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If You Can’t Measure It, You Can’t Manage It

13 Oct , 2014,
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Imagine for a moment, your child came back from school and happily showed her report card and all that you can find is “84 man-hours” of learning.

It is in this context that I absolutely abhor one metric organisations use: training hours per employee per year. It does not make sense to me. How can sitting in a classroom ever qualify for training – particularly if there are more than 15 people in the room? Imagine a salesman’s target as “number of field hours per year”. Wrong goals lead to wrong approaches and therefore a poorly trained workforce. The common reason given is that there is little else available to measure. This is actually quite baseless in the context of product training.

A measurement hierarchy in the learning world is the Kirkpatrick’s Model propounded in the 1950s. It has 4 levels – reaction, learning, behavior and results. Where does the current metric “training hours per employee” fit in this model? Well, nowhere. Because this metric merely represents “effort”. While effort is laudable, it can’t be a measure of your learning program. In what field of life do we celebrate mere effort without bothering about outcome?

Now for the solution. If not effort, what do we measure? Here are 4 non-negotiable measurements that you need to bring in your organisation:

1. Learning effectiveness survey results on a dashboard
2. Continuous learning assessment across organisation levels
3. Competition benchmarking of product awareness through mystery shopping
4. Quintile study comparison of job output vs learning scores
Each of the above methods is a very practical solution towards making learning interventions more accountable. It is time to move beyond measuring effort to measuring outcomes. Only a rigorous process of continuous measurement can help you create a truly world class learning organisation.

The New Bedfellows!

23 Sep , 2014,
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A question I am asked often: how can people learn with phones? Trouble is, people associate corporate learning with big powerpoints, classrooms and dull e-learning tools. The truth is that we learn all the time, from our surroundings in bite-size chunks, though we don’t think of it that way. Phones are the smartest way you can push learning content, provided you think through what works and what does not in the medium.

I started using Blackberry about a decade ago, and could not imagine the profound impact it would have on me. I was handling mails quite effortlessly and painlessly through the day and at times, night. I found my balance a few years later and soon iPhone came into my life. The exciting world of apps, web, mail, games were now at a hands reach of desire.

In a recent research by a company called Toluna, it was revealed that two-thirds of US smartphone users look at their devices within 15 minutes of waking up. About a similar percentage looked at their phones last thing in the night before going to bed. The statistics were similar for other countries like UK, France, Germany and Singapore. Not surprisingly, Singapore is on the higher end of the spectrum. Also, one-third look at their mobile phones if they accidently wake up in the night. There is no other fact that represents better how much the mobiles have taken over our lives.

So irrespective of what you think or believe learning is, here’s a suggestion. If people are spending disproportionate amount of time on one medium – whether it is the phone today, or a digital watch tomorrow, get your learning content through across that medium.

Here are some brilliant tools for the new age: Short podcasts & videocasts, quick quizzes, Spaced repetition lessons, flipped classroom videos, learning nuggets, flash cards – I find each one of them awesome in their own way, fulfilling a certain training gap. Try them. I think you’ll like the new world.

Google Classroom. Admissions opening soon!

21 Aug , 2014,
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‘MORE TEACHING, LESS TECH-ING.’ What an intriguing headline!

It caught my eye and led me to find out what the search giant was up to in a field that’s been close to my heart – Education.

Besides, experience has taught me that whenever Google enters an industry; chances are that some major game-changing may be underfoot.

“Classroom is a new tool in Google Apps for Education that helps teachers create and organize assignments quickly, provide feedback efficiently, and easily communicate with their classes.” Thus reads the introduction page of the new service from the search giant.

Naturally, I was curious to know more, and this is what I found. It gives teachers access to a content management system that allows them to post updates and homework assignments, add and remove students from their classes, and provide them with feedback (including grades). The service is integrated with Google Drive and the productivity applications, such as Google Docs and Slide.

It also makes the teacher’s routine tasks and monitoring a lot easier.

Create and collect assignments: Classroom joins together Google Docs, Drive and Gmail to help teachers create and collect assignments paperlessly. They can quickly see who has or hasn’t completed the work, and provide direct, real-time feedback to individual students.

Communicate effortlessly: Teachers can make announcements, ask questions and comment with students in real time—improving communication inside and outside of class.

Organise Content: Classroom automatically creates Drive folders for each assignment and for each student. Students can easily see what’s due on their Assignments page.

Currently, Classroom is available in 42 languages. So the impact of the service will go global . When it was announced in May 2014, more than 100,000 educators from more than 45 countries signed up for a preview. That’s a huge number and an indication of its potential to transform education as we know it.

Google Classrooms is definitely something to keep track of, for anyone interested in developments in Training and Education in the brave, new world.

Have you tried a Learning Week?

13 Jul , 2014,
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It is always an interesting challenge to mobilize change and support for a common cause in a short time. Nowhere is it as critical as it is in the context of corporate learning.

Everyone agrees that continuous learning has big benefits. Yet people seldom do it. Quite often, employees list down their learning needs (and that too during the appraisal period) and hope that the organisation helps them in execution. The ideal situation is when employees own their learning agenda and go about executing them on their own. Well, even better if the company joins in the effort and supports the learning journey. I find this idea of putting the employee on his own learning journey an excellent opportunity for organisations.

It is in this context that I love the concept of Learning Week: a concerted campaign; a 360 degree approach to reach every employee. There is plenty of content available on the company intranets, internet, publicly available websites, free and paid apps – the Learning Week should simply seek to awaken curiosity in the individual for her/him to find a way.

Here are 7 simple suggestions for a successful learning week:
1. Build excitement through your own branding of the company Learning Week.
2. Conduct a Learning Styles survey to highlight to the individual their own style of learning so that they can pursue learning opportunities that suit them. Not everyone can sign up for a MOOC or learn through reading white papers.
3. Introduce daily learning chunks that induce curiosity to explore more.
4. Introduce daily quizzes about the company, category and general awareness with rewards that recognizes people who are good, and showcases to the others their specific gap areas.
5. Brown bag lunches with a guest speaker
6. Learning ambassadors who can help & guide other employees – typically drawn from senior managers , HR & training managers
7. Importantly, get the support & ownership from the top management. Nothing works like full passion from the organisation’s leaders.

Try a ‘Learning Week” in your organisation. It can be loads of fun too. And there is no nobler cause in Learning & Development that inspiring people to find their own self-learning journey!

Short & Sweet makes for faster learning

25 Jun , 2014,
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The key ingredient to making some things appealing is to keep them short and easy to absorb. Accept the fact that people just do not have the time for elaborate meals, they prefer bite-sized snacks. The same goes for learning. And neither do they take forever to accept or reject an idea. Decisions are made in less than a few seconds these days.

The reducing attention spans have proved to be a growing concern in the area of learning. A pack of distracted learners is obviously not a good thing. You want them to concentrate and understand the material. You want them to retain information and apply it as and when required.

A solution to this is converting your long training material into bite-sized lessons. It involves:

  • Breaking down information into smaller pieces in the form of bullet points or diagrams.
  • Research on human memory indicates the brain can remember 7+/-2 items at a time. Thus, in a bite-sized learning scenario, it would be ideal to have no more than 9 points regarding a topic.
  • A logical sequence is extremely important for faster assimilation of learning content.

Adopting bite-sized learning will help you make your lessons mobile ready, which is an added benefit. It is one of the guiding principles at our organization and the core of our learning application – BrightLight.

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