Saturday, June 30, 2012


What About the Future?

Most CLOs I talk with are so busy taking care of today's business that they spend little time preparing for the future. Short-term thinking is good to respond to incremental change, but deciding things one step at a time doesn't prepare you to thrive in a world of systemic, wholesale change. You can't leap a chasm in small jumps.

To get beyond immediate concerns, you have to make the future tangible. Examining scenarios - stories about alternative futures - makes the future imaginable and real.

Royal Dutch Shell, the fifth largest company in the world and a long-term player - it is more than 100 years old - has been learning from scenarios for 40 years. At Online Educa Berlin in late 2011, Shell's innovation manager for global learning technologies Hans de Zwart and manager of learning strategy and innovation Willem Manders led a scenario planning process to address these issues:

1. How do different global and national trends shape the future of corporate learning?

2. What opportunities and challenges does this create for corporate learning organizations?

3. How do those insights help to make better decisions around current learning challenges faced by the organizations involved in the exercise?

To answer questions like these, you have to escape your current mindset. In Berlin, de Zwart and Manders led us in an exercise where we came up with these key drivers:

1. Ten years out, how might work be organized? On the one hand, it might be structured, regulated and managed. On the other, work could be flexible, individual and enabled.

2. In the same timeframe, how will work be done? Will it be relationship-driven or data-driven?

The drivers yield four scenarios: Old-boy network - structured and relationship-driven; in crowd - flexible and relationship-driven; big data - structured and data-driven; and quantified self - flexible and data-driven.

These scenarios are neither forecasts nor projections. They do not predict what's to come. Rather, they provide alternative views of the future.

Think about how you'd prepare for futures like these; I'll append a few thoughts to get you started.

1. Old-boy network:

his is a world of clear expectations and roles, organization-driven development, structural talent management, competency mapping, subject matter expert-focused, authoritative knowledge, planned innovation, business cases, calculated risks, planned careers and large structured curricula.

Many old-school companies think this is where they live. They have big plans but don't want to throw away their LMS. Can this methodology work in an increasingly fast-paced world?

2. In crowd:

This is a community of practice that focuses on hyper connectivity inside community, low connectivity outside community, interest/passion-driven strategies, many repositories of content and a wide variation of roles. Development in this scenario is peer driven, self directed and focused on personal networks and professional connections. Community is a curator, personal value aligned, and subject matter experts emerge from community.

This is social business. Informal learning thrives here, and the motto is to make your social networks thrive and get your mobile learning strategy together.

3. Big data:

This scenario is gathered toward the data-driven organization with outsourcing/franchise models, high volume, high variety in personalized information and structural competence visualization.

You have to choose the right data to act on. Customers are creating the data; this setup can make companies more agile responding to change.

4. Quantified self:

n this scenario the individual is in control, and competence development occurs through automated feedback, high talent mobility and self compliance.

Some people predict the end of jobs and corporations as we know them. Might this be where we end up? It could be chaotic. We'll need more engaging learning resources than ever before to keep people's attention. It's time to get those learning games online.

Among other things, this exercise taught me to rip my blinders off. I've been such a cheerleader for one of the scenarios that I'd slighted the rest.

By Jay Cross - CEO of Internet Time Group 

Don't Let Employees Reach Their Boiling Point

Yelling, abuse and disrespect - these behaviors are becoming more commonplace in the work environment, contributing to a culture of incivility, which may lead to decreased engagement and high turnover rates.

Thirty-eight percent of American workers say the workplace has become more uncivil and disrespectful compared to a few years ago, according to a June 2011 study by KRC Research titled "Civility in America."

"There's a real psychological depression out there that is impacting how people are responding to each other," said Jeff Cohen, executive coaching expert and founder of J M Cohen Associates. Discouragement and desperation that emerged as a byproduct of the unstable business environment combined with new trends in social interaction appear to be taking a toll on corporate communication.

Stress and unhappiness - much of it pertaining to the economy - are uncommonly high amongst workers today, and it is beginning to affect employee culture. "People are becoming more fearful for their jobs, even panicky, and when things go awry they do one of two things: They pull into their shell or they start lashing out at other folks," Cohen said.

Technology may also be partly to blame for the deteriorating state of communication today. Meg Clara, director of recruiting and human resources at Caiman Consulting, criticized the disruptiveness of electronic communication such as texts and emails in forming personal and professional relationships. By conducting conversations through devices, workers lose out on person-to-person interaction and the etiquette that goes with it.

As a society we are forgetting the importance of looking each other in the eye when we speak, and old-fashioned courtesy has all but become a thing of the past. This trend is resulting not just in more frequent occurrences of disrespect, yelling, underhandedness and abuse in the workplace, but also decreased productivity and higher turnover.

In January, Harvard Business Review reported that half of employees who encountered instances of incivility at work intentionally decreased their efforts. The article also showed more than a third of them decreased the quality of their work.

Competent workers who have suffered abuse or disrespect in the workplace don't feel the need to stick around, Cohen said.

Since employee engagement, performance and retention are at stake, talent managers ought to consider the following tips to defuse the situation lest things get out of hand.

1. Introduce consequences.

Disrespect amongst employees and even employers is often overlooked and typically goes unpunished. Treating incivility with aggressive discipline similar to the way sexual harassment is addressed will help workers realize that it is unacceptable, Cohen said.

2. Use training to change behavior.

"People need to realize that they are acting in an offensive way ... they feel very disconnected from their jobs; they feel anonymous, they become passive, and when things go off kilter they respond without thinking," Cohen said. When workers encounter high-tension situations, they may act in ways they've never acted before. Training, including workshops and one-on-one counseling sessions with executives, can go a long way toward creating behavioral change.

3. Preventing is better than curing.

Clara said Caiman Consulting deals with incivility by rooting it out from the start. The company's core value of courtesy plays a big role in deciding who gets a place in its ranks. In the same way, employers should consider their culture and values as early as the hiring stage.

The revival of courtesy in the workplace is still in its early stages, but it may go a long way to building a more engaged and productive workforce.

By Mohini Kundu - Editorial intern at Talent Management magazine