Category Archives: Training

The Most Important Question To Ask Yourself

“What did you learn today?”  It was a question I was often asked at the end of school days.  It was a question I heard often in my corporate years, after completing training or implementing a new process.  It has become a central question for me in undertaking any new endeavor, personal or professional.  It’s a key question to ask oneself when faced with successes or failures, achievements, or disappointments.  “What did you learn?” implies identification of what worked and what didn’t and defines the path forward.

The need to learn is a given.  Without learning, say goodbye to growth, evolution, personal and professional development, and constant improvement.  More importantly, say goodbye to your business if learning is not a constant.

Learning is a strategic initiative, and arguably the most critical component for a company’s growth and success.   And it can never stop.  Employee training and development is essential, but if training doesn’t result in demonstrated learning, it’s just lip service.  For a company or an individual, learning must be greater than or equal to the rate of change.

Educator Neil Postman stated that “children enter school as question marks and leave as periods.”  In many instances, the same can be said for adults entering the corporate world.  It is imperative to keep the question marks on the forefront.

So how does one go about making sure that employees are learning, learning, and learning without cessation?  This is where training comes in.   Training must be meaningful to the employee, not a formalistic exercise to satisfy a regulation or required hours.

All training programs have learning objectives, but every training program ever designed and conducted must include this objective:   To generate thought.  Thought leads to understanding and awareness, which leads to paradigm shifts and inevitable growth.  Growth is the greatest ROI there is for an individual or a company.  Think about the difference between a degree and an education.  Getting a degree means attending classes, obtaining the required credits, and passing tests.  Obtaining an education requires critical thinking and understanding.  Author Wallace Wattles stated: “There is no labor from which most people shrink as they do from that of sustained and consecutive thought; it is the hardest work in the world.”

In educating people on content, trainers must never lose sight of the intent, which is to generate thought and increase learning.  Learning needs to be integrated into all processes and outcomes.  Too often, training and subsequent learning is in reaction to something that failed.  If a valued customer is lost due to poor customer service, it’s easy to mandate customer service training . . but it’s also too late.

At Learning Dynamics, we customize each learning solution to ensure that participants are challenged to think, learn, and grow. Our goal is to have them answer a key question:  “What did you learn today?”

Visit us at www.learningdynamics.com

Employee Experience as the New Competitive Edge

Almost everyone today is familiar with the term “customer experience.” According to Gartner, a leading research and advisory company, 80 percent of businesses compete on the basis of customer experience.   But new research shows that customer experience alone is not enough. Progressive companies are now focusing on “employee experience” as the newest competitive edge.

So, what is “employee experience?”  It is the sum of everything an employee experiences throughout his or her connection to that organization – from recruiting to the end of their employment.  It is not perks, parties, employment branding or employee engagement. Mark Levy, former head of Airbnb, defines it as “anything that sets employees up for success and improves our culture.”   Those companies investing heavily in employee experience often find themselves on the Best Places to Work lists and also have improved profitability as well as two times the average revenue.  With social media commentary available to all, prospective employees review comments made about employee experiences in selecting which companies they wish to apply to.

So, in looking for a new competitive edge for your company, ask yourself how you can enhance and elevate the employee experience in your company.  What processes and practices are in place that set employees up for success and ensure an improved culture? It’s worth the time to ask.

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Learning Dynamics offers training, organization development and coaching services that can help your organization grow and excel. Contact us today, call 203.265.7499 or email jdemaio@learningdynamics.com.

Learning & Development is More than a Class

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When our Consultants at Learning Dynamics meet with clients to discuss training initiatives, we always start by asking what the client wants to accomplish. Combined with a thorough understanding of the current conditions within the client’s company, sometimes down to the individual employee, we make recommendations that go beyond training alone. Here is the story of one client engagement that called for much more than instructor-led training.

Our client was a small specialty healthcare organization, and it saw some need to improve performance in its patient contact center. The department was made up of contact center agents and a supervisor tasked with training them, monitoring performance, coaching, and delivering on revenue objectives. Senior management’s opinion was that their people could be doing more.

Learning Dynamics engaged in a detailed review of the workflow, the talent, and obstacles to success. By bringing in a Consultant with contact center management as well as learning and development experience, we were able to identify several opportunities to help. Our proposed solution included instructor-led patient service training, follow-up written training materials (Learning Dynamics Skills Sharpeners), and performance coaching for the supervisor. Significantly, our solution also included developing a call monitoring and evaluation tool so the supervisor had a standard process and criteria to evaluate performance.

The process of creating the call monitoring tool was itself revealing. Our Consultant sat with the supervisor, listened to recorded calls, and identified immediately some opportunities for improvement. One issue – extended and unnecessary hold times – was addressed immediately. The tool continues to be used for agent coaching and has helped produce great results.

This engagement also allowed us to demonstrate flexibility to respond to the client’s needs. Toward the end of the coaching period, a senior manager identified agents’ time management and prioritization skills as needing further development. Knowing that pulling all agents off the phones for a long class was not practical, we created a 45-minute webinar, delivered before the contact center opened for the day, that delivered the essentials of what the agents needed. The feedback has been terrific.

This story is just one example of our ability and willingness to collaborate with our clients to customize a solution that meets your organization’s unique needs. Connect with us today to start the conversation about Investing in People™.

Call 203.265.7499 or email jdemaio@learningdynamics.com

Creating the Space to Lead: Mindful Leadership

If you are like most of us, you can become so accustomed to constant busy- ness – going through the motions of meetings, calls and conversations – that you are only partly attentive most of the time, and completely inattentive some of the time.

We have a national epidemic –if not worldwide epidemic of continuous partial attention. As leaders, we go on autopilot for much, or all of our lives. We begin to believe that this is just how it has to be in the fast-paced distracted-filled world we work and live in.  We believe If we don’t live on this treadmill, we will fall behind or fail.

It comes as no surprise that when asked, leaders say what they need is to create more space for themselves, so they can step off the treadmill, focus on what is important, and not be pulled along by the demands of the squeaky wheel. We can take more space by taking a purposeful pause, which is a moment or moments in the day when you notice the swirl and intentionally decide to pay attention. For example, you are sitting in a meeting and your mind is speeding into the future, not paying attention to what is happening in the room. At these times, you can use a simple practice to bring your attention back to the room. Just take a breath and a purposeful pause. Then you can redirect your attention back to the moment in the room.

Another way to practice mindful leadership is to identify and reflect on your leadership principles. When you create the space to identify them, it is more likely you will access them in those moments as a leader when the choice is less clear, or when there is an opportunity to change the routine. Your principles help you make tough choices, to take the risks often inherent in innovation.

Mindful leadership practices can also train you to notice your emotions and when your reactivity is triggered by an emotion. You can train your mind to notice and cultivate the space to make conscious choices. You can then expand your repertoire of responses to emotions.

Being a mindful leader can be a transformative experience, and have you be a more effective and productive leader and person!

Three Ways to Explode Training ROI

During the 35 years that Learning Dynamics has been offering training and development solutions, we have seen client companies make significant changes for the better, with comprehensive, coordinated training being a crucial part of the initiatives. We have also seen companies make no changes at all. Our interest, of course, is to see our clients maximize their training budget return on investment (ROI). After all, if we can show that training and development investments pay for themselves, we are likely to be brought back for future engagements (more than 80% of clients invite us back). We are truly partnered with our clients.

The companies we have worked with, and continue to work with, those getting the most out of their training dollars, do all or some of the following. More effort in these three areas can lead to better outcomes.

Big Bang. One of our banking industry clients recognized that they were spending too much time having meetings, and some – maybe more than just some – were ineffective or not as efficient as they could be. Senior leaders decided to make a change and implement it immediately. Learning Dynamics helped with training to enable their managers to make better use of meeting time and to consider other options. By getting involved and making it happen at the highest levels, the organization paid attention. They made a big deal of the change and did it quickly. It got everyone involved in making the changes successful.

Leadership Engagement. Walk the walk, don’t just talk the talk. We have found the most successful implementations include senior leaders modeling the behaviors they want to see and making the improvements part of their everyday discussions. Rather than just budgeting for training for everyone below them in the organization, these leaders took the time to understand and influence the training initiatives and their content, and supported them by changing their own behavior.

Reinforcement & Refreshers. Another client with a large customer-facing team, one that has a long history of excellent customer service and loyalty, wanted to encourage its people to be more purposeful in understanding customer needs and making recommendations for additional products and services. The goal was to deepen the customer relationship with the company without being too “salesy.” Management did not want to alienate long-time customers or sacrifice its service standards by trying for a hard sell.

Learning Dynamics provided organization-wide training and additional follow-up materials over six months – what we call Skills Sharpeners – to allow company managers and supervisors to continue the training conversation over an extended period. They used the tools to conduct short follow-up training and as a script for one-on-one coaching. The result: customer-facing employees are asking more exploratory questions and generating incremental business. This Learning Dynamics client considers its investment a success, and they’ve agreed to have us back in this year.

Keeping a training initiative alive after the training event is over should be the goal of every organization. By using some or all of the above ideas, your company can boost ROI and make managers at every level of the organization embrace and champion training and development efforts. In the end, employees and customers benefit while sales and profit grow. Isn’t that the point? Ask us how we can help.

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Learning Dynamics is proud of its 35-year history of consulting with clients on how Investing in People(TM) can make a big difference in business outcomes. [subscribe2]Contact us today to learn more.

Taking the Stress out of Sales Training

bob sellThe Learning Dynamics team just completed a sales training roll out with a new community bank client. The program, Building Customer Relationships, is an introduction to sales concepts for people who do not consider themselves to be sales people.  This bank chose to include all of its branch employees; everyone from tellers to branch managers participated. What we heard loud and clear, from the senior leaders to the people in the branches, was that a hard-core sales message that could damage customer service was not what they wanted. We didn’t do that, nor would it be wise to do so.

The stress in sales training (and the sales profession in general) comes from asking people to engage in high-pressure tactics that put the company’s needs and interests ahead of the customers’. Most people don’t want to do that. They enjoy treating customers with respect and as they would want to be treated. For most, this does not include being “sold to.”

Here is an important point: the world has changed, and people will not tolerate the hard sell.

Daniel Pink, in his book To Sell is Human, talks about the nature of information in today’s economy. Everyone has information about everything. New companies launch almost daily to provide consumers with information, reviews and tools (e.g., True Car, Angie’s List, Trip Advisor and others) to educate themselves and to negotiate the best possible price. Many car buyers, to name one scenario, have done more research and know more about their dream rides than the people selling them. The old days of the seller having all the information and using this to set the terms of the deal are long gone.

Today’s sales paradigm must start with customer relationships. In our world where competitors and their information are a click or a tap away, smart companies will maximize the value and emphasis on that which cannot be replicated with an app or a few lines of code. That something is people.

Customers want to be understood. Honest, professional employees will want to help customers uncover unmet or poorly-met needs. That can only happen when there is a relationship built on trust that evolves into genuine conversation with the interests of solving problems and making the customer’s situation better.

When the customer wins, the company will win with happy employees who feel like they are making a positive difference. They also benefit from customer loyalty, referrals, and positive word of mouth.

If your employees are not building customer relationships, if they are using stale and wearisome sales tactics, you could find a better way. High pressure is not sustainable. Relationships built on trust, service, and value will stand up over time and will make it much tougher for competitors to poach your best customers.

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Learning Dynamics offers customizable sales and customer service training programs, including Building Customer Relationships. Ask us today about how we can help your organization.

L&D Secret Ingredient: Executive Endorsement

Why do some learning and development initiatives flourish while others founder and fail? Why do some generate monstrous ROI while others are a waste of time and money? There can be many reasons, but a common one is executive endorsement and follow-through, or lack of it. The boss sets the tone and focuses energy on priorities. Training is one of those things that will get the attention it deserves or not based on leadership urgency.

At a recent conference, members of the Learning Dynamics team took part in conversations with training managers and other learning and development professionals from around the country. When the topic of conversation came around to obstacles to effective training, lack of leadership’s commitment was a too-common comment.

With that in mind, what can an organization do to not just eliminate executive roadblocks, but engage and energize the most senior managers to make training outcomes a top priority? Here are some ideas.

Get executive buy-in early. Senior leaders need to understand the need for training and what they can expect from the effort and expense. What is the ROI? Paint the picture of better financial and customer service results and anything else that is important to the organization.

Ask for support. Learning and development advocates must enlist support. A conversation starting with, “If this training investment is going to make sense, we will need your help with…” Fill in the blanks by asking for specific support on key messages and expectations of behavioral change.

Take a stand on outcomes. Do your learning and development advocates have skin in the game? Are they willing to commit to some level of performance improvement? If they don’t believe in it, the top people likely will not either.

Celebrate success along the way. If the training initiative is important, it deserves internal publicity. Recruit an executive champion (cheerleader, perhaps?) to give it the air time and attention it deserves. Celebrate incremental improvements that can be tied back to the L&D effort.

Document the effort. After your training program is complete and the results are in, recap the results. Prepare a concise executive summary to explain the outcomes of the training. Can you show causality from the training to the performance improvements? Take nothing for granted. Document it.

What ideas do you have to get executive endorsement? We would love to hear them. Share your ideas here.

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Learning Dynamics can help your company create a comprehensive learning and development program that includes executive tools to reinforce the effort and improve its effectiveness. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Onboarding Investment

The quality of your onboarding experience affects retention and results. We heard this message from several participants at last week’s Bank Trainers Conference (for which Learning Dynamics was a Platinum Sponsor) in New Orleans. Credit unions and banks sent their top training leaders for three days of idea and best practice sharing from learning and development experts, including our own VP Wilbur Pike.

Now, possibly more than any time in the last six years, is a great time to review your onboarding program. Why? With recent improvements in the job market, even entry-level employees have more career options to consider. If they don’t get what they need to feel included, if they feel their jobs are unimportant, they will not stay. Opportunities for more fulfilling work are more plentiful with each passing day.

Here are some things to look at as you examine your initial learning and development program:

Is your onboarding experience interesting and fun? As in many other settings, you will only get one chance to make a great first impression with your newest employees. If they don’t engage quickly, they will get fade. Onboarding becomes boring, and that’s never good.

Do your latest hires understand why their work is important? This is a basic concept in the langauge of employee engagement. Everyone needs to understand how they fit into the organization. They want to know the big picture. Job shadowing and messages directly from top executives (yes, the CEO can visit an onboarding class) can help make this point.

Do your new people have the opportunity to enjoy early success? Success breeds success, so build early opportunities to shine into your onboarding experience. Provide plenty of feedback to create momentum and energy.

A professionally developed learning and development program might seem like a large investment. Compared to costs and time to recruit, hire and train replacements, though, it is a wise one. If your company isn’t ready for more demand-side competition in the labor market, others will win. Let Learning Dynamics know if we can help.

People and (not “or”) Machines

people and machinesToyota is taking tasks back from the robots. A compelling piece on Quartz explains that the carmaker’s executives realized that people still play an important role in production and that something is lost when employees do little more than feed the machine. Humans use their creativity and wisdom to envision new and better ways of doing a job, while computers and robots simply follow their programs. It’s a big difference. Toyota’s quality and efficiency have improved as a result.

There is something to be learned from this for all business leaders. While computers and robotics have helped us make giant improvements in quality, reliability and safety, and they handle many monotonous mind-numbing tasks that people don’t want to do, people still contribute in a special way. Creativity is part of it. Intuition, inspiration and joyful experimentation make a difference, too.

Have you ever seen a technology implementation deliver less than expected? How about a new process or an outsourcing initiative to failed to achieve its goals? Is it possible that the best people have had their roles reduced or eliminated and something has been lost?

Maybe the sweet spot is somewhere in the middle. A strategy where the best, most talented people are engaged and inspired to create, while the machines do the heavy lifting, should be explored. Until the day when computers can think for themselves – and that is still a long time away (we hope) – the spark and serendipitous discovery that only happen when people have a part will make a critical difference.

What is your organization doing to train, inspire and retain its best people, those who can “master the machines”? Who are your masters, or who will be with enough time, training and development.

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Learning Dynamics offers a wide range of training and development solutions for progressive, forward-looking organizations.

Training Delivers More with Goals

training goals resultsGoals that are integrated into leadership training create better outcomes. This is the message of a study published by the Academy of Management Learning & Education in 2012 (abstract here). In this detailed work by Johnson et al., 360-degree surveys were used to measure perceived changes in people who had participated in leadership development training. Some had goals included in the training program, while other leaders did not.

The study showed a strong correlation between goal-setting by the leaders and the changes witnessed by their followers and other stakeholders. The message is clear: goal-setting with action and follow up will deliver better ROI on the effort.

What can your organization do with this knowledge? Think about how training can be aligned with business priorities and the routine activities of those who participate in the training. Ask participants to create goals based on the new skills learned.

Here is an example of what we are talking about.

Training Topic: Better Communication with Direct-Reports

Desired Outcome: Leaders who go through this training will understand how regularly planned check-ins with their team members will improve communication and organizational performance. Leaders will be encouraged to build a routine business rhythm for these sessions.

Goal:  Leaders will change their calendars to allow for one regularly-scheduled 30-minute check in with each direct report each week starting in two weeks.

The next step, of course, is to follow up to see if these things are happening and the impact the meetings – or whatever the targeted action – are having on the organization. If the desired outcome is to build communication between team members and their leaders, check in with those team members to see if it’s happening. Do they see a difference? If so, you win!

Every situation will be different. Your organization’s follow-up and measurement strategy will vary with the training activities and goals. Just remember to build a goal-setting component into your training initiative to improve effectiveness and ROI.

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Learning Dynamics has more than 30 years of experience helping clients develop and deliver effective training programs that improve organizational performance. Speak with us today to learn how we can help you as you are Investing in People™.