I’ve been wanting to write for some time about the customization of, well, everything. I think it’s fascinating that so much can be customized to your very specific, individual tastes. Personalization is in virtually everything we do.

Movies/television? Give Netflix a go.

Music? Check out Pandora.

Hungry? Get a NatureBox with your own favorite snacks.

Sports? Yes, even sports. ESPN’s 22 million (and growing) website visitors are going to see a customized display based on their own location, interests, etc.

This incredible shift is hitting us in all of these areas, but a story I heard a few years ago about a school in New York could be the next advance in learning.

Let me introduce you to the School of One from iZone. Here’s a bit about them:

iZone is a catalyst for 21st Century learning across the New York City Department of Education, (NYCDOE) the largest school district in the country, serving 1.1 million students in more than 1,700 schools. We work with schools, the edtech marketplace and policy makers to design and scale promising learning models that prepare all students for college and careers.

So what is the School of one? In a nutshell it is an individualized education plan that adapts to a child’s learning style. Not just a program that we set based on a child’s preferences, but an actual adaptive program that can change over time to deliver the highest-impact learning experiences possible.

This is blended learning at its best. Children are taught in traditional group classroom lectures, small group work with peers, and online tutoring sessions. Then teachers can review the data on performance before and after the types of sessions, and an algorithm helps to select the following day’s exercises based on which ones the student learned from best. Over time this happens continuously to fit the program to the individual student—hence the name “School of One.”

But What about the Workplace?

We know that our training and development efforts are not going to reach all employees in the same way. And each employee has different needs from the training programs we offer.

What if instead of using a blanket program we could tailor it over time to deliver the best possible learning experience for the lowest possible price? Here’s an example of how this could play out in the workplace.

The Custom Learning Training Method

Let’s say Mary scores highly on a post-test after she sits through a live instruction class, but Bob scores higher after he completes a learning game. Tomorrow we swap them to compare the results. If both of them have the biggest improvement from the learning game, maybe we start lean more heavily on the gaming aspect.

Then we introduce another element: social learning. At this point they diverge. Mary does poorly when it comes to social interaction, but Bob does even better than with the game. So in terms of the learning programs Mary’s preferences are built this way:

  1. Game
  2. Live instruction
  3. Social

But Bob’s are different:

  1. Social
  2. Game
  3. Live instruction

And over time the algorithm will continuously tailor the training to best meet their needs and return the best results for the time invested.

How is this different?

Some would say that companies already offer these types of training options, but the difference here is the system learns what works best for you and redirects time and resources into training you via that medium. It’s not just based on preference–I might like video training but it doesn’t necessarily improve my results as much as a learning game.

My first thought is that this sounds incredibly costly to develop. But Pandora offers an even deeper level of customization completely for free for most users (and still managed to net $230 million in 2015 revenue). And Netflix is just a few dollars a month for a matching algorithm that measures your TV and movie preferences to deliver recommendations that you would enjoy. As more attention moves to this concept of the custom learning experience, we will see more opportunities to scale these types of programs. I’m excited to see what is next.

What are your thoughts on custom learning experiences? What other ways can customization and personalization weave into our training methods and HR practices? 

Recently I had the pleasure of joining Trish McFarlane for an HCMx Radio podcast episode where we talked about how to use simulations in your recruiting and training initiatives.

We start with a bit of my background–if you’re new here that might be interesting for you. Then we leap into some of the work we’re doing at Brandon Hall Group. Finally we get into the meat of the conversation–using simulations to really drive home better recruiting/selection practices and better training/development practices. It was fun and I think you’ll enjoy listening!

Click here to listen to the podcast.

HCMx Radio on BlogTalkRadio

One of the things we talked about was having exercises for different types of jobs. I found this excellent set of examples below (this is partial, click through below for the full listing) to illustrate the point that virtually every job can include some element of this type of tool.

Job Simulation Exercises

PositionMust-haveSample Exercise
COOCritical thinking, writingObserve the organization in action (delivering a training session, staging a rally, holding a hearing, etc.) and propose recommendations for improvement in a 2-3 page memo
Manager of programsStrategic thinkingRead and analyze a set of goals and objectives and come up with recommendations to pursue
Director of communicationsPublic speaking, judgmentRehearse a press conference or a call with a reporter about a controversial program we support
Manager of a small- or medium-sized departmentGeneral management, staff supervisionSimulate giving positive and corrective feedback to a supervisee

Courtesy of the Management Center

 So, what did you think of the topic? Do you like the podcast format? Would you like to see more of those? 

assess training needsIf you’ve been tasked with conducting a training and development program, it’s important to look at the issue from all angles. This involves taking a deeper look at the role that each individual plays in the organization, and where there are gaps in the current employee training program. Here are five areas to focus on as you examine the organization’s training needs.

1. Analyze the organizational goals

One of the primary ways to identify a business’s training needs is by looking at the organization’s goals and strategies. An organizational assessment takes a deeper look at what these goals and objectives area, and how effective the team currently is at the moment. You can also look at the history of employee training and if it made any measurable changes in the organization’s performance. The purpose of this type of assessment is to help you see the bigger picture, forecasting where training would be required and how effective it would be.

2. Conduct a work or task assessment Continue reading

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.

Several months ago I was looking for some recruiting training opportunities, and I ran across a few promising offerings. I ended up not pursuing those for a variety of reasons, but I recently had an experience that gave me a different perspective on the subject.

uh-60m instructor pilotI recruit often for helicopter pilots. It’s fun, interesting, but also tough (these guys usually aren’t hanging out at the employment office). I’ve always thought it would be fun to take a ride in a Black Hawk, but it’s not easy to do since the majority of them are government/military aircraft. However, a few months back a friend was able to secure a ride for me on a UH-60M, which is the model I most often recruit pilots to fly.

The ride, in short, was amazing. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to paricipate.

A more familiar example

My friend Michelle previously worked for a manufacturing company. A few days a month, the accounting and HR staff had to jump onto the line and help the workers get all of the work accomplished to meet their production quotas.

As the HR manager there, she learned just how important it is to ensure proper rest breaks, adequate safety measures, etc. The insights gleaned from those experiences made her a better recruiter and HR professional.

The question I have for you is how deep is your knowledge or understanding of the positions you recruit for? Can you at least carry on a conversation about the key concepts, or are you lost without another person as a translator?

My initial learning curve

It’s more embarrassing to not ask a question and look like an idiot than to ask the question and get an answer. At least that’s my philosophy, anyway. So when I started getting open requisitions for positions like “provisioners” and “UH-60M instructor pilots,” I started asking questions.

  • What does a _____ do?
  • What are a few keywords that I should look for in a resume?
  • What sort of background prepares someone to be good at this job?
  • How do you tell if someone is qualified or not?

Based on those answers, I can at least do a good preliminary review and find some qualified people. I’m still not qualified to do a full technical review of the person’s skills and abilities, but that’s why we allow technical people to participate in interviews! I think what helps me to do well as a recruiter is not necessarily my technical knowledge, but just being excited about the company, the work, and the people.

 

I’d encourage you to dig in and learn what you can about your employees’ jobs. You never know when that information will help you relate to them in a meaningful way or enhance your recruiting abilities.

Get them involvedIn my first post on how to develop managers, I talked about uncovering manager development opportunities. Today we’ll talk about how to structure your organization so the managers want to get involved with their own development.

Hire right

It starts with the hire. If you hire someone who is comfortable with what they can already do and isn’t interested in doing anything more, then you’re probably going to have difficulty working with them. One of my favorite songs uses this lyric, and I repeat it to myself often when things start to get a little out of my comfort zone:

Somewhere in the grand design, it’s good to be unsatisfied. It keeps the faith and hope a little more alive.

There’s nothing wrong with finding someone who is not satisfied with where they are currently Continue reading

training for supervisorsI attended a new supervisor training session a few years ago, and it left me with some strong feelings about how to run a supervisor training program. I think the way it’s traditionally been done is a poor method for teaching managers what they need to know, but I haven’t decided on the right combination of teaching tools/methods that would be most effective. The one thing I know for sure is that it needs to change.

I ran across this site recently and had to laugh. It is a common theme that I’ll get a call because I’m the “computer guy” in the family. With Teach Parents Tech you have the option of sending video links directly to those who need assistance. That allows you to indirectly teach your parents/grandparents/in laws/whoever how to do computer tasks from simple (changing your computer’s clock) to advanced (changing your email address).

Why can’t we do that?

Then I started thinking about other applications. What if you could do the same for your supervisors? What if there was a neat way like this to teach them the basic principles of good management? Would you use the tool?

For instance, a new supervisor runs into a situation (giving feedback on poor performance, motivating employees in a slump, giving a presentation to senior management, etc.). They don’t have someone available to ask for help, so they pop onto the web and find the video that corresponds with that particular situation.

No, it’s not a perfect substitute for an in-person chat with someone who already knows how to do the task, but it’s better than going into the situation blind-folded. Just a little bit of preparation could go a long way in most instances.

A few situations I think would be neat to cover:

  • How to give accurate, honest feedback
  • Why documentation is essential
  • The wide world of terminations
  • Harassment, discrimination, and lawsuits, o my!
  • Safety and security in the workplace
  • How to train someone
  • Coaching and mentoring your staff
  • Building and managing teams
  • Developing and pursuing a vision
  • And tons more!

What do you think? Are there other scenarios that you think they run into on a daily basis that they could use some new supervisor training on?