In case you missed it, there was a SHRM Conference Daily post this week with a very interesting headline. In short, the EEOC said that training doesn’t reduce discrimination. The logic behind the commentary had a few holes that I want to point out really quick, but I want to spend the majority of the time today helping you to understand what actually works for eliminating harassment. Here’s the synopsis:
The biggest finding of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC’s) Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace may be what it failed to find—namely, any evidence that the past 30 years of corporate training has had any effect on preventing workplace harassment. “That was a jaw-dropping moment for us,” said EEOC Commissioner Victoria A. Lipnic in a Sunday Session at the Society for Human Resource Management 2016 Annual Conference & Exposition.
Two quick notes that need clarification:
- There are 90,000 harassment claims, so training doesn’t work. What kind of training was used? How many of those complaints actually were legitimate harassment issues?
- 90% of harassment is never reported. That means that hundreds of thousands of workers in the US are harassed every year. I don’t buy it. Working with a jerk or someone that is not always pleasant doesn’t equal harassment, but many people miscategorize it that way all the time.
How to Completely Eliminate Harassment
Want to absolutely crush harassment at your organization? It requires a culture that encourages ethical treatment of others. It requires a company that values not only individuality, but the fundamentals of respect and appreciation for others.
Think about it. We’ve all worked with people that simply didn’t respect others around them. Those people are the ones that often bring about harassment, because they do not have the respect for their peers and coworkers that is necessary for good working relationships.
So, we need to create organizations that are uncomfortable for those kinds of people. We need to make it unpleasant to be disrespectful by addressing it as a performance issue. We need to create an environment where those kinds of behaviors demand a swift and unpleasant response instead of sweeping them under the rug, brushing them off, etc. Harassment is serious, and not just in a “oh boy, we’re going to get sued for that one” kind of way. It can cost you great, productive employees and drive away the talent that your organization needs.
So, it may be no small feat, but crushing harassment is a worthy goal. Start today. Build a culture of respect and appreciation. Take issues seriously and address them promptly. Then you can reap the benefits of a collaborative, harassment-free workplace.
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.
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:
- Live instruction
But Bob’s are different:
- 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!
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
|COO||Critical thinking, writing||Observe 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 programs||Strategic thinking||Read and analyze a set of goals and objectives and come up with recommendations to pursue|
|Director of communications||Public speaking, judgment||Rehearse a press conference or a call with a reporter about a controversial program we support|
|Manager of a small- or medium-sized department||General management, staff supervision||Simulate giving positive and corrective feedback to a supervisee|
So, what did you think of the topic? Do you like the podcast format? Would you like to see more of those?
If 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.
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.