I’ve been reading a slew of books lately focused on neuroscience. One line in the latest hit me, and I thought it would be interesting to pull together some of the thoughts from a few to share. Here’s the tidbit (emphasis mine):
What do [scientific] studies show, viewed as a whole? Mostly this: if you wanted to create an education environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you would probably design something like a classroom. If you wanted to create a business environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you would probably design something like a cubicle. Source: Brain Rules
Wow. We have known for a while that classroom training was losing its luster compared to social, video, mobile, and other informal delivery methods. However, this is a stern indictment of the most commonly used method of training, with 40% of companies using classroom-based instructor led training (ILT) more than half the time.
Attention, Focus, and Work
Another book that quickly hooked me was Two Awesome Hours. The basic premise is that we were not meant to sit at a computer for eight plus hours a day working at a single repetitive task without breaks. That’s what robots are for. Josh Davis, PhD, says some people can get as much done in two good, productive hours as others can in an entire day. The concept has to do with a few different elements of work, but the part that has been most interesting for me is working on focused activities when I’m most “on.”
Making decisions isn’t a limitless activity. We have a finite amount of willpower and every small decision we make chips away at that reserve. In the book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath, the authors examine the metaphor of the elephant and rider. The elephant (our subconscious) makes many small underlying decisions in our daily work and life. The rider (our conscious brain) makes larger, more complex decisions, but it has a limited amount of power to guide the elephant when tired, overtaxed, etc. That applies in the context of our work, where we make hundreds of decisions every day.
In other words, when you have that golden hour of focus and intensity in your workday, use it for critical thinking and other thought-heavy tasks, not for responding to emails, making phone calls, or chatting with coworkers. Then fit in those more routine/mundane tasks when needed. All too often we waste that precious time doing things that require little brainpower but ultimately leave us unprepared to handle strenuous mental work.
I recently read that more workers are opting to work from home as a way to avoid distractions and focus more intently on projects. Always seen as a nuisance, we now realize that interruptions of any kind have a more profound impact on work than previously believed. This experiment shows that it’s not just time that is affected by distractions, but overall work quality as well.
The Learning Impact
What does this have to do with learning? Pretty much everything.
Brandon Hall Group’s principal learning analyst, David Wentworth, recently shared some amazing insights into how companies are transforming the classroom environment to be less traditional and more interactive. The way we structure our classes, for the most part, hasn’t changed over the years. But there are now phenomenal examples of companies pursuing more interactive methods of training, whether blended with the classroom approach or entirely separate. Like it or not, the most effective method for training, according to those organizations we surveyed, is still classroom-based ILT. But that doesn’t mean it has to stay the same as it was 10 years ago.
These principles that apply to work in general apply to the world of learning and development. Here are a few examples of how neuroscience can help us make better training decisions:
- Don’t put people in a lecture for three hours and expect them to be attentive, alert, and engaged. Break up the session with discussions, opportunities for application, peer interactions, etc. This helps to ensure the content not only sticks, but has some real-world examples to make it more concrete.
- What we see is more powerful than any other sense. Expecting people to multitask and read your slides while you talk is going to limit the effectiveness by forcing learners to split attention among your words and your text. In fact, John Medina, author of Brain Rules, suggests tossing your text-laden PowerPoint slides in favor of image-based ones that support your topics without overshadowing them. Studies show that we have an amazing capability to remember imagery, but only a mediocre recall rate for text.
I’m not sure that I will be ready to throw away my beloved slides anytime soon, but these ideas have given me something to consider next time I’m putting together a deck for a presentation. What are your thoughts on how our brains are wired for learning? Is the classroom giving us the results we need, or is something more needed to improve the retention and value of existing training.
Transformational learning, or transformative learning, is focused in part on learning that drives us to do things. Today I’m going to talk about what listening to over 500 hours of podcast programs has done for my learning, but first I’d like to tell a quick story.
Back when I was in high school, I played football. I was one of the smallest defensive players but somehow managed to nab a slot on the front line as a defensive end. I don’t know about you, but being ~170 pounds and facing the midsection of a 325-pound offensive tackle after he has just pulverized you into the dirt for the fiftieth time in a row isn’t my idea of a good time.
Anyway, after the Friday night games I would drive to my girlfriend’s house and we’d watch movies and have dinner together until I had to get home for curfew.
One night I was pretty tired (probably from a hard night of playing crash test dummy for a handful of 325-pound linemen, but I digress), and I was switching the radio around to find a station that would help me to stay awake for the 20 minute drive home. I happened across what sounded like an old radio program, and I realized it was a Twilight Zone episode that had been recorded for radio listeners. I was instantly hooked.
From that point on, I would leave her house every Friday night in time to listen to the first of the episode in the car. When I got home, I would park the car, wait for a commercial break, run into the house, and turn on my radio in my bedroom to listen to the rest of the episode. It was a strange and wonderful ritual, and I can still remember listening intently to some of the stories in my dark room after midnight. Spooky, but fun.
Even then I knew that audio was a more intense experience for me. I’ve read hundreds of nonfiction books in my lifetime, and I think my imagination is better for that. But I also love the opportunity to listen to stories and learn in the audio format. When I’m listening to fiction it feeds that imaginative nature and builds creativity, and when I’m listening to informational/nonfiction work I get the chance to boost my performance in all areas of life without having to dedicate the time I would if I was exclusively reading for transformational learning and personal development.
500 hours of podcasts – check
I popped open Stitcher, my favorite podcasting app, the other day and was surprised to see my “total hours of listening” number had reached 500.
In the big picture, 500 hours isn’t too much of my life. But to put it in perspective:
- I used to count ~2000 hours as the workload for a full time staffer for one year. So if I was employed to listen to podcasts, it would be a full time job for three whole months.
- If I follow the principles in The First 20 Hours, I could learn 25 new skills with that time.
- If the average TV show is ~40 minutes without commercials, I could have watched about 750 shows.
Now, I know that 500 hour figure is scattered over the past two or three years that I have been using the Stitcher app on my Android, but I’m amazed at it nonetheless. In case it’s not apparent, I very much enjoy listening to audio.
But this isn’t just about my preferences. I think you would enjoy it, too. In the rest of this article I’m going to talk about what I listen to, why, how, and when/where. I hope this helps you to get a better understanding and maybe even drives you to check out some of the options out there.
Podcasts I listen to
I listen to a variety of podcasts and am always searching for more to add. I don’t do profanity, but otherwise I’m open to checking out pretty much anything.
- HR Happy Hour–a show that lasts less than an hour, but is packed with fun conversation, interesting people, and trends affecting the world of HR.
- Smart Passive Income–this show features great topics surrounding the world of internet marketing and has helped me with this site as well as with HRevolution.
- 48 Days to the Work You Love–I have listened to Dan Miller on this podcast for over 8 years now. I can remember listening to an episode while driving on my honeymoon back in 2007. Great content on careers, doing what you love, and entrepreneurship. Very positive.
- Entreleadership–Dave Ramsey’s small business/leadership focused content. They usually interview a nonfiction author and discuss the person’s latest book. Good for content focused in small chunks on specific topics.
- Michael Hyatt–I recently added Michael to my list after several stops and starts. I like some of the content but other parts are too general/generic for me. He was the former CEO for Thomas Nelson publishers, so I like the book publishing information but some of his leadership stuff just isn’t hard-hitting enough for me.
- Pseudopod–Last year I added some content like this and the next one as a way to get more “fun” out of the podcast medium. Pseudopod is a horror fiction show (they also produce both SciFi and fantasy options) with great narration and stories. Not every story is a winner, but often times they are.
- No Sleep Podcast–This is the first podcast I’ve ever paid for. David, the editor, started the podcast on a whim a few years back. I was listening from the beginning. A year later he quit his job to do podcasting full time. The NSP typically covers several shorter stories and are less subtle than Pseudopod, but still great.
- How to Do Everything–this is an NPR podcast where the hosts talk about news, listener calls, and how to do, well, everything. For instance, recently a listener called and asked why they couldn’t wear a penguin costume for the “penguin encounter” at their local aquarium. The hosts interviewed someone about penguin life in the aquarium and it was very interesting. Another recent episode talked about how one college in the UK used micropigs to help lessen testing stress. Yes, it’s usually funny as well.
- Freakonomics–I’ve mentioned my love for Freakonomics here several times. Being a college economics professor was always one of those things I dreamed about doing but somehow made it into HR instead. I love economics and learning more about some of the unasked questions these guys focus on in the show. Very entertaining and informative.
This is not necessarily a podcast, but I also use iHeartRadio to listen to the Dave Ramsey show replay whenever I have exhausted current episodes in my podast list or when I need something that is safe for family listening.
Why I listen
Three simple words: enjoyment, entertainment, and education.
- Enjoyment: I just want something interesting to listen to (I rarely, if ever, listen to music in the car #fact).
- Entertainment: I’m doing something unpleasant and want a distraction (dishes, cleaning the garage, or organizing my office).
- Education: I am focused on a specific area and want to improve my learning (marketing, writing better copy, improving knowledge of enterprise HR vendors, etc.)
I love sharing things I hear and learn. Last week I was coaching a lady at a job fair and asked her what kinds of things she watched, read, and listened to. Her response was “junk.” I gently reminded her that what we have to say is a direct result of what we’re putting into our brains. If we want to be positive, engaged people with intelligent things to say, then we need to be putting those kinds of things into our heads.
Years ago Earl Nightingale released what some consider to be the first ever motivational audio recording (it was on an actual record, if that tells you how far back). It was called The Strangest Secret. The gist of it was this: we become what we think about. If you spend the majority of your nonworking time thinking about TV, celebrities, and other things that have zero impact on your life, then you will ultimately see the results. Similarly, if you spend a portion of that time listening and reading, you’ll see those results as well. I have documented well my love for reading, which is due in part to great quotes like this:
“The difference between where you are today and where you’ll be five years from now will be found in the quality of books you’ve read.” – Jim Rohn
But today we’re focusing not on reading, but on tranformational learning via audio. It breaks down the barrier of “I don’t like reading” for those of you that use that as a reason to avoid any sort of personal development.
I would encourage you to open your favorite podcast app and do a few quick searches for things you like. This doesn’t have to becessarily be about learning HR and leadership, although it doesn’t hurt to pick up some new ideas in those areas. For instance:
- If you like cars, find a car/auto show
- If you like knitting, find a knitting/crafts show
- If you like small business, find an entrepreneurship show
- If you love being a parent, find a parenting show
- If you enjoy inspirational stories, find an inspiring/uplifting show
There are hundreds of options. Once you start narrowing them down you’ll have your own custom playlist, and I’d love for you to share it with me in the comments below. If you already listen to podcasts, what is your favorite show?
How I listen
I use the Stitcher app on my Android Moto X to play the podcasts. It was funny, because on a recent weekend trip we were in an area without service for a period of the drive. My wife asked how I was able to listen to the podcasts because she wasn’t even able to get Facebook up on her phone. :-)
What I do in order to save date usage is I’ll turn on the app when I’m at home or somewhere with WiFi (which is pretty much anywhere these days). It will automatically download and sync the latest episodes of my favorite shows for offline listening on the go.
Where/when I listen
As I said above, I listen to podcasts when I’m driving, when I’m doing physical labor somewhere, or when I am trying to keep myself awake.
When I am doing dishes or something where I’m fairly stationary, I will often keep headphones off and let it play out loud as long as it’s family friendly (some of the horror shows are a bit much for everyone else in the house). I love the idea of the kids growing up listening to positive, encouraging audio like Zig Ziglar and Dan Miller’s 48 Days show, though.
Funny enough, here are the times I rarely listen:
- When I’m running
- When I’m working
Yes, I know. That is when many people most want to listen. I’m not saying that this is the “right” way to do it; I’m just saying that it is an example of my own personal preference for the medium. Enough about me and my habits, what about yours?
Do you listen to podcasts? What kinds? Where is your favorite place to listen? Why?
Update: I published a newer version of this in 2017. You can find it here: 40+ Free HR Training Sources
Recently on LinkedIn I saw someone asking how to learn HR. Specifically he was trying to learn compensation when he didn’t have a background/foundation in the topic. The people in the comments made some good suggestions, but many of them involved expensive certifications, workshops, and other similar costly avenues. Coming from a background of smaller organizations with limited budgets (and understanding the personal budget of a new HR pro), I know that most of those suggestions are not possible for a significant number of people. Today we’ll look at how to learn HR from the ground up in some of the most practical, and inexpensive, ways possible.
Whether you’re just thinking about getting into HR, you’re just starting out, or you have some experience behind you and you want to grow your skill set, you’re going to walk away from this article with some good ideas on how to do that.
First, Let’s Flash Back to 2009
In 2009 when I started this blog, I was thinking a lot about recent HR grads and the world of HR education. Let’s revisit, because it sets up the rest of this article nicely as far as a true need for HR-related information.
HR education isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The colleges and universities are living in a different age. And although some of them are trying to upgrade with technology, they’re still using textbooks as the major instructional material. And who writes those textbooks? Well, I’m sure they’re smart people, but for the most part, they are not involved with the day-to-day business world. For some students in technology-rich fields, their college education may be obsolete by the time they graduate. This scathing comment from a recent study:
“College was a total waste of time and money. Computer courses are bordering on obsolete by graduation. There were not nearly enough computer courses in my degree program. I gained no skills to get me a job.”
— anonymous computer information systems grad
Maybe it’s time for someone to offer something revolutionary in terms of HR education?
Here’s a novel idea. Why don’t we take some measure (not all, mind you) of education from the HR blogs that already exist? There are dozens (hundreds?) of wonderful people pouring their hearts and efforts into maintaining a blog that describes the ins and outs of human resources. What if schools had some sort of HR education curriculum that required—or at the very least suggested—its students study from those actively participating in the field? How revolutionary would that be?
I only found out about the prevalence of the blogosphere when I was nearly finished with college. And that was only through my own personal research on topics that are unrelated to human resources. I stumbled across a few blogs and loved the community-like atmosphere and the availability of information.
I have long believed that to be great in HR you need to go beyond the knowledge that formal education offers. That’s only about 20% of what is necessary to be great in this profession. The other 80% is learned afterward in various ways.
Qualitative Data Comes First
Back when I was a wee lad just thinking about entering the HR profession, I had a mission. This was pre-LinkedIn, so there was no easy way for me to do this. I spent hours scouring websites for local and regional companies and then emailing the HR contacts from the website with a few questions. Unfortunately I don’t have the exact list of questions any more, but here are a few of them:
- What is the average day like for someone working in human resources?
- What sort of training or education did you have that prepared you for this job?
- What is the biggest challenge you regularly face?
- What’s the best thing about your job?
I received dozens of responses from all of those hours of work. I actually created a few research papers in college based on that information, but more than that, it helped me get a glimpse into the world of HR that my classmates did not. This concept is going to come into play again in just a moment, but I wanted to introduce it here first. The purpose is to gather qualitative data about what to focus on and that will guide future learning. Without it the learning is haphazard and without structure.
As you know I am a firm believer in using books for learning (the latest in the series on that is about making a leadership reading list), but I’m staying away from that medium for purposes of this post because they are not free and because I want to focus on nontraditional ways to learn this information.
How to Learn HR Skills for Free
Remember the example I started this article with of the young man looking to learn more about compensation? Here’s the first half of the response I provided:
Surprised nobody here has mentioned Payscale.com for free research, white papers, etc.
Let’s analyze that, shall we?
First, I mention a vendor website. Payscale sells compensation data and tools to businesses. So why would I recommend them? Because they have a wealth of free resources, white papers, webinars, and other information on their site. I could spend a day just reading and listening to the content there and have the equivalent of a basic college level compensation course work of information in my brain. And it cost me nothing but a little time. As far as how to learn HR, that’s not a bad way to go.
And the fun thing is that this is just one vendor. There are hundreds, and many of the larger ones provide these same free tools to help us. Not sure where to go? Here are a few suggestions just to get you thinking. I spent half an hour researching these for you guys and this is just scratching the surface!
Now, obviously when these types of companies are sharing these resources their ultimate goal is to use them as marketing to drive you to their products, but you’re certainly not obligated to purchase anything. These resources are free, and you should take advantage of them.
How to Learn HR (And Get Paid To Do It)
I’ve written fairly extensively on getting into HR, breaking into the profession, etc. On the job training still one of the best ways to explore experiential learning, and if you can lock in a job, you get paid while you’re learning.
More info on those topics:
- Entry Level HR Jobs: The Ultimate Guide
- How to Get Into Human Resources: Ultimate Guide
- How to Get Into HR (HRYP Series)
You might assume that you have to have some of this education in order to get a job in HR, but it’s certainly not the case. Plenty of people move into an HR career without that sort of education or knowledge.
One thing that is worth noting here: your job will not cover all types of things you can learn in HR. That is why it’s important for you to keep up the momentum in the other tactics listed here so your learning does not suffer and you don’t get stuck in that job forever. If you keep learning and growing, you’ll be ready for the next step on the career ladder when it’s time to make that move.
How to Learn HR from Real People
Now, the other half of the response I provided to the request for information is equally important. Here it is:
Try to find some people in your local HR community that “do” compensation and spend an hour or two with each to understand what works for them, what doesn’t, and what they would have liked to know if they had to start over.
This is exactly what I did when I started learning human resources, and it’s still a powerful tactic today. Again, with tools like LinkedIn this makes the whole thing so much easier.
When I hear from people just getting into the field, one of the first things I recommend is for them to find some trusted contacts to start building out their network. Over the years I have been able to connect with hundreds of great HR pros, and some of them have amazing specialties.
For instance, one lady I coached during PHR/SPHR prep last year is a compensation and tax whiz. If I have questions on how to handle taxes for an employee, I could easily pick up the phone or shoot her an email. If I have questions about incentives and motivation, I’ll reach out to Paul. Heck, if I just need a pick me up I’ll read anything Steve Browne writes.
Get the picture? We don’t have to feel like we are in this thing all alone. We also don’t have to figure out every single piece of it by ourselves without help or support. There are so many great resources and people out there that we can connect with. Figuring out how to learn HR is not just a solo act.
While the web has helped with this and made it more easy to scale up, it has also made some of those connections more shallow. That’s why I also think it’s critical to build a local network of people as well. Within my local area I have a couple dozen HR pros I could call today if I had a question or just wanted to hash out an HR problem I’m dealing with.
That took time, trust, and effort to build, but I started with just one person who took pity on me as an introvert and introduced herself to me at a SHRM chapter workshop all those years ago. I’ll always remember that first interaction. If you’re looking to build out your own network, I’d encourage you to connect with your local chapter. Being a member is helpful, but the best benefits come when you volunteer on the SHRM chapter board and really get involved.
How to Learn HR: Blogs
Read. A. Blog.
Okay, so not all blogs are worth reading. True. However, if you have curated content from someone you trust, that can help to keep the quality high and give you some good, free knowledge. This has been another key part of my learning strategy, especially in those crucial early months when I was just trying to understand how this whole thing worked.
When I talk with college students about HR, I tell them that with a degree specifically in human resources they know about 20% of what they need to be successful. The rest comes from experience, additional learning sources, networking, etc. I always point them to blogs, because those were a major part of my informal education beyond college. I can still remember reading two PHENOMENAL writers, Frank Roche and Chris Ferdinandi, and I can easily trace some of the philosophies I have about how I do HR back to things I read from those two individuals. There are certainly others, but those were the first two I really ran across and latched onto as I was working on understanding HR.
So, how do you find blogs? The HR Carnival is a “traveling” blog collection of some good content in the HR/recruiting space. I recently wrote one themed on Strategic HRM, and I would encourage you to check it out it if you haven’t already.
Otherwise, check out the sites I link to regularly. I don’t link to low quality blogs or sites that I don’t know.
Pro tip: use a tool like Feedly to double your blog reading speed.
If you want to know how to learn human resources management, blogs provide a very easy way to do that.
How to Learn HR: HR Podcasts
Okay, maybe you’re not a huge fan of reading. I have two things to say:
- Get over it. You’ll need to use that skill often and it’s better to practice it and do it well than try to avoid it and do it poorly. :-)
- There are other options besides just reading.
Over the past few years several great HR podcasts have surfaced and they are free and provide great information that you can listen to at work, at home, in the car, on a run, feeding a baby at 3am… Yeah, something has to keep me awake when I’m feeding the little guy and it might as well be educational, right? :-)
Here are some of the best HR podcasts you can catch. Pro tip: certified HR pros can get recertification credits for listening to HR podcasts!
- HR Happy Hour – I’ve been a listener of this show from the very first HR Happy Hour episode, and it has been amazing to follow. Steve Boese has really delivered some great information and entertainment for his audience. The topics for the show (employer branding, the future of HR, technology, and work/life balance, for example) are varied, but the friendly, conversational nature makes it easy for anyone to become an addicted listener.
- Drive Thru HR was designed to be a captivating and easy-to-digest lunch discourse that covers topics relevant to HR professionals. Each 30-minute episode features a guest speaker who shares her or his knowledge and experience in human resources. Our hosts and special guest cover a wealth of topics, including HR Technology, Recruiting, Talent Management, Leadership, Organizational Culture and Strategic HR, every day at 12:00 pm Central Time.
- Xenium HR for Small Business podcast focuses on HR topics of interest to all HR professionals, whether at a small business or not.
- Ultimate Software has a selection of podcasts on key topics of interest to HR and payroll professionals, delivered to your desktop on-demand. This series is presented by Ultimate customers and other industry thought leaders on topics that can contribute to company success.
- CIPD publishes a new podcast on the first Tuesday of every month. Each episode is like a short radio show, focusing on a workplace or people management topic.
- SuccessFactors doesn’t update their podcast any more, but there are dozens of great episodes of People Performance Radio you can still use to learn more about HR.
How to Learn HR: HR Videos
The other medium to explore is video. I ran across a few YouTube channels that would be worth checking out for some great content to dig into. While you’re not getting 2-3 hour lectures (I’m sure you can find that if you’re really interested!), you are getting information that will help you to learn HR and improve your knowledge.
- SHRM (link) I haven’t mentioned SHRM anywhere else in this article because much of what they offer is not free and is hidden behind the pay wall. However, the content on their YouTube channel is free high quality.
- MeetTheBossTV (link) I have followed MeetTheBoss for a while now and really like the executive viewpoints, the high quality video, and the interesting discussions. This is not all HR content, but I found over 30 minutes of HR specific, strategic discussions within a minute or two of searching.
- Human Resources Magazine (link) while they haven’t updated their channel in a while, I found some great content that would be worth reviewing.
Learning HR doesn’t have to be difficult or painful! Yes, some lessons have to come with experience and a series of trial and error, but you can pick up much of the knowledge you need from these types of resources.
- What questions do you have about how to learn HR?
- What is your biggest challenge in this area?
- What has worked for you?
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.
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.”
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.
Recently 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?