Independent

Fearful

Fearless

Obeying

Challenging

Closed-Minded

Open-Minded

Rigid Roles

Fluid Roles

Conforming

Nonconforming

Not Curious

Curious

Thoughtless

Thoughtful

Unmotivated

Motivated

Following

Leading

Stupid

Smart

This last distinction is not unsupported. André Spicer, professor of organizational behavior at the Cass Business School at City, University of London, has spent years talking with hundreds of the best and brightest minds to graduate from some of the most prestigious universities. The eye-opening discovery in his 2017 book, The Stupidity Paradox: The Power and Pitfalls of Functional Stupidity, co-authored with Mats Alvesson, was that when people with impressive educational credentials go to work for the most well-known companies in the world, they are asked to turn off their brains. Many of the companies surveyed in the book should be managing minds.

Yet the predominant environment supports—promotes, even—the traits listed on the left side of the list. This is perhaps a result of short-term thinking, in which following the rules, adding regulations without reason, not asking for justification for decisions (especially from self-appointed leaders), not asking questions, and essentially, not thinking for yourself. These managing hands traits can be found in an organization that is obedient, nice, agreeable, harmonious, and seemingly successful in the short term. The problem is the long term. Asking people not to use their minds is simply asking them to ignore personal growth and satisfaction; not pay attention to long-term organizational competitiveness, innovation, and success; and not participate in the improvement and development of society.

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Why Management Needs to Change

Following is an excerpt from our new book, Minds at Work: Managing for Success in the Knowledge Economy (Chapter One).  Minds-at-work-150

As the economic paradigms change, a corporate Darwinism takes over and the companies that fail to change and evolve disappear.

In 2012, Richard Foster’s research at Yale University indicated that the average life span of a company listed in the S&P 500 index of leading U.S. companies fell by more than 50 years in the last century, from 67 years in the 1920s to just 15 years. He estimated that by 2020, more than three-quarters of the S&P 500 will be companies that we have not heard of yet. More recently, in 2016, Innosight, a growth strategy consulting firm, forecasted that half of S&P 500 companies will be replaced over the next 10 years. The new environment is increasingly aggressive, incessantly competitive, and constantly driven by surprise innovation and technological changes, all happening at an unprecedented pace. Yet we are still trying to use 20th-century management practices and principles to coordinate and manage people in the 21st century. We need to change the basic way we manage people so that managers can create the best environment for everyone to develop the competencies necessary to be successful in this new environment.

We have no choice. We need to stop managing hands.

None of this, we suspect, is news. What may be new is that you are, as a manager, in charge of this change. Your primary responsibility is to lead people into a 21st-century knowledge economy that supports and sustains learning over everything else. Learning is the critical differentiator in the knowledge economy. How you manage that learning is the new competitive advantage.

We describe the 21st-century corporation as an organization that is global and virtual. People all over the world will form the intersecting nodes for a constantly humming web of communication. They will be able to continuously and seamlessly communicate and collaborate. From the individual to the group, their actions will be quick, decisive, and informed, and the results relevant, smart, and proactive.

To create this corporation, how we share information must change. As Ray Gilmartin, CEO of Merck, states, the 21st-century corporation is one in which “a hierarchy of ideas replaces the hierarchy of position.” The previous command-and-control structure—where knowledge was power, but only a few could access it and make decisions—will be replaced with the new structure, where sharing knowledge is the real power and decisions are made by everyone focused on the job. There is no alternative future.

Examples abound of companies that were once household names that became extinct because they did not successfully shift from a static managing hands model to a more agile and dynamic managing minds approach: Compaq, E.F. Hutton, PaineWebber, Merry-Go-Round, MCI WorldCom, Eastern Air Lines, Enron, Woolworth, Pan Am, Kodak, Standard Oil, The Pullman Company, Arthur Andersen, General Foods, TWA. Of the many factors that contributed to their demise, their slowness or inability to change the way they managed people played a major role.

If you have your doubts, look at the companies that are managing minds who filled the empty spot in the marketplace. Investment firm E.F. Hutton—whose commercial catchprase was, “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen”—was replaced by several technology-based brokerage houses that understood that investors wanted to disintermediate from brokers and manage their own stock portfolios. The older companies were so invested in a hands-on approach to buying and selling stocks that they missed the big new idea. Individuals no longer wanted to listen. Instead, they wanted to use a faster, cheaper, and more do-it-yourself technology that provided information to help them purchase and sell stocks without brokers.

Kodak’s moment happened when senior management refused to look at digital photography as a disruptive technology. They failed to heed their own engineers, who told them that instant film was an idea whose time had come and gone. Decisions in this managing hands company were top-down and final. Kodak was so invested in manufacturing film that they ignored customers who were rapidly switching to filmless cameras. The lesson is clear: Corporations must learn to listen to their customers and employees or face the consequences.

“Change or die” is not just a compelling hook to capture the imagination. It is the reality that corporations face whether they want to admit it or not. Fortunately, examples of success are everywhere. The new style of managing minds is the antidote to the problems created by trying to force-fit the 20th-century analog model into the 21st-century digital reality.

Hands are replaceable, literally: Human hands are being replaced by robotic hands every day. And managing robots is no longer a job that requires hands-on managers. This trend toward automation will not stop while technology keeps getting better and more sophisticated. One study from Oxford University found that “advanced robots are gaining enhanced senses and dexterity, allowing them to perform a broader scope of manual tasks. This is likely to change the nature of work across industries and occupations.”4 Astonishingly, robot hands can now thread a needle.

If you think threading a needle is not that big a deal, here is another example. In a kitchen in Silicon Valley, the team at Zume Pizza is hard at work. Pepe and Giorgio squirt on the sauce, and Marta spreads it in concentric circles, just like they do in Italy. Then Bruno puts the pizza in the oven to bake to perfection. And they do not even stop for a moment to catch their breaths. That’s because Pepe, Giorgio, Marta, and Bruno are robots. And while human employees still apply the toppings according to the customer’s wishes, it’s only a matter of time before they cede that role, too. Made-to-order, ready-to-go, fully automated pizza in as little as seven minutes: As the owners are proud of saying, it’s “artisanal robotic pizza.”

You need only to read any recent news report to see this story repeated hundreds of times:

  • Foxconn has replaced 60,000 factory workers with robots.
  • Wendy’s is replacing its lowest-paid workers with robots.
  • Tesla Gigafactory is using robots to build machines at its battery factory.

We once used machines to build things, and we managed hands. Now we build machines to build machines. When there are no hands left, what still needs to be managed?

Minds. It’s time we begin to consciously manage minds—the minds of the people who design, program, install, service, and upgrade those robotic hands, for example. Their work is the product of their thinking, creativity, and problem solving.

For more about "managing minds" and the implications for learning professionals and managers, see us at ATD 2018 International Conference & Exposition, in San Diego Convention Center, Learning to Manage and Managing to Learn in the Knowledge Economy, Wed, May 09 | 8:15 AM - 9:30 AM | Room: 15 

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Training Will Not Eliminate Racist Behavior In Starbucks

In response to a racially charged incident at a Starbucks in Philadelphia that resulted in the unnecessary arrests of two black males waiting for a friend, the company has announced that it will “…close more than Clem-onojeghuo-228522-unsplash 8,000 of its stores on May 29 to conduct anti-racial bias training for nearly 175,000 employees.”

While this response is commendable, if that’s all Starbucks does to eliminate racism among its staff, it will be a significant waste of time, money, and effort. I understand, putting all of their employees through training is good optics for the company and might provide some protection from lawsuits. But change in the culture requires so much more.

In the wake of the Starbucks incident, The New York Times asks the question, “Can Training Eliminate Biases?” The answer is “no”. Diversity and inclusion in companies is not achieved through a workshop. That’s not how people change behavior. Only culture change can eliminate biases. Training might be a good first step in raising awareness for some, but attitudes and actions must be supported consistently by the entire organization over time. Diversity and inclusion must be rooted in the processes and life of the organization.

As I wrote in a blog post on May 31, 2008 titled, From Diversity to Inclusion and Engagement:

Third Sector New England has, from its nearly five decades of experience, identified the following as key drivers of successful diversity initiatives:

  • A diversity committee/task force, representing all levels of the organization, that regularly communicates with the entire organization
  • Unflinching commitment by the CEO to convey the benefits of organizational diversity to the organization’s mission, vision and values
  • An organization-wide assessment or cultural audit to determine major challenges and barriers
  • Prioritizing those challenges
  • A clear designation of key participants, action steps and timelines to address challenges
  • Skill-building for moving beyond differences to develop an organizational language and culture of inclusiveness
  • Alignment of diversity planning with the organization’s strategic plan, so the former includes an assessment of funding and other resources needed to support the effort
  • A consultant to facilitate developing and implementing a diversity plan
  • Evaluation of progress at regular intervals
  • Reassessment of priorities as needed

In addition to these elements of comprehensive planning, an organizataion has to make some fundamental changes in how it works. Employees need to hear their senior managers talking frequently about diversity and inclusion. It’s not enough that the value of diversity and inclusion is listed on a laminated poster in the employee lounge. This value must be visible in the day-to-day actions of the company. Employees must see diversity in hiring and promotions, as well as among Board members and executives. The ability to accept differences must be in the criteria for hiring. Employees must see evidence that their company partners only with other companies that make a sincere effort at improving diversity and inclusion and eliminating racism. Managers need to step up and take responsibility for creating a welcoming and supportive culture in every part of the organization.  

Managers must recognize that not everyone has the same receptivity to change and act accordingly. Amber Madison has identified four archetypes of diversity and inclusion: the champion; the newbie; the bigot; and the bystander. She suggests that managers address each type differently. I recommend hiring "champions" and "newbies" and avoiding hiring "bigots" and "bystanders" as much as possible.

As we argue in our new book, Minds at Work: Managing for Success in the Knowledge Economy, managers must help to develop the people around them. And this means eliminating the discrimination that contributes to a hostile work environment. Racism is bad enough, but if there is racism, then there is sexism and antisemitism and antimuslimism and every other kind of discrimination. In addition to the immorality of that kind of workplace, that environment is not conducive to learning and people doing their best work, whether you’re a barista in a store or CEO of the company.

In fairness to Starbucks, a company that I admire, let me say that they are facing the same kind of racism that all companies face and is ingrained in our society. With over 27,000 locations worldwide, it's surprising more incidences of racial bias haven't been reported. But that's not an excuse and the company must do more to ensure that diversity and inclusion permeate its culture. However, training is not the answer.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

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Managing for Success in the Knowledge Economy - The Podcast

The workplace is changing dramatically and managers need to change the way they manage people in order to keep up. Listen in on my conversation with David Grebow and Andi Simon as we explore these changes in work, management, and learning. We have moved from building things with our hands to using our minds to do our work. Today's "knowledge worker" is very different from the industrial worker of the past. It's no longer about what you can do with your hands; it's about what you can do with your mind. Therefore, managers have to help people develop their minds.

In the podcast, David says:

“For the first time in history, in the last 50 years, most people have been using their minds to produce work. We no longer need to manage hands; we have no choice but to restructure our organizations and change our approach to management and learning to reflect this historic change. In this mind-intensive knowledge economy, we must learn to manage minds to get the smartest, most creative, and most innovative results.” 

Many companies have taken the lead in learning new ways organize their work and to manage people. They are discovering what it takes to enable people to grow and perform at their peak, professionally and personally. In this podcast, you will hear all about what you can do to build your organization around today's knowledge workers. 

Stephen_Gill_and_David_Grebow_-_Edited (1)

What are examples of this change in your organization and what are you doing in response?

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Closing the Job-Skills Gap

Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan, like all state governors, is grappling with closing the gap between thousands of high-paying job openings and a shortage of workers to fill those jobs. To solve this problem, the Welder
Michigan Governor has initiated what he calls the “Marshall Plan for Talent”, with a focus on education and employment (I assume the Governor is referring to the urgency for large scale change and not the U.S.’s conditional infusion of billions of dollars into post World War II economies.).

The Gov’s talent development plan has five key components:

  1. Emphasizing competencies over academic performance
  2. Creating interest in careers and recognizing that those careers will change over a lifetime
  3. Businesses offering and participating in learning opportunities for students
  4. Universities embracing alternatives to traditional higher education, such as certificates and two-year degrees
  5. Retaining employers and attracting new employers to the State

All five components of the Gov's plan are valid and should be in the mix to improve talent development in Michigan or any other state. But missing from the Governor’s plan are two key aspects of employer involvement. One is workplace culture. Companies need to create a workplace in which people can be successful. People want to work in an environment in which they feel respected, trusted, and are given the opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way. If the workplace culture is hostile and not conducive to people doing their best work, they will feel alienated and either stay and perform poorly or they will leave. Unfortunately, most companies today do not have a culture that fosters engagement and high performance. Their leaders have not made the shift from Industrial Economy “managing hands” to Knowledge Economy “managing minds”.

The other key aspect of employer involvement in talent development is workplace learning. Many companies do not offer the training and other kinds of learning experiences that help people develop into successful contributors to business results. In today’s economy of rapid technological change, globalization, workforce diversity, and hyper-competition, people need the opportunity to learn continuously and acquire new competencies in response to those pressures.

School learning and formal training programs are not sufficient. Learning is best in the flow of work and in rapid response to change. CEOs and managers must make learning a priority in the workplace. They must support all of the different ways that people learn throughout the day and when faced with new technology and new processes. Not only will this make Michigan companies competitive, workers will be attracted to these companies and want to stay and contribute for long-term success.

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Training Isn't the Answer

Every day, it seems, another high profile case of sexual harassment comes to light. And then there are the many workplace complaints of sexual harassment that are no less harmful to women but, perpetrated by RosietheRivetermid-level managers, don’t get the same attention as the one’s involving celebrities and CEOs. The experience of women working in Ford Motor factories, as reported by Susan Chira and Catrin Einhorn in The New York Times, makes us aware that a hostile workplace is not unusual and can be created by managers at all levels of an organization. Clearly, sexual harassment and a hostile work environment are a pervasive problem.

However, the answer to eliminating sexual harassment in the workplace and creating a climate supportive of all employees regardless of gender, race, age, background, etc. is not more training. Most companies have been offering training since the 1990s, primarily in order to manage their risk of liability. A ruling by the Supreme Court in 1998 lent support to the widely held belief that offering training to educate employees about sexual harassment and providing a grievance procedure would shield companies from liability.

Training alone will not and cannot create a fearless work environment nor can training prevent sexual harassment. First of all, formal training programs have never had much impact on behavior in the workplace. On average, less than 20% of participants in training programs apply learning back on the job. There are many reasons for this, such as: poor training; lack of preparation for training; unreasonable expectations; forgetting content; lack of support from managers; lack of opportunity to apply new knowledge and skills in the short term; and little or no support from the CEO.

Secondly, even if the individual learner has changed in some significant way during training, the workplace culture is still the same. A hostile work environment with a long history of demeaning talk, threatening actions, and violence toward women will undermine learning from even the most outstanding training program. If people attend the training without a clear understanding of how the information relates to their jobs and they have low expectations, a manager that doesn’t care, no opportunity to apply what they know, and no accountability for their behavior and improving the work environment, then we can’t expect them to change.

Without getting into all of the psychological and social reasons why men behave badly, let’s just say that companies need to create a culture of respect and dignity for every single human being in the workplace. This is not only the right thing to do (that should be enough reason) but it’s also essential for business success.

Employees in the past, industrial economy only knew command-and-control leadership. They were expected to do what they were told and discouraged from thinking. These organizations were all about control and power and loyalty. Those values at the top of the hierarchy get translated into managers and co-workers exerting power over the most vulnerable employees throughout the pyramid.

In the current, knowledge economy, this kind of management no longer works. Given the rapid change due to technology, globalization, diversity in the workforce, and hyper-competition, people have to be continually learning, collaborating with others, working in teams, and being creative and innovative. Nobody can do this in a hostile work environment. If you come to work every day fearful of how you will be treated and simply trying to endure, you will not be able to contribute to creating the kind of company that will survive and thrive in the 21rst Century. Employees deserve better!

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Independent Learner in the Knowledge Economy

In the Knowledge Economy, people must take responsibility for their own learning. They need to learn how to learn independently and how to learn what they need to know when they need to know it. The world of IMG_2101 work is changing too fast for any worker to remain a passive learner. John Hagel III and John Seely Brown, leading thinkers in technology and learning, write in an article for HBR titled Help Employees Create Knowledge – Not Just Share It:

…when we recognize that the environment around us is rapidly changing, skills have a shorter and shorter half-life. While skills are still necessary for success, the focus should shift to cultivating the underlying capabilities that can accelerate learning so that new skills can be more rapidly acquired. These capabilities include curiosity, critical thinking, willingness to take risk, imagination, creativity, and social and emotional intelligence. If we can develop those learning capabilities, we should be able to rapidly evolve our skill sets in ways that keep us ahead of the game.

A good example of what they are saying is R&D. Not long ago, product prototypes took months to produce, often by an outside fabricator. Now, a skilled worker using a 3D printer can make that prototype in hours. The implications for a company’s innovation and competitiveness are profound. And 3D printers are only going to get better and better. Operators of these advanced 3D printers need to be curious, think critically, be willing to take risks, be creative, and work well with others.

Jane Hart calls this person the “Modern Professional Learner”. She writes:

For Modern Professional Learners, learning is not something that happens just in education or training, but happens in many different ways every day both at work and on the Web. Hence modern learning skills are not just about how to study or take a course online, but how to make the most of all the different experiences and opportunities they seek out and encounter.

However, employees can’t become “modern professional learners” unless their organizations are supportive of independent learning. Support from training and HR departments is necessary but insufficient. L&D professionals can’t keep up with the pace of learning that has to occur on-the-job and in the flow of work. And they can’t continue to support and reinforce that learning over time. The organization as a whole must have an environment that is conducive to independent learning. The major characteristics of that environment include:

  • Leaders and managers who communicate the value that they place on learning
  • Managers who prioritize employee development, i.e., they see this as an important part of their role (we call this "managing minds")
  • An accepted belief that it is okay to take risks and that failure is an opportunity to learn, that people aren’t criticized or punished for trying something that might not have a positive outcome
  • Open, honest, transparent communication throughout the organization
  • Knowledge isn’t hoarded by individuals and departments; knowledge is shared so that everyone is learning
  • All stakeholders are involved in identifying performance goals for individuals, teams, and the organization as a whole
  • Learning and performance feedback and reflection are part of the normal course of work so that everyone is continuously learning from what they do
  • Opportunities for social learning in-person and via social media are embedded in the workday; the physical environment facilitates co-workers connecting and sharing their knowledge and skills
  • Learning is considered work and work is considered learning; work and learning are not separated in the minds of employees and their managers.

Yes, workers today need to learn independently and continuously. However, even with individual ability, this won’t happen unless the culture of the organization removes barriers to learning and supports learning in every aspect of how the organization does its work.

For more on this topic, see our new book Minds at Work: Managing for Success in the Knowledge Economy published by ATD Press, available now on Amazon.

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Learning Culture & Human Capital: The Reality, the Myth and the Vision

[This post is by Sally Ann Moore, the Director General iLearning Forum at Closer Still Media. iLearning Forum is the most important learning meeting in Europe. Sally Ann wrote this as part of her preparation for the conference.] 

While preparing the Learning technologies France 2018 conference programme, I have been doing research and reading, and in particular looking at L&D trends, Talent Management and Human capital management. I unearthed a real shock and a paradox about the value of people to organizations.

Business Leaders don’t really Value People

In November 2016 The Korn Ferry Institute published their grim findings of a global study:  In August and Paradigm September, 2016, Korn Ferry interviewed 800 business leaders in multimillion-dollar global organizations on their views on the value of people in the future of work. These leaders were in the United Kingdom, China, the United States, Brazil, France, Australia, India, and South Africa.

  • 63% of the CEOs said that in 5 years, technology will be the firm’s greatest source of competitive advantage.
  • 67% said that technology will create greater value in the future than people will. (and 64% believed people are a cost, not a driver of value)
  • 44% said the prevalence of robotics, automation and artificial intelligence (AI) will make people “largely irrelevant” in the future of work.

Worse still, the study found that when asked to rank what their organization’s top five assets will be 5 years from now, the company’s human resources  did not make the list. The top five assets were:

  1. Technology (product, customer channels);
  2. R&D / Innovation;
  3. Product / Service;
  4. Brand; and
  5. Real Estate (offices, factories, land).

So much for Human Capital Management and Learning Culture! I can even affirm that some of the companies in the survey also like to say people are their greatest asset. Ha! (They just don’t tell shareholders that – 40% of respondents in the Korn Ferry survey said they have experienced shareholder pressure to direct investment toward tangible assets like technology). This is known as a “tangibility bias”.

As someone deeply involved in learning and people development, I had to follow my strong belief that it is people that make THE difference, its people that add value and people are the best investment we can make. So I dug deeper. Eureka!

But the Tangibility biased are wrong!

In December 2016, in an economic analysis also commissioned by Korn Ferry, they report that human capital represents to the global economy a potential value of $1,215 trillion – more than DOUBLE the value of tangible assets such as technology and real estate (valued at $521 trillion today).

So, while large organizations put technology in the spotlight in the future of work, it is, in fact, human capital that holds the greatest value for organizations now and in the future.

Human capital is also the greatest value creator available to organizations: For every $1 invested in human capital, $11.39 is added to GDP, (the Korn Ferry economic analysis finds). The CEO’s should note that the return on human capital—value versus cost—is by far the best investment over time.

The problem is “Leaders may be facing what experts call a tangibility bias,” said Jean-Marc Laouchez, at Korn Ferry. “Facing uncertainty, they are putting priority in their thinking, planning and execution on the tangible – what they can see, touch and measure, such as technology investments. Putting an exact value on people is much more difficult, even though people directly influence the value of technology, innovation and products.”

How can we, the L&D specialists address this issue?

We are faced with a constant threat of budget cuts and lukewarm commitment from the executive.  I have always said that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Also what you measure is what you get…..

What are you measuring? My casual research suggests that most training managers measure learner satisfaction with their training, and there are plenty of tools for measuring knowledge and skills attainment. Sadly this doesn’t lead us to a tangible ROI. We can only measure that if we measure outcomes of the L&D investment. That is to say the change in work performed and the increased value of that work.  In this respect, I am glad to say that we are now making big strides implementing the Kirkpatrick model over here and addressing the 70:20:10 rule in our L&D projects. (More on this in my next article)

Managing Minds, not Hands

Additionally I came across some new thinking published this year by David Grebow and Stephen J. Gill in the USA. They have been researching for a book to be published in early 2018 by the ATD press, entitled:  “Minds at Work: Managing for Success in the Knowledge Economy”

They began the research by looking for examples of companies that said they were learning cultures, where learning was continuous and supported in every aspect of organizational life. They never found one. They found some examples of learning cultures within companies, in various departments and units, but never consistently across the whole enterprise. They eventually realized why:  A company can tell the world it has a learning culture, provide lots of learning opportunities, and supply eLearning for everyone. But if management support for learning is not apparent and not constantly on display by managers every day, the original culture that supported and rewarded “not learning” will dominate over any attempt to be a learning culture.

They realized that a culture focused on learning needs leaders and managers focused on learning. So they looked at the critical relationship between managers and learning. Managers are expected to direct people’s daily work and performance. They are not usually expected to develop employees. In the research the authors (Grebow and Gill) identify two basic categories of business organization:

  • 19th style Century “managing hands” older companies, an endangered species
  • 21st century knowledge economy, new companies “managing minds”

The business results of the latter group are far more spectacular than the former. The authors go on to look at several case studies, in order to identify best practice of managing minds. David Grebow will present their results (and the book) at Learning Technologies France, international conference stream,  on 22nd & 23rd January 2018.

Minds at Work will be published this December 2017 by ATD Press and is available now for preorder on Amazon.

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The Future of Work and the Workforce

In the latest issue of Deloitte Review, authors John Hagel, Jeff Schwartz, and Josh Bersin describe the forces, based on research and their own experience, that are shaping the future of work and the workforce. 2000 mind workers The forces they identify are technology (e.g., robotics, artificial intelligence, and sensors), demographic diversity, and customer empowerment. They believe that these forces will change every job and transform the workforce and that success in this new environment will depend on lifelong learning.

They write:

In the new landscape of work, personal success will largely depend on accelerating learning throughout one’s lifetime. As a lifelong learning imperative takes hold, we see individuals increasingly focusing on participation in small but diverse workgroups that can amplify learning. Workers will need to take action on their own to enhance their potential for success, but the impact of their efforts will be significantly influenced by the willingness and ability of the other two constituencies—businesses and public institutions— to evolve in ways aligned with the shifting nature of work.

David Grebow and I couldn’t agree more. Our book, Minds at Work: Managing for Success in the Knowledge Economy, due out later this year, describes what companies are doing to support lifelong and self-directed learning in the workplace. We believe that the key to success is involvement of leaders and managers in facilitating continuous learning by everyone. As the Deloitte Review authors suggest:

Organizations will need to cultivate new leadership and management approaches that can help build powerful learning cultures and motivate workers to go beyond their comfort zone. Indeed, leadership styles must shift from more authoritarian—appropriate for stable work environments shaped by routine, well-defined tasks and goals—to collaborative. In the future of work, we expect that the strongest leaders will be those who can frame the most inspiring and high-impact questions and motivate and manage teams.

Easier said than done. Organizations need to learn how to build a learning culture and individuals and teams need to learn how to learn continuously.

Our definition of a “learning culture” is a work environment that supports and encourages the continuous and collective discovery, sharing, and application of knowledge and skills at the individual, team, and whole organization levels in order to achieve the goals of the organization.  A learning culture is a culture of inquiry; an environment in which employees feel safe challenging the status quo and taking risks to enhance the quality of what they do for customers, themselves, shareholders and other stakeholders. A learning culture is an environment in which learning how to learn is valued and accepted. In a learning culture, the pursuit of learning is woven into the fabric of organizational life.

If this is the kind of culture necessary in “the new landscape of work” that Hagel, Schwartz, and Bersin argue for, then a huge gap exists between where companies are today and where they need to be in the future. Command-and-control leaders need to accept that they must change and then they need to commit to learning how to lead in a collaborative work environment. And managers need to learn how to help workers acquire new knowledge and apply new skills in this collaborative work environment. This transition will take time, patience and perseverance. We should not assume that people already have the understanding and abilities to make this change.

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New Corporate Structure for New Economy

Companies are creating new structures that fit their needs and goals rather than falling back on traditional, hierarchical, bureaucratic, and command-and-control configurations. Like families, once dominated by a traditional, husband and wife and children structure and now outnumbered by non-traditional (one parent, extended, same sex parents, etc.) structures, companies are re-thinking how they do their work. Globalization, technology, competition, and a multi-generational and diverse workforce are causing companies to either build a different structure from the start (e.g., WordPress) or transform themselves (e.g., Zappos) from a traditional structure to something more effective for the new economy.

This trend away from a traditional corporate structure has been happening for some time. In his 2016 book, The Vanishing American Corporation, Gerald Davis says “…the number of publicly traded companies in the United States declined by half between 1997 and 2012.” He makes the case that the public corporation has become obsolete. Much of the work that these companies used to do by being vertically integrated can now be done by outsourcing and using contingent workers. And the advantages of staying privately held are now viewed as being greater than the advantages of going public.

Part of this trend is due to the internet and automation. The number of people needed to do the work of corporations has declined dramatically. WordPress, a billion dollar company, needs only 256 people to run the organization. Other internet companies that are more traditional in structure employ many more people. See the following table from a WordPress marketing document.

Wordpress

Companies are beginning to realize that being agile and innovative is more important than being hierarchical and bureaucratic. They are asking themselves, “Given the dynamic, diverse, and competitive environment, how can we structure ourselves to achieve our goals and be prepared for anything that might come at us?” Leaders are realizing that command-and-control, while easy and comforting and familiar, is not the way to develop an agile and innovative workforce.

So, the question becomes, “How can companies prepare people to work in this new environment?” First, they must change their mindset from “managing hands” to “managing minds.” David Grebow and I have written about this in our new book soon to be published by ATD Press titled, Minds at Work: Managing for Success in the Knowledge Economy. We argue that, fundamentally, companies must shift from a pyramid to a circle in their structure.

The pyramid represents Industrial Economy thinking that dates back at least 150 years, when managing hands was the purpose of companies. Today, in this Knowledge Economy, we must be about developing smart people who can learn continuously and are ready for rapid change. So rather than create an organization that puts the CEO at the top, executives in the next layer, and people with less and less influence in layers beneath, we need to create organizations that facilitate communication, collaboration, and cooperation among everyone. This would be an organization that allows everyone to learn continuously and contribute, to the best of their ability, to the quality of the work environment and the success of the business.

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Culture Eats Strategy

(This post is co-authored with David Grebow.)

Gearing Up for the Cloud, AT&T Tells Its Workers: Adapt, or Else (New York Times)

To cut costs and boost collaboration, IBM forces some remote workers back into the office (TechRepublic)

Ford signals willingness to change to boost stock price (USA Today)

According to these news stories, three venerable companies are making major changes that they believe will help them move into the future and implement a winning business strategy. This reminds us of the At&twarning attributed to Peter Drucker: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” If these companies are making these changes to compete in today’s market, or cut costs now, or boost their stock price tomorrow, they are likely to be sadly disappointed in long-term results. Strategy is important, but given the kind of transformation that must happen in preparation for the future, creating an organization that fundamentally changes the way people are managed and learn must be the focus. It’s more about developing the right culture than implementing the right strategy.

One of the questions Corporate Rebels heard frequently from the many business leaders they interviewed is, How do we structure our organization in such a way that it is future proof? How do we create a culture that will be sustainable and successful?  This is the same question that AT&T, IBM, and Ford Motor must be asking themselves.

The answer is to create an organizational culture in which learning is the primary job. This means not only Ibm encouraging people to learn but rewarding them for learning. And rewarding them for working collaboratively, communicating openly, and cooperating with a high degree of trust. People must have access to the knowledge and skills needed when and where they are needed. People must be able to fearlessly practice and apply new knowledge and skills without being punished for failing.

Creating a culture that supports learning also means that management must remove barriers in order to enable and not disable learning. Command-and-control leadership, hierarchies, bureaucracies, secrecy and compartmentalization of information all stop the free flow of information and inhibit learning. There are managers and companies around the workd that are profitably and successfully moving in the direction of eliminating these barriers.

It’s the difference between a culture characterized by “managing hands”, an Industrial Economy mindset developed when we made things and managed hands, and a “managing minds” culture, developed in the Ford_Motor_Company_Logo.svgnew Knowledge Economy, in which we - especially those of you reading this - produce work using our minds. Most companies, like the three giants mentioned in the headlines, are still managing hands. Not surprising since they achieved greatness by making things – telephones, cars, computers - during the Industrial Economy. Their thinking and resources go toward control and efficiency that maximizes production and profits. Much like the automotive assembly line of 100 years ago, people are treated like cogs in a wheel, not respected or promoted for their ability to use their minds to successfully communicate, collaborate, innovate or create.

To compete and survive in today’s global, technological, multi-generational, and diverse marketplace, companies need to focus on helping people develop their minds, and find ways for people to continuously increase their knowledge and skills. Managers must take the lead to make sure that people can get the knowledge and know-how they need as products, services, regulations and business situations rapidly change. And people must learn how to learn in this new environment, and take responsibility for their own learning.

People who work in companies like AT&T, IBM, and Ford, as well as most other companies large and small, are not creating the kind of culture that will prepare them for a fast evolving future. They cannot solve the problems of the 21st century using 20th century solutions. They need to stop managing hands and start managing minds.

 [Look for our forthcoming book from ATD titled, Minds at Work: Managing for Success in the Knowledge Economy.]

 

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Becoming a Learning Culture: Competing in an Age of Disruption

(This article was initially posted on the Hospitality eResources blog on February 7, 2017.)

All industries are undergoing enormous change, mostly due to new technologies, globalization, and a very diverse workforce. For example, in the hospitality industry smartphones put scheduling and reservations HolidayInn at our fingertips, literally. Social media allows restaurants, hotels, airlines, and travel services to market
directly to us based on our personal interests. Apps give us car services and meals on-demand – no waiting. These services are competition for established companies and are changing the industry and guest expectations. Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, and Grubhub are just the beginning. The industry will continue to evolve dramatically.

Any company, faced with these kinds of disruptive forces must keep learning. Employees must learn how to use new computers and new apps, how to operate new, high tech machinery, how to be responsive to customer demands, how to create innovative products and services, how to manage a multi-cultural, multi-generational workforce, how to work effectively in cross-functional teams, and how to plan for a future that is constantly in flux.

The only thing holding companies back from learning at the speed of change is their organizational culture which, for many, is a barrier to learning. Most companies have a training culture, not a learning culture. This emphasis on formal training is a barrier to learning and change. In a training culture, responsibility for employee learning resides with instructors and training managers. In that kind of culture, trainers (under the direction of a CLO) drive learning.

Whereas in a learning culture, responsibility for learning resides with each employee, each team, and each manager. In that kind of culture, employees, with the help of their managers, seek out the knowledge and skills they need, when and where that knowledge and those skills are needed.

In a training culture, most important learning happens in events, such as workshops, courses, elearning programs, and conferences. In a learning culture, learning happens all the time, at events but also on-the-job, facilitated by coaches and mentors, from action-learning, via smartphones and tablets, in social groupings, and from experiments. Learning is just-in-time, on-demand.

In a training culture, the training and development function is centralized. The CLO, or HR, or a training department controls the resources for learning. When new competencies need to be developed, employees and their managers rely on this centralized function. In a learning culture, everyone is responsible for learning. The entire organization is engaged in facilitating and supporting learning, in the workplace and outside the workplace.

In a training culture, departmental units compete with each other for information. Each unit wants to know more and control more than the other units. This competition can result in short-term gains for those units and even for the organization as a whole (e.g., drug development in pharmaceutical companies). In a learning culture, knowledge and skills are shared freely among units. Everyone is working to help everyone else learn from the successes and failures across the organization. This creates a more sustainable and adaptable organization.

In a training culture, the learning and development function is evaluated on the basis of delivery of programs and materials. Typically, what matters to management is the courses that were offered and how many people attended. In a learning culture, what matters is the knowledge and skills acquired and applied in the workplace and impact on achieving the organization’s strategic goals. It’s less about output and more about impact and the difference that learning makes for individuals, teams, and the entire organization.

Managers play a pivotal role in creating and sustaining a learning culture. They do not have to be instructors nor do they have to be expert in the knowledge and skills needed by their direct reports. However, they do have to hold the belief that people can learn and change, what Carol Dweck calls the “growth mindset”. Managers must care about their own learning, and they must value the development of the people they supervise. If they have these beliefs and values, then managers can contribute significantly to learning in their organizations.

In our book, The 5As Framework, Sean Murray and I describe seven steps managers can take to facilitate and support learning of their direct reports:

  • STEP ONE: Discuss what the learner needs to learn in order to help your business unit achieve its objectives and the organization’s strategic goals.
  • STEP TWO: Agree on a set of learning objectives for the short-term and long-term.
  • STEP THREE: Agree on the indicators that will be used to determine progress toward those objectives and achievement of goals.
  • STEP FOUR: Describe how the learner can get the most out of the learning intervention.
  • STEP FIVE: Arrange for the learner to get whatever resources he/she needs to apply the learning to your business unit.
  • STEP SIX: Plan regular meetings (they may be brief) to discuss progress toward objectives and goals and any changes that would help the learner’s progress.
  • STEP SEVEN: Make modifications in the learning intervention as needed.

Essentially, managers should work with learners to set goals, clarify expectations, provide opportunities for application, and hold them accountable for making a difference. Learning professionals can certainly help managers with this, but managers are in the best position to facilitate the kind of day-to-day learning that is needed in high performance organizations today.

Managers are essential to employee development in our fast changing world. But the culture of the organization as a whole needs to be supportive of learning. Applying traditional notions of education (K-12 or post-secondary) to the workplace will limit the growth and competitiveness of any company. Learning must be woven into the very fabric of the organization.

As Arie de Geus said:

The ability to learn faster than your competitors may be your only sustainable competitive advantage.

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Using Your Head and Your Heart

Tom Friedman, in his recent New York Times column titled From Hands to Heads to Hearts, advises us that “the relentless march of technology” is making human-to-human connection in our work more important IMG_1327
than ever. Even high tech jobs need what Friedman calls “STEMpathy”, combining knowledge and skills in science, technology, engineering, and math with empathy, the ability to understand and have compassion for the experience of others, such as a boss, coworkers, suppliers, business partners, or customers.  

Quoting Dov Seidman, Friedman writes:

Economies get labeled according to the predominant way people create value, pointed out Seidman, also author of the book “How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything.” So, the industrial economy, he noted, “was about hired hands. The knowledge economy was about hired heads. The technology revolution is thrusting us into ‘the human economy,’ which will be more about creating value with hired hearts — all the attributes that can’t be programmed into software, like passion, character and collaborative spirit.”

So the question for me is, “What is a manager’s role in the technology revolution? How can they manage people to get the most from their heads and hearts?” In a December 6, 2016 blog post titled “Managing Minds, Winning Hearts”, I wrote:

…workers will have to be smarter, more agile, and more innovative than ever. As automation and robotics improve, the demand for globalization increases, and communities become more diverse, any organization's competitive advantage will be in its collective knowledge and expertise. This means managing minds. The primary role of managers will be helping the people they supervise to become more competent, capable, and engaged in contributing to the success of the organization.

Friedman and Seidman remind us that the heart matters, too. In addition to increasing job competency, we need people who can develop the compassion and empathy and caring to collaborate, cooperate, and communicate with their teams, across their companies, and with partner organizations.  

But businesses cannot find and hire all of the sufficiently smart, compassionate people that they need. Managers have to develop these employees. Training programs are not the answer. In the knowledge economy, or, as Friedman calls it, the “human economy”, people need to learn continuously, on the job, in the flow of their work. And they need to be technologically and humanly proficient.  

As my co-author David Grebow has said, "The point being that successfully managing minds means being able to get the best from people - their talents, thoughts, creativity, ability and willingness to cooperate and collaborate, trust and more that we can’t anticipate as technology advances. This requires managing hearts as well as minds. In the industrial economy, you could hate your boss and your coworkers and your job and have a low EQ and still crank out work with your hands. Playing well in the sandbox was not a prerequisite. Try that in the knowledge economy, in a company that needs you to be producing with your mind in concert with others with whom you work, and you'll soon be out of a job.”

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21rst Century Organizations Need a Learning Culture

Most companies today have a “training culture”. ATD’s 2016 State of the Industry report concludes:

…the traditional, instructor-led, face-to-face classroom continues to play a crucial role, and it was still the delivery mechanism for 51 percent of learning hours used in 2015.

The percentage would be considerably higher if the ATD study had included all push training, such as elearning programs and attendance at conferences. Which is to say that most learning in organizations is still delivered using formal, structured, leader-centered training methods.

In a podcast produced for ATD, I explain why organizations need to change from this “training culture” to a Podcast “learning culture”. And in the online workshop that I facilitate for ATD titled, Essentials of Developing an Organizational Learning Culture, we talk about what you can do to develop a learning culture in your organization.

This change requires, in part, engaging managers in helping to facilitate the learning of their direct reports. Managers have a key role to play in employee learning, but it means that managers must shift from “managing hands”, a twentieth century way of being a manager, to “managing minds”, a twenty-first century way of being a manager.

For more about managing minds, look for David Grebow and my forthcoming book to be published by ATD in the Spring of 2017, tentatively titled, Managing Minds, Winning Hearts.

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Culture Eats Strategy at Wells Fargo

"Culture eats strategy for breakfast," a quote famously attributed to Peter Drucker, is being played out dramatically in the crisis at Wells Fargo Bank. Apparently, the culture in the Wells Fargo workplace is not Stagecoach aligned with the espoused values of the company. This misalignment has tarnished the brand built on an image of trust and customer care, resulted in the dismissal of over 5,000 employees, poses a threat to the tenure of top executives, and resulted in a precipitous decline in the market value of the company.  

Wells Fargo CEO Stumpf has acknowledged that employees had opened bogus bank and credit card accounts for customers and then collected millions of dollars in illicit bank fees. In reporting on Stumpf’s testimony before the Senate Committee, Michael Corkery writes:

Mr. Stumpf disagreed with senators when they described the illicit sales as part of a deliberate scheme to increase the bank’s bottom line. He said the 5,300 employees who had been terminated over the issue — many of them earning $12 an hour — deserved to lose their jobs.

“The 5,300 were dishonest, and that is not part of our culture,” Mr. Stumpf said. “That is not scapegoating.”

This statement by Stumpf indicates that he does not realize that the dishonest behavior IS part of the Bank’s culture. It might not be what he hopes is the culture, but it surely is the normative actions of employees, recognized and supported by managers, and incentivized by the organization. The behavior is guided by the beliefs and assumptions of employees; it’s how they do their work, regardless of what it says in the company’s statement of values.

If you tell 12 dollar an hour employees that they can make more money by opening credit card accounts and “everyone is doing it” and maybe even, “Don’t worry about it, customers can always cancel”, then the company is rewarding unethical and, in some cases, possibly illegal behavior. And evidence suggests this has been going on for years. That’s culture trumping strategy!

Ethics training required of every employee seems to have had little impact on behavior. This is understandable given the culture of the organization. Whatever employees learned about integrity, honesty, and trust in the classroom was quickly forgotten under the pressure of cross-selling and making their numbers.

Wells Fargo is not alone in its failure to align workplace expectations and behavior with the strategic goals set by management. This disconnect can have very serious consequences for companies, as we are seeing at Wells Fargo. Every organization needs to periodically check to make sure that the actions being rewarded on-the-job are consistent with its espoused values and goals.

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Know the Hidden Curriculum of Work

Do you know what you really need to know to be successful in your job? You won’t find it in company training programs, or in an MBA program, or your professional association’s certification workshops. But this learning is more important for survival and success in the workplace over the long term.  

Jesse Sostrin calls this the “hidden curriculum”. In a post titled, The Hidden Curriculum of Work, he writes:

Nobody told you this, but the day you were hired you actually accepted two jobs. The first was the position you interviewed for, including all of the tasks outlined in that job description. The second IMG_1327
“job-within-the-job” included the unspoken, unwritten work that, among other challenges, requires you to manage constant change, collaborate well with others, navigate workplace politics, and get your best work done in an environment of shrinking resources and increasing demands. Nobody trained you to succeed in this hidden work, and you have to learn how to confront its everyday pitfalls. And although you can reach out to trusted colleagues for input, the pace of work and pressure to perform often limit our willingness to reflect, formulate questions, and take the time to seek guidance.

These two elements combined — the challenges of your job-within-the-job plus the need to add value to your organization through continuous learning and performance — represent what I call the hidden curriculum of work.

I think that learning from this "hidden curriculum" requires knowing how to learn. The ability to “reflect, formulate questions, and…seek guidance” has to be developed in people. We shouldn’t assume that employees already know how to learn in this way. Managers need to help their direct reports learn how to learn from the "hidden curriculum." That is, how to receive feedback, how to inquire, how to ask for help, and how to judge the quality and accuracy of information. Being reflective, in the sense of being open and honest about your strengths and weaknesses and what you need to learn, is not something we all do well but is essential to learning in the workplace.

A critical element of learning the hidden curriculum is co-worker and manager involvement. Much of what people need to learn in the workplace they cannot learn alone. They need to share their learning with others and they need feedback to help them assess how well they are doing, what they should keep doing, and what needs to change. You might not need this kind of social learning with the visible curriculum, but it is essential to the "hidden curriculum."

Awareness of the "hidden curriculum" is all that much more important as the rate of change in technology increases, especially artificial intelligence. Alexandra Levit, in an article for The New York Times titled, Thriving in the Robot Workplace, writes:

I think the only way forward is to look at artificial intelligence developments as an opportunity rather than a threat. We need the mind-set that success is no longer about our level of knowledge but about our level of creative intelligence. If we accept the process of lifelong learning, in which we adapt to new ways of working as technology improves, we’ll always find roles that take advantage of our best qualities.

Both Sostrin and Levit are making the point that the workplace is constantly changing from social interactions and technology and, therefore, to be successful in the workplace we need to be continually learning and adapting to the environment around us. And we need leaders that recognize the “hidden curriculum” and this need for life-long learning and provide the conditions and resources to support continuous learning in the workplace.

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Learning to Work in a Time of Digital Disruption

What will the workplace be like in an age of disruption? What will employees be doing and what will managers be doing when companies are going through digital transformation? These are important MP900438708questions for the many companies that are faced with dramatic technological change in the near future…or right now!

John Boudreau, in an HBR blog post, writes that “five fundamental forces” are driving change in the workplace:

  1. Shift from traditional hierarchies and social contracts to more flexible work arrangements and more project-based and collaborative work agreements
  2. Increasingly inclusive workforce with individualized work policies
  3. Increasingly virtual with work done anywhere and any time
  4. Continual adaptation to “rapid business reinvention”
  5. Acceptance of automation and creation of new work to support automation

This fifth force seems to be the one that is causing the others. Boudreau writes:

Robots, autonomous vehicles, commoditized sensors, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things reshape the work ecosystem so that flexible, distributed, and transient workforces adapt to rapid business reinvention.

As automation takes over more and more jobs, we tend to think in terms of how many people will be put out of work. But more helpful is thinking about how to use automation to create satisfying jobs and a workplace that is joyful.

This is how the Global Center for Digital Business Transformation describes the challenge:

In an age when technology seemingly reigns supreme, people remain a company’s greatest asset. Workforce management, however, is among the most vexing challenges facing any organization. It also presents one of the greatest opportunities. When properly channeled, the collective knowledge and skill of a workforce can drive the next multibillion-dollar market. After all, disruptive technologies and business models are fueled not by algorithms, but by people—innovating, collaborating, and taking bold chances.

The DBT Center says that this will require “digital business agility” and their research suggests that the underlying capabilities are:

  • Hyperawareness – ability to gather and analyze data from employees, contractors, customers, competitors, and the marketplace
  • Informed decision-making – ability to use the collective intelligence of the workforce to make good strategic and operational decisions for the organization
  • Fast execution – ability to act quickly to find the talent that is needed and get the right people on the team to achieve the strategic goals of the organization

Companies need to develop their capabilities for lasting change, not just a short-term reaction to disruption. Companies face obstacles to lasting change according to The Boston Consulting Group:

The biggest obstacle [to developing new capabilities], however, is that new capabilities call for fundamental changes in behaviors—the ways that employees, managers, and executives work on a daily basis. And behavioral change is hard. Without a systematic and explicit approach, companies can, at best, change these behaviors only superficially and temporarily. Once the transformation process is over and attention shifts to the next priority, employees can easily revert to their old ways of working, and the improvements of the transformation disappear.

The digital transformation confronting companies requires that they develop new capabilities. These new capabilities, if they are to be sustained, require that workers acquire new knowledge, skills, and beliefs, teams learn how to make good decisions and act quickly, and whole organizations learn how to use their collective intelligence to make good decisions in the face of profound transformation of their industries.

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