Archive for July, 2015

Learning Agility and Competitive Advantage

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

The world is becoming smaller, more interconnected and business savvy, resulting in the need for companies to have employees who can manage change in order to survive and thrive. Employees with learning agility can ensure business agility through the development of improved processes and systems. New knowledge is everywhere around us and will, if managed well, generate excitement and employee engagement as well as bottom line success.

A 2010 IBM study analyzed businesses that have increased their agility and enjoyed improved business results as a consequence. The companies represented in the IBM research are in the financial, insurance and healthcare industries in the U.S., U.K. and India. These companies saw a positive correlation between employee learning agility and:

– New business growth
– Cost reductions across the organization
– Innovative solutions that improved brand image
– Expansion of call center productivity without staff increases

Stay tuned for my upcoming book, co-authored with Dr. Sheri Caldwell, Learning Agility: The Competitive Advantage, for more on this topic!

Quality Dialogue Questions and Learning Agility

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

Perhaps you’ve been in meetings which have a specific agenda that is diligently being followed. That sounds good; however, what if there’s a hidden topic that’s on everyone’s mind that’s NOT being discussed? To promote a culture of learning agility, I suggest as a leader you regularly provide opportunities for discussion around questions like these:

(Ask people to fill in the blank.)

1. I’ve always wondered why we…
2. I don’t think we spend enough time…
3. I think we should focus on…
4. Our success lies in…
5. We are missing a business opportunity with…

I’m certain you could add a few great questions to this list!

Debriefing Process and Learning Agility

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

Debriefing is a structured learning process designed to continuously evolve plans while they’re being executed. This approach is meant to ensure that teams learn quickly in rapidly changing circumstances, to address mistakes or errors in judgment right away. This also brings a team together so they’re constantly attacking problems – not each other. Debriefing is an excellent tool to build a high performing team.

Debriefing is effective because the process digs into why things happened and explores implications for the future. This allows for understanding to occur and minimizes battles that start because of bruised egos. The focus is on what to keep doing to achieve successful outcomes and what to stop doing, not “who is right”.

Teams that are successful at debriefing use this framework:
– A regular time and location for debriefs is established
– Expectations are set at the outset that the purpose is for learning, and anyone can learn, even top level staff
– Four key questions are addressed –
1) What went well?
2) What do we need to change?
3) What caused us to be less effective than we hoped?
4) What’s our biggest lesson learned?

Tuition Reimbursement and Learning Agility

Monday, July 20th, 2015

If your company has a tuition reimbursement plan, that’s a great feature to attract and retain employees. You can take your plan one step further to build a learning agile workplace. Most companies provide tuition reimbursement along very strict guidelines, paying for courses or training that supports an employee’s current role. However, employees may want to be considered for lateral moves to other departments, as well as for upward movement into leadership roles. I encourage you to consider expanding reimbursement to support similar roles for employees in addition to what they’re currently doing. This keeps learning fresh across the organization.

Boomers and Learning Agility

Friday, July 17th, 2015

I’ve observed a renewed energy from many Boomers I know around learning new concepts and skills. The old adage, “use it or lose it” is true, though. If older workers don’t stay receptive to new information and approaches, the brain can lose some of its plasticity. This presents a challenge for those of us responsible for professional development. I’m finding that what works for younger employees actually works well for those of all ages: focus on keeping educational efforts current, meaningful and broken into small segments. Personally, I love Ted Talks!

How Trainers Can Promote Learning Agility

Thursday, July 16th, 2015

Trainers should be well versed in the three primary ways that people learn: visual; kinesthetic; and auditory. If one method doesn’t work for a particular employee, try another. You can encourage employees to observe how they learn most effectively so they can select appropriate learning methods. Ways to do this are by monitoring comprehension, retention and ability to transfer knowledge to the job.

Stress and Learning Agility

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

Do you know that stress, when i’ts pervasive and long lasting, can negatively affect learning agility?! You can help build a learning agile workplace by educating your employees about ways to manage stress. Some great ideas from some of my clients include: a ping pong table in the break room for a quick game; exercise equipment where you can “walk” and read at the same time; opportunities to learn yoga or Tai Chi; classes on time management; and frequent discussions about project management techniques and tools.

Promoting a Learning Agile Culture

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015

I encourage you to consider promotion of LESS multi-tasking during the work day so employees can focus on assignments they need to complete or information they have to learn. If learners can focus on the activity at hand, such as truly understanding a core concept, the likelihood of retention of the skill or knowledge is higher. In other words, do you want 10 things done “hit or miss” or one activity that’s important for the company’s success to be accomplished really well?

Job Descriptions and Learning Agility

Monday, July 13th, 2015

Job descriptions are more than a way to describe individual employees’ roles within the organization. Competency based job descriptions – JD’s that include competencies such as problem solving – help in the recruiting, development and retention of talented employees. I’ve had the opportunity to work with many U.S. companies that have incorporated competencies into their job descriptions. When job candidates understand specific requirements for success in their roles, they have a better picture of expectations, should they be hired. Hiring managers are clear on developmental areas as well because there are many excellent assessments on the competencies most organizations require, such as interpersonal skills; decision making; and managing stress. Training and development helps build a learning environment. Competency based job descriptions help focus the learning experiences in ways that help the organization reach strategic objectives.

More on Fostering Learning Agility

Friday, July 10th, 2015

If you encourage a workplace where peers can provide constructive feedback to one another, you’ll encourage a learning agile culture. How about creating an internal web site where employees can post ideas that have resulted in a successful outcome?