Enterprise Learning Initiatives.
Artificial Intelligence and Your Workforce: Three Tips for LeadersLet’s say your organization is adopting AI to gain efficiencies, reduce costs, or deliver better customer value. How should you approach employees about it?
First, we have to agree on what AI is. Then, we can help employees adopt it.
In March, tech gurus including Steve Wosniak and Elon Musk signed an open letter calling for a pause in AI development, citing “human-competitive intelligence (that might) post profound risks to society and humanity.”
More recently, Geoffrey Hinton, hailed as the godfather of AI, quit Google so he could air his concerns independently. In a 2021 commencement address, Hinton said, “I believe that the rapid progress of AI is going to transform society in ways we do not fully understand and not all of the effects are going to be good.” For Hinton, the downsides seem to outweigh the benefits, like improvements in healthcare. The risks he envisions range from job elimination to lethal autonomous weapons. He also says AI might create a world where we will “not be able to know what is true anymore.”
Speaking of misinformation…these stories made it to the table at The View, where hosts weighed in. They talked about the pros and cons of AI, but couldn’t even agree on what AI is. Notably, Whoopi Goldberg said that she defines AI as something “sentient” that “can think for itself.”
Whoa. I’m not saying a robot boyfriend is not in my future, but sentience is NOT what the scientists are talking about. There’s a big difference between smart or fast or autonomous and self-aware.
The lesson for those of us who help the workforce deal with change is this: AI is scary to some people, and possibly for the wrong reasons.
Let’s say your organization is adopting AI to gain efficiencies, reduce costs, or deliver better customer value. How should you approach employees about it?
1. Mind your language.
Maybe don’t call it “artificial intelligence.” I’m not suggesting lying to people; just the opposite. Explain exactly what the new technology will do.
The term “AI” can be triggering. Moreover, “AI” is too broad a term to be useful when talking to employees. AI is a huge category; labeling a new tool “AI” gives very little information to the people who are desperate to know how it’s going to change their work lives.
Think of it this way — will your AI solution detect and prevent dangers in the workplace? Say that! Call it Safety Software. Is AI going to supply customer service agents with better, faster answers to help customers? Say that! Call it Your Customer Service Assistant.
2. Get real.
Approaching any change, what do employees want to know? They want to know how it will affect them – their job responsibilities, their daily tasks, their compensation, their team performance, and their job security.
Get ahead of the resistance by answering questions honestly and thoroughly. Yes, even the bad news. If your new AI… sorry, Customer Service Assistant…will eliminate jobs, be up-front about it.
Most important: document and communicate the day-to-day work that will be different after implementation.
If you don’t tell people the story, they will fill the gap with their own.
3. Reframe AI.
Is the anxiety warranted? Maybe some of it. But AI can also benefit workers — sometimes in big ways. In fact, some employees have already adopted the positive mindset you’re hoping for. A Pew Research study shows 37% of workers are “purely excited” about AI.
And there’s plenty of evidence to back their enthusiasm. AI solutions, like tech before it, can take mundane, focus-intensive tasks off employees’ plates, freeing them up for more analytical and creative work.
One real-world study showed that AI offered big benefits for inexperienced or less-skilled workers by raising the quality of their work and productivity to be on par with their best-performing colleagues.
Armed with facts, examples, and those 37% already excited about it (your “early adopters”), you can – with authenticity — frame your AI adoption as a win-win.
When we need to worry about killer robots, we’ll worry about killer robots. In the present day, lead the change by taking these three steps. You can definitely make AI work for both your bottom line and your human workforce.
DIY Onboarding: Your ChecklistThere are plenty of articles, including ours, on how organizations can improve employee onboarding. But how can you create a great transition for yourself?
How to manage your own transition to your new job
There are plenty of articles, including our own, on how organizations can improve employee onboarding. But how can you create a great transition for yourself?
You’re ready to start that new job in a new organization. How can you set yourself up for success?
Reflect on the behaviors and habits in your old role.
What served you well? What mistakes did you make? In other words, what advice would you give yourself about starting a new job?
Find your info gaps.
Consider that you don’t know what you don’t know. Where might you have knowledge gaps?
Identify your early support network.
As you onboard, you’ll see org charts and meet people. Who are the people you hope to rely on? Choose people based on their role (new resources) or your initial connection (new friends or mentors).
Envision your best transition.
If, six months from now, you tell a friend, “I love my new job. I’m exactly where I need to be and I’m crushing it.” What does that look like? Who do you need to be to create that? What do you need to keep/stop/start doing? Which people, information, or resources do you need to get there?
During onboarding and your first days on the job, ask these questions. You might find answers baked into your onboarding experience. If not, ask!
How do I fit in?
You’ve just jumped aboard a moving train, metaphorically. So it’s important to understand where it’s going and why you’re on board. What is the goal of your department or team? How does success depend on the person in your role? What is your boss trying to achieve and how can you help? How do your efforts fit into the big picture of the organization’s vision?
What do others need from me?
The answer will depend on who the “other” is. If you’re onboarding as a group. Your peers are transitioning too. How can you help each other succeed? Those early connections can become important relationships you’ll rely on for a long time to come.
If you’re onboarding solo, what does your new team need from you? Are they behind, because your position was unfilled? Do they hope you’ll deliver a certain skill or function to help them succeed? Again, don’t just wonder or rely on observation. Ask!
What are the unwritten rules I need to know?
Organizational culture is the set of unspoken norms that guide behavior. They are the ways people make decisions in the absence of direction. The sooner you figure those out, the easier your life will be. You’ll figure out some of it instinctively; you’ll pick up on the energy, language, and little behaviors of people around you.
But it never hurts to ask. As you make friends and mentors, get them to share the likes and dislikes of the culture. How do people like to communicate? What really pisses people off? Is it better to be right or to be supportive? Decisive or thoughtful? Do people “fail fast” or work meticulously to the right product? Do you work and succeed as a team or as individuals? How do successful people in the organization balance work and life?
The more you learn and observe, the better you’ll understand how to smooth the way forward.
You might feel overwhelmed, but think of it as growing, because it is.
Let go of the past.
Transitions – even good ones – are hard. Acknowledge that and give yourself a little grace. At the same time, develop a new vision for yourself based on what’s around you.
Ask for feedback.
Seek input from peers, supervisors, and anyone else you trust. The faster you correct course, the happier you’ll be. And remember, no one expects the new person to be perfect! If you ask for input, you’ll scramble up the learning curve as quickly as possible and look good doing it.
However you recharge your batteries off work, do that, especially now.
Transitions are draining, and you need all the mental, emotional, and physical strength you can get.
And take care of yourself at work, too.
That means setting boundaries and maintaining the habits that make you happy. Is there an 8:00 am meeting you dread? Build in time to grab your favorite drink beforehand. Do all your new extraverted teammates love group lunches? If you need that alone time at lunch, keep it. Join the group once or twice a week. Do you hate the interruption of calls or instant messages? Reply on email. That will teach people to contact you in the way you prefer.
At the end of each day, think for a few minutes.
What worked well? What didn’t go well? What can you do to make tomorrow better? If you’re a journal person, level up by keeping a log of your lessons learned.
There’s no one way to onboard perfectly, but there is a right way for you. Figure out how to prepare, what to ask, and how to learn and you might love your new work home.
One Perspective On ChatGPTWhat is ChatGPT and should your organization use it to create content?
Should you use it to create your content?
ChatGPT is a powerful tool that can revolutionize the way you approach content creation. In this article, we’ll explore some of the ways ChatGPT can transform your content creation process and help you produce high-quality, engaging content faster and more efficiently.
What is ChatGPT?
ChatGPT is a large language model developed by OpenAI. It uses machine learning algorithms to analyze and understand natural language, allowing it to generate responses that are similar to those of a human. This technology has a wide range of applications, from chatbots to language translation and even content creation.
How can ChatGPT transform your content creation process?
Generate new content ideas.
One of the biggest challenges of content creation is coming up with new and engaging ideas. ChatGPT can help you overcome this obstacle by generating a list of potential topics based on your input. For example, you could provide ChatGPT with a general topic or keyword, and it would generate a list of potential angles or subtopics to explore.
Improve your writing skills.
ChatGPT can also help you improve your writing skills by analyzing your content and providing feedback on areas that could be improved. It can identify issues such as sentence structure, tone, and grammar, and provide suggestions for improvement. This feedback can help you refine your writing style and produce content that is more engaging and effective.
Creating high-quality content takes time and effort, but ChatGPT can help you save time by automating certain aspects of the process. For example, you can use ChatGPT to generate outlines or rough drafts of articles or blog posts. This can help you get a head start on the writing process and save time on research and planning.
ChatGPT can also increase your efficiency by providing answers to common questions or inquiries. For example, you could use ChatGPT to generate a list of FAQs related to your product or service. This can save you time by answering common questions and reducing the need for manual responses.
Personalize your content.
ChatGPT can also help you personalize your content for your audience. By analyzing your target audience and their preferences, ChatGPT can suggest topics or angles that are more likely to resonate with them. This can help you create content that is more engaging and effective, leading to higher engagement and conversions.
ChatGPT is not just a powerful tool that can transform your content creation process—it’s a stunning example of artificial intelligence at its finest.
In fact, you might be surprised to learn that ChatGPT was the one who wrote this entire blog post. That’s right, using its advanced natural language processing and machine learning algorithms, ChatGPT was able to generate high-quality, engaging content from scratch, without any human input. It’s a testament to the incredible capabilities of modern AI technology, and a glimpse into a future where machines and humans work together to create amazing things.
Five Questions to Ask When Implementing ERPEnterprise resource planning can be an invasive and expensive undertaking. If you get these five things right, you’re on your way to a return on your investment.
A global retailer once hired me to help install PeopleSoft—it was their 3rd attempt. Their pain is not uncommon. Enterprise resource planning, or ERP, is a vital management tool, but its implementation can often be a nightmare.
For example, the average cost of an ERP implementation is $4.5 million or 6% of revenue. The average time to implement is 1-3 years. (!) With these painful stats in mind, it makes sense the Wall Street Journal once described SAP implementation as a “corporate root canal.”
Here are five questions you need to ask and answer before implementing an ERP.
- Who is on the team? The most common mistake is to assign responsibility to IT and whichever department will use the system the most. Those two silos typically don’t appreciate the implications of their decisions on the groups who will input, maintain or receive outputs from the system. This can scuttle your ERP. Instead, get a cross-section of expertise on your team. Every group interacting with the system should be there.
Your ERP team should be made of your best employees—their decisions will impact how this system (and your business) will run for years.
- What one behavior drives the business case? If your team is serious about the business case, they must articulate what they need people to do in clear, tactical terms. Then focus, focus, focus; focus relentlessly on that. An IT firm spent millions on enterprise resource planning to help them make money on license renewals. The one activity they needed most from their sales team was to call clients the month before their contracts expired. Because they didn’t make that specific request, sales people didn’t do it consistently. The firm could not hit the business case; it was wholly based on “license renewals”—a lovely concept that no one acted upon.
- How are we managing first impressions of the system? Shteingart, Neiman & Lowenstein’s 2013 research, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, shows that “first experience has a disproportionately large effect on subsequent actions,” something they labeled “outcome primacy.” In other words, first impressions matter. So the first employees who touch the system—starting with requirements definition—had better be wowed. Only someone in marketing should be giving the project a name. And if user acceptance testing sucks, stop implementation. As Kahneman and Tversky found, we feel the pain of loss more acutely than the pleasure of gain. We compulsively avoid anything that smacks of failure. Manage the employee experience as rigorously as you manage the project itself.
- Who will be our first users? In the 1960s, Everett Rogers published a book called the Diffusion of Innovations, which analyzed why certain ideas and products capture the public’s imagination. He mapped those who adopt the idea against a bell curve, showing that 3.5% of the target group are eager early adopters, and 13.5% are positively predisposed to change. You can use this to create momentum. If you want your ERP to look like a winner, find the early adopters. Enlist the 3.5% for system test, and the 13.5% for UAT. Pilot with these employees intentionally. They’ll make the system seem safe and successful to everyone else.
- How are we ensuring the system is employee-centric? Employees don’t think about the system. They think about their jobs. Training must be about how to use the system in the context of their jobs. What will they do, day to day? Where will new tasks and handoffs take place? Where are the data and tools they relied upon—which will stay and which will be replaced?
Generic ERP training is a waste of time and money. Train people to do their jobs, not use a system.
Enterprise resource planning is one of the most invasive and expensive undertakings your company will ever face – even if it’s “cloud-based” and “intuitive.” If you get these five things right, you’re ahead of the game and on your way to a return on your investment.
- Who is on the team? The most common mistake is to assign responsibility to IT and whichever department will use the system the most. Those two silos typically don’t appreciate the implications of their decisions on the groups who will input, maintain or receive outputs from the system. This can scuttle your ERP. Instead, get a cross-section of expertise on your team. Every group interacting with the system should be there.
Is It Common, Critical, or CatastrophicEmerson's L&D Manager reflects on a recent move and enterprise learning. She learned everything can’t—and shouldn’t—be crammed into a learning event…nor a Honda Accord
What moving to a new house can teach us about enterprise learning
Sometimes the last bit of something is great. You know how those yellow ice cream cones have a little grid in the bottom that gets filled with ice cream? That last part is magic — the perfect balance of ice cream and cone. Also great: the last part of a story, giving us the satisfying closure we need.
And then there is packing to move, where the last ten percent can feel like 110 percent. You think you’re nearly done, but the last few tasks keep dragging on. It. Just. Won’t. End. At the end of August, I moved to a new place; it was, in fact, that last ten percent that challenged me the most.
I drive a Honda Accord, which can only hold so much. It had to carry me, a large dog, snacks for me and the large dog, many plants, and a few other necessities. Then I realized it had to hold things that didn’t make it into the moving truck. I tried shipping a couple boxes; I made use of every spare nook in the car. Then I came to terms with the fact that some things just weren’t meant to go.
It occurs to me that this also happens when organizations are planning a learning experience for their teams. So often it is a big event— rare, much anticipated, and needs to fit “everything” in. Or so we think.
Do we really need to train on everything?
At Emerson we rely on 3 Cs to help us make those tricky calls. Is it: Common, Critical, or Catastrophic?
What does this mean?
- Common: Is it something that is fundamental to daily work? Is it something a lot of folks need to know or do?
- Critical: If nothing else happens, what must get covered? What is absolutely necessary?
- Catastrophic: Is the risk high? If someone doesn’t do this correctly could there be a significant negative effect on the function, business, or our customers?
It is important to recognize that everything can’t—and shouldn’t—be crammed into a learning event. When we find ourselves making use of every last bit of the time set aside for learning, it’s a sign to pause and ask, “What really needs to fit in?” There has to be breathing room. There has to be room for dialogue, application, and actually digesting the experience.
I’m pledging to adopt Common, Critical, and Catastrophic for any future moves. Is it common—do I rely on it for my day-to-day life? (My dishes) Is it critical—a must have or something worth the cost to move? (My big couch) Is it catastrophic—fragile, perishable, or irreplaceable? (My dog!)
If the answer is yes, it is worth keeping.
Six Ways To Guard Your TimeThe Meeting Monster: a menacing hulk of back-to-back meetings waiting to eat your productivity. Fear not; you can use our tips to guard your time.
Don’t let the Meeting Monster steal your productivity.
By Jannai Warth, Learning & Development Consultant
It’s 8 a.m. You’re locked and loaded with a fresh cup of coffee—fueled up and ready to go. You open your laptop and see a wall of emails. You imagine a full day spent in Outlook.
But wait, you haven’t even checked your calendar. Dread rises as you move your cursor to that little icon that will define the rest of your day. Click…
There it is: the Meeting Monster. A menacing hulk of back-to-back meetings just ate your productivity.
Now, maybe you’re one of those optimistic creatures that tackles another day of meetings with gusto. If so, please sprinkle some of your magic dust on the rest of us, for whom a booked calendar means a full day of conversation, followed by a late night getting the actual work done. That, my friends, is how eight hours becomes 16. It’s the new math.
But all is not lost…
Here are some tips for vanquishing the Meeting Monster:
- Prioritize. Decide what’s mission-critical and filter out the rest. To borrow a page from president Eisenhower’s time management methodology, The Eisenhower Matrix, relegate the stuff in Quadrants 3 and 4 (Urgent/Not Important; Not Urgent/Not Important). Identify it, then dismiss it.
- Say no. Sometimes, you have to. But don’t abuse the power of “no.” Use it when it’s essential to hit your targets and commitments. And, if you’re a people manager, empower the team to wisely wield that gavel. Coach them on priorities and support them when they say “no.”
- Block time for “actual” work. No matter your craft, vocation, or role, at some point you have to stop talking and start working. How? Use the Meeting Monster’s own tactics: block time on your calendar for work. It will show others you’re not available and give you the structure and space to deliver.
- Find other ways to engage. In the post-Covid business world, working from home is common. Sometimes meetings are our way to keep remote teams connected. But meetings aren’t the only way. Consider other channels. For example, start a “Crazy Encounters” Teams chat board, asking coworkers to share non-work-related stories. It will lighten the mood and you’ll get to know colleagues in a broader way. Besides, team meetings are mainly status updates anyway, right? Speaking of which…
- Dump the status meeting. A round table report-out might not be the best use of everyone’s time. Instead, try a weekly status report that’s, ahem, emailed…or, better yet, posted on a digital chat board. You could even use a project management platform like Monday.com. As members interact with status updates and mark completion in real time, your passive meeting becomes an engaging way to share progress.
- Make the meeting collaborative. If you’re going to get everyone together for a meeting, make it count. Consider polling your team on topics they want to discuss and create sessions based on interest. For example, you might have team members with pressing questions on “best practices for conducting a needs assessment,” or “top 5 approaches for overcoming an objection.” Use your time on a forum that addresses issues and delivers the answers people need.
Meetings are necessary, but not always the most effective tool for communication or collaboration. Attend when they are mission-critical, then give your calendar some white space.
In addition to work time, you’ll get unstructured time, which is critical to creativity and performance. If you constantly draw water from the well without replenishing, it’s going to run dry. Downtime fosters inspiration. Need that next big thing? A 30-minute walk in the park might deliver a gusher of ideation!
Is Productivity Monitoring Undermining ProductivityWhen it comes to employee productivity monitoring, we say: employers, just stop it. Do the better, harder thing. Tap into the potential of employees with the freedom to be great contributors.
Don’t mess with the real drivers of employee performance.
Is Big Brother a new hire at your company? More and more organizations are using technology to track and enhance employee productivity.
It’s no longer just for assembly line workers. Many white-collar employers are joining the data-driven micro-managing trend. Even professionals on the soft-skills end of the spectrum are subject to this. A hospice chaplain featured in this New York Times piece said her boss requires accrual of “points” for different work activities, like visits to dying patients (1 point and up), attending funerals (1.75 points), and phone calls to grieving families (.25 point).
It’s hard to imagine that inhibiting the freedom and decision-making of a chaplain serves the people in her care. Her performance is actually harmed by the performance tracking. That’s a common complaint; employees say that these measures don’t capture or promote what the organization really wants them to do. Moreover, the experience of being tracked, watched, and judged inhibits their work.
But what are the ultimate downsides for the organization?
Employee resignations? Maybe, like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, your company leadership feels like that’s ok. Zuckerberg recently turned up the pressure on his Meta employees, virtually daring them to quit. “Realistically, there are probably a bunch of people at the company who shouldn’t be here. And part of my hope by … turning up the heat a little bit, is that I think some of you might just say that this place isn’t for you. And that self-selection is okay with me.” Musk says if Tesla employees don’t meet his new work standards, a minimum of 40 hours per week of in-office performance, “They should pretend to work somewhere else.”
Other than quitting, what’s an over-pressured worker to do? For some, it’s called “quiet quitting.”
The “quitting” part is misleading. It’s not quitting; more like coasting. People are recalculating what they owe their employer and doing the minimum to keep their jobs, focusing the extra time and energy on activities that give them more value. This is certainly not a new idea; it just has a new name and new momentum.
But won’t the productivity monitoring prevent “quiet coasting?” Probably not. Never underestimate the human capacity for workarounds. As the NYT article explains:
As these practices have spread, so has resistance to what labor advocates call one of the most significant expansions of employer power in generations. TikTok videos offer tips on outsmarting the systems, including with a “mouse jiggler,” a device that creates the appearance of activity. (One popular model is called Liberty.) Some of the most closely monitored employees in the country have become some of the most restive — warehouse workers attempting to unionize, truckers forming protest convoys.
The more powerful downside is the opportunity cost. Organizations using these draconian methods don’t seem to understand the human mind. They are undermining some powerful drivers of employee performance and retention.
- Control is a basic human desire. Giving people control lowers anxiety and unleashes all kinds of potential. Taking away control through onerous performance monitoring does the opposite – it reduces employees to the activities being monitored. It takes away their autonomy and limits what the organization stands to gain from them.
- Trust fulfills the human need for safety. This is really basic brain stuff. Without safety, we can’t perform properly; too much energy is diverted to finding the safety we crave. When employees don’t trust a leader or an organization, they don’t feel safe. Over-monitoring and over-measuring tell employees, ”We don’t trust you to do the right thing.” And, because trust is a balanced equation, this destroys the trust of employees for the employer. This directly undermines productivity. The Speed of Trust Summary (Stephen M.R. Covey) | Bloomsoup
- Intrinsic motivation is a natural desire to do something; extrinsic motivation is doing something because you have to or you’re forced to. Intrinsic motivation is the holy grail of employee performance. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, everyone wins. An intrinsically motivated employee is driven by internal rewards like challenge, curiosity, problem-solving, and altruism. Intrinsically motivated people are enthusiastic, engaged, and rise to new levels of performance because they love what they do. Moreover, intrinsic motivation lasts longer to sustain performance. The problem: extrinsic motivators like micromanaging snuff out that momentum. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0167487004001035
So we come down on the “no” side of the over-monitoring trend. Employers, just stop it. Do the better, harder thing. Tap into the potential of employees with the freedom to be great contributors.
5 Ways to Evaluate Training SuccessHow do you know if your training was a success? Use these measures.
“Our training program was a success!” Was it though? How do you know?
Most of my clients ask participants how much they liked the program. If the participants say they liked it, many learning professionals claim the training a success.
Sure, we want participants to enjoy the learning experience, but that’s not our goal. Saying you liked the course is pretty imprecise – maybe you liked the jokes the facilitator told, and the lunch served by catering. And those evaluations can’t measure achievement of learning objectives, which are about behavior. Changing performance is a better indicator of success.
More often than not, learning professionals perceive that it’s too difficult to measure performance change. It really isn’t, though. Here is a range of metrics used by the business leaders I’ve worked with.
- Satisfaction: This is the “did you like it?” measurement. It gives us information on the participants’ impression of the program. Typically we use end-of-session surveys about the quality of materials, program delivery, and the overall experience. In many cases, this is where evaluation ends. However, to truly define success, you have to go further.
- Learning: This gauges the extent to which participants believe the program achieved its objectives, and how well reaching those objectives met their development needs. Often we ask participants to report what they learned, but sometimes we can use knowledge checks or an end-of-session test.
- Application: This measures how well participants apply what they learned to their jobs. In most cases, I recommend asking participants, at the end of the program, what they will apply on the job. Then, follow up 60 to 90 days later and assess what they actually applied. I also recommend that supervisors rate participants’ application.
- Performance: This is an assessment of changes in job performance. The evaluation typically targets key business indicators like quality of work, customer satisfaction, speed-to-market, sales, etc. Ideally, we would measure the extent to which a participant’s new skills impact business results. Again, I recommend an end-of-course survey asking participants to predict how their new skills will change their performance. Then follow up 60 to 90 days later and measure how performance actually changed and how those changes affected business metrics. Again, supervisor ratings are important as well.
- Recommendation: This is somewhat related to satisfaction. This evaluation asks participants whether they would recommend the program to someone else. It’s a good measurement of perceived value of the program.
Collect this information consistently across all of your programs.
This allows you to compare the performance of individual programs or courses. It’s also helpful to measure the same program over time. These broad views of your curricula help you pinpoint problems and focus improvement efforts.
Gathering evaluation data doesn’t have to be difficult. The metrics are straightforward and easy for business leaders to understand. Focusing on these five measures will help you build and maintain strong learning programs that deliver business value. And it will help you demonstrate training success to your stakeholders.
Training On the UnthinkableEffective learning experiences are realistic and repetitive, preparing well-chosen people to create the new habits they need to perform. We have trouble imagining that training teachers to use guns will meet those criteria.
Why training teachers to actively resist won’t work.
“Houston, we have a problem.” That single line, paraphrased and popularized in the 1995 blockbuster Apollo 13, revealed much more than the harrowing events of a near-fatal NASA mission. It hinted at the power of effective learning.
Without a realistic simulated environment on the ground, drilling astronauts on worst-case scenarios, the entire crew would have been lost. It is powerful proof that good training drives real results.
Talk of arming teachers, to save the lives of their students and themselves, has us thinking about the Apollo 13’s training triumph.
Could teachers be effectively trained to defend against an active shooter?
Emerson develops learning programs our clients use to teach people to follow new processes or systems, up their performance, or deliver excellence for customers. What does that have to do with training astronauts or teachers to save lives? It all comes down to creating new behaviors. We know how to do that.
Let’s examine the training principles we recommend to effect new behaviors, and how those principles would work if we trained teachers to resist a violent intruder.
Match competencies to the role.
This is something our clients do outside of training. Every role has a competency profile – the skills and capabilities a person needs to be right for the job.
This is a common-sense but critical element of great performance. Yes, training helps people perform, but there are certain gaps that are hard to bridge with training. That’s why recruiters and managers take such pains to pair people and positions.
Needless to say, we hire teachers for their excellence in instructing our kids. They need teaching certificates, along with intelligence, communication skills, perception, compassion… If we were hiring people to neutralize violent intruders, the list would be different. So, before we even approach training, we have a potential performance problem.
Make it realistic.
The closer training is to reality, the better. Why? In order for people to perform, they need to transfer what they learned in training to on-the-job performance. The further the learning environment is from the performance environment, the less likely it is that the learner will transfer those new behaviors to real life.
Part of it is the setting. “State-dependent learning” says people perform better in the physical environment in which they learned to perform. That includes all the sights, sounds, smells, tools, and people. So, ideally, the learner would receive training in his or her performance environment—the real workspace.
Part of it is the scenario. We try to present learners with exactly the inputs and stimuli they will face on the job, and give them exactly the resources they will have at hand to solve the problem.
Could we apply that to teacher response training? They could certainly train in their own school buildings. That would be critical, as—aside from state-dependent learning—each building is physically different; those differences would require a custom response. But what about the scenario? That’s more of a problem.
It’s hard to anticipate exactly what would happen when someone is literally trying to take people by surprise.
Which brings us to our next principle…
Train on the exceptional.
We build training to include both the default and likely exceptions. Let’s say we’re designing training for department store employees. We might include scenarios on accepting purchase returns. In the common situation, it’s relatively simple: (1) Scan receipt. (2) Enter return reason code when prompted. (3) Press the Return button. Great. But then we ask, “What if…?” What if the customer doesn’t have a receipt? What if it’s past the time window to accept the return? What if this makes the customer mad? What if there’s a technical issue like an error message or a system outage? We must train employees on each of these scenarios.
But what if the default situation is already chaotic? If an active shooter going from classroom to classroom trying doors is your baseline, what other scenarios would we train? Imagine teachers learning to respond to one grave possibility after another.
Create unconscious habit.
We tell our clients that knowing what to do is not enough, especially in high-pressure situations. New behaviors must convert to habits, through repetitive practice cycles made up of a trigger, the right action, and some kind of reinforcement. Consider this comment on the police response to the Uvalde school shooting:
In the past two years, the Uvalde school district has hosted at least two active shooter trainings, according to reporting by The Times. One of them was two months ago. …Law enforcement officers need to be mentally prepared before they arrive on the scene, so they can respond immediately.
Repetitive training builds practice and confidence. Big gatherings for training every few years are more expensive and less effective for muscle memory. Instead, departments should consider more virtual tabletop exercises they can run through in an afternoon. Have officers walk through schools and talk with one another about how they would respond. Require officers to check all their gear before they begin a shift.
Opinion | After Uvalde, We Must Ask: Is Active Shooter Training Working? – The New York Times (nytimes.com)
Learning experts know that, even if you drill during training, you can’t let new behaviors go stale and expect performance. We recommend our clients train only what is needed or will be used immediately on the job, providing natural repetition. Then we extend the learning experience through check-ins, on-the-job challenges, or learning networks, giving learners as many opportunities as possible to apply new skills after training.
So how would that work, if we were training teachers to forcibly resist?
They can’t actually use those new skills on the job until the unthinkable happens. Are we prepared to invest the time, effort, and emotional energy to effectively drill teachers, over and over, on their worst nightmare? Because that’s what it would take to create the right behaviors to make any difference.
Effective learning experiences are realistic and repetitive, preparing well-chosen people to create the new habits they need to perform. We have trouble imagining that training teachers to use guns will meet those criteria.
Your Most Important Priority Now: How You Approach TrainingYour organization has to figure out how to embed and use information to be competitive. Read about five trends that shape the future of training.
“I can get people to buy once. But they buy again based on having a great experience.” – Kathy Housman, National Sales Director for Redwood Hill Farms
Your business success—whether through profitability or scale—is based on consistently replicating your brand promise.
And delivery on that brand promise depends on institutional knowledge—specifically, your ability to evaluate, synthesize, distribute, and embed knowledge. Nelson Mandela understood this perfectly. Every day, while he was doing hard labor at Robben Island, he led men to a small cave in the quarry to educate them. His mantra: “Each one teach one.” Over time, this changed South Africa.
Knowledge resides in our people, our documentation, and is only as good as our ability to use it. And now that many of us work remotely, we have a new barrier to accessing what our colleagues know.
We need to foster knowledge more intentionally than ever before.
These are the trends that are changing how we do that.
- Knowledge Velocity. We have more information pushed to us through more channels than ever before. According to Forbes contributor Bernard Marr, about 7 megabytes of new information are created every second for every human being on the planet.
It’s overwhelming. A friend of mine recently took a CTO role at a major corporation. To get oriented, he began creating flashcards, one for each technology the organization was using. Within his first few weeks, he had over 400 cards.
Yet, we have become more comfortable not knowing everything; we’re confident we can find the information somewhere when we need it. Just Google it.
The glut of information has also distributed our ability to innovate. Because everyone has access to the building blocks of inspiration and progress, anyone can create the next big idea. This further accelerates the volume of what we know.
- Encoding Capacity: Today, anyone can capture information at any time. TikTok has modeled “micro-learning” so many are comfortable creating an educational video. Every email that goes out, or presentation someone creates, is encoded content: knowledge captured in a retrievable form.
And AI is making it possible to worry less about how we capture content, because the technology can scan what’s there and retrieve what seems relevant.
So now encoding happens in a non-linear fashion—we have asynchronous, mass encoding.
But this distributed capacity comes with risk. Not everyone who records a home video can make a blockbuster movie.
We need expertise to turn content into value.
- Human Capacity. We are limited by our available time, energy and intellectual ability. We compensate through selective perception—we naturally screen out data that’s not immediately relevant. If you want a terrific example of this, watch The Invisible Gorilla.
In 1964, political scientist Bertram Gross coined the term “Information Overload.” He recognized the implications of overwhelming our limited brains. He worried that when we are flooded with information, we make poorer decisions.
The challenge is determining what we want our people to screen out or prioritize. We don’t want the organization to waste energy on “overflow” information—content that is delivered, but not retained or used.
But here’s the challenge: One person’s overflow is another person’s treasure.
- Permeable Borders. We might have in-house intellectual property, but the boundaries are getting more porous – people now liberally and openly share knowledge across corporate borders.
Consider open-source code, for example. The idea that we can build a business on someone else’s free—or close to free—software is now normal. Salesforce, the world’s dominant Customer Relationship Management company, has opened their intellectual property so other businesses can operate on it. According to their website, it runs over 4,600 apps. Our Apple phones are the same—their technology underpins over 9 billion apps. The video game platform, Steam, uses the same business model, and now hosts over 50,361 games.
- Speed to Irrelevance. As innovation speed increases, it’s easier to become outdated. A 2020 IBM study suggests that workplace skills become less valid in about five years, with technical skills expiring in half that time.
So, the training and documentation we create has an expiration date and must be perpetually updated. Compounding the challenge: the more time we spend alone and away from conferences, social media and face-to-face chance encounters, the higher risk that we become myopic.
What does this mean for organizational learning? We need a new approach.
- Modeling – We need to evaluate the knowledge landscape as systematically as we do our market. We’re placing resource bets on content; we need a point of view on what proactively triggers an investment in learning or in documentation.
- Attention – Where and how we focus people’s attention now impacts the organization’s relevance in the future. How we manage attention will be an organization’s most important strategic capability.
- Curation – Given the increasing volume of information in the world, we have to get better at selecting what to serve up to our team—what external, existing knowledge to bring into our organization and the internal knowledge that differentiates us. We need to think of ourselves as a fine museum, choosing what to display from our own collection versus what to borrow from others to create a unique, enriching, and revolving experience.
- Standards — What are our expectations for:
- Speed? How soon do we expect learners to perform? That’s a strategic decision. Speed drives expectations around new openings, hiring volume and expected turnover. It underlies assumptions around what level of performance is acceptable, and the investment in employee development.
- Mastery? Here, we are talking about the continuum of expertise. What do the levels of performance look like as a person moves from novice to expert?
- Fluency? The more we practice, the easier it is to perform. When we perform unconsciously, we’re fluent. We can be fluent at any level of mastery. The question here is, where do we expect fluency?
- Retention – Some knowledge should be institutionalized, and some can be fleeting. We need to define the criteria that determine what is essential to operations, so we internalize it, maintain it, and measure it.
- Roles – Our environment is creating new informal roles defining people’s relationship to content. These include:
- Dabblers. People will increasingly dip in and out of content based on what attracts their attention. Dabblers help an organization be creative and relevant.
- Specialists. Some people will become nodes of information and resources to the organization. People will seek out colleagues who are deep in single skills.
- Connectors and Synthesizers. Organizations will rely on people who know how to coordinate with specialists, creating synergy and meta solutions.
Everything about your brand experience—the reason customers choose you over other options—has to do with trust. Your customers trust you to deliver consistently. So, as your team develops new products or services, turns over, or grows, the only thread connecting them to your customer is what your team knows. Your ability to focus your team’s attention and convey critical knowledge in this increasingly noisy, saturated world is your competitive advantage.