Training needs to mirror real life.

Think about it. If I’m training you on how to change a bicycle tire and then I set you in front of a bus, that training wasn’t very useful. It didn’t mirror real life. It wasn’t realistic.

If I train you on how to change a bus tire indoors on a smooth surface with all of the proper tools at hand, you’ll be more likely to be successful if you have to put that skill into practice.

However, if I ultimately train you to change that tire complete with all of the environmental factors (outdoors, possibly on a road shoulder surface, angry customers staring down at your back, etc.) in the mix, there’s a greater chance of success overall.

As you might imagine, this applies in the workplace as well. In the short video below I talk about simulating real life in both training and recruiting/selection. Subscribers click through to view.

In the past I have shared free eBooks on employee development and training. You might be interested in checking those out.

If you’d like to read the rest of the article and learn three questions to ask yourself about your training as well as a shocking statistic behind aircraft pilot training, you can do so at the Brandon Hall Group blog.

This topic is a bit controversial, but it’s something that I believe and stand by. Why? Because I’m a fan of reading, for one, but also because I have personally seen this work as a tool in the world of work.

  • I’ve used books within performance discussions, both positive (succession/development oriented) and negative (performance improvement/problem-focused) with varying degrees of results.
  • I have helped to establish a library for employees to help them have access to some of the books that mattered not only to our industry, but also to the type of culture we wanted to have.
  • I have read books that have made me better at work in a variety of ways. Knowledge really is powerful stuff.

Last week I was quoted in the Chicago Tribune talking about this very topic. The article is a good one and worth a read. Here’s a snipped:

It dawned on me recently that reading is not an activity that’s often associated with work. It’s more of a leisure-time endeavor, which is fine — but if it’s so darn good for us to read, why shouldn’t reading be a part of the working world?

I’m not talking about co-workers starting a book club, but rather companies encouraging all employees to read certain books. Maybe even launching discussions about those books or using them to drive home aspects of the company’s culture.

“I think it really applies to the workplace and the kind of environments we want to create,” said Ben Eubanks, a human resources analyst at Brandon Hall Group and an advocate for workplace reading. “One of the things that I like best is when you read it and I read it, and then we get together and talk about it. The discussion that happens afterward. If you’re sitting in a PowerPoint presentation, I’m telling you things and you’re taking things in but there’s really no discussion.”

He thinks reading should be an expected part of any employee’s performance. It could range from books that management picks for all workers to read — ones that get at the company’s core philosophies — to books that managers suggest for specific employees, with an eye toward helping make the employee better.

“I’ve worked with managers in the past to assign them a book that we think will help them learn the things they need to learn or develop a skill they’re not being exposed to,” Eubanks said. “People who are successful are often crazy about reading. They make time for that because they understand how important it is, and it’s kind of like a secret weapon.”

Instant replay

Let’s replay that last part again:

People who are successful are often crazy about reading. They make time for that because they understand how important it is, and it’s kind of like a secret weapon.

Simply put, leaders read. And people at all levels of our organizations can be extraordinary leaders, if we help give them the keys to learn and grow.

I can’t determine causation without some hefty research, so I can’t speak to whether reading makes us successful, or successful people naturally read more. What I can say is that there is correlation there and we can certainly attempt to exploit that for the betterment of our employees and their families.

The big picture

As I have shared numerous times in the past, reading is something I believe we all could stand to do more of. If you’re trying to read a book per week, learn how to set up a structured reading program within your company, or set up a book club in your local area to connect with other folks who want to get smarter, those are all worthwhile goals.

That’s why I have published dozens of book reviews over the years. That’s why I continue to accept the ridiculous number of pitches from publishers trying to get me to read and review books about HR, leadership, talent, learning, etc. I want to get better, but I also want to share with you so you can get better, too.

I can still remember the first book review I ever did. As I read The Pursuit of Something Better something changed and I really saw how the ideas I picked up from the book could impact my day to day HR practices. This is powerful stuff, and if you learn only one idea from a book that you can use on a regular basis, then it’s worth your time and money to invest.

Thanks for letting me rant a bit. Some of you will take this to heart, pick up a book (maybe one I have suggested), and commit to being better at this HR thing. Others will finish reading this article and move on, making no changes to their own professional growth. I hope I’ve reached you, dear reader, as one of the former.

driving social learningRecently I was speaking to a local SHRM chapter about the changing world of HR through the lens of social tools. This isn’t the “you should use Facebook!” session, and I’m not sure if I even mentioned that platform a single time in the conversation. No, it was all about how both vendors and corporations are leveraging social tools to improve their learning, recruiting, and talent management initiatives.

One of the questions from the audience at the end of the session was this:

We are using a discussion board/forum as a way to increase the community aspect of our learning initiatives. However, we’re having trouble getting people to share out there. If we ask them to specifically, they usually do, but otherwise they don’t post. How can we get our people to be more engaged?

I think there are a few ways to make this platform more active, especially if it has proven to be a useful tool and isn’t just a “flavor of the month” sort of project.

  • Inertia: start some momentum by researching some of the most common questions posted in the forum and post a “frequently asked questions” section answering those specific inquiries. If you want to make it even better, you can link the specific answers to specific users, allowing people to follow up for more detail on their individual situation. Then it’s more of a two-way, social communication channel.
  • Hey, Bob, how do you feel about being an expert? Expert directories are becoming a more common way of helping to assign responsibility in a social learning context. In this situation you’d tag specific people to be recognized experts with the responsibility to respond to questions in their lane. That helps to ensure questions not only get answered, but that they get a response from someone who is qualified to actually respond.
  • Performance: if all else fails, make interacting part of everyone’s performance goals. When I took distance learning classes in college, we had requirements to post one thought and respond to one other person’s post on a weekly basis. It took maybe fifteen minutes to complete, but it kept a steady stream of insightful commentary flowing through the discussion board. We were graded on our participation, and I see no reason why we couldn’t expect the same from our employees.

These aren’t the only answers, and they might not even be the best answers; however, it’s important to recognize the problem (lack of engagement in this case) and begin testing solutions to resolve the issue.

Have you run into this sort of issue in the past? How did you resolve the problem? 

Recently I had the opportunity to participate in a project to collect some employee development ideas for a free eBook. It launched recently, and I’m excited to share it with you today. Click the link below to download this guide full of actionable tips and strategies relating to employee development ideas. I have published a piece of my contributed article below for you to see the kinds of topics the free guide includes.

The Development Scale – Leading the Right Shift to Self and Organizational Development

Employee Development Ideas: Encouraging Development

employee development ideasCongratulations! You’ve picked a development goal for yourself. It’s big, but that’s okay, because the important thing is that you’re focusing on your development and setting goals for yourself. Now let’s sit back, relax, and enjoy the happy feelings associated with setting a personal goal.

Or not.

See, the problem that I consistently see with employees making development goals is that they don’t give enough thought to the actual completion of the goal. It feels good to set a goal and declare our intentions, but when you’re mired in the “everyday” tasks, the goal is the furthest thing from your mind.

The important thing here is that we all need some encouragement to pursue those stretch developmental goals — they don’t just happen accidentally.

And research shows that employee development may have a larger impact on their overall work and results than previously believed…

Click here to check out the guide and read the rest of my piece, along with content from some of the other highly intelligent development ninjas in the space! A big thanks to my pal Chris Ponder for putting this guide of employee development ideas together!

I’m edging into my three year mark with Pinnacle Solutions, and I’m thinking a good bit on growing professionally and avoiding a stagnant mindset, among other things. Recently my friend Krista published a piece on staying fresh. She made some great comments, and I want to spin off those today as a great tie in to the overall discussion.

  • How long is too long?  
  • How do you keep growing?

how long before you burn outJust to get us started, let’s check out some of Krista’s commentary:

I’m a little torn on this whole 10 years [at the same job] = stale idea. I’m not stale. You know what, I’ve known people who were stale in their roles after two months, because the truth is, they were never fresh. I’ve known people who moved from position to position within the same organization and are still stale with each incarnation. And… I’ve known people who honestly do stay too long and go stale in their roles.

So, if there’s a formula or idea on how to do it right, what is it? How do we answer the big questions mentioned above? Let’s dig in.

How long is too long?

We’ve all met those people. They are continuing to “work” and exist in the workplace, but they aren’t contributing anything of value. They are going through the motions and just biding their time until they can leave. They’ve been there too long.

In my own career, I have kept up one steady focus: grow or leave. If I ever get to a point in my job where I’ve stopped growing and learning and I no longer have passion for my daily efforts, then I start looking elsewhere. In the past, that could have been 1 year, 2 years, or more. It really depends on the manager, workplace, and other factors.

That has been my longstanding decision, though. And I stand by it. If you’re not growing and developing, you might as well find a place where you can.

How do you keep growing?

It might be a surprise to some of you, but growing requires effort. You can’t just sit back and have growth opportunities pour into your lap forever. Sure, when you pick up a new role or responsibility, you might have the option of picking and choosing from a multitude of growth opportunities, but eventually you’ll have to take the responsibility on yourself and seek them out.

As I discuss in the post on owning your own growth, you need to have a mindset change. Want to be more valuable? Make yourself more valuable. Want to develop new skills? Start researching ways to make that happen. We all have growth areas we can pursue, but the hardest part is often making the first move. Commit. Go for it. Make it so.

Nobody else is going to do it for you.

Wrapping it up

To turn it back to my own career progression, I’m approaching the three year mark at Pinnacle and still learning new things each week. I’m staying on top of trends, learning new software tools, and developing my daily skill set to prepare for future career opportunities (whether at my current employer or elsewhere).

Want the world to know that you are not stale?

Prove you’re not. Today and every day.

In the long run, you’ll be glad you did.

manager trainingManagers need development like any other employee, but sometimes it is difficult to find out just what they want or need to learn. Click the link for part two in the series on how to develop managers.

Recently I’ve realized that one of the biggest needs we have as an organization is manager training. We have supervisors who have forgotten what it’s like to be human, new managers with little or no experience in the role, and ones who keep screwing up even the most basic of leadership tenets.

In other words, we need it bad.

But when I brought up the idea of offering a survey to the managers to help figure out the development holes that need to be filled, I quickly realized the fallacy of that wide open approach.

  • Some managers would say they didn’t need any training
  • Some managers would say they needed training in irrelevant/impractical areas
  • Some managers would immediately become defensive

So just saying “What do you want to do better?” isn’t an option. But there’s a better way to do ask the question and still get a solid response.

The question I usually ask when I am looking for stealth development opportunities is this: “What is your biggest frustration as a manager?”

That opens the door to all kinds of answers, and I’ve never met a single manager who didn’t have a heartfelt response (or a dozen!) to that question. Those answers will help guide the process from there. For instance:

  • My biggest frustration is dealing with apathetic employees. This opens the door to providing some training on leadership skills and ways to motivate and inspire their people.
  • My biggest frustration is hiring poor performers. This is an opportunity to work with them on interviewing techniques to select the best people.
  • My biggest frustration is [insert problem here].

You get the picture. Instead of having to start from scratch, let them tell you what they need in terms of development and training. Then give it to them.

How do you identify manager training needs? More importantly, how do the managers respond?

Carnival of HR Every two weeks there is a meeting of the minds. There is an event that occurs that, while relatively unknown, has long-term implications for the profession that I love. It affects the HR community, and it often draws a crowd of participants and spectators from around the globe. It’s the HR Carnival.

What it is

Your brain

The Carnival of HR is a free collection of stories and articles by some of the brightest minds in HR thought leadership. Every two weeks you can find it at a different website. All you have to do is stop in, read anything that interests you, and share it with someone else who might enjoy it.

The most recent edition focused on the SHRM conference and what attendees did or didn’t learn (see the Post-SHRM Breakdown article here). The whole process is powered solely by volunteers who want to help others to learn and grow. I wrote a post months ago about the HR blog carnival and how to make a difference. It’s a great addendum to this post.

My first ever Carnival of HR was last year, and the title was a fun idea I had to get a little attention. Check out 25 Pieces of HR Awesomeness if you’d like to see an example of a Carnival.

Why you need it

Your brain on HR

Most people (including those in the esteemed profession of human resources) stop learning and growing once they get into a job they are comfortable with. That’s not a jab or a complaint, it’s just a fact.

A big goal of mine is helping people love what they do. When you are constantly learning and growing, you enjoy what you do so much more. So give the Carnival of HR a shot. Anything that has a name that festive has to be pretty great, right? :-)

Bonus challenge

Okay, I might have convinced you to check out the carnival by now. If so, that’s fantastic! If not, I’ll ask you this-do you like helping people, sharing neat stuff, and/or building your own credibility? I’m betting that everyone wants to say, “Yes” to that question.

Doing things as small as sharing resources can help others to see you as a credible expert. I’ve shared interesting articles with my own boss that eventually filtered through to other VP’s in the company; those VP’s then stopped by to chat about some of the debatable points in those articles. In the future, if a problem comes up relating to the topic of those conversations we had, then I’m going to be remembered as a solid resource. All that just from sharing a few articles a handful of times.

Going even further

If you ever get wild and crazy and would like to not only read and share the items in the Carnival of HR, but maybe even write something to be added to the Carnival, feel free to contact me about it. I’d love to help.

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