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Leaders Listen

A recent Learning Dynamics training workshop with managers of a healthcare organization served as a reminder of the importance of listening at every level of the organization. The program, Leadership Communication, includes a discussion and exercise on active listening, and it was one of the most productive parts of the day’s effort.

Nearly everyone has heard the term “active listening,” but how many of us use the skill regularly? In Leadership Communication and other communication-themed programs, we highlight the value of asking questions, listening without interrupting, paraphrasing, and confirming understanding. We know that many people don’t use active listening techniques often; rather, they frequently are just waiting for their turn to talk.

On this day, we asked the participants to pair off and ask a simple question: “What can I do to help you be more successful in your job?” These were not people who reported to each other. They were managers who lead their respective work centers, so this is not a question they frequently present to each other. The results were thought-provoking.

Within minutes, one of the participants said, “This is great! We never have a chance to speak like this.” After several minutes of productive conversation using intelligent questions and active listening skills, all came away with ideas to help each other move the organization forward. The total invested time was ten minutes.

So, what can leaders take from this exercise? Here are some ideas:

Encourage idea-sharing vertically and horizontally within the organization. Schedule some high-value business partnership time to allow for activities like that described above.

Ask questions at all levels. Then listen. Employees in customer-facing and production roles likely have ideas to share. After all, they are the ones executing on management’s direction. What might they teach leaders who are willing to listen?

Managers don’t always have the best answers. Paraphrasing Steve Jobs, we hire smart people, so shouldn’t we listen to them?

Finally, employees become more engaged when they feel heard. A key engagement question concerns one’s ideas and opinions carrying weight. What better way to show an employee that her opinions count than by asking questions and actively listening?

It is not always easy to just listen. The potential benefits – new ideas, better team work, and more committed employees, to name a few – make it worth the effort. Be a better leader and listen.

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Learning Dynamics offers several instructor-led, webinar-based, and digitally-delivered learning and development solutions to help your team members become better communicators. Contact us today to discuss your priorities.

Leveraging the Benefits of an Age Diverse Workplace

Age diversity and inclusion are essential for success in today’s complex workplace. Most employers today recognize the need for diversity, making sure that people of different ethnicities, nationalities, race, sexual orientation, religion, disability status and age are critical to the future of an organization.

The argument for age diversity and inclusion is unrefuted and new research supports that premise. Currently 5 different generations are part of the workforce.

Age diversity improves performance and productivity in the workplace. Companies need to be aware that age is a number not a credential and outdated stereotypes still influence perceptions of age. Comments such as. “He’s too old to master a software program”. Or “she’s too young to…” only serve to dismiss their value. An employee’s knowledge and experience increases with age and a young person with strong skill sets should not be held back.

Research clearly demonstrates how age diversity improves an organization’s performance. Studies find that the productivity of both older and younger workers is higher in companies with mixed age work teams. More specifically, age diversity in teams is positively related to performance when groups tackle complex decision making tasks. Lastly, age diversity leads to greater engagement, teamwork and innovation.

The following are some practices to boost age diversity and inter-generational understanding:

  • Open apprenticeships for workers of all age.
  • Programs to help workers re-enter workforce after a long absence.
  • Facilitation of cross generational mentoring programs.
  • Raising awareness of inter generation differences through training and education.
  • Organizing employee resource groups for support.
  • Actively recruit talent across all ages.

Companies that adhere to these practices will certainly reap the benefits of age diversity and inclusion.

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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.

www.learningdynamics.com

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.

An Organizational Workplace Conduct Assessment

1) Is everyone in your company aware of your company’s workplace conduct guidelines?
Yes
No
Unsure

2) Do all employees know what can constitute a hostile work environment?
Yes
No

3) Do all employees know the difference between quid pro quo sexual harassment and hostile work environment harassment?
Yes
No
Unsure

4) Is there a written and publicized policy for reporting workplace conduct violations?
Yes
No

5) When reporting a workplace violation, is there a defined process that is in place for investigating?
Yes
No
Unsure

6) Are egregious behaviors swiftly dealt with in your company?
Yes
No

7) Is your HR department highly regarded in terms of trust and integrity?
Yes
No
Unsure

8) Is upper management fully committed to a harassment free workplace?
Yes
No

If you’ve answered “No” or “Unsure” to any of the above questions then check out Common Decency®, our award-winning workplace conduct program.

 

The Value of Leadership Assessment Centers

Organizations, both small and large, are in the business of attracting, developing and retaining leadership talent. They continually ask the question, “Do we have the right talent in the right place at the right time?”

Leadership development is vitally important but, oftentimes, organizations don’t know how to handle it effectively. The key is to have a system in place to ensure that organizations can answer the question affirmatively, such as an effective succession plan. Such a system begins with identifying key talent, or those employees with high potential, in an organization. The talent is gauged by assessing individuals against the key leadership competencies vital to that organization or vital to a specific leadership role within the organization. Once those key individuals are identified, the next step is to determine the development plans necessary for those individuals to progress to more responsible leadership roles.

An effective method of assessing individuals against key leadership competencies is to conduct a leadership assessment center, which consists of a series of timed activities that may include interviews, simulations, and exercises designed to predict how well participants will perform in a specific role. Assessors independently observe, review and assess the participants’ actions and behaviors in each of these activities and then collaborate to provide a rating on each competency, together with a narrative on how the participant performed. The assessors then provide feedback to each participant on their performance relative to the competencies assessed and also provide a summary report to senior management.

A combination of well-designed exercises and the use of independent, objective assessors to gauge competency proficiency in a leadership assessment center is a win-win for both the individual and the organization. This combination, done effectively, yields a fairly accurate profile of the individual who, oftentimes, confirms the results. Together, the participant and assessors can highlight strengths and determine development plans for competencies needing improvement.

The leadership assessment center is a powerful tool that can provide both the individual and the organization with some answers to the question on what it takes to progress to a higher level of leadership.

Learning Dynamics has over 25 years of experience designing and facilitating leadership assessment centers. For more information, visit us at www.learningdynamics.com.

Enhancing the customer experience. Focus on a quality conversation, not just quantity.

Many customer contact centers are being challenged with enhancing the customer experience while at the same time managing their call volume and statistics. Reduced customer loyalty and expectations of high levels of service are becoming the norm. Our experience in working with customer contact centers has shown us there are three things to consider:

1. Determine the real reason for the call. Representatives fall into what’s called “automatic listening” as they hear a customer issue. When a representative thinks they know why a customer is calling they tend to jump right to the solution. Without knowing it, they may be cutting off the customer conversation leaving the customer feeling they haven’t been heard or valued. Even though they may have heard the issue 47 times this week, it is the first time for the customer. It is crucial to ask probing questions to gain a clear understanding of that specific customer’s situation so the customer feels like they’ve truly been heard.

2. Restate the issue. When you have to sign for a package, it indicates delivery. Communication happens the same way. The customer needs to know their communication has been delivered. One way to do this is to restate the customer issue. In general terms, restate something the customer told you so they know they’ve been heard and their communication has been delivered. You don’t have to restate every word of their story, just pick some highlights. I usually start with “So if I understand you correctly…” or “It sounds like you…” , then I restate their concern. If you’re off base, then it gives you the chance to clarify the issue before jumping to a solution.

3. Solve the problem and ask the key question, have I resolved the reason for your call? One way to track customer experience is to measure first call resolution. When a customer has to call in a second or third time, studies show the call actually takes longer to complete. The customer usually provides more and more detail while they vent their frustrations making the call take longer and more upsetting for everyone which ultimately ends up with reduced customer loyalty. It is easy to set up a tracking field or tick mark system to track your progress.

Customer experience is a differentiating factor for business. If you want to learn additional approaches, call us at 203.265.7499 or email bwalker@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

Training can be an Antidote to Workplace Violence

In today’s volatile world, workplace security has become even more important. Progressive organizations realize that workplace violence could happen within their organizations and take steps to ensure that their employees are prepared.

One of the strategies that has proven helpful is providing training, especially to managers and supervisors. This training helps managers and supervisors recognize and respond to potentially harmful situations in the workplace.

In approximately 70% of the incidents we read about, there were warning signs. In some instances, these warning signs were not recognized and/or responded to. Effective training can raise the awareness of these warning signs.

Sometimes, reprimands, poor performance reviews, terminations and layoffs can turn volatile and lead to workplace violence if they are not handled properly. Also, a growing number of domestic situations spill into the workplace. Workplace violence training needs to address how to best handle these situations.

Workplace violence preparedness training also needs to remind managers and supervisors of being aware of suspicious individuals (“malicious intruders”). If something does not seem right, trust your instincts and contact Security, HR, your EAP, or even 911.

For more than 20 years, our “Safe and Sound” training program has been used to help keep organizations safe.
http://www.learningdynamics.com/training-safe-and-sound.htm

Coaching Virtual Teams

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Because of globalization and business projects that often span across the country or across the globe, coaching virtual teams can bring its own set of challenges. Here are some guidelines for effectively coaching a virtual team:

1. Develop a common focus or purpose that aligns with the organizational goals. This includes clarifying tasks, processes and milestones to ensure team and individual accountability.

2. Create a unique identity for the entire team such as a special name for the team, a logo, or a Facebook page that defines the overall team purpose.

3. Establish communication guidelines for the team. Be clear and disciplined about how the team will communicate given the dispersed locations of team members. For instance, holding team meetings at the same day and time each week provide some structure for all team members.

4. Establish frequent individual connections with each of your team members to show your engagement and involvement with them as individuals. This could include using Facetime or Skype to communicate with them.

5. Provide constructive feedback both to individuals and the team through regular virtual coaching sessions. Holding regular virtual team building exercises keeps the team engaged and helps to create a productive and fun environment.

6. Clarify and track individual and team commitments through project management software like Basecamp, Work Zone and Wrike , so everyone on the team can see how their efforts link with the rest of the overall project.

7. Be available after regular business hours for questions or concerns. Different time zones make this critically important.

Remember, coaching virtual teams brings both challenges and opportunities to connect in different ways. Effective coaches understand that frequent communication is critical to the success of the team and its goals.

Learning Dynamics’ popular “Managing Virtual Teams’ webinar expands upon these topics.
http://www.learningdynamics.com/training-ManagingVirtualTeams.htm