Driving Utilization of Social Learning Tools





This morning I had the opportunity to read an interesting working group summary on learning and development posted on the CAHRS website. The working group took place on April 25th in Chicago, and was attended by HR professionals at companies including ADM, Chevron, GE, General Mills, Johnson & Johnson, JP Morgan Chase, and McDonalds. There is a lot of really good stuff here, and I might re-visit this summary again later for another post. With that said, today I’d like to focus on an employee utilization challenge that many organizations are facing as they attempt to implement various social learning tools. From the summary:

Companies noted that they use a variety of tools and approaches to facilitate social learning, including developing technology applications (e.g. video sites), creating cohorts during online courses, having senior leaders contribute to blogs, and offering networking groups and lunch-and-learn sessions. This portfolio of different deliveries is important for enabling people to learn how and when they want. The challenge, however, is getting employees to take advantage of these opportunities, One strategy that can be used to encourage utilization is to tie the tools to other applications people are already using.

…You can read more of the discussion about the utilization and application challenges companies are facing (and more) in the full summary here, but I shared the above segment because it touches on a larger issue around learning that exist in every facet of society: People (theoretically) want to learn things that will make them better, but often either:

A. Feel too pressed for time to make a significant commitment and/or

B. Struggle to engage with the available material on their subject of interest

…Attendees at the working group summary had some great ideas around how to solve the latter challenge (e.g. creating practice environments for practical application of learning and structuring knowledge in formats people are used to interacting with). And an organization that runs a little heavy on the talent front and/or successfully automates administrative tasks can often free up enough of their employee’s time to combat the former hurdle.

…But I think both of these solutions miss out on one other really important component required to drive utilization of social learning tools:

Creating a culture where self-driven, self-directed learning is a habit.

Developing such a culture is not easy. It requires the creation of an environment that forces people to break out of deeply formed habits. One where employees with a break in the day don’t instinctively turn to their cell phones or gossip pages or cat videos. And I don’t think restricting access or trying to police people’s behaviors is the answer, either. People aren’t engaging in these activities because they’re obsessed with any one specific thing most of the time. Instead, they’re distractions to fill time. And so taking them away will just cause people to find new distractions.

Instead, I think companies need to figure out how to embed reward mechanisms into learning skills that can have a discernible impact on the business. The promise of a potential promotion down the line is too abstract to pull most people away from what are often deeply formed habits of seeking quick, mindless entertainment when the moment presents itself.

Essentially, companies have to tap into why their employees want to learn and create those incentives to promote the learning outcomes they want.

…This is my working theory, anyway. But it’s also just a thought stream. Maybe I have this wrong?

As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.



Quote of the Week: “You don’t learn to walk by following rules…



Image Credit: <www.b1g1.com

Image Credit: <www.b1g1.com>

…You learn by doing, and by falling over.” – Richard Branson

This week’s quote has been attributed to Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson, an English business magnate and investor perhaps best known as the founder of the Virgin Group,

…I’m sharing today’s quote because lately I am starting to appreciate the utility of hard knocks. Or – put another way – I am starting to recognize that some of the most memorable lessons come when I fail at something. Furthermore, when everything is going off without a hitch, it’s generally because what I’m doing is 1. …Or I’m going through a great patch of good fortune.something I am already very well versed in… 1 and by extension often not all that challenging.

Conversely, when I’m doing something for the first time I must (typically) travel a bumpy road to proficiency. The journey is not always pleasant, but the experiences I have along the way are enduring. I learn all sorts of things I could never understand from reading about them in a book.

I learn all sorts of things that make me better.

…So as we get started this week, stay mindful of how often you do things at work that give you pause. And stay attentive of how often you make mistakes. I would submit to you that if you are never experiencing either outcome that perhaps it is time for you to do something else.

No one learns to walk without falling over a few time. So keep learning new things… and occasionally falling over.

As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Happy Monday,


Sunday Reading: August 17, 2014 – Storytelling, Succession, and Equity Comp


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Sunday reading for August 17, 2014:

1. Brad Bingham, HR Operations Manager at Unum has a post up on Linkedin espousing the utility of being able to communicate a simple, compelling message to an audience. In an effort to provide as much clarity as possible, it is easy to go too far and instead overload one’s audience with information. Bingham provides some helpful hints detailing how to can avoid this trap and instead tell rich, captivating stories that inspire those listening/reading to take the actions you ask of them. Check the full piece out here.

2. Organizational Transformation Consultant Ron Ashkenas has a great post up on Forbes wherein he writes about the challenges organizations around the globe are facing with succession planning at all levels. He highlights the adverse impacts poor succession planning can have on companies, including lower employee engagement and retention, costly replacement processes, and operational performance deficiencies. He closes by offering up two table stakes ingredients that organizations must implement on an enterprise level in order for succession planning to succeed… which I won’t spoil in this post. Instead, to learn more read the full article here.

3. I haven’t worked directly in the comp space for about 18 months now. Aside from annual merit reviews at my location and putting together packages for new hires, my current role simply doesn’t require much of me here. With that said, I still like to keep up to date on what’s going on in the field. And to that end there are few resources as valuable as Dan Walter over at Performensation. He has a short piece up on his blog highlighting changes to the annual ISS executive comp evaluation process. ISS now has a new portal that will allow employers to ensure alignment with the firm on the accuracy of their key plan data points. The portal also provides greater transparency into ISS’ plan analysis process. If you are part of your organization’s executive compensation team and any of this sounds the least bit new to you this one is a must read.

As always, please share your thoughts in the comments below.



Video Saturday: The New Responsibility for Retirement


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Tracy Kofski, CCP, CBP, GRP, Vice President Compensation and Benefits, General Mills and Alison Avalos, CCP, CBP, GRP, discuss:
– The evolution of retirement plans in the U.S.
– Employee communication challenges
– How the role of the total rewards professional has changed
– Tools that can be used to engage plan participants
– What the future holds for retirement plans and participants

As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.



Spotlight Friday: An Interview With Eric Savina, CFO at goFLUENT and Entrepreneur


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Eric SavinaEric Savina is the Chief Financial Officer of a French company specializing in business English distance training. C.F.O. by day, entrepreneur by night, he is the founder of rKruiter, a recruitment software company, and 500Assets, a depreciation calculation tool for accountants.

Eric started his career 20 years ago working for an audit firm in France. Early 2000, he moved to the Philippines to take over his first management position as a Finance Manager. After 4 years, he was promoted as General Manager. This experience gave him a strong understanding of the importance of employee relations management to running a company.

With the BPO & Call-centers industries booming in the Philippines, Eric had an opportunity to join a global company in 2008, where he is currently holding the position of C.F.O. with expanded responsibilities.

Early 2013, Eric met with some French investors who decided to bet on him and finance a project he had in mind for some time. 7107Labs was created. This company’s purpose is to develop online softwares for accountants and HR practitioners.

When Eric is not busy at work, he can be found near a rugby field or with his family. A proud father of two beautiful daughters, he likes to spend his free time with them on one of the numerous beautiful beaches that the Philippines has to offer.

You can find Eric on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter here and here.

[Disclaimer]: I think that I should give you an explanation about my dual personality. Being C.F.O. by day and entrepreneur by night means that I have to struggle with a kind of personality disorder. I’m an introvert when I am wearing my C.F.O. hat, but I have to be an extrovert when I work on my own projects. My answers to Rory’s questions had to reflect this dichotomy.

1. Most job postings cite “X” years of relevant work experience and specific education criteria as requirements to be considered for the position. With this in mind, what prior work experiences and degrees/certifications/training helped prepare you for your current role?

I am not really a fan of the “X” years of relevant work experience. In my field of work, I have noticed that after a year or so, you know almost everything that has to be known to do the job correctly. Most years are just a copy-paste of the previous one, with minor variations. Adding more years would only mean doing the job faster and more accurately but I have seen many employees being able to do a job perfectly after just a couple of months. Same goes with education since we all have a common knowledge (as in, the basis of accounting) but the difference between a good and a bad accountant resides in how the good one will keep his knowledge up-to-date in a fast moving environment.

That being said, I think that in my case I learned all what I need to perform my duties during my 3 years working for an audit firm. This is where I learned about following processes and the necessity to document everything. I was told that I was not working for myself, nor even for the firm’s owners, but for everyone who is working or will work at this firm for years to come.

As an entrepreneur, my four years as a General Manager were undoubtedly the most important ones. Not only did I greatly extend my scope of work (sales, human resources, logistics) but I learned for the first time about real responsibilities. Being in charge of 250 employees, making decisions knowing that they might affect the lives of people who trust you, is definitely a life changing experience.

1B. What (if any) additional knowledge or skills that you don’t currently have would make you even better at your job?

As a C.F.O., I wish I had enough time to gain more knowledge related to the technical aspects of my job. There is always something to learn in this field!

As an entrepreneur, I try to achieve a deeper understanding of two subjects which are totally unrelated: people and technologies. I need to know more about people because you can have great products and still fail if you don’t understand your employees. It’s not only a matter of knowing who they are but also being able to show some empathy at the right time.

2. Some jobs require the incumbent to be very analytical. Others require one to be a strong communicator, and others still require traits like patience, the ability to multitask, self-directedness, comfort with ambiguity, and exceptional attention to detail. Are there any behaviors and/or attributes that you would say are essential to performing the work that you do?

There are two traits that describes perfectly my accounting job: being analytical and having an exceptional attention to details. The latter comes to my mind first. You have to understand that there is no such thing as a job well done in the accounting field. The job is done or not. It’s not well done, beautifully done, marvelously done. It’s just done. If you don’t pay attention to details, you will never do it. And to save time, money and yourself from exhaustion, you have to analyze first before doing the job. So it’s always the same thing: we think and then we process.

When it comes to entrepreneurial skills, I would like to say without ranting that it has to be a bit of everything. Having the ability to multitask is critical.

3. Jobs guru Lou Adler says there are only 4 job types of jobs in the world (producers, improvers, builders, and thinkers. Which type of job are you in?

As Lou Adler said: “every person is comprised of a mix of each work type, with one or two dominant”.

So I am definitely a Producer when I work on clerical tasks or when I prepare reports (but this is not my cup of tea). I like to think of myself more as an Improver or a Builder. I’m an Improver because I tend to look for better ways to get things done. And I am obviously a Builder for anything related to my web applications, rKruiter and 500Assets.

A thinker? I don’t think so. Or at least not for now. If my vision of what the office will look like ten years from now proves to be right, then I guess I would reward myself with the Thinker “title”.

4. Does your job involve either directly or indirectly supervising or managing people? If so, how many direct (or indirect) reports do you have?

As a C.F.O., I handle a small team of three accountants. They have some skills which complement each other. I have to say that I am very happy with my team!

As an entrepreneur, I do not have direct reports. My investors allow me to use their own IT team as I deem necessary. I am usually in direct contact with their IT manager and sometimes with their developers and designers. I follow the principles of lean management and I will start to build my own team once I have a steady revenue stream.

5. How does what you do impact the business? Think complexity (different types of impacts) and scale (degree of impact). Put another way: Who and what would be impacted if your job wasn’t being done well, and why would it matter that they were impacted?

I will not talk about my entrepreneur hat since the answer is too obvious. Let’s focus on my job as C.F.O.!

A few years ago, I was tasked by Corporate to build and maintain some cost accounting tools which had a real impact on the global activity of our group of companies. Being able to know the exact cost of the products we are selling (distant English lessons and eLearning) has helped the upper management to make decisions. For instance, it was not obvious at first glance that the cost of producing in some countries was not that far from the cost in others despite a significantly lower labor cost. Providing this knowledge has allowed the shareholders to invest more money in some places while limiting investments in others.

My job in the Philippines has of course a lower impact. Still, one has to realize that nothing can be done over either the mid or long term if the administrative work is not under control. I’d like to think of my job as the engine of a Formula One. Everything can be pretty from the outside but without a perfectly tuned engine, you are not going to win a race!

6. Is your job safe? Rate its safety on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being “seated all day in an air conditioned vault” and 10 being “I’m an astronaut going into space”. If your job isn’t safe, what working conditions (specifically) make it hazardous?

Yes, my job is perfectly safe. I would rate it a 1, though I am not really “seated all day in an air conditioned vault” (it can be really hot here in the Philippines!).

7. Is there anything I missed that people should know about your job? Is there anything else you want to say about what you do?

As mentioned earlier, I have a vision for the office ten years from now. But what do I foresee? As I am a strong believer of the Results-Only Work Environment (R.O.W.E) and an advocate of remote work, I do think that most of the administrative jobs could be done remotely with the help of online tools. This is the reason why I want to develop useful tools which will be used (hopefully) by millions worldwide.

For the past 20 years, we all have witnessed an incredible shift to a more technology-obsessed society and this is just the beginning! I’m excited to experience firsthand this tech revolution…

Infographic Thursday: The Faces of Learning and Leadership Development


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A big thanks to HRmarketer for today’s infographic highlighting the thought leaders most frequently mentioned in social media where it concerns posts related to learning and leadership development. As a data geek and learning junkie, the few people here that I wasn’t already following are going into my RSS feed. If you’re passionate about learning and/or L&D then you owe it to yourself to give the below list a look. And as always, if you like what you see in today’s infographic then be sure to follow the team responsible for it on Twitter here.
Learning and Leadership Development

As always, please share any questions or thoughts in the comments section.



In Search of Perfection…





I have never had a particularly high amount of energy around being liked. Don’t get me wrong… it is certainly nice to be liked. But I don’t need to be liked. It simply isn’t high on my priorities list.

…Conversely, it has always been important for me to be perceived as fair.

With that said, one of the tough things about arbitrating disputes is that everyone sees things from their own point of view. This means that no matter how hard one tries to be even handed, how effective you ultimately are in that capacity is in the eye of the beholder. And so I am reminded of one of life’s oldest and simplest lessons, and also one of its truest:

You can’t please everyone.

An HR Executive that I recently met shared a John Wooden quote with me a few weeks ago that goes “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your 1. This would have made a good quote for next week, but this has been an informative week for quotes and life lessons so I’m doubling up. reputation is merely what others think you are.” 1

It turns out this may be very good advice.

…Perhaps instead of getting lost in the search of perfection – that response or action that pleases everyone – we should simply try and treat everyone as well as we can whenever we can, and hope it all comes out in the wash. I don’t think doing this means losing awareness of other’s perceptions or their relative weight and value. But I do think it might mean not beating yourself up too much over what might have been. And I think it means recognizing that sometimes your best simply needs to be good enough.

To move forward we can occasionally glance back… but we can’t hold onto the past.

Or maybe I have this wrong.

As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.



Strong Performance Management Starts With Flexible People Management





…The summer of my 16th birthday I got my first job bagging groceries at a local supermarket. It didn’t pay much better than minimum wage and it was mind numbing work… but it was a first job.

Periodically, the aisle cashiers would ask the baggers to get them change from a manager working in the inventory section of the store. On one such occasion as I went to change out cash, a manager at the store directed me to complete another task (stocking shelves)… to which I told him “In a few minutes, I have to go change out a register now.” and then left to change out the cash. A few minutes later, that same manager found me again and directed me to complete a highly undesirable task (picking up garbage out of the parking lot). Confused – and more than a little humiliated, I went and did so.

Later in the day, the manager found me as we were closing up and explained that the reason he’d had me pick up the trash was because I’d ignored his instructions earlier, and he needed to see if I could follow directions. Years of dealing with young-people in entry-level positions had taught him that he needed to establish a culture of following directions from management immediately, and that if one person deviated from instructions then others would also do so in short order. And so the fact that I was working on another task at the time was besides the point. I’d been asked to do one thing by a manager and had declared I would do another. In my role – and in that culture – this wasn’t acceptable.

I understood and accepted the rationale behind the manager’s actions here, and the rest of the summer passed without incident. But over the next few months that I worked at the store I saw more than one new-hire quit or be fired because they failed the ‘trash test’.

…I won’t say that the manager’s style was bad here – he was a long-serving manager at a very successful business and had developed a people management style that produced the sorts of employees he wanted. But I also think a little more context and dialogue in such cases may have yielded him the same results with far less turnover (which even at an entry level is costly).

…I recount this story because one of the recurring lessons I’m learning as an HR person tasked with leading performance management efforts is that effective performance management often goes hand-in-hand with flexible people management.

Put another way, everyone receives feedback differently. This fact doesn’t necessarily make those that require a different style of feedback than that which his or her manager is accustomed to giving bad performers. Instead, it often just means a different approach is needed. Sometimes the required approach is so different that a person simply isn’t a good fit for a team… but not always. Recognizing when the latter versus the former is true is one of the differences between being a good or a great manager.
Ergo, I think it’s important for all managers to consider how their actions are received by the people reporting up to them. And so whether one leads a team of teenage grocery baggers, software programmers at a tech-firm, or vice presidents at a mega-cap company, effective performance management requires understanding how one’s individual directs perceive and receive messages and moderating them accordingly.

Maybe (as is often the case), I have this wrong. Let me know in the comments section below.



Quote of the Week: “If your actions inspire others to…



…dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams



For this quote we can thank John Quincy Adams, an American statesman best known for serving as the 6th President of the United States from 1825 to 1829.

…I think the number one reason new managers fail is that they never figure out how to get exceptional and discretionary effort out of the people reporting to them. Managing people is fundamentally different than being an individual contributor because as an individual contributor success is governed largely by your own performance. Not everyone that makes the transition figures that out.

Conversely, as a manager success is governed by your ability to get others to perform. And the higher you climb, the more difficult it is to do this by micromanaging – at a certain level everything going on underneath you is simply too great in complexity and scope to manage minutia.

…Part of making this transition is learning how to delegate, but as important as delegation is to managing efforts of considerable scale, it is just as important to make sure the people one is delegating to are engaged in their work. To ensure this, one must be inspiring as well as competent. Forsake the former at your own peril.

As we get started this week, if you’re a manager make sure your people are excited about getting better at their current jobs, dreaming about what’s next, and doing more than they currently are to reach their aspirations. Don’t just manage. Inspire.

If you any questions on how to do this (or insights on how you’re doing it already) please share them in the comments section below.

Happy Monday,


Sunday Reading: August 10, 2014 – Talent Screening, Workforce Analytics, and Survey Utility


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Sunday reading for August 10, 2014:

1. Michael Thomsen has a thoughtful piece up on Forbes challenging the validity of the candidate screening process in place at many organizations. His subject line (‘The Junk Science Of The Human Resources Department’) seemingly challenges the value of the function as a whole, but in the article itself Thomsen primarily takes issue with the way HR valuates, recruits, and rewards talent. I don’t agree with all of what he says here (e.g. despite Thomsen’s apparent dislike of the practice, one reason HR is so bullish on referral hires is because on average they perform better than those coming from other sources), but he makes some pretty compelling points about the relative uselessness of job descriptions (they often list pre-requisite skill requirements that are easily learn-able on the job) and brain teaser interview questions. Such practices have relatively little predictive value as it concerns identifying the best candidate(s) for open positions, instead functioning as a poor screening mechanisms more likely to DQ high-quality applicants than identify the best qualified ones. Check the full piece out here. Highly recommended.

2. Duncan Smithson, Global M&A Engagement Manager at Mercer, recently participated in a discussion on Mercer Insights wherein he talked about the integral role talent plays in the success of M&As. Smithson goes on to highlight how acquiring organizations can leverage workforce analytics to valuate human capital synergies and gaps that could fundamentally change the value of a deal. This is a really good piece that introduced me to some pretty interesting things organizations can do in the workforce analytics space (particularly in the later stages of a deal) to assess talent fit. Read the full piece here.

3. Charles Csizmar, Compensation Consultant at CMCConsulting has a thought-provoking post on Compensation Café questioning the wisdom of defaulting to survey bench-marking when making strategic HR decisions. Csizmar points out that while it is easy to follow the herd when making decisions about HR policy and administration, such decisions are not necessarily going to advance your career… and they may even derail it in cases where your organization’s human capital challenges don’t closely mirror those of your chosen survey’s respondents. This post serves as a great reminder that it is sometimes good to be bold, and also as a refresher that looking to the center for consensus is not always prudent. Check this one out here to better understand why.

As always, please share your thoughts in the comments below.




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