Digital Learners Won’t Let You Waste Their Time

Digital Learners Won’t Let You Waste Their Time

At Chief Learning Officer, Broadway producer, author, and learning technology expert Elliot Masie discusses the ways in which learners’ attitudes are changing. “Some of your learners,” Masie writes, “… may be showing new behaviors that look more like online dating”:

Your learners look at a learning offer and:

  • Quickly give it a swipe left or a swipe right — keep it or let it go.
  • Want to know, “Did other employees like this? Is it worth my time?”
  • Say, “Hey, give me the good stuff; skip the fluff.”

Your learners are better guardians of your wage time than you. Set up a 75-minute webinar for every regional manager, and their attitude kicks in:

  • “Is there really 75 minutes of new and valuable stuff?”
  • “Could I watch the archived version, and skip to the few minutes of important info?”
  • “Ah, let me order my lunch, check my emails, and have a side telephone call during this very long webinar.” …

Your learners have attitude because times are changing, and choices are getting more complex[.]

Masie’s observations align with something we at CEB found last year in our study on the Digital Learner, which CEB Learning and Development Leadership Council members can read here. Our research showed that while the making learning more fun and engaging does increase employees’ satisfaction with learning offerings, it does not always help them retain and apply what they learn. What the best L&D functions do is make the learning experience as effortless as possible: They make learning materials easy to find and readily applicable to employees’ day-to-day jobs as well as their future careers.

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Is Talent Born or Made?

Is Talent Born or Made?

At the New Yorker last week, Maria Konnikova considered the question in light of the latest research into the origins of exceptional human performance and found that the answer may not be that simple:

In a 2014 meta-analysis that looked specifically at the relationship between deliberate practice and performance in music, games like chess, sports, education, and other professions, [psychologist Zach] Hambrick and his team found a relationship that was even more complex than they had expected. For some things, like games, practice explained about a quarter of variance in expertise. For music and sports, the explanatory power accounted for about a fifth. But for education and professions like computer science, military-aircraft piloting, and sales, the effect ranged from small to tiny. For all of these professions, you obviously need to practice, but natural abilities matter more.

What’s more, the explanatory power of practice fell even further when Hambrick took exact level of expertise into account. In sports—one of the areas in which deliberate practice seems to make the most difference—it turned out that the more advanced the athlete, the less of a role practice plays. Training an average athlete for a set number of hours yields far more results than training an élite athlete, which, in turn, yields greater results than training a super-élite athlete. Put differently, someone like me is going to improve a great deal with even a few hundred hours of training. But within an Olympic team tiny differences in performance are unlikely to be the result of training: these athletes train together, with the same coach, day in and day out. Those milliseconds come from somewhere else.

She also spoke with David Lubinski, a professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University who has been studying top math students:

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Brexit Doldrums for British Workers

Brexit Doldrums for British Workers

A new survey from the CIPD shows that many UK employees are worried about their futures in the wake of June’s Brexit referendum:

In a CIPD survey of 1,045 UK workers, 44 per cent of respondents said they felt pessimistic about the future. This was particularly high among public sector workers (61 per cent), voluntary sector workers (58 per cent) and those aged 25-34 (63 per cent). Just 3 per cent felt more secure in their job since the Brexit vote was announced on 23 June. … A total of 22 per cent of employees said they felt less secure in their role as a result of the referendum (rising to 33 per cent in the public sector), while 21 per cent felt they needed to learn new skills. …

Job uncertainty has rippled through many sectors since Brexit. In announcements made late last week, Lloyds Banking Group said it planned to cut 3,000 jobs and close 200 branches despite doubling its pre-tax profits. But McDonald’s said it was creating 5,000 jobs, and dismissed concerns about the fallout from the Brexit vote.

There have also been signs of brain drain at the executive level. At TLNT, executive recruiter Dave Heilbron relays what he’s been hearing from high-level professionals exploring opportunities outside the UK:

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Business Lessons in Googler Grievances

Business Lessons in Googler Grievances

Google is generally considered a great place to work, ranking at #8 on Glassdoor’s most recent Best Places to Work list and #1 on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For. That’s part of what makes this thread on Quora, in which current and former Google employees discuss the downsides of working at Google, so interesting. Most of the participants in the thread don’t read as particularly disgruntled, but they point out some unexpected challenges they faced while working there that may resonate with employees and alumni of other larger-than-life organizations.

The top answer is from ex-Googler Jesse McGrew, who identifies the main downside as “losing touch with the world of software outside Google”:

When you join Google, you’ll learn that although you might have heard of things like GFS, MapReduce, Bigtable, and Borg, your day-to-day work might never touch them directly (if they’re still used at all!). Instead, you’ll become an expert in some other proprietary tool or configuration language a few layers up that solves a problem that only exists at Google. And even when you’re solving problems that exist outside, you’ll do it with proprietary technologies — you can easily go for days without touching any software that wasn’t written or forked by Google.

Besides creating a long learning curve, and making it difficult to explain to your non-Google friends what you do all day, this also means that once you leave Google, much of the experience you gained there won’t transfer. Having Google on your resume is prestigious, but if the company you’re hoping to join built their product on Ruby, React, Bootstrap, Heroku, Docker, Nagios, Redis, MySQL, and MongoDB, it’ll take a lot of prestige to make up for being unfamiliar with all of those.

McGrew is not the only participant in the thread to bring up this disadvantage: One anonymous commenter characterizes it simply as “too much complex stuff to learn that is Google-specific and cannot be applied elsewhere.” The takeaway here isn’t about Google, though; it’s about employee development in general. In any field, you might expect that experience at a large, famous, industry-leading organization would make you more employable anywhere, but as these Googlers’ anecdotes suggest, that’s not always the case. It all depends on whether the knowledge you obtain there is transferable.

Deliberately Developmental Organizations

Deliberately Developmental Organizations

Harvard professors Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey’s new book, An Everyone Culture, struck a chord with the Chicago Tribune’s workplace advice columnist Rex Huppke, who admits that when he started writing his column, he “had no background in business reporting and knew next to nothing about the workplace.” Choosing to fill a role with an employee who doesn’t already have the necessary skills reflects an organizational mindset that puts employees’ individual professional development first, Huppke writes in a praiseful review of Kegan and Lahey’s book:

My company took a risk — dropping me into a job that didn’t specifically match my qualifications. And it made me a better person. …

In the book, companies that embrace this approach are called Deliberately Developmental Organizations, or DDOs: “Their big bet on a deliberately developmental culture is rooted in the unshakable belief that business can be an ideal context for people’s growth, evolution, and flourishing — and that such personal development may be the secret weapon for business success in the future.”

In an interview, Kegan, a professor of adult learning and professional development in Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, explained DDO thinking like this:

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