Podcast with Northlake PG: Meet Katrin Kircheis

Katrin is taking the plunge into starting her own business and leaving the corporate world.  Learn a little bit about how Katrin has come to this decision and her journey to becoming self-employed.

Katrin encourages you to believe in yourself and find a coach that will hold you accountable and help you grow and develop as a professional.

Hybrid Workforces: Successfully Managing Different Types of Workers

First published by People First, on February 12, 2019

There are a number of questions that may be raised, “How will our full-time staff react to these workers?”, “How can we quickly embed these worker types into our culture?” and, “How do we stay ‘friends’ and keep our options for future working relationships open?”

Let’s look at some different scenarios that you might be able to identify with from your own company.

  1. Your full-time staff thinks your contract hires are overpaid and unnecessary

It is not just the job of your company to integrate contractors into the workplace, but also their co-workers. Your company has their reasons to hire a contractor and you need to point out the benefits that they receive as a full-time employee.

Beyond this, you need to create a culture of acceptance and explain the role of the contractor in a way that full-time staff do not see them as outsiders but rather someone who will help them achieve their goals!

How can you do that?

Something I often see done for permanent staff is introduction emails or meetings with the rest of the company or relevant teams so that they can get to know their new colleagues. Do the same with your contractors, encourage your staff to say hello on the day they start and provide everyone with details on how the contractor’s role will fit in with their tasks.

  1. Temporary employees are not worth investing (full-time) training in

Why train someone for the full two weeks your induction plan usually lasts if they are only hired to work for a limited time? Why should co-workers spend time and effort getting to know someone who doesn’t even have enough loyalty to commit to a permanent job?

Similar to the scenario with contract workers, a company needs to ensure permanent staff are informed of the importance of the role the temporary member is taking on and needs to enlist someone from each relevant team to take them under their wing. This can speed up the process and make the person feel welcome.

How can you do that?

A good method is to provide the new temp with information about the company, details about their job and contact details for colleagues BEFORE their first day in the office, so they can prepare themselves and potentially have questions ready for their first meetings. This is a good introduction process for any new hire, including temporary workers.

  1. Part-time work means part effort

Well, that is what you pay them for, part-time… Don’t expect the same output from your part-time workers, unless you are prepared to pay them overtime!

One way to integrate part-timers more effectively into your working culture is to offer more part-time positions, so that they have others in the company they can relate to. Simple, I know. Unfortunately, there are not many great part-time options available that can support people in all kinds of situations, be it new mothers and fathers, or someone who tries to get their own business off the ground. Our way of working needs to change so part-time becomes normal and integrates itself.

Of course, many people are opposed to working part-time because, well, we all need money to survive. Here are two simple facts for you:

  1. The hourly rate for part-time employees tends to be lower than that for full-time staff.
  2. Part-timers also don’t enjoy the same kind of year-on-year salary increases that full-timers do.

So, for companies, maybe the easiest way to integrate and value part-time workers more is to pay them fairly.

What else can you do for your part-timers?

Part-time employees have less time to get a job done, and they also will not get as much done as their full-time counterparts, as pointed out earlier. They will however need to know how to do their jobs and any necessary updates. Include them into your team meetings or lunches, give them a voice to share their own ideas and opinions. In short, treat them as an equal contributor to the team’s and company’s achievements because they are doing their part (pun intended).

In general, it helps if you have a flexible induction plan that tailors training to job types and individuals as well as an inclusive working culture and learning environment that people can contribute to. Most people are social, so not shutting contractors, temporary or part-time staff away to different parts of your office will help them mix with the crowd and collaborate with the right people.

There is so much technology you can also use to your advantage today, such as AI like People First’s Chatbot, a virtual assistant helping employees with otherwise tedious HR admin tasks.

Or trust the age-old ‘buddy system’, where one or multiple employees are ‘allocated’ to the newbie to guide them through the first days or weeks and connect them to the rest of the company.

There are some other things to consider. Sometimes, it depends entirely on the person if they even want to integrate themselves. Or the role and what needs to get done. If you hire a bunch of contractors or temporary staff because you need them to knock out a particular project by a certain time in a contained team, maybe you don’t need them to integrate with the business as usual part of your organisation. Some people might purely do the job you give them and then leave to go to their next opportunity.

However, if they are leading a team of permanent staff, then you need to make it clear to the permanent staff why they are now reporting to someone who might not stay on for long. They might cover for a colleague who is on maternity, paternity or long-term sick leave or you needed someone quick as interim whilst looking to recruit the person who will take on the team permanently, or help them through a particularly busy time. You get the point.

If a company is good and provides the control necessary to get the job done (and this applies to permanent, full-time staff as much as contractors and part-timers), people will go that extra mile and potentially come back for future projects or refer other experts in the industry. It’s all about tailoring the experience to the individual.

If I may provide one last thought, leading back to one of the earlier questions – do we actually need to think differently about integrating permanent and contract workers? Maybe if we think of all of them as people who will spend a finite amount of time working with us, we can create a shift in the way we view all worker types.

4 Practical Tips To Inspire Learning In Your Business

First published by the eLearning Industry, on December 23, 2018

How To Inspire Learning In Your Business

Do you want to offer fantastic training opportunities for your employees, to help them grow within your organization?

Do people keep telling you about all the awesome new training technologies that will totally transform the way your employees learn, like AI (Artificial Intelligence) and VR (Virtual Reality)?

Do you then look up examples of how other companies have implemented these? Do you discover that you most likely cannot compete with a PwC and their own app called Digital Fitness? This is an app where employees see how they compare against their department and organization and a tailored learning plan is created. You cannot even compete with IBM’s Skills Gateway, which offers learning journeys, events, and career planning with IBM training advisors; all these due to the fact that you do not have the same resources.

If you answered yes to these questions, then fear not. In this article, I will provide you with 4 examples that will come in handy:

1. Create Spaces To Share Existing Knowledge

In my first article, published by People First, I explain how you can create a ‘culture of learning’. It’s fairly simple; you need to give your employees space and time to learn, when and how they want to. You do not need expensive learning software for this. You just need to draw on what you have; the talent in your company and their desire to connect and develop.

You can facilitate weekly learning groups, where people share a part of their job or company knowledge with others. This can be recorded for people who are unable to attend in person or online.

You can use existing communication tools such as Skype, Slack, and even WhatsApp for your employees to talk and ask each other questions with the result of (near) immediate responses. All of these technologies are free of charge, most people know how to use them, and you can also share documents. This is particularly useful if not everyone is in the office all the time. It will help everyone to connect, and it doesn’t have to be restricted to work topics.

2. No Need To Reinvent The Wheel As The Internet Offers A Lot Of Free Learning Content

YouTube is one example that has a lot of content covering a vast variety of topics. Your weekly learning groups can follow a specific topic, which is further discussed in your Skype or WhatsApp groups.

Let your employees find useful videos regarding this topic and share them on social media. Reward the most liked/shared/helpful video with a prize at the end of the week! For example, this video about Fire Safety.

3. Work With Experienced Training And Learning Design Freelancers To Draw From Their Expertise

If money is tight, the training department is often the last to receive funding or budget allocations. Maybe you don’t have a training department. The above-mentioned methods are easy to implement, however often you will need someone to facilitate them, especially in the beginning.

You might also want to create training workshops or online modules that are tailormade for your company, and that’s where freelance training consultants will be a great option as you can flexibly work with them on a case by case basis, rather than having to justify the money for another employee.

4. Look Into Off-The-Shelf Online Platforms

There are several online HR and learning platforms that you can use, which offer a flexible approach to the way people learn. People First’s Chatbot, which is a form of AI, allows employees to lead a daily, confidential diary which they can use to reflect back on, and this makes it easier to share any struggles they might have with their manager. Litmos offers a fully functional platform and accompanying content with one of their newest additions, Litmos Heroes. You can also upload and create your own learning courses. GoodHabitz has a similar approach, offering selected content at a flat rate price and adds new courses every month to provide ongoing learning opportunities.

It all depends on your company and the ideas you have for its future, and the talent within!

Social Learning: How to Create a Culture of Learning

First published by People First, on August 13, 2018

Many companies reluctantly spend a lot of money sending employees on training courses that can last for days. During these, employees are unable to complete their daily work, which might distract them, or they are answering emails and miss important information. Often, these formal ways of learning are the only time employees receive training, which not only costs the company money, but also productivity.

Organisational learning objectives require new employees to get up to speed as soon as possible. However, formal learning only makes up about 10% of our preferred way of learning. The other 90% involves exposure to new tasks and learning through experience. This is known as social learning.

 

Understanding social learning

There has always been social learning in the form of information handed down from generation to generation. But formal teaching has also been practiced throughout history, with students being lectured on certain topics. Research into human history and neuroscience has shown that this formal way of learning is only a small part of how we retain information. All known learning constructs lead back to four theories about the way we learn: behaviourism, cognitivism, experiential and andragogy.

 

We can look at various concepts and theories of collective and social learning, such as Kolb’s experiential learning, which divides learning into a process of experiences, where learning takes place through reflection on doing. To explain application of the theories in the workplace, we can use Knowles’ andragogy, which relates specifically to adult learners. To explain learning models currently in use and the way they work, Kasl’s, Marsick’s and Dechant’s system model of adult team learning and Jennings’ 70-20-10 framework provide great insights.

Social learning is a combination of learning through behavioural observation, such as watching someone perform a task and repeating it, and the cognitive process of memorising the task. We learn from each other and document our knowledge for generations to come. We learn what works and what does not, so we can refine ways to learn through new theories and practices. Through studies of human history and neuroscience, we have discovered the ways information is passed on to others and what role our brains plays in it.

Social learning is a form of collective learning. Another form of collective learning is collaborative learning, where people work together on a common objective to either find a solution or create something. These could be people with different skills and knowledge to share and help each other develop. Give clear structures to your collaborative learning groups and assess the outcomes achieved.

As businesses review their goals and achievements, it is obvious that formal learning is not enough – people often state that they learn best by ‘doing’.

Some learning and development (L&D) neuroscience best practice implies that self-generated insights, either by observing someone or by doing something, are much more crucial in embedding learning or behavioural change than just providing the information or solution. Helping people to arrive at their own learning triggers more brain activity by creating new pathways and rewarding achievements with the release of dopamine.

According to Rock’s SCARF model, one of the five domains of human social experience is autonomy, which provides a sense of control. It is more effective to let employees have control over their learning and guide and facilitate it, rather than simply presenting them with information. Learning needs to be incorporated into the work and business structure, to be part of everyone’s tasks instead of on top of them. Instead of isolating teams, people need to share their knowledge and experiences, beyond watercooler talks. Casual conversations can lead to information being shared incidentally, even though learning was not the initial aim of the conversation.

 

Putting social learning into practice

Technology has made it so much easier to share information; however, a lot of knowledge sits either with individual people or departments. Often, knowledge gets lost when employees leave. Using technology to prompt people to share and store information and knowledge helps organisations retain tacit and implicit knowledge. This can be particularly helpful across international companies.

Structured working groups or communities can be set up on chat applications to share updates on specific projects. These groups are great for team learning, whereas informal forums can be used by teams and individuals to share insights and updates about their tasks. Social media groups help to exchange ideas between teams and ask questions on topics relevant only to them. This way feedback can also be given instantly, and learning can be built upon by facilitating Q&A sessions with more experienced staff. Teams can share methods on how they have achieved their goals and invite others to try them too.

Webinars help to connect people in different offices or countries, screen share facilities are useful for sharing visuals, and webcams help to form better relationships with colleagues or peers that one would usually not meet in person. A Learning Management System can be used to store guidance, policies, videos and e-Learning courses that employees and even clients have access to.

Instant feedback on what works and what does not can be captured using survey software, which helps the L&D team to continuously analyse and improve the training offered. In turn, employees can respond quicker to clients’ needs by being able to locate the relevant information when and where they need it. It reduces the need to redesign or restructure training, as there are different options in place that work for everyone.

This lets individuals build personal learning networks and find the best learning method for themselves, others and possibly the company. This builds collective intelligence. All this is part of the 70% experience and 20% exposure to new tasks and environments of Jennings’ 70-20-10 model. So, organised and self-organised learning needs to go hand in hand. Also, knowledge and skills gained through self-managed learning can often be transferred into the personal life and are therefore a big motivator for adult learning.

Most of these activities can be done as micro learning – bite-sized learning tasks employees can build into their working day, without worrying about missing important emails or deadlines when attending hour- or day-long classroom sessions. This helps decrease the learning curve of new employees, as training will be incorporated into what they are already doing.

Implementing social learning spaces in organisations promotes a greater presence of collaboration within the company. Siloed working gets broken down and important information is shared between teams instead of being kept separate. Taking opportunities as they come can decide if a business will become a leader in their industry. Giving employees the space to collaborate helps them to evolve and become better professionals, which in turn helps the company become better in what they are doing.

 

A new learning culture

Of course, there are always challenges we need to tackle, including the fear of the unknown, or the desire to continue with the way things have always been. People might not want to share their knowledge, holding it as leverage to be the only subject matter expert. We need to show them that sharing information is valuable to everyone.

The end goal is a learning culture where self-directed learning is embraced. This creates respect and nurtures individual performance, so we can all help create an organisation we want to work for. If employees see what is in it for them, they will feel the benefit and will be happier to contribute to the overall company goal.

So, by implementing and facilitating collective and social learning in the workplace, companies can not only save money by not relying on formal training courses for all of their training, they can also help employees learn faster by providing them with learning experiences that are part of their job.

As mentioned in the introduction, about 90% of our preferred way of learning consists of exposure to new tasks and learning through experience. So congratulations! By reading this article, you have now learned how useful facilitating collective and social learning is, what kind of technology is helpful in implementing it in the workplace, and some tips how to do so.

The Business Case for Ongoing Learning

Have you heard of the Forgetting Curve? About half of what we learn gets lost after just one day!
It is known that we retain about 10 percent of the information we see, a third of what we see and hear, and 90 percent of what we see, hear, and do.

 

For most of us, being asked to log in to the company’s Learning Management System and complete a ton of e-Learning courses or sitting through hours of live training is distracting and tiring.

We are social by nature and learn best through social interaction and by keeping control over when and how we learn. Adult learners need to know what’s in it for them, whether that is development or simply saving them time doing a task.

When people see what is in it for them, they will feel the benefit and be happier to contribute to your company’s goals. Save money and time by not relying on just formal workshops or e-Learning. Provide learning experiences that are part of your employees’ jobs, contributing to their well-being. In work and adult learning, autonomy and control over the when and how result in better performance and higher satisfaction.

Help your employees gain and retain the knowledge and skills they need to make your business successful.

Giving your employees space to collaborate provides them with a unique experience that helps them to evolve and become better professionals, which in turn helps your company grow and become better at what you are doing.

Save time for your employees and money for your company. Get stuck into the core tasks of your business, with a learning and company culture that works alongside your mission and vision!

Overcoming Challenges

In my first blog post here, I wrote about some challenges I faced so far in my career as a Learning and Development (L&D) professional. I promised to follow up with how I overcame them:

  1. Training is often an afterthought.

Your company needs to become a culture of learning, we as L&D professionals need to design training in a way that it becomes part of the everyday tasks of each employee. This way, we support performance and your learning programme will be on everyone’s minds the minute they issue a job offer or a new product is on the horizon.

Tip

Collaborate with and make friends in every department. Find out what they struggle with and help people learn and develop in a way they feel comfortable with. This in turn helps everyone be more productive, keep learning and the company becomes more efficient. Put training on top of everyone’s priority list!

 

  1. Training does not have a (big) budget.

And actually, it does not always need one. By subtly integrating training activities into every day work lives and facilitating knowledge sharing, we can start creating a culture of learning. Although once training is on everyone’s priority list it will be easier to free up cash for solutions that really help the whole company become better at what it does.

Tip

Use already established, free of charge options for employees to exchange ideas, best practices, ask questions and organise themselves: use social media. It doesn’t have to be Facebook or Instagram, but you can use Skype, Slack and even WhatsApp. You can organise people into groups according to departments and projects and let them create their own groups to chat. They don’t always have to be work related. Sometimes it’s really good for colleagues to get to know each other on a more personal level. The more people have in common, the more they will collaborate.

In addition to being free, most people also already know how to use these tools, so no introductory guidance is needed! If someone doesn’t, arrange for a colleague to show them – facilitating knowledge and skill sharing is everything.

 

  1. Staff complaining about boring PowerPoint presentations…

This is a difficult one. Or is it? Learning by doing is best, right? If you ever watched The Office (the American version), this little gem might delight you: Fire Drill – PowerPoint is boring. If you haven’t watched it yet, this was your introduction.

Tip

Don’t do what Dwight did in the video, for it is a bit extreme. But, instead of you always being the one to present, facilitate. Invite people to workshops, for them to share what they might already know about the topic or what they think it’s about.

Create short activities that people not just participate in but contribute to.

Example: Send out information and guidance about the topic for everyone to study before a meeting (pre-reads) and ask everyone to give a 2-minute presentation on a specific part – but not to use PowerPoint. See what happens. Try out different methods and find one or more that work best for you and your colleagues. Just get people involved.

 

  1. Too many different skill sets are expected from one person.

This one is also fairly difficult to overcome, probably the most difficult of all. You can try 100 times to explain to your manager and finance director that you need money to either attend training and learn the relevant skill sets yourself or to employ someone who has them already. If there is no money in the budget, then there is no money in the budget. To be honest though, a company that does not understand the need for employees to develop and pay for the relevant training, might not be a company you want to stick around at.

Tip

This might not be what you want to read, but despite what I just said in my last sentence, maybe instead of the company paying for your training, you can pay for it yourself? Maybe you can make a deal with the company to pay you back (even partially), once you produced the first results from your training.

If not, pay for it anyways because you will always be able to use your new skills somehow and somewhere. There is one important thing I have learned about work and the future of it: be a perpetual learner. Don’t rely on your company to teach you everything you need to know about your work.

 

Was that helpful? Leave a comment to let me know 😊

Challenges of a Learning and Development Professional

Hello World! For my first post, I thought I’d write about some of the challenges I have been facing in my career so far, so you can get to know me a bit better and hopefully we can connect on that level too!

So, this is the story of me, a Learning and Development (L&D) professional in a corporate world. It could also be your story.

Ever since I was little, I loved learning and I loved school. I wanted to be a teacher, someone adored by kids, helping them achieve good grades. How easy and amazing it would be!

As I grew older, I realised how much stress a bunch (or better, 30!) kids and teenagers can be, not least because I was one of them. I learned that teachers also don’t exactly have 6 weeks off during summer and don’t really earn a fortune. So, I let go of that dream and placed my career on hold for a while.

Once I started working, I enjoyed helping others with their tasks and training new hires into their roles. It felt good to share wisdom and I liked how people looked to me when they needed help. I thought to myself ‘Heck, I don’t need to teach kids to be a teacher, I can train adults!’. My dream came true after all.

Again, of course, what I didn’t know about where the challenges connected to L&D teams in the corporate world.

 

Here is a short list that you might identify with:

 

  1. Training is often an afterthought.

I realised quickly that the training team or trainer was often left out of decisions on projects that influence how people work, what tools they are using and ultimately how they will learn new skills and do so going forward. Or you are informed on the day a new person starts that you need to dedicate all your time that week to the induction of said new hire. Ugh!

 

  1. Training does not have a (big) budget.

Many companies seem reluctant to invest into their people, starting with the training budget. It is more important to allocate money to the design of new products or bonuses of senior management (Which are, granted, people too.). You can use PowerPoint and video conferencing to communicate with people speaking different languages in different time zones, right? Google Translate is free last time I heard…

 

  1. Staff complaining about boring PowerPoint presentations…

‘Great, another afternoon wasted sitting in meeting room ‘Waterloo’, trying to stay awake whilst listening to an energetic trainer and participating in group activities. I wish the company would provide short, online training modules I could complete conveniently at my desk…’ … is probably what the average employee will be thinking when you drag them into your workshops.

 

  1. Too many different skill sets are expected from one person.

Finally, the company has decided to gift you some money and is investing in an online Learning Management System. You get to name it and everything, how fancy! Oh, and while you are at it, can you create all the content? You know, use Articulate Storyline, Video and Photo Editor, Camtasia and whatever else you need to convert your boring PowerPoint presentations into animated, fun, short little videos employees and clients get to watch at their desks. Without any training for said Software, of course. There is no money for that or hiring a Training Designer now that we bought you that really fancy, expensive Learning Management System…

 

Of course, these challenges are not exclusive to training departments. So if you are working in a different area and can still relate, I would also love to hear your comments!

 

What is the challenge you find yourself most confronted with?

What are others not listed?

Leave a comment and I will dedicate a next blog entry to tackling those challenges.