Disruption in accounting; building advisory services

There is no doubt accounting firms are under pressure for both fees and service delivery. This can be considered disruption. There are a few reasons for this pressure and it will only intensify. Here are some reasons:

* Businesses are questioning the amount of fees they pay annually for compliance services against the perceived value they receive from these services.
* Accounting firms are facing a technology tidal wave that will shift much of the compliance work to ‘bots’ that deliver higher accuracy and cost a fraction of a qualified accountant.
* The complex operating environment facing companies is encouraging them to seek outside expertise to remain competitive and sustainable; unfortunately they rarely look at their accountants to provide such services.

These disruptive changes are compelling proactive firms to focus on developing other capabilities to maintain and grow revenue. The most common focus is on building revenue from advisory services. One would normally think accounting firms are well positioned to delivery advisory services. They may be well positioned, but many lack the competencies needed to uncover opportunities, scope advisory projects and execute the delivery phase for a successful result.

We were engaged to help a firm build an advisory capability without increasing the headcount. Our project including a number of phases that included strategic planning, business model development, behavioural competency assessment, training and coaching. Our process included a small digital transformation with the inclusion of work to improve use of the incumbent information management system, CRM and the introduction of a learning management system, (LMS).

We implemented a learning management system to support our transition strategy as well as sustain competency development across the firm. Below are some of the key outcomes we have achieved thus far with the LMS.

* Communities of practice to foster sharing of ideas, best practices and content.
* Learning linked to performance reviews and career planning.
* Tracking learning and participation in communities of practice.
* Self-publishing content using standard tools like PowerPoint, Sway, audio and video.
* Team publishing by practice teams to share with teams in other locations and colleagues.

Our ongoing strategic focus for the LMS includes:

* Eliminate knowledge drain.
* Replicate the learning across the organisation at lower cost.
* Develop individual learning pathways for advisors based on subject matter expertise and market sector focus.

Is engagement with your LMS in decline?

Do you have a sense that interest and engagement with your LMS is in decline?  Is it only a sense or have you been confronted with metrics showing declining enrolments, logins and participation?  These are some ideas on how you can reverse the decline trend and ignite interest and engagement with your elearning programs.

These ideas vary in complexity and cost to implement. I suggest you consider these ideas in the context of both your target audiences and the resources you have available. 

  1. Add social to your elearning. This may be in your LMS, using social platforms or a mixture of both. You might be surprised to find that a Facebook Group focused on a learning topic or general subject matter will prompt higher participation rates and interest. In both a social platform and your LMS make sure you encourage question and answer, forums, course ratings and surveys. Some organisations have been successful encouraging social collaboration by rating questions, answers and published content and offering awards.
  2. Mobile learning is no longer an option. You will compromise your participation rates without enabling people to access learning on mobile and tablet devices. Make sure your learning is always available with fast access and mobile is the way to achieve this. Make sure there is learning available that does not require an enrolment process or other barrier to entry.
  3. People do not have the time or attention span to endure long online learning modules. Make sure your learning content is short and to the point. Short modules can be combined to create longer courses. I recommend modules of 5 to 10 minutes duration. If you go much beyond this a person will lose focus and attention. Your people may be accessing learning on their mobile devices in all sorts of environments so you want to make it easy for them to start and complete a module with the greatest chance for success.
  4. You can ‘gamify’ your elearning. This does not have to be overly complicated. You simply determine what the parameters of the game are and then implement measurement and tracking. It can be assigning points to courses and people accumulate points as they complete courses. You can award points for participation in social collaboration and sharing. There are many ways to do this. Remember you are not wanting to encourage a toxic competitive culture, you want to make learning fun.
  5. Case studies are a good way to capture interest. Case studies are great for learning concepts since people can relate to them. You can add coaching and social collaboration to case study learning for even more impact.

If you are facing declining participation rates in your organisation’s elearning you may have reached a fork in the road. You have the choice of the carrot or the stick. The carrot is always more effective to create change and encouraging people to participate in learning is no different. I hope these five ideas will help you out.

Best Practices to Achieve 70:20:10

Here is a list of the five best practices e-learning courseware design elements, that when used together, can help your learners make the transition from the formal e-learning space to application on the job—thus moving you closer to achieving 70:20:10 in your learning mix.

Specific Instructions

Rather than rely on simulations or exercises in your courses or workshops, which is still part of the 10%, provide the learner with step by step instructions on how to apply the course on the job.

This will eliminate the issue that David V. Day mentioned in his article about “happenstance and ad hoc at best.” The structure and guidance on how to handle the situation is provided—nothing is left to chance. The learner will know exactly what to do.

Keep Courses Short

Most e-learning courses tackle more than one topic. Here is an example, communication skills training. Communication skills training covers numerous topics ranging from listening skills to non-verbal communication skills to knowing your audience and so on.

Instead of one long communication course, an alternative training method would be to provide short courses also known as micro-learning, chunked learning, or bite sized learning.

They all mean the same thing: learning content that is broken down into small bite sized chunks or one single learning topic or learning objective per course.

This allows the learner to select the exact course to meet individual need at the time of need. When too many topics are addressed at the same time, the learner wastes time getting to the point in the course that applies to their particular need.

Employees and leaders have no patience for wading through information, thus wasting their time. This can lead to low e-learning course utilization.

Job Aids

Provide the learner with job aids they can use on the job in conjunction with the step by step instructions.

Job Aids make it easy for the learner to complete the exercise. Removing barriers to completing the exercise will help your learners start and finish the on-the-job exercise.

Mobile

To help your learner complete the  instructions on the job, in an actual work situation, the learning content needs to be able to be accessed on a hand held device.

Each step that the learner needs to go through to access the information acts as a barrier. Eliminate as many of them as possible.

Self Assessment

Most e-learning courses end with a quiz that measures knowledge acquisition. This is appropriate in formal training.

However, if you are designing courses that provide structure for the 70%, add an assessment that asks the learner to reflect on his/her experience and the skill building activities after the step by step instructions.

As Charles Jennings suggests, this is an important component to learning in the 70%.


David Patterson, a director of Learning Light
, which owns the E-Learning Center and provides advice and help to organizations using e-learning and learning technologies to improve their business performance, explained:

“It’s now well accepted—and research shows—that 70% of development happens on the job, 20% happens through coaching and mentoring, and the last 10% comes through formal learning, including e-learning and instructor-led workshops.”

“Vado’s courses are the only off-the-shelf courseware that helps learners to make the transition from the formal learning environment to applying that learning on the job.”

He continued, “Basically, Vado not only espouses the 70:20:10 model but its e-learning courses embody the model’s principles, using the 10% to deliver the 70% and thus, make the learners and the organizations they work for more productive and profitable.”

Incorporate the Best Practices

Combine these five design elements to create e-learning courseware that will help the learner apply on the job to….

  • Leverage the natural way a person develops
  • Provide structure to the 70%
  • Lower your training and development costs
  • Increase personal performance
  • Increase organizational performance

70:20:10 in Action

To see an employee soft skill development or management development course created using the five design elements listed above, contact us and we will give you a demonstration.

5 Tactics to Support Your Employee Engagement Strategy [Part Three]

When you were taught how to swim did you experience the shock and awe of being forced to enter the water while consumed in fear?  Or were you first coached on the pool deck and acclimated psychologically and physically for the inevitable entry into the unknown environment of a large body of water?

If you have been in the workforce for some years, chances are you have experienced the shock and awe and/or the coaching method of training and development.  If you have been around as long as I have you have probably experienced both to differing degrees.

Training and development is not an optional tactic – it is a critical component to your engagement strategy.  It demands its own structured strategy and measurements to ensure it is delivering results for your organization.  The training and development starts on day one [or before] with an effective on-boarding program and continues thereafter in a roadmap of personal and professional development that enhances a person’s ability to contribute to the organization and grow as a human being.  Lofty?  You bet.

Here are a few prime elements that I have found contribute to a solid and effective training and development tactical component to your engagement strategy.

  • There is a linkage between a person’s position or job title to at least one of their learning pathways.  This is often compliance based.
  • The learning and development has a mix of modalities and these do not need to be concurrent – they can occur at different times and for different purposes.  For example:
    • Quality online self paced learning programs.
    • Webinars, seminars and discussion groups.
    • Targeted coaching programs with agendas and feedback.
    • Mentoring programs – particularly effective for succession planning.
    • The business owners and/or leaders are engaged and committed to the learning and development activities in the organization.
    • There is alignment between the organisation’s strategy and the learning and development programs down to the individual level.
    • Learning activities of employees are visible to managers.
    • Learning and development is included in the performance management strategy.
    • Learning for personal development and interests is included in the offerings for all employees.  [I cannot count how many clients initiate an LMS implementation with compliance and corporate learning the only pathways].

I realize I could go on and on with this list.  Give me a call or email me and we can share some more ideas.  If you are seeking some ideas or help in developing or implementing an engagement strategy,  I can help you out.

The Case for Performance Support

Performance support is not instructor led or e-learning.  Performance support is all about providing easy access to knowledge and information that people need to execute their roles.  Performance support delivers information at the point of need.  Performance support must support traditional learning but neither is a substitute for the other.

The case for performance support is being made globally.  The competitive and environmental stressors facing organisations are varied and expanding in size and impacts.  As most other competitive advantages decline and blur, people and teams are still primary to sustainable growth and success.  If you understand the competitive advantages that learning and development can delivery then you will also understand increasing the pace and pertinence of shared knowledge in an organisation results in benefit flows within and outside the organisation.

Some key realised benefits in our clients who are in the process of a performance support implementation:

  • faster response times to client help enquiries.
  • higher productivity levels of all client facing teams.
  • greater cross-team sharing of best practices.
  • emergence of thought leaders within the organisation.
  • less resources committed to instructor led training and issues with retention of information.

To further distinguish performance support there are three characteristics of performance support:

  • Information is available within a ‘workflow’ and available with a minimum of navigation.
  • The information is directly relevant by being contextual to the work being performed by the individual.
  • The user accesses enough information to get the task done without too much information or opportunity for distraction.

Performance support may be digital or analog.  There are plenty of examples of paper ‘ready reckoners’ or ‘quick start’ guides that qualify as performance support in an analog format.  Paper based content tends to be less easily accessible and searched.  The most common place you will find analog performance support material is pinned to a cubicle wall.

Digital performance support takes many different forms in different media across many different delivery channels.  In many cases the content is accessed from a computer, tablet or mobile phone from a platform of some type; for example MicrosoftSharepoint, in application contextual support, Google sites, Salesforce Libraries, deep links to an LMSOneDriveDropbox,Box, among many others.  We have worked with all of these tools as well as some more social style channels includingHootsuite, Yammer, Lync etc.

Performance support needs a change program to be successful.  A learning culture must not only exist in the organisation but a shift to adopt performance support changes the way information is shared and sourced.  Performance support demands a self serve, self reliant mind set removes any anxiety around finding the right information and applying it quickly.  There are always those that prefer asking a question to solve a problem over sourcing an answer via search.

There are some key planning measures that are critical to success, among these are:

  • Understand the different ways people learn and catering for this diversity.
  • Ensure the means of accessing information is simple.
  • Choose simple, easy to use technology platforms.
  • Use search technology.
  • Your content must be fit for purpose; fast to read and easy to comprehend.
  • Performance support requires ongoing commitment and administration.