Category Archives for "Learning Design & Technology"

How to Know which Employee is the Linchpin in your Office or Department


What is a linchpin, you may ask? Google Dictionary defines it this way: “a person or thing vital to an enterprise or organization.”

In other words, the linchpin is part of the company's knowledge base. She studies the fine  print and goes the extra mile to learn the company and the market deep structure.

Obviously, both staff and customers notice when she’s not there, and she is missed when she is away.  

How to identify the linchpin 

Now that you understand the term, are you a linchpin? See, the linchpin makes art—remarkable work. For example, she

  • Gets to know the masters, the troublemakers, and the game-changers. She's able to tell who owns the power and who is wrecking the boat.
  • Understands the market and the target clientele very well, and positions herself and makes decisions strategically based on the trends. 
  • Listens carefully and speaks last. But everyone wants to hear what she has to say. As a matter of fact, most colleagues are curious to know what she thinks about every issue, trend, or challenge.

Does this sound like you? If it does, you are a linchpin. Bravo! Keep being remarkable. If it doesn't, find yourself a coach before it’s too late. 

Want to learn more about being a linchpin? Check these books out:  

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Your Expertise Might Be Killing Your Productivity. Here’s Why?

Becoming an expert in a field is great. It earns you respect and makes you look distinguished. But it might come with a big side effect. What it is?

Your level of expertise might stand in the way of your performance and productivity. Seriously? I can’t make that up. Allow me to explain my point.

Like I said earlier, knowledge and expertise might come with a major downside called: “The curse of knowledge”.

Now, you are thinking, “ What the heck is that?” I am happy to elaborate. Please bare with me.

Have you ever listened to a speech, a lecture, or a debate to realize, in the end, you understood nothing. Maybe almost everything the speaker said was way over your head. Frustrating, wasn’t it?

But have you ever reflected on how you communicate your knowledge? Will a layperson understand your interventions? Ok, keep pondering these questions? Now, back to the main issue: “the curse of knowledge!”

How the curse of knowledge affects productivity

The Harvard cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker describes the curse of knowledge as “a difficulty in imagining what it is like for someone else not to know something that you know.”

For example, your knowledge makes you assume that everybody understands your messages because your sentences sound so good to your ears.

Here is the thing:

If you are an expert in your field, chances are you use jarpons or technical terms only few people understand. That is, you might be speaking greek at the team meetings without being aware of it.

The consequence? Your colleagues don't follow your line of thoughts and instruction. Consequently, they are unable to support you and your projects, and your input does not help them either. Obviously, you affect everyone’s productivity... bummer!

Wait ! There's more. If you are a supervisor, things can get even worse. How? Speaking like a book is a sure way to create confusion and hold your team back.

What I am trying to say is because you understand your technical terms does not mean others do. Your  guidance may not help your team members to take concrete actions. Neither will you be able to count on their comprehension to move things forward. Again, you might be dragging productivity down without knowing it.

What to do about it? 

  • Find a performance or communication coach
  • Learn to communicate your ideas and instructions in simple terms that everyone understands
  • If you have to use your technical terms, make sure to explain their meaning and provide examples to make your points across.
  • Always assume your colleagues don’t necessarily know what you know and see what you see
  • Let other people read your messages or emails and ask for feedback or advice before sending them out 
  • Practice giving simple speeches or instructions in front of the mirror or to your friends
  • Offer your audience an opportunity to ask clarifying questions 

Where to start?

Since you like knowledge so much, why not doing some reading on the subject?

What else do you want to add to the list? Thanks for keeping the conversation going by  sharing this post in your network.

Most Experienced Professionals Misunderstand Work Experience (How About You?)

I was at a workshop when someone made an annoying comment. He said, “We could never give a contract to a person with 6 years of experience over someone who has 15 years in the field.” I nicely responded, “It all depends.

You can guess the looks I got from audience. Luckily, a few other people from the audience sided with me. And together we did our best to explain ourselves. Here’s a summary of our explanation:

Years of experience don’t equate to expertise. In other words, ​experience and expertise are not synonymous.

“Would you elaborate?” Yes, give me a few minutes.  

More explanation...

The assumption that an employee with 20 years of experience is more qualified or has more expertise than someone with 5 years of experience is misleading. Certainly, 20 years of experience sounds good. But in reality, it might mean that person is following a process over and over again that has been seen before.

What do I mean? 

Twenty years of experience simply might mean that person has been doing a job for 20 years without seeking to improve her skills. Whereas someone with five years of experience might have worked intentionally and consistently to innovate, and to increase and improve her background knowledge, performance, and skills.  

Here is an example... 

For example, having 35 years of driving experience does not qualify you to chauffer the U.S. president. Why?

POTUS’s driver is an expert driver. He or she specializes in driving around dignitaries and their high-level security and has worked continuously to keep his or her skills as sharp as a razor.

Is experience valuable? Yes, indeed. In fact, experts have a lot of experience. But their experience alone does not make them the expert they are.

Unlike the average professional who has adequate skills and performs work on autopilot most of the time, experts are deep thinkers, outliers, and “weird.”

In other words, experts constantly think how to optimize their decision-making process and performance, driving innovation. That is, they think carefully about how to fix what they don’t do well.

What's your take on the issue?  You can join the discussion by commenting and sharing the post with your favorite L&D colleagues.

5 Simple Things All Effective and Efficient Learning Cultures Have in Common

Have you ever wondered what makes some companies grow so fast or become so successful? My work in L&D has exposed me to a lot about what all great learning cultures have in common.

Of course, effective and efficient learning cultures share several characteristics/systems in common. But one of their most important systems is their talent development department that works like a well-oiled machine.

You may wonder, how do I know if a learning culture is effective?

My answer: Look for the signs.

What kind of signs? 

To keep things simple, almost all great learning cultures share at least these 5 things in common:

1. Learning/training is measured. 

That is, the impact of new knowledge on job duties is assessed and documented. In other words, knowledge transfer is made evident and concrete. 

2. Opportunity for distributed practices.

Employees attend training, but they also take part in follow-up practice sessions. In practice sessions, employees learn by doing, and are allowed to make mistakes without being judged or blamed because the work environment/setting is built  and designed for that purpose.

3. More coaching, less Training. 

Employees receive corrective feedback on their performance on a regular basis or as needed. This support helps them improve their skills and master their job duties. To put it simply, employees receive coaching support from their colleagues and/or supervisors that help reach their learning goals or their target performance.

4. A growth mindset is evident.

There is no superstars. Everyone is a learner. For example, staff learn from each other and coach each other. This, therefore, makes employees more open to taking risks and learning new skills—functioning in a different capacity without the fear of being judged and getting fired.

5. A solid knowledge management system.

Great learning cultures develop talents well and at the same time create a system to safeguard the body of knowledge — skills and expertise— that makes their companies successful. 

Add your input in the comment section below or let's continue the discussion on LinkedIn.

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What Almost all Great Trainers or Learning Facilitators Have in Common

Recently, a colleague asked me how I recognize a great or effective corporate trainer or learning facilitator. Let me share with you what I told her.

Learning facilitation is an art, and great trainers or learning facilitators are artists—that is, they do creative work. In fact, some of them seem to be naturally skilled and creative.

They are good at keeping their audience engaged and alive. They lead their sessions like a popular Broadway show. They are flexible and calculate every move. As a result, their training sessions generate lots of positive comments and thank you’s. That’s fantastic!

Maybe you’d love to emulate their facilitation style and success but don’t know how.

What If I told you developing excellent facilitation skills is not rocket science?

You might think, “Really?” No, it isn’t.

What I mean is it requires practice—lots of practice. But it’s feasible. Yes, you can become one of them. However, before you start working on your craft/skills you should take a look at what almost all great learning facilitators have in common.

Let’s dive in:

1. They are personable, approachable, and likable.

They are good at connecting with people on a personal level. They are flexible and down to earth. For example, they call participants by their names. They smile a lot. They empathize with participants and listen actively and carefully to what their participants have to say. On top of that, they value their audience’s contribution and intentionally seek context-based input.

2. They are organized.

Their agenda is clear and the flow of their presentations is smooth. They know which materials to introduce, when, and where to find it. Furthermore, their transitions are as natural as breathing. 

3. They are proficient time managers.

They respect employees’ time. They are flexible, but at the same they control the flow of the event. No one steals the mics or monopolize the conversation and gets away with it. They keep their eyes on the goal and the clock. They instinctively know what to cut out, when to stop, and when let things go. In other words, they start and end on time. 

4. They make content interesting, accessible, and easy to understand.

They break information into chunks. They plan and run their session like a story with a structure: a beginning, a middle and an end. They also know how to tell good stories to illustrate their points. They make participants laugh and keep them engaged in meaningful work and discussions.

5. They don’t go by the book.

Like I said before, they have an agenda, but their process is flexible. They change things on the go. For example, unlike novices, they improvise with confidence and class. One can barely separate the decisions that were planned from those that were not! 

6. They can read their audience like a book.

They can quickly tell who wants and doesn’t want to be at their training. They know how to spot reluctant and resistant participants from a crowd. In addition, they know when to call for a time out or break to help the audience refresh and regroup.

 Add your input in the comment section below or let's continue the discussion on LinkedIn.

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4 Simple Insights That Help Increase Information Retention During and After Employee Training

Two months ago, I met with a friend at a coffee shop to do some catching up. He got his cappuccino, and I got my peach tea lemonade. Soon after, our conversation turned into a reflection on employee training

I must admit, my friend always asks excellent questions. This time, one question was more difficult than others.

For example, he shared that his Staff Development department runs employee training on the same topic several times, but most staff can barely remember the key information.

And he added, “Who should be blamed, the staff or the trainers?” I burst into laughter. Why? Because the blame game is common in the Learning and Development(L&D) field. We hear that kind of question all the time.  

On the one hand, most trainers tend to think most employees do not want to learn. On the other hand, staff view most employee training sessions (face-to face, e-Learning, blended) as dry, boring, and not relevant to their day-to-day job tasks.

OK, so we avoided the blame game and agreed, instead, on talking about what training professionals should do to help employees retain the information they learn.

Four simple insights

Let’s dive into four things my friend and I believe trainers should take into consideration:

1- Staff are mostly interested in information and skills that make their jobs easier. So, training sessions should be relevant to what employees do and to the company’s mission.

2- People remember content/information they think about in a meaningful way or that is embedded in their work context. Using work-related scenarios, case studies, simulations, and projects is the way to go.

But that won’t solve the problem of retention. What else should training professionals do? That leads me to the next point. 

3- Employees should revisit newly learned information as often as possible so it can stick. (In cognitive science this is called distributed practices.) Otherwise, they will lose it.

Distributed practices allow employees to use new information on the job. Using new information on the job makes knowledge transfer easier.

4- Tasks should not be too easy or too difficult. Why? From a cognitive science standpoint, most people enjoy solving problems! Doing so is enjoyable and motivating. But employees might get frustrated and bored if the tasks are too difficult.  And we all know people won’t remember boring information. 

What else do you want to add to this?  Add your input in the comment section below.

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My Recipe To Save Companies Talent Development (Employee Training) Money

You want your training or talent development interventions to improve employees’ performance. But here’s the big question: How effective are your training interventions and strategies?

What does that mean? Allow me to elaborate.

Training does not equate to effective learning or skills developmentor better say, all talent development interventions are not created equal.

We both can admit that US companies spend a lot on training interventions. But are they getting their money’s worth?

For example, in 1997 Ford and Weissbein related that US companies spent over $100 billion on training initiatives (see page 13 of training Ain’t performance by Harold D. Stolovitch and Erica J. Keeps); but sadly only 10% of the expenses led to better employee performance.

Let’s be honest.  What happened to the other 90%?  

Oh, there is more. In 2015, companies in the US spent about $165 billion on training development and education for employees. But guess what? They did not have much ROI to show for the money. Yes, this is insane…

To illustrate, imagine getting only 10% (or to be more generous let’s say 30%) of the nutrients your body needs from your annual food budget. How healthy will you be? The answer is too obvious. Isn’t it?

You are probably wondering: what’s the main problem here?

Ineffective and unnecessary training or talent development interventions and products are as common as dirt. And they cost companies big money and bore employees to death.  

My biggest concern is that this trend makes qualified LDT professionals look badunnecessary.

What should we do, then?  Well, this is exactly what I am trying to get to in this post. I don’t claim to have all the solutions to the money-sucking training madness. But I will share 3 simple insights that can literally save your company time and money (if you use them, of course).

1- Avoid Investing In Rote Learning

The best way to improve job performance is to coach employees into better performance. Simple. Let’s this sink in for a moment.

For example, running information sessions is called meeting, not training. Showing PowerPoint slides, giving employee instruction steps, making them repeat information promotes  rote learning. Is that what your Talent Development or HR department wants?

We both know your employees will forget training content as soon as they leave the training room. But what can be done then? That leads us to my second point.

2- Invest More in Distributed Practice (Spaced Practice)

Distributed practices lead to better learning and performance. How?

Creating a learning structure or system that makes employees practice target content and skills regularly, with ongoing support and feedback, will facilitate and foster learning.

But how do you build a learning system to make distributed practice happen? I knew you were gonna ask. The answer is in my last point.   

3-Build a Solid Learning System

A learning system helps determine what to learn, how, and when. It also establishes how often employees practice, are evaluated, and get formative feedback. Bottom line, it saves time and money. But how?

In other words, a system facilitates learning by doing. That is to say, it allows employees to do the exact thing they are learning (or want to learn).   

On a personal note, a few years ago, I took on a challenge to train (F2F) about 700 employees with 3 months, on how to use a brand new management and payroll system.  

It was urgent and the pressure was high. As a matter of fact, two managers had quit or ran away from the job before I took the ID project over.

But guess what? I struggled and made lots of mistakes but we (my team and I) did it. Really? Yes, let me tell you how… in a few sentences.  

  • I built a simple but robust learning system and turned control over to the employees.
  • We used a checklist for every single task.
  • Employees summarized content they needed to learn.  
  • They performed the tasks they wanted to learn in the system, made mistakes, and got formative feedback.
  • Proficient users served as point persons to coach other colleagues in their department.

And the cost? No extra charge or expenses. Except for the cakes we cut at the end to celebrate the achievement.

In sum, training professionals and Instructional Designers have a responsibility to build system that makes learning happen. Doing so will protect the reputation of the LDT field.

But the ultimate question is: Will you do any “training” job as long as you get paid or will you make instructional decisions to help clients and employers avoid wasting their money and their employees’ time and energy.  

Well, the decision is totally up to you.  

Thanks in advance for commenting and sharing this post in your LDT network.