Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Start With a BANG!

The universe was created like that and many good presentations begin like that - they Start With a Bang! I have heard this phrase used (and exploited) in many sessions that teach us how to create good presentations and deliver great training sessions. The basic idea is to grab the learner's attention in the first few seconds by doing something offbeat, putting them on the edge of their seats, and making it real and personal for them. I wanted to build on this idea as it relates to New Hire Training.

I feel passionate about training and more so when it is for new hires. For a trainer, the greatest opportunity lies in training that they conduct for new hires. You are beginning with people who are motivated, want to learn, and are open and willing to be molded as required. Can you get a better audience than that!
Of course, here we not only need to start with a bang but continue with a bang for atleast a year! So, it’s definitely more than the first few seconds.

Well, here is my attempt to articulate the secret ingredients of good new hire integration training! If we put more mind and matter into this training, we are sure to get the highest return on this investment. The result – happy new hires - who want to continue to work with your organization!

1) Not all at once! - We cannot train new hires on everything during the induction training! Yes, it may be difficult to filter AND we need to teach them virtually everything about everything eventually; but to start with, we need to come up with a manageable list and ensure that we do the best job with this list.

2) Divide and rule - Now that we have a manageable list, we need to space those items out. And when I mean space them out - I really mean to divide the list in three categories: 1st Day, 1st Week, 1st Year. The names of these categories may be anything - the idea is to allow new hires to learn all through the first year and keep focusing on what is required to start with. Information overload is a killer.

3) Vary the media - It is not easy to go through hours of classroom sessions. Even after knowing that, most organizations continue to train new hires in an instructor-led classroom mode. It is time to change! It is important to vary the training delivery media. Use self-paced books, workbooks, classroom training, elearning, audio/video, blogs, pod casts.....the options are unlimited. Analyze your current environment and try and design blended learning induction training.

4) Make it personal – When you take the responsibility of training new hires, you are essentially taking the responsibility to build a relationship. This relationship is between them and the organization. And we all know - if it’s not personal, it’s not worth it! There are different ways to make it personal – interactions, group discussions, feedback sessions, chats and online discussion forums, picnics and outings, involve families, joining celebrations, access to mentors, buddies etc. Find a way that best works for your organization.

5) Keep the connect – It is important to designate appropriate people in the training department who can maintain a connect with new hires through the year. Being sensitive to the needs of new hires will help the organization identify and close any gaps quickly. It is equally important to ensure that their supervisors provide enough feedback within the first year.

So, start with a bang and continue with it! You want the new hires to think and believe that they made the right decision when they walked through that door!

(On a related note - if we change the tags like ‘induction’, ‘orientation’, ‘bootcamp’ etc to call new hire training as ‘Integration training’, we will solve half of the problem. What’s in a name you may say – well… everything! The name of the training is the key to shift your thought process. What do you think of when I say words like induction and orientation? I bet you thought of your training, which was made of many hours of classroom sessions, overhead projector and slideshows, some animated expressions from trainers, and a thick handbook! But when I say the word ‘integration’ – we can think of blending – being a part of a group. So what we call new hire training is an important factor too – but more on that some other time.)

Chew on this:
“In the new benchmark report, "All Aboard: Effective Onboarding Techniques and Strategies," Aberdeen Group, a Harte-Hanks Company (NYSE: HHS), found that while 86% of all organizations surveyed agree that it takes up to six months for a new employee to make a firm decision to stay with the company, 61% of all organizations either don't offer a formal Onboarding program or end their Onboarding program within just one month. This benchmark report is a compilation of surveys and interviews from nearly 800 organizations globally and highlights how Best-in-Class performers are maximizing the value of their Onboarding process to improve new employee retention, reduce time to productivity and enhance employment brand.
The study also found that Best-in-Class organizations with respect to Onboarding are more likely to:
-- Begin Onboarding before the start date of employment
-- Ensure the Onboarding process is at least six months for select stakeholder groups
-- Extend Onboarding to all new employees, including those coming from mergers and acquisitions as well as those who have accepted internal job transfers
-- Make 'socialization' into the organization's culture a key focus of the Onboarding process”

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Call for Leaders!

Based on 2008 Corporate Learning Facebook, most organizations are spending upto 21% of their training budget on Management/Supervisory and Leadership training. And this is by far the largest chunk of the budget. I am not surprised.
If I articulate the definition of leadership as per Wiki ..."the ability to affect human behavior so as to accomplish a mission". This mission in question has become more critical now than ever before. The mission is 'communication'.
Organizations today are changing so fast that sometimes it is difficult to keep up. Restructuring, mergers, acquisitions, new business ventures, need to innovate - just some of the things that call for great leadership. In this changing face of business, we need people who can communicate and inspire. Great leaders are people who can make the troubled moments seem full of opportunities for success. In this light, I am not surprised if organizations are spending most of their training budgets on people who really matter.

While there are many theories about leadership and various styles of leadership, the bottomline is that leaders should strive to make more leaders like them. And all the activities to do that - need to be done by leaders.

Here is an interesting list of leadership tips - jack welch style..
1. There is only one way - the straight way. It sets the tone of the organisation.
2. Be open to the best of what everyone, everywhere, has to offer; transfer learning across your organisation.
3. Get the right people in the right jobs - it is more important than developing a strategy.
4. An informal atmosphere is a competitive advantage.
5. Make sure everybody counts and everybody knows they count.
6. Legitimate self-confidence is a winner - the true test of self-confidence is the courage to be open.
7. Business has to be fun - celebrations energise and organisation.
8. Never underestimate the other guy.
9. Understand where real value is added and put your best people there.
10. Know when to meddle and when to let go - this is pure instinct.

Chew on this: As per the
2008 Corporate Learning Facebook

"While training directed to top-level employees is a high priority overall, specific industries invest heavily in other employee audiences as well. For instance, in telecommunications, 23% of training program dollars are spent on customer service training; technology companies invest 29% of training dollars on sales training; and pharmaceuticals spend 25% on compliance and other mandatory training."

Monday, February 11, 2008

Too much to learn - not enough space?!

If you are one of those folks who have an account in every possible corner of the online space; orkut, facebook, plaxo, blogger etc and boast of a "second life" or even more, I am sure you need your daily dose of scraps, pokes, walls, shout outs, gifts etc. And if, for some faint reason, you are unable to connect on a day, it may be more than 'just frustrating' for some!

Today's article in Hindustan Times (Main Paper, Page 14) - 'Eureka! My space is online!' just goes ahead and validates this and shares some facts. Some of these facts are more than just plain vanilla. For example:
- There are more than 112 million blogs online.
- As of Dec, 26, 2006, there were 45,174,930 communities on Orkut alone.
- Facebook goes through 600 million searches per month.
- LinkedIn has over 14 million users.
- In US alone, pod casts audience had reached 18.5 million by 2007.

Now all these people on all these 'social networking' sites must be doing something useful, finding something worthwhile, and enjoying their way at it to keep continuing and add to these numbers even while you are reading this! That's what I call the Hot Chocolate Fudge-type of interesting point! That is what I am curious about. In my view, that is what will make or break the learning environments of tomorrow.

In the context of what Manish has written in his blog on
Personal Learning Environment (PLE), these sites are now not limited to only social networking, these are what constitute the PLE of many of us including me. And like Manish, I have learnt more from Google, Wiki, Blogs, Podcasts, and Video Clips than I have from any paper book or a well-packaged company website.

The question is why are we learning from these environments? Why are other people interested in joining us? What keeps us coming back for more? What sustains so many of these different sites - each with its own USP?

In my view, if we are able to articulate what makes these 'tick', we have found a way to include these tools and technologies in the training environments that we design for our learners. There is a system even in this seemingly chaotic way of "learning" (I would like to call these as 'learning interventions' -the new tools and technologies for learning).

  • These technologies are intrusive and personal but only as much as you want them to be - absolute learner control.
  • These technologies are participative and encourage creative self expression - even people who you don't see chatting away with their friends and family in-person have surprisingly 'long' blogs and never miss a day!
  • By design, they are collaborative. You start the blog alone. Soon, you have a community of readers who join you, share their point of view. Each is allowed to take their stand without the pressure of conformance to the group.
  • They are motivating. You contribute; get responses, feedback, and appreciation - more fuel to encourage you to continue. There is no teacher-student situation. All are equals - but you get drawn to 'teachers' who force you to think, ignite your mind to new possibilities. The role doesn't fetch the respect - the work does.
  • These technologies help you learn without you knowing or intending to do it - easy to use, quick to learn, fun to do, no fuss -clean learning. Some of these sites are the best examples of 'usability' where it matters.
  • These technologies allow you to learn even while you are doing some other things - multitasking your way through a learning intervention!

I have just begun to articulate some of my observations on what makes these environments work and how these will become the future of learning.
If we could, as instructional designers, start to move on the learning continuum; Web 2.0 and beyond - some of the above points need to be USPs of our training design.

What do you think? Help me learn.

... Afterall, there is enough space to learn!