Tag Archives: learning and development

What Are They Taking With Them When They Go?

When I first considered human resources as a focus in college and as a career path, I always felt the intense desire to be that person that found the potential in others. I wanted to find that perfect person for a company’s needs. I wanted to find that connection and help companies discover a person’s hidden talents that may have been overlooked. I wanted to hone in on those aspects to a person, learn their passions, and help them foster it. I wanted to be the reason why a company had progressive employees. It wasn’t just about talent acquisition for me. It was about improving the internal team. These individuals weren’t going to be just another employee- they were going to be the people that made the difference.

As I got more involved with human resources, I started to realize that in order to succeed, you had to build a relationship. As I thought of my own personal relationships in the past, I thought about the best and worst aspects of them. I recall growing up and having those highly emotional, yet highly destructive relationships. You know, the ones that you feel like you’ve just sunk yourself into a black hole and it will take forever for to build yourself up again. When I matured a bit more, I realized that all relationships don’t last forever and that the best thing I could do is to try to be supportive to the other person in the relationship. Let them build themselves up as an individual so if things didn’t work out, they wouldn’t be left with nothing. They wouldn’t have to start over again.

I feel like these aspects are very similar to an employer/employee relationship. I’m sure we’ve all experienced some sort of negative situation: the employer didn’t care; you hit a glass ceiling; it was a hostile work environment; your employer was underutilizing you; and so on. I’m sure you’ve experienced the times when you were disengaged, dreading to go to work. I’m sure there have been times when you wanted to just give up because it didn’t seem like anyone noticed or recognized your efforts anyway, so why not put in the bare minimum. I’m sure there were also times when you had positive experiences. Maybe you still talk to your previous employers or coworkers. Maybe you also talk highly of them and would have stayed with them if they had the opportunities that matched your professional goals.

As an HR professional, I’m wondering what we’re doing to change these employees’ experiences into a positive one. With the way the world of work has changed, it’s becoming a common trend for employees to move on from an employer within a few years, whether it is voluntary or involuntary. What are we doing to make them feel like they’re a better person and employee by the time they move on? Are we developing those relationships? Are we giving them the resources and tools they need to build themselves up? Are we utilizing their untapped skills so they feel like they’re making the most of their time and effort?

I never wanted my experience in HR to be about “policing” employees. I didn’t want to be the warden of policies and disciplinary action. I didn’t want to be the one putting up so much red tape that employees felt stuck. HR has the ability to do something greater for their workforce. They have the ability to help with career progression. I want to know that my efforts impacted my employees’ lives so when and if they do leave the company, they are leaving with something more than what they came in with.

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Interns Should be More Than Your Coffee Lackey

Many years ago, interns used to be called “apprentices.” In these roles, the mentor would teach the apprentice how to do the job, provide details about the industry, and give a realistic expectations. The mentor took time to add value to the individual they were teaching and, as a result, allowed the individual to gain skills and knowledge to perform well once they were ready to start their career. In present day, interns are joked to be the “coffee lackey” or the “errand runner” for the company they’re “working” at. Sadly, these terms came about because some companies have delegated these tasks to the individuals who initially came there to learn. But how is getting a coffee order right going to help anyone?

As a support system and mentor for some of my interns, I often have a weekly call with them to discuss some of the things they’re learning from the team/department they’re interning in. I’ll attempt to answer any questions, build a support system, and offer some guidance. Of course, I’m always intrigued to hear about their previous interning experiences compared to their current ones and also to hear about their dislikes and likes from each experience. Needless to say, it shocked me when I heard that there are plenty of times when these interns literally were delegated the bare minimum. They’d tell me that these situations didn’t allow them to learn anything useful and that they felt like they wasted their time. More importantly, their experience at the company made them want to rule it out as a potential employer down the line.

What bothers me about this situation is the fact that we’re not doing anything or anyone justice if we aren’t utilizing our interns the best that we can. These interns come to companies in hopes to get a realistic view of what the world of work really is like. They came to put their school studies to practice and build their skills in ways that textbooks and classrooms can’t provide. They’re making a conscious effort to build their resumes so they are an attractive candidate once they’re ready for full-time work. They came to your company because they potentially wanted to build a relationship so you could consider them once you had a relevantjob opening. And how are they repaid for their effort? By having companies waste their time and make them feel expendable.

Here comes the irony: I often hear recruiters and hiring managers complain that there isn’t enough good talent for their entry-level positions. The reason for this is because some companies have turned internships into an opportunity to have someone do the unfavorable tasks that they don’t want to do rather than actually mentoring them. This could be an opportunity to allow them to reach their potential. As a company that has internship programs, it’s your responsibility to help build the talent for the future workforce. If you want great employees coming out of college, then it’s imperative for you to help them build their skills at a time where they are eager and inspired to learn.

Interns come to companies with natural motivation, desire to learn, drive, and ambition. They’re hopeful for their future and are looking up to their mentors to guide them in the right direction. Essentially, mentors of the internship programs are the ones who are helping shape our upcoming workforce. What are you doing to help contribute?

If this topic interests you, be sure to join in or listen to the #InternPro radio show.

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Pairing Formal with Informal Learning

Let’s face it- everyone learns and retains things differently. We learned about this fact during our school years and it still holds true in our professional careers. Some people learn at a faster rate than others. Some gain more from classroom teaching than hands-on training. The point is, one size does not fit all when it comes to learning and development and it would be wise for organizations to recognize this fact to ensure their training initiatives are more effective.

First off, get your formal learning in check. With technology advancing our ability to have more options to be trained, it’s important to remember that formal learning doesn’t have to require people to be trapped in a four walled room. Break down those walls and incorporate new ways to do formal training that goes beyond traditional classroom training. Personally, sitting through 8 hours of classroom lectures did not always help my understanding or retention (not to mention, my attention span). Break up the lectures with some additional learning opportunities. Maybe have your training classes go out in the field or interact/collaborate with people who already do this role within the organization. Let them see formal learning be put into action.

Secondly, it is important to remember that informal learning is necessary, too. Like stated earlier, people all have different learning styles so forcing them to only learn in a handful of ways might limit what they gain out of the experience. Breaking up your formal learning can only go so far so it’s up to you to encourage and empower employees to take initiative for their development. Give them suggestions on what they can do for their independent learning efforts. Let them interact with people in the industry so they can see how to put these trainings to good use. Allow them to join webinars or go to professional social networking groups. The learning world is their oyster.

I will tell you that I personally gained a lot from my informal learning. I often feel like the social media HR groups I’ve participated in (such as the Twitter chat, #Tchat) or the networking calls I had with people I’ve connected with have helped me gain so much more than majority of the training I’ve formally had from employers or schooling. Even researching topics and information to write the posts on my blog have helped me learn an extraordinary amount. I made it a point to ensure I was still learning even when in between jobs so once an employer took a chance on me, I could bring something extra to the table. Even after being employed, I still make the effort to regularly include informal training to accent the formal training I get from my employer. Some of my informal training has even sparked new ideas that will help us offer more to our clients and prospects. It’s even helped our internal team work more effectively.

As an employer, what are you doing to add more to your teaching and training? Have you ever considered informal learning as being a valuable option?

More Links:

Igniting Social Learning #Tchat Preview

Digging Deep into Social Learning #TChat Recap

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Switching Up to a Career Seeking State of Mind

Alright, the economy really did a number on us as employees. Many of us have lost jobs or were in fear of losing it. We took pay cuts, benefit cuts, and worked extra hard to compensate for being under-staffed. Some of us had to take crummy jobs after crummy jobs just to make sure our mortgages were paid and there was food on the table. Some of us even wondered if we’d ever find a stable job again. I say- enough! I’ve been there before and I know it’s rough. But 2013 is a new year and with last month adding over 100,000 new jobs into the mix, we’re hoping things are looking up. With that being said, it’s time to switch gears and start getting career-minded rather than “job to get by”-minded.

Building yourself up to get ready for your career and achieving your career goals does not happen overnight. It is an ongoing process. So, what should you be focusing on to help you get where you need to be? Here are a few ideas:

  • Personal Branding: resumes are becoming redundant and often highlight what you done rather than your career path intentions. It’s time to stand out of the candidate-crowd and get people to know you for what you WANT to be known for. Get involved in activities, groups, or conferences that can help you gain skills and network. Get exposure on social media. Start TALKING about it.
  • Be about it: maybe your personal brand won’t land you the dream job right off the bat, and that’s to be expected. Your relevant skills might be a bit rusty or maybe you need to develop new ones to keep up with the way the industry had changed. Internships, projects, and volunteer work are never below you- remember that. Some people’s pride and ego get in the way from taking on these seemingly innocent projects/roles. But the truth of the matter is; these situations help you build the skills you need to be an attractive candidate.
  • Learning is continuous: so be sure to add to your talking and doing by learning. Think of it as being extremely well-rounded. Your mind needs to be sharp and up to date. Be sure to find learning opportunities, whether it is to take classes, read business books/blogs, or simply join in a discussion relevant to the career/industry you’re targeting. This can keep you fresh and be ready to contribute useful ideas/insight when you have the opportunity to shine.
  • Build your network: doing all of these steps will be pretty useless if no one knows who you are, where you’re located, or what you’re striving for. It will also be useless if you have no idea what feasible options for you are. Build your network of contacts, get to know them and let them get to know you. Simply building and maintaining these contacts can help them reach out to you if opportunity arises or they can even help guide you so you can ensure you’re taking the right steps towards your goal. Your network will be your support, your mentors, your key to opportunity, or just a good conversation.

Your career isn’t a fleeting thing. It is your future, and a long-term future at that. Take care and pride in these steps to help you reach your goal in the most ideal way possible. 2013 will be the year that you will focus in on your potential and strive to be the best version of yourself. Take action!

If you enjoy topics like this, be sure to join #Tchat on Twitter on Wednesdays at 7pm EST.

More Links:

#Tchat Recap

Storify : Lose job, keep career

5 Powerful Career Drivers for the Future of Work – Forbes article by Meghan M Biro

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Say Yes to Continuing Education

In grammar school and high school, we’re taught to get good grades and participate in extra-curricular activities so we can get into our dream colleges. In college, we are once again told to get good grades, encouraged to take on internships, and asked to join clubs- all to help our chances of landing a great job upon graduation. And once we land those jobs, gain experience, and slowly but surely move along in our career paths- then what? Does education and learning just end there because we achieved the “ultimate goal” of getting a job that offers financial security and benefits? Does it just end there?

It shouldn’t. People should be driven and encouraged to do whatever they can to continue to learn. So many people believe that once they receive that diploma or certificate that they’re done. They paid their dues and finally got their careers in check… and that’s that. When I’ve asked people why they aren’t continuing their education and learning, I often got answers such as this:

  • I’m too old to go back to school
  • I’m too busy with work and home-life to take on anything more
  • I don’t have the money
  • I don’t need it
  • I wouldn’t even know where to start
  • I’m too scared to start something new

All are valid reasons and concerns but the reality of it is, skills are becoming outdated, people are being automated out of jobs, and technology is upgrading/advancing so quickly that most of us can’t keep up. The world of work is evolving in some major ways. So, the “ultimate goal” isn’t about landing a job anymore, but more about keeping up.

Like I said earlier, all those reasons are valid but there are ways to work around it. For example:

  • Online school
  • Certificate classes
  • Work training
  • Informal social groups
  • Reading new industry books/blogs in your free time
  • Networking
  • Stretch projects
  • Work shadowing

Education shouldn’t just be a stepping stone or a distant memory- it should be ongoing. The world has so much to offer and we live in an amazing time where we can easily access this. So take advantage of the things that generations before us could not. Become the ultimate asset and more importantly, do it for yourself.

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Getting Connected: Networking Communities

In past blog postings, I have written about topics involving social media communities and talent communities. Of course, I am very passionate about both of these types of communities but the main reason behind my feelings towards it is what these communities offer. If individuals get involved in these types of situations, many will be happy to find that the communities offer some incredible networking opportunities. Not only do they offer networking opportunities but they can also be a great resource for learning, development, and thought leadership. So, what can networking communities do for you?

Here are some potential networking communities you can explore:

  • Networking groups: Recently I discovered the website www.meetup.com. It’s a great way for people to discover specific groups who are meeting up in your area. There are plenty of groups meeting up for specific reasons, whether it is for business, certain interests, or generally just to meet people.
  • Professional clubs: professional groups that meet regularly are also a good way to network with people in different industries. For example, in Charleston, SC there is a professional club called the Charleston Young Professionals. They typically set up monthly events to allow people to have fun and also mingle for business contacts.
  • Social media: websites like Linkedin and Twitter are fantastic ways to connect with individuals. Discussion groups and chats that are based on specific professions, topics, or industries can also make it easy to casually connect with individuals.
  • Work events: surprisingly, work events can also be a great place to network. Sometimes in office settings people don’t have the time or ability to talk to people outside of their department or to individuals they don’t directly work with. This can be a great way to get to know about others in your company.
  • Conventions: conventions are a way to meet people who are in a specific industry or specific role. This will allow you to connect with people that could potentially be in the same industry/role as you. Therefore, it may be a quick way to form a bond.

Some of the benefits of networking:

  • Business connections: networking with individuals can help you find business connections that can assist you with specific business needs or business development.
  • Learning and development: networks can help open up opportunities to learn and develop. For example, social communities can present online learning, training, and development opportunities for those who want to extend their learning outside of what their company can offer.
  • Resources: networking can help you discover some really interesting resources. For example, when I was starting my blog I came across some useful reference material that helped me add something extra to my posts. It’s also a great way for people to discover job opportunities or companies that they may never have heard of.
  • Thought Leadership: networking groups can promote discussion, which can ultimately promote thought leadership. I’ve witnessed occurrences where a simple group discussion resulted in a solution that helped better a business and situation.

Since I’ve been networking in some of the ways mentioned above, I feel like I’ve developed greatly as a person. I could almost kick myself for not partaking in this sooner. The individuals I’ve met have been unbelievably inspiring and have helped pave the way to build my knowledge to grow personally and professionally. Being involved in networking communities has been one of the greatest decisions I’ve made. How about you?

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Are you a Good Coach to Your Employees?

Recently, I had the pleasure to discuss some human resources, management, and leadership topics with Nick Sarillo, founder and CEO of Nick’s Pizza and Pub. He initially reached out to me regarding my passion for company culture and engagement and conversation took off from there. I absolutely loved his outlook on how he manages his employees and he even was kind enough to share some links to articles discussing this. Today’s blog post will discuss one of Nick’s qualities in terms of management: managers should be coaches.

I think many of us can remember back when we first entered the workforce and were simply trying to figure out how to gain the skills to be successful at our jobs. I’m sure we’ve all had the situations where a boss or manager were maybe a little too harsh, too impatient, or too judgmental when it came to a task we hadn’t quite mastered yet. I know that myself and many others would feel a bit deflated in these types of situations and maybe even had a sense of doubt of whether or not we’d ever get it down. Even if you aren’t a new employee and have been working for several years, these types of situations still can arise. But what can managers do to make it better?

Nick had told me about how he coaches his employees and manages them by “trusting and tracking.”  He decided that the best way to help engage his employees is by training them thoroughly and giving them all the necessary skills and knowledge they need to perform a job duty. From there, he stands back, let’s them take charge and be accountable for the results. He noticed that this method had helped employees take pride in their work and actually take more initiative when it comes to their growth and development.

Nick built on this method, taking the time to update his training and then allowing his employees the space to develop their roles. Although Nick trusted his employees to progress, he still made sure he monitored them to help them in areas that they were struggling in. Even if he needed to step in, he still made sure the feedback was positive to allow the learning and training experience be a good one for his employees. Some tips that Nick suggested in regard to this are:

  • Make sure you are not giving constant orders and criticism.
  • Offer training, coaching, support, and positive reinforcement.
  • Build training systems into your company and management.
  • Provide helpful feedback on a regular basis.
  • Make expectations clear, track progress, celebrate met goals, and give help when needed.

I was very inspired by this management style and was happy to hear that Nick stuck with it even though other business owners (including his own father) told him he was crazy. This style has helped Nick’s business become one of the top 10 independent pizza companies in the United States. Moreover, Nick has some of the lowest turnover found in this industry.

-Nick Sarillo is the founder and CEO of Nick’s Pizza & Pub in Crystal Lake and Elgin, Ill., and the author of A Slice of the Pie: How to Build a Big Little Business (Portfolio; hardcover). www.nicksarillo.com.

More Links:

Bosses Should be Coaches not Cops

Nick Sarillo’s book, “A Slice of the Pie” on Amazon.com

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Filed under Coaching, Leadership, Learning and Development, Management, Training

Investing in Your Employees’ Learning and Development

Throughout my career, I have taken notice of the efforts that my employers had attempted in order to train and hopefully develop new employees. I’ve also participated in continuous training and workshops as a refresher on the knowledge and skills I had gained throughout my employment at the company. Although I find all of this very important for your employees and your workforce as a whole, I can’t help to wonder if there are additional opportunities that employers are offering their employees. Are employers investing in the employees’ futures, as well?

One of the most inspiring things I have researched was the fact that some employers truly take notice to what their employees’ natural talents are or what their goals are for the future. Some employers also even help present opportunities that will allow employees to gain the skills they need to get where they want to be. But, these types of situations only really occur if an employer somehow takes the time to discover these additional talents or if the employees actually speak up to say what they really want to accomplish while employed there. But what if we tried to do things differently? What if we gave all employees the chance to be open and voice what they want as part of their learning and development? It seems as if though the training that the employees are involved in help them become experts at what they’re currently doing but doesn’t really offer them the ability to expand beyond that.

Call me crazy but I would love it if employers took the time to ask their employees what their career paths were and what type of training they would like to partake in. Give them the empowerment and options to pick what training they need and assist them in getting it. Investing in your employees this way can not only increase engagement, but could also increase loyalty and could even help your organization progress in ways it never could before. You are giving them the ability and the tools to help them be a super-asset for your company.

Too often, I hear employees leave companies because they feel like they have nowhere to go and no chances to grow as a professional and/or personally. So they venture elsewhere looking for the ability to learn and grow. I suppose that this post is more of me thinking out loud because I know that there is much more that is involved when it comes to L&D. Regardless,  I would be impressed to see that employers are giving their employees the options to pave the way to their future within the organization. I would also love to see employees take these chances and see how much it changes them.

Food for thought.

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The Multi-Generational Workplace: Learning from Each Other

Last Wednesday’s #TChat touched upon the multi-generational workplace. The discussion talked about how the workforce is changing and now includes Gen Y, Gen X, and Baby Boomers all within one workforce. As expected, a good portion of companies can feel some strain caused by the differences of the generations. So what’s the best way to understand one another and open up chances to collaborate? Create opportunities to mentor one another, and that includes reverse mentoring.

Typically, Gen Y is mentored by the older generations because they have had more experience in the working world. Although this makes perfect sense, it is also very important to allow Gen Y to also mentor Gen X and Baby Boomers on the things they are “experts” at. Essentially, everyone has the ability to teach one another but you must create a workplace environment that encourages this type of mentoring.

  • Create weekly or monthly meetings where different generations can host a “Lunch and Learn” session.
  • Assign groups of people who represent different generations to collaborate on different projects.
  • Create learning events almost similar to speed dating: have set tables for different topics and have your employees move around and learn from one another.
  • Create incentive or recognition programs for those who go above and beyond to teach others things that will benefit the company.

Opening up these opportunities can help generations understand one another and truly respect what individual attributes and qualities they possess. These ideas can help open up the minds of those in the workplace to show that we honestly can learn from one another, despite if you are a seasoned professional or a recent grad just entering the working world. With this mentality, businesses can benefit and grow together.

Here’s a #Tchat Recap for your viewing pleasure.

Thanks, Sean Charles, for the schnazzy picture.

If you’re interested in learning more about #Tchat topics, be sure to join us on Wednesdays at 7pm EST.

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How to Promote Social Learning

#TChat has done it again! Another wonderful chat last Wednesday has given me some really great information for today’s blog post. Last week we discussed the importance of promoting a learning culture in the workplace. Many participants chimed in and let us know what they suggested in order to create in an environment where social learning could succeed. As usual, the chat is comprised with some really fantastic people that had some great input on the topic.

An environment and workplace culture that promotes continuous learning is key in aiding a company towards a constant, successful future. Here are some ways you can encourage learning within your workplace:

  • Don’t hand out answers: If someone comes to you looking for help or an answer, make them think.  Ask them questions that could help them learn where to look for a useful resource, or ask them questions to help them critically think and potentially come up with the answer on their own. Sometimes people know the answer, they just need a question to help them lead to it.
  • Create a safe environment: Allow people to feel like they can freely voice their thoughts, feelings, suggestions, and concerns without being judged.
  • Encourage people to challenge the status-quo: Things change because people question if what’s currently in place is relevant. Allow people to challenge what is currently there so they can investigate new trends and resources and hopefully come up with a better solution that will work presently or in the future. This can allow business progression.
  • Encourage people to share: Allow people to come to you and openly share new resources for learning and information. Sometimes people can find new things that the L&D or HR department may have never stumbled upon.
  • Be adaptable: Things change fast, so be sure to keep up. Don’t teach things or use methods that are out of date, otherwise you may have reversed learning and growth rather than helped.
  • Be open to different learning options: Many people think that learning is only conducive in classrooms and workshops but technology has opened up other outlets for learning. For example, I learned so much from different professionals that I networked with via Twitter chats and LinkedIn discussions. I never thought those social media sites would be as useful as it truly was.

Learning is important for your employees’ personal and professional growth. When your employees grow, they are able to bring more to the table and help your company reach new heights. Promote learning in your company- it can benefit all that are involved.

For more information about this topic, check out Meghan Biro’s article in Forbes and the #TChat Slideshow that Sean Charles created.

Also, be sure to join #TChat on Wednesdays at 7PM EST

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