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My Personal Development Plan – and a Proposal

Raymond Noe (2013) speaks to both the professional and personal aspects of employee development. Such development is beneficial to both employee, who is not only better equipped to do the tasks at hand but also prepared for the next career steps, and the company, which by developing the employee tends to get a better equipped and more loyal asset. With these two factors in mind, I would propose the following four types of development to my company for my personal development.

Tuition Reimbursement / Formal Education

As an employee who already possesses a Bachelor’s degree, it is important to me personally to grow. One of my mentors speaks often of being a “student for life,” and though he speaks of both formal and informal learning, his principal applies to formal education as well. Many companies provide such educational opportunities in-house (Noe, 2013), so as to more closely tie the education to company goals. Others, like Verizon Wireless, offer reimbursement programs so that the employee can pursue an education outside of the company. The only stipulation is that the courses taken are related to the employee’s job. In my case, the course work would not only apply to what I am doing now, but also prepare me for a number of other positions both inside and outside of the company.

Reflected Best-Self

Unlike many development programs, which seek to “fix” an employee’s deficiencies, reflected best-self assessment (Pace, 2010) looks to identify and enhance an employee’s strengths! This is accomplished by surveying 20-30 of the employees co-workers, friends, and family members, asking what the employee was doing when they considered him “at his best.” I thrive on positivity, so such an assessment would be a boon to my self-esteem. Further, it would help me to maximize the strengths I already possess, and channel them for greater productivity.

Mentoring

I have always been a proponent of the mentoring process (Noe, 2013), where a senior, productive employee takes as it were a less senior employee under his wing and teaches him or her about the business. I have had several mentors over the years, who have taught me about public speaking, writing, business acumen, and other subjects. I look forward to the next mentoring relationship, in which I hope to develop my own employee-development skills, preparing those who work for me for the next steps in their careers.

Temporary Assignment

Several times over the years I have been fortunate to serve on what my company calls “core teams.” These teams, formed generally to either create a curriculum or enhance a business practice, generally require a roughly 5-10% time commitment – that is, for the average employee, 2-4 hours per week would be devoted to the team’s work. I would like to expand that percentage and take a temporary assignment in another part of the company or on a deeper core team. Such an assignment would expose me to different parts of the business, where I would develop new skills associated with that part of the business, and gain a greater appreciation for the company as a whole. Further, such an assignment would open my eyes to new possibilities as I work through what Noe (2013) describes as a “job tryout.”

Conclusion

Each of these development opportunities would yield a benefit to the company as well as to me, in each case enhancing my capabilities in my current role and preparing me for the next. While this blog post is for a school assignment, I plan to discuss these development opportunities with my manager to see which of them is feasible.

The PowerPoint presentation below, which represents the second half of the week’s assignment, examines a proposal for employee development which could be presented to a company’s human resources or training department.

Resources

Noe, R. A. (2013). Employee training and development (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Irwin/McGraw-Hill.

Pace, A. (2010). Unleashing Positivity in the Workplace. Training and Development, 64(1), 40-44. Retrieved from Academic Research Complete Database

 

Power Point – Rising Stars

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Posted by on June 22, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

High-Tech Training

Technology is everywhere around us. Next time you’re riding any form of public transportation, take a moment and look around you at the collection of iPods, iPads, tablets, smartphones, Bluetooth headsets, and fitness bands that envelop you. It is little wonder that tech has invaded the realm of learning. In this week’s blog, I’m going to take you through five different technological advances in learning and examine their influence and impact on learners. First up, we will look at the podcast.

The Podcast, which derives its name from Apple, Inc’s innovative iPod, is described by Noe (2013) as “web-based delivery of audio and video files.” Usually, podcasts are themed by the author and often assembled in series formats. The podcast enables the learner to search either the open internet or app stores from Apple, Google’s Android Play, or Microsoft’s Windows store for a wide range of content, putting quick learning snippets on the student’s computer or mobile device. They can either be streamed or downloaded for future use. One of my favorite podcast sites is https://www.ted.com/talks/browse. The site, hosted by TED (the name stands for technology, entertainment, and design), currently has over 1700 talks on a variety of subjects, each spanning 18 minutes or less.

Next, we look at Computer Based Training (CBT). While Noe (2013) notes that CBT can include technologies such as CD’s or DVD’s, it is most often associated with online learning. Online course work can be hosted on any number of learning management sites – I use www.coursesites.com. Creating an account there is easy, and the site, once you learn how to use it, has a robust feature set for course creation. CBT is at the heart of many corporate learning strategies, including my company’s, primarily because of its ability to put learning on-demand. Further, CBT is used by many universities, including Walden University where I attend. Much like the podcast, CBT places the learner in control of his or her learning schedule, with the added element of instructor input and opportunity for two-way interaction.

The third stop on our tour of learning technology is the Webcast or Webinar. The primary difference between a podcast and a webcast is that the webcast is generally delivered live, where a podcast is recorded. That said, many webcasting software packages, such as Adobe Connect (www.adobe.com/connect ), provide tools for recording sessions so that learners who cannot attend the live session can listen later. Andy Nilssen and Alan Greenberg, writing for ConferTel (n.d.) offer some excellent discussion of why company trainers are turning to webinars to deliver training content, among them the simple fact that webinars allow learners who could not otherwise attend training to do so, live. See the references below for a link to their discussion. I offer a word of caution regarding recorded webcasts, however, as one who designs and delivers many of them for both meetings and training where I work: the webcast is almost always geared to the live delivery, and often includes dialog and activities designed to engage the learners in that live environment. Listening to a recorded webcast removes that interaction from the experience, and can result in a loss of content retention.

Our next-to-last stop on our journey through learning technology is the web log, or Blog. Blogging, as it has come to be known, features web pages where “the author posts entries and readers can comment.” You are, of course, reading this exploration of technology on my blog, hosted by www.wordpress.com. Thomas (2008), writing for www.openeducation.net, offers several tips for using blogs to enhance learning, noting specifically that blogs can “enhance the ability of students to self-reflect and process concepts.” While other students can read and comment on their colleagues’ blogs, Thomas notes, it is important to understand that the blog is an individualized learning tool, and the teacher is seeking collaborative input from a large group, a wiki is a better tool.

A relative newcomer to the technological learning toolbox is Game-based Learning. My company just started working with a company called M-Level (www.mlevel.com) to create learning games that can be played on mobile devices. These games, which can help sales reps learn new products or practice positioning statements, are designed to be played quickly when the employee has a few extra minutes. M-Level and others have incorporated a mission-based learning game with robust reporting tools to not only give the learner a fun learning experience, but also to give the company a solid base of understanding regarding learner retention and return on investment.

There are many other technologies available to training professionals, each with its benefits and drawbacks. The key to using technology is suitability. Ask yourself whether the technology will actually help the learning achieve the learning objectives. I close with this quote from www.openeducation.net: “The first critical consideration for teachers is whether or not the tool being used is necessary to the learning process. In this regard teachers must be unequivocally clear; if teachers do not effectively contextualize the use of any web 2.0 tool, then students are not likely to see the tool as being of benefit to the learning process.”

 

References

CourseSites by Blackboard. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.coursesites.com

Health Podcasts | MemorialCare Health System | Orange County | Los Angeles County. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.memorialcare.org/events-education/podcasts

Nilssen, A., & Greenberg, A. (n.d.). Why Trainers Are Turning to Webinars | ConferTel. Retrieved from http://www.confertel.net/support/resource-library/why-trainers-are-turning-to-webinars/

Noe, R. A. (2013). Employee training and development (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Irwin/McGraw-Hill.

Stolovitch, H. D., Keeps, E. J., & Rosenberg, M. J. (2011). Telling ain’t training: Updated, expanded, and enhanced. Alexandria, Va: ASTD Press.

Thomas (2008, October 10). Using Blogs to Enhance Learning – Some Helpful Tips. Retrieved from http://www.openeducation.net/2008/10/10/using-blogs-to-enhance-learning-%E2%80%93-some-helpful-tips/

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Anatomy of a Needs Assessment – Southwest Airlines

about_southwest_index_mission

I have been flying Southwest Airlines for years, and participate in their Rapid Rewards program; many times over the last ten years my loyalty has been rewarded in the form of free flights. Most of the laughs I have experienced in an airplane have come by way of the congeniality and humor of flight attendants who seem genuinely to enjoy their work and the company they work for. When you peruse their web site, do take a moment to click and visit the “About Southwest” page. When you do, you’ll be greeted by a picture of their CEO, Gary C. Kelly, holding a large ribbon bearing these words: “Warrior Spirit – Servant’s Heart – Fun-Loving Attitude.” This is a company whose heart beats for success, but not at the expense of either their employees’ or customers’ experiences.

Riaz Sidi, on his Progressive Sales Strategies blog (2013), observes three things one must seek to understand about a potential client for whom he is performing a needs assessment: understand the client’s market; understand the client’s goals; understand the client’s budget. Sidi contends that when I take the time to probe deeply enough to understand these three things about the client, I am well on my way to identifying the gaps that exist and whether I am the best person to help bridge those gaps. While Sidi’s comments are made in the context of sales, they most definitely apply to the performance consultant or instructional designer.

At Southwest, I would seek buy-in from two groups of stakeholders: first, decision-makers; second, mid-managers who are closer to the front line. In some cases, this may be a single group or person; a front-line manager may have been tasked with bringing in a consultant to help address a training issue. That said, if the two are separate, it is necessary to have the funding and support of the decision-maker while at the same time gaining the valuable insights that can be gained from those closer to the front line.

Questions I would ask during the assessment would center on the gaps between the company’s desired performance and current performance. For my purposes, I would heed the advice of Dr. Roger Kaufman, Professor Emeritus at Florida State University (2013): “Needs are gaps in results (ends), not gaps in processes, activities, resources or any other solutions (means).” Since Southwest has a stated mission of “dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit (Southwest Airlines, n.d.)”, my discovery would focus on what they believe is hindering them from delivering on their mission, and how they see training in the light of those hindrances. The information I seek can be found in both employee and customer surveys, as well as documents surrounding trends in overall company performance.

Raymond Noe (2013, p. 118) lists a variety of methodologies for needs assessment, two of which stand out to me regarding Southwest. Given their commitment to customer service and the fact that I have seen it demonstrated as a passenger, I would want now to observe it again as an evaluator. The two are different in that as an evaluator I would observe with a more critical eye, noting the elements of the customer experience that both enhance and detract from that experience. I also believe that interviews at several levels internally would be critical. Noe writes that interviews have the dual benefit of uncovering deeper details of training needs than some of the other methods, but also uncovering unanticipated needs, that is, needs that even the company may not be aware of.

Though my examination of Southwest this week has been purely as a grad student, I would very much like, should the opportunity arise, to actually perform some of the needs assessment tasks I’ve described. As a training supervisor from a very successful company in a completely different industry, I would find it fascinating to see the similarities and differences in our training approaches, and to learn whether the gaps we struggle with align with those of Southwest.

 

References

About Southwest – Southwest Airlines. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.southwest.com/html/about-southwest/index.html

Kaufman, R. (2013). Needs Assessment for Organizational Success (not your parent’s approach). Retrieved September 2013, from http://www.sghc-tpe.com/docs/K2.pdf

Noe, R. A. (2013). Employee training & development (6th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.

Sidi, R. (2013). The 3 Takeaways of a Successful Needs Assessment. Retrieved from http://riazsidi.com/the-3-takeaways-of-a-successful-needs-assessment/

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

The Truth About Training – An Elevator Speech

Tom Hallett, writing for www.mindtools.com (n.d.), offers six tips for creating a compelling elevator pitch:

“To craft a great pitch, follow these steps.

  • Identify your goal.
  • Explain what you do.
  • Communicate your USP (unique selling position).
  • Engage with a question.
  • Put it all together.
  • Practice.”

With these tips in mind, here is the hypothetical elevator speech I might use to engage an internal customer who is not convinced that training could be of any use to him or to his organization:

“Training used to be considered to be out of touch with the reality of the business, just rolling out initiatives that came from headquarters without regard to how those initiatives would either be received or implemented by the front line. Sometimes you felt like you were the support staff for us, didn’t you? The truth is that it’s you – the trainees, the managers, and the directors, who are the real customers (Noe, 2013, p. 93). You are the ones we have to satisfy; you are the ones we have to schedule around; and you are the ones whose budgets we have to respect and work within. That’s the way we’ll help you get the results you want.

A lot of people think that training is just about delivering information, or “checking the boxes.” Nolen, nothing could be further from the truth? Tell me, how do you measure your stores’ success – balanced scorecard, right (Noe, 2013, p. 73)? What would you say if I told you that our District Trainers are rated based on that same scorecard and how their districts perform? It’s true! Hal up in District 9 came up with a coaching focus for his district that resulted in a 23% increase in accessory revenue! We’re now rolling that same method to other districts around the state.

Nolen, in these days when your store managers have so much thrown at them, there’s a real temptation to ignore some of it. That’s why you are the third and maybe biggest training truth. Many still see us as separate from Regional leadership, and you can be the one to debunk that myth. When you as a leader communicate support for training initiatives, and speak to the reasons and vision behind initiatives, your front line listens! They are more likely to include their staffs, and again results increase. Can we get together tomorrow to talk about how we can better align to get your team where you want them? Thanks!”

Here is my elevator speech in audio:

Resources

Hallett, T. (n.d.). Crafting an Elevator Pitch – Communications Skills From MindTools.com. Retrieved from http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/elevator-pitch.htm

Noe, R. A. (2013). Employee training & development (6th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Scope Creep

It was a positively beautiful, sunny, warm southern California day – outside.  In the classrooms, we were facing a storm.  Although on many fronts the pilot of our new class appeared to be a success, we all knew the inside truth of what had just happened.  We were never going to be able to get it released on time!  We boarded our respective planes to go to our homes around the country with a mixture of satisfaction and dread – satisfaction because our pilot students had thoroughly enjoyed and been challenged by the material; dread because of the mountain of work that still lay before us.

This was the milepost result from the efforts of a core team based all around the country who had been working for the prior four months to overhaul our company’s sales training program.  It had been some time since the last refresh, and the old process had not addressed the fact that many of our walk-in customers now came in for service-related issues as well as to shop.  We needed to address the transition, and many, many ideas had come across the table.

The refresh should have been simple: help reps that were used to sales-only interactions to find ways to assist customers with their service issue and then bridge to a sales conversation.  As more people got involved, though, they brought more ideas about how we could “enhance” those conversations; then came more ways that we could communicate those ideas.  We had started out with a simple two-by-three foot wall chart based on a bicycle wheel design; by the time we got to California, we had something of a weird robot whose arms represented sales and service.  Then someone got the idea that we could break off the initial portion of the training course into its own course, and… scope creep.

We went back to our respective home bases and looked for ways to bring the beast under control.  We had to spend extra time cutting away portions of the class that did not advance the central message, and we had to pacify some who had brought those “cut away” portions to the table!  All in all, the project came in solid and not far from the original schedule, but the stress of the realization that we had overextended and the resulting extra work made the experience difficult for all of us.

Portny et al (2008, p. 350) define scope creep as “the natural tendency of the client, as well as project team members, to try to improve the project’s output as the project progresses” (italics mine).  It’s important, when combating scope creep to understand this simple concept: it is the natural tendency of the client and the team, and it is based in a desire for improvement.  Note that a good intention leads to a stressful and potentially damaging result.  Back then, I was simply a member of the project team – I had very little input that could have combated scope creep.  In fact, I likely contributed to it!

If I had known then what I know now, or had been either the PM or a lead on the project, I would heed the advice of Porty’s team (2008, p. 346) and instituted a specific change control system, which would then be communicated to all members of the team and our stakeholders.  Any change to the original focus would need to be requested formally, analyzed for impact, and implemented only if the benefit outweighed the impact. Such a system would go a long way toward keeping our class project on time, on budget, and on point!

Resource

Portny, S. E., Kramer, B. E., Mantel, S., Meredith, J., Shafer, S., & Sutton, M. (2008). Project Management: Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling Projects. Hoboken, N.J: Wiley.

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Project Cost and Cost Management

There are many sites on the web that deal with project cost calculation, but there seem to be few actual cost calculators available.  One of the sites I found useful in helping me understand the process was created by popular how-to site www.ehow.com.  This site is helpful in particular for two reasons:  first, it offers a step-by-step approach to cost calculation; second, it offers links to cost calculation tools.  The full link is:

http://www.ehow.com/how_6566042_calculate-project-costs.html

As you make your way down the page, you’ll find simple, straightforward advice in layman’s terms about projecting the costs of a project, again supplemented with sponsored links to tools to help in the actual process.  Finally, there are three tips and warnings at the bottom of the page which should be helpful to any aspiring project manager.

I save the more useful site for second place in this week’s blog:  http://www.projectmanagementdocs.com/blog/managing-costs-on-your-project.html

Project Management Docs is a site full of templates for all phases of project management.  I have bookmarked the site for use throughout the rest of the Project Management course, and for use well beyond my time at Walden University.  The site features templates for cost estimation, cost management, GANTT charting, and more, and will prove useful for anyone not yet willing to invest in a full-scope project management software package.  I encourage you to visit and bookmark the site!

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2013 in Uncategorized

 
Aside

Written, Audio, and Face to Face – Which is Best?

Face to Face
(Image captured from http://mym.cdn.laureate-media.com/2dett4d/Walden/EDUC/6145/03/mm/aoc/index.html)

Many, in discussing the impact of communication, have quoted – or rather, misquoted a 1967 study performed at UCLA by Albert Mehrabian, which appeared to show that only 7% of communication is through words (www.changingminds.org, n.d.), with the remainder comprised of tone and body language.  While multiple sources – including Mehrabian’s own web site -have shown that it was not Mehrabian’s intent to apply this percentage to all communication (Mehrabian, 2011), and some have attempted to debunk his research altogether, the fact remains that nonverbal cues such as tone and body language do impact perception of communication.  Again from www.changingminds.org:

“Useful extensions to this understanding are:

  • It’s not just words: a lot is communication comes through non-verbal communication.
  • Without seeing and hearing non-verbals, it is easier to misunderstand the words.
  • When we are unsure about what the words mean, we pay more attention to the non-verbals.

We will also pay more attention to the non-verbal indicators when we trust the person less and suspect deception…”

The site goes on to say that one of the most practical applications of this extension is to be wary of communication that contains only words – specifically citing email!  In the example from our class resources, I began as I read the email communication to add my own inflection to the words – inflection that was substantially different from that of the second audio-only example!  The implication of this is clear: someone reading this very communication requesting a report so that her own would not be late could very well interpret the email as angry, even though the specific language was both polite and professional!

Even the audio was imperfect.  There were a couple of moments in the audio communication that I perceived annoyance on the part of the speaker.  The words seemed a little “short” – perhaps even terse.  Yet, when I watched the face to face version, the speaker’s expression betrayed none of this.  She was communicating a simple request, offering her reason for the request, and communicating her consideration of the hearer’s situation!

Going forward, whenever I read “that” email, I need to remember that what I read may not be what the writer intended.  Further, as I write an email, I must be mindful of my readers’ perceptions.  Would it be better to call and leave a message?  Almost certainly.  Better still, when possible get face to face with the hearer.  Fortunately, in today’s technology-advanced world, there are ways to do so even when distant from the receiver of the communication, such as the many video chat applications available.  As an aspiring Project Manager, I could save the lost productivity and hard feelings that could arise by following this simple precept.

References

Face to Face Conversation. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://mym.cdn.laureate-media.com/2dett4d/Walden/EDUC/6145/03/mm/aoc/index.html

Mehrabian’s communication study. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://changingminds.org/explanations/behaviors/body_language/mehrabian.htm

Mehrabian, A. (n.d.). “Silent Messages” — Description and Ordering Information. Retrieved from http://www.kaaj.com/psych/smorder.html

Written, Audio, and Face to Face – Which is Best?

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2013 in Uncategorized