Communication and Organisational engagement

Highly engaged employees are a vital part of a healthy organisation,

but how do we create them, how do we ensure that everyone within our organisations feel like they are actively having their voice heard, particularly on issues that or important or which they are passionate about.

I know this is a little off my usual topics but I have had a couple of weeks in various workshops where the subject of communications and how develop really effective communications with staff so that they feel engaged and part of the larger organisation and have had some very interesting conversations around it.  Over the time a couple of things have struck me, the first and I think probably most important one is noise.

What do I mean by noise?  I mean the general background noise of the organisation and of peoples day to day work and lives, this constant flow of information and opinion and discussion, and conversation that occurs just because we live in highly complex and connected environments, both at work and outside of work.   I was talking about this with some of the other participants in the workshops and the comment was made that maybe it is not necessarily the case that we are not communicating effectively, maybe it is the case that there is simply too much noise, that it is very very easy for even a highly targeted message to get lost, or put to the side and not given the attention it deserves.  And this is a problem in both directions from management to staff and from staff to management, background noise is eating up the messages and vital information and knowledge are being lost as is engagement with staff.

The struggle though is what to do about it.  I know there are multiple courses and programs and systems out there designed to make us work more effectively, to attempt to allow us to focus on what is important and cut through the noise, and of course doing anything is better than nothing.  However for me this is more that just an issue of person effectiveness and focus, because you can be as effective and focused as possible and still the noise is there.

I don’t know what the answer is of course and if I did I would probably be able to make myself very very rich, but I would be very interested to hear what everyone else thinks about organisational noise and how to combat it.

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Changes to the Queensland School Based Apprenticeship Scheme

The QLD government has recently announced a significant change to the funding model for School-based Apprenticeship and traineeships, under user choice funding.

Currently all school based apprenticeships and traineeships receive 100% funding regardless of the priority of the qualification. All of that is going to change on 1 july 2013, when the government will apply a sliding scale of funding depending on the priority of the the qualification. From July 1, only those occupations listed as critical priorities on the Queensland skills shortage list will receive 100% funding. Those occupations not on the skills shortages list but considered to be high priorities will receive 75% funding, and those not on the list but considered to be medium priorities will receive 50% funding.

So there really are to questions here, the first is will this have an effect on school-based traineeships, and the answer is definitely yes. The second question is more interesting though I think, and that is, is the change a good one?

Well it is certainly in line with the changes that were outlined last years Queensland Training Taskforce report and I can see the sense in the governments position. If the government is funding training then the training should be for outcomes in occupations that the state needs. Why should the government be funding school students to undertake qualifications that are not going to have real employment outcomes and real employment outcomes that meet the needs of industry. Do we really need to be funding school students to do a Cert III in fitness or game development when there are not enough aged care workers or builders, or electricians. I think that it is appropriate to link whether or not a qualification is going to attract funding to whether or not there is going to be a real industry focused employment outcome for the students.

I think this will certainly have an effect on the participation levels in the school based apprenticeships and traineeships and there may be some students who are unable to undertake the qualification that they wish to undertake due to financial constraints, and while that represents a problem is it a problem that we can live with if the outcomes we get provide a better result for both the student and industry.

Conferences, Content, exhibition halls and selling your product or service

Why is it these days when I go to a conference I cant help but get the feeling someone is trying to sell me something.

Now I am not talking about the vendors in the exhibition hall, I know they are going to sell me something, and one of the reasons I go to some of these conferences is to see what new and amazing things are on offer, like at the recent AITD conference I met the wonderful ladies from Fulcrum People with all of their wonderful training aids and programs.  I go into the exhibition hall knowing that people are going to try to sell me things.

No I am talking about thinly veiled presentations that under the guise of presenting me with something useful or interesting or something that I didn’t know and might be able to use, are in fact actually trying to sell me their product or service.  I have one thing to say to you and to the conference organisers who let you get away with it.  STOP IT.  I am sick of it.  Dont suggest that I put my business card on top of the pile of sorting cards just in case it gets mixed up with everyone else’s and then just have them collected.  We know what you are doing, you are farming for business cards.  Now if you had just came out and asked me for it I probably would have given it to you, but you tried to be sneaky so even if I do get an email from you I will ignore it on principle.

Now I know it is hard for conference organisers to vet everything properly, but not doing it hurts your conferences and forums and damages your credibility.  I know it hard to find decent content and good presenters who will be drawcards to the event and who will be engaging and motivating, but seriously I have been to some conference this year where just by reading the outline of what people were presenting and where they worked (be it a large company or a sole proprietor) I could tell that I was going to be sold to.

If an employee of a company that sells Learning Management Systems is talking about the features you should have in an LMS, you can almost guarantee there is a sales pitch hidden in there somewhere.  If someone from a company who consults on developing organisational values is presenting a case study on the work they did developing an organisations values, there is probably a sales pitch there somewhere.  Now in the last case if it was that people from the organisation talking about their journey and how they were helped by the company, then that is probably a different kettle of fish.

So please conference organisors vet your presentations a bit more, challenge the presenters on their content and why they are presenting and ‘presenters’ if you want to sell me something get a stand in the exhibition hall and be honest about your intentions.

Brinkerhoff and AITD 2013

So I didn’t post last night mainly because I had been awake since 4.00am travelling down to Melbourne for the pre-conference workshop with Robert Brinkerhoff and what a fantastic workshop it was.

As a lot of you know I am a huge fan of Robert’s work, his books on high impact learning and success case method evaluation have been an enormous influence on the way in which I think about organisational learning.

Robert went through his High Impact Learning process and how to implement it inside organisations. He shared stories and challenged us to think differently around how as learning and development people interact with the business.

If the rest of the conference is as fantastic as yesterday’s workshop it will be one of the best yet.

AITD Annual Conference 2013

Well as a lot of you already know I will be down in Melbourne this week for the AITD National Conference

and I have to say it is looking like it will be a fantastic event.

The first thing I am excited about is attending the workshop tomorrow being facilitated by Robert Brinkerhoff the author of one of my favourite book on organisational Learning ‘High Impact Learning’  and the famous ‘Success Case Method’ for the evaluation of training, and that is just the first day.

So then the conference starts in earnest on Wednesday and apart from catching up with everyone, including some of you I haven’t seen since last years conference (way to long) there are a plethora of fantastic presentations on across the two days including:

The wonderful and ever insightful Natalie Goldman from Peoplebank talking about Embedding a learning culture into your organisation.

Then in the exhibition area there are the lovely folk from Mindworks, Axcelerate, and Team Management Systems.

So the plan is for me to update the blog during the day and let people know what is going on who is talking and about what and if you are lucky you might even get some pics and posts from the Gala dinner on Wednesday night, but I can’t promise anything.

Business minded L&D

I always like how Sukh thinks about learning and its connection to the business. this post is definately worth a read.

Thinking About Learning

So you know how we hear lot’s in the profession about being more business minded to give ourselves value? Well, I’m onboard with that as a concept and as an ideal. It helps me to understand there are things I can and should be doing which will help me to be better at the job I do. If I choose to.

But what does it mean to be more business minded? How do you get more commercial acumen? How do you gain business acumen? As an L&Der, does this stuff actually make a difference to the job we do?

Well, it can make a big difference. It’s what sets ‘trainers’ apart from ‘L&D professionals’. To my mind, there’s a role for both in organisations.

We need trainers. That is people who are proficient (or even possible expert) in a particular skill set, and can help others learn that skill set…

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‘Bring your Parents to Work Day’ – Learning TRENDS by Elliott Masie

I was reading Elliot Masie’s Learning Trends this morning and the first article he had there was one entitled

Bring your Parents to Work Day.

At first when I read the title I was intrigued and was really interested in what Elliot had to say which was this

‘Bring Your Parents to Work Day” would allow highly involved and concerned parents to meet the colleagues and bosses of their kids.  Just as they did in K to 12 school settings, parents are often able to advocate for higher performance ratings once they meet their children’s evaluators.  Some parents might even help their children re-decorate their work space or cubicle. 

It will also be valuable for the older, retired parents of some employees.  These parents can come in and be deployed as meaningful one day assistants – leveraging their skills and experiences of decades of work.  In some instances, the retired parents can even be deployed while their children are on vacation, filling in for them on key assignments and committees.’

and when I got to the end of the piece I was well, lost for words.

He goes on to suggest that some organisations might be challenged by this idea, and in my opinion he is right, but for the wrong reasons.  Organisations should be challenged by this idea because if it utterly wrong-headed.  All I can think is that if the parents of someone who worked for me came in and wanted to discuss their child’s performance or wanted to help them re-decorate their cubicle I would say;

‘Why are you here, this is a place of business if your child can’t look after themselves and needs you to intervene of their behalf or assist them with redecorating then I am not sure they have the skills to actually be employed here.’

Have we got so paternal, have our children got so useless that they can’t cope in the world as adults, without their parents to help them.  There are no learning opportunities here, unless that is you want to learn which of your staff have over controlling, over involved parents and who can’t actually look after themselves in the real adult world.

Sorry Elliot, you say a lot of good things most of the time, but this time you have really missed the mark.

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