3 LMS Tools to Support Blended Competency Development

The new range of learning modules we have released are getting a great deal of interest.  These modules are designed to deliver competencies to learners with a short video introduction, step by step implementation guides and downloadable job aids.

Research has shown that 70% of development happens on the job and these courses are designed to leverage a more natural way of personal development.  Since these content modules are short and include tools to implement the learning in the work environment they are highly suitable for blended delivery.

The Development Plan, Performance Management and Profiling modules in DOTS LMS are ideal for supporting the successful roll-out of these modules.  The key is ensuring that the learning activities are supported by coaching and collaboration either individually or in groups.

Development Plans – include these modules as part of your Development Plans and assign them or enable your people to enrol in them out of interest or need.  Your managers will be able to track progress and meet to discuss outcomes and the application of the learning.

Performance Appraisals can be used to ensure that one-to-one meetings occur in conjunction with the enrolments in these modules.  You can include the competencies delivered by these modules in the Performance Appraisal module.  Both the employee and the manager will be able to comment on experience and observation.  This has proven a highly effective way to embed these competency based learning modules in an organisation and improve engagement with managers and employees focusing on ‘positives’ [learning & development] in a regular appraisal cycle.

The Profiling Tool in DOTS LMS helps you create as many profile as you need.  In one case we developed a 360 Profile that included feedback on a large number of competencies included in the Project Management course catalog.  We created both self-assessments and 360 profiles mapped to these competencies to provide some peer review.

If you would like to have a look at these learning content modules please get in touch and we can organise a pilot for you.  If you decide to use these modules in your organisation we can help you implement their roll-out using one or all of the DOTS LMS modules mentioned in this blog.

5 Tactics to Support Your Employee Engagement Strategy [Part 4]

It used to be a joke that if you had a job title change to ‘Special Projects’ you were headed out the back door of your employment.  Maybe the joke still lives.  However, I have met plenty of very talented problem solvers having a job title the same or similar to ‘Special Projects.’

This tactic requires a bit of a mind shift on the part of some leaders and managers who are wedded to the traditional job description without flexibility.  It is time to re-consider how we structure work in our organisations to enable people to more fully utilise their skills, creativity, problem solving and decision making.  How do we do this?  Projects.

Projects is a big word with a huge spectrum of complexity.  For the purposes of this tactic you can control the size, scale and complexity of projects based on your organisation and the people you have on your team.  I like this definition of ‘project’ I found when I ‘Googled’ the word,

an individual or collaborative enterprise that is carefully planned to achieve a particular aim.’

People at all levels of your organisation can work on a project basis.  My clients have struggled at times to structure a position into a project framework.  This problem is commonly encountered with jobs involving repetition and reactive work; office administration, personal assistants, reception, manufacturing, warehousing etc.  For these types of positions, I recommend looking at option 3 in the list below.

The entire job description is documented as projects –

  1. Full project descriptions, plans and resources
  2. Project titles/outcomes are included in the position description and the employee creates the project plan and resources
  3. Projects are added to the job description based on current skills or skills that are to be developed.

I have included a short list of some of the attributes and benefits to an organisation and its people when the project framework is applied to job descriptions.

  • Provides a sense of personal responsibility to be accountable for project outcomes.
  • Projects can enable employees in repetitious and/or reactive positions to have a ‘release valve’ to tap into their interests and develop their skills.  This is definitely a boredom prevention strategy.
  • There is less risk of ‘task’ and ‘focus’ drift with defined tasks, milestones and completion dates.
  • Projects are conducive to manager – employee collaboration to address performance hurdles, roadblocks, training needs and other important relationship building interactivity between managers, supervisors and team members.
  • Project methodology leaves less room for vagaries in an individual’s or team’s performance.
  • Successful execution of projects creates positive momentum in a person’s career and often contributes to a greater sense of meaning about their work.

This tactic can be implemented in a pilot roll out for selected positions within your organisation or for new inductees.  By implementing as a pilot you can devote some time to testing and evaluating new work flows, reporting and performance systems.  The manager and supervisors impacted by this pilot will likely require some training and coaching to facilitate and support these changes.

If you have the opportunity you should check in with your ‘C’ level and/or senior management to learn how they structure their work.  You should find that they are all outcomes focused and often their work plans are very close to project methodology.  If this is the case you have a golden opportunity to garner support for this and other engagement tactics.

Would you like to explore this tactic in more detail?  Get in touch and we can help you get a plan together.

L & D Department or Catalyst for Change

In the spirit of the New Year and all the hoped for changes we have planned in our personal and working lives I thought about how some of our clients might be thinking of transforming their professional endeavours to a whole new level.

If 2013 went by quickly for you then there is little chance 2014 will be any different.  We are living and working in environments that are changing so quickly that often we may not recognise change until it has already occurred.  Organisations are facing challenges dealing with change both within their workforce and outside in the macro environment in which they compete.

I had a discussion with a CEO of a state based Association.  He was lamenting the fall-off in memberships and the struggles they are having finding new ones.  He indicated they are certainly not alone in facing these challenges.  When you begin to analyse the issue you can see some of the reasons they are facing this predicament.

  • The demographics of their membership are changing fast.  The older members are retiring and the younger ones have not ‘grown up’ with a concept of what associations are or what they do.   Similarly in organisations there may not be the loyalty or sense of deep commitment to an organisation ‘out of the box’ with younger workers.
  • The associations are competing against so many other choices for spending time.  It is harder and harder to get a person to come to a face to face sit down meeting after a hard day of work.  Do workers want to take out a half or a full day to sit in a room for training?  If the training is aligned with a personal interest or identified real benefit yes, if it is intangible or unidentified then no.
  • People still want learning and development but they want it delivered more flexibly and not necessarily involving travel away from home.  Most associations offer learning and development as a core service to their members but when was the last time they asked the members what they wanted?  What they are interested in?  Are there some courses of interest that have nothing to do with the association but are still of interest?  The same goes in any organisation.  The courses that fit in the budget are those that are typically aligned with a strategy or initiative or compliance requirement.  Few companies consider other dimensions of their employees’ lives when considering interesting content to offer.

There are a few of these issues that could have at least some part of a resolution using technology.

What does this have to do with Learning and Development?  Everything. The same challenges confronting my friend in his association faces business leaders across the board.  How do you engage effectively with other people in a process of learning, development, collaboration and performance improvement?  I believe this challenge is one that the Learning and Development Professional is ideally suited to address with the right resources.

Whether it is an association seeking members or an organisation seeking to attract and retain great people, these are some ideas I have about transforming L & D from a department to a catalyst for change.

It is one thing to have an LMS, it is altogether another to use the LMS platform to enable personal learning journeys.  You need not cease the compliance management but you can add so much more to enable people to chart their own course to development.   I believe feedback using surveys and personal assessment tools enable greater insight into how people are working together and making decisions.

Collaboration and knowledge sharing platforms can be so powerful to communication vision, ideas and best practices.  Some of the systems I have seen are obviously imbued with fear as they have less than optimum levels of participation and even less honesty.  There is plenty of ‘vanilla communication’ but nothing approaching open and frank sharing of ideas and concerns regardless of title and status.

The catalyst for change can include inviting other persons to contribute and participate from outside your organisation.  The best examples I have seen of this include a focused approach that invites persons who have expertise or experience in topics of interest.  Of course if your collaboration/communication system is healthy you can measure interest in certain topics.

There are business people, entrepreneurs, academics, physical and mental health professionals, and so many others that are out there right now contributing in the ‘social media universe.’  You can provide some amazing learning and networking opportunities for your people by inviting thought leaders into your organisation.   I have seen this work with short webinars, PowerPoint presentations converted to e-learning content,  informal and formal coaching and engaging via the normal platforms such as Google + and LinkedIn.

These are just some ideas I felt I had to write down after conversing with my friend.  I meet so many learning and development professionals who demonstrate thought leadership, proactivity and innovation all the time.  It is the wise CEO and executive team who encourage and promote learning as both a means of attaining competitive advantage and encouraging people to become the best they can be.

Linking Performance to Learning in DOTS LMS

In DOTS LMS you have the option to use the Performance Management module.   This module has a number of features that help support performance with tight integration to learning. This integration includes the Position Management module that acts to link learning and performance for each and every person in your organisation.  The position management module must be used in order to use the DOTS performance module.  When building a position in DOTS you are creating the inputs necessary to activate and execute the automated online performance appraisal.  Position management includes the position description and the elements including environment, decision making, relationships etc.

The primary linkages between learning and performance are established when the Key Result Areas are added including ratings for the various levels of performance.  I recommend the Key Result Areas include learning objectives for the position.  You can add any type of learning objective including those that are achieved in the LMS environment as well as external formal, informal, social and conference based learning activity.  By adding these as Key Result Areas with performance indicators you are driving home the message that learning in all forms is important to the organisation and aligned with its culture and values.  I also recommend you align these Key Result Areas to your strategic objectives and definitely include the learning areas in this alignment.

Behavioural performance may also be included in the Position Description and Performance Management module.  You achieve this by adding your behavioural performance criteria in the DOTS Competencies module.  You should consider how you group these competencies [as well as all the others] to ensure greater accuracy and efficiency using the LMS.  You assign behavioural competencies to each position.  These may be universally shared or specific to business units, departments, groups or individuals.  These behavioural competencies will also be linked to a rating scale to permit the manager to provide feedback and comments to the employee.  You align the behavioural competencies to your strategy, your values and other cultural and business initiatives that may be active in the organisation.

There is no hard and fast rule that you must do performance reviews annually.  If you can convince your managers to retain a more interpersonal coaching style to performance you can set dates or time cycles in DOTS LMS to remind persons that they are due to have a meeting to review performance and progress.  It is important that you not use the technology as a ‘crutch’ to simply tick the box for performance management.  The DOTS LMS needs to be a support tool and not a replacement to effective interpersonal relationships between managers and employees.

Competencies in Performance Appraisals

As more and more organisations adopt technology solutions to support performance management there are also an increasing range of options available in how to structure your performance management processes.

There is one area that I find to be incredibly useful in aligning learning and development to performance.  I would go further and say that this alignment will extend to the strategic level if you design it to do so.  The majority of performance management processes I come across are still using Key Result Areas and Key Performance Indicators as the primary means of measuring a person’s performance.  I also find a splash of behavioural indicators that are usually linked to a mission, vision and values document somewhere.

If you are not including competencies (skills) as a factor in measuring performance you are missing a vital piece to sustaining a learning organisation and one that has a broader scope in developing its people as opposed to simply measuring performance.   It is input vs. output.

The measurement of a person’s development in your organisation is a measure of a valuable input.  The measurement of key performance indicators is a measure of an output.  You cannot ignore either one.  In an era when we hear approximately 70% of workers in the United States Gallupare not engaged in their work, we may like to find ways to develop frameworks to encourage greater engagement and the benefits that accrue from it.

Start at the beginning.  Each job title in your organisation has a purpose and to meet or exceed that purpose the person must have the competencies to undertake the work.  Therefore we start at building competency frameworks at the Job Title level. People who join the organisation to assume a job title may not necessarily have all the needed competencies at the start.  Having the framework in place provides a path to achieving them.

In the performance area, the competencies achieved that are directly part of the Job Title framework are usually considered essential.   If there are gaps in achieving these essential competencies then these need to be picked up and addressed in a performance appraisal.  With an LMS or talent solution this is made much easier with data capture and automated notifications.

If you take this further and permit people to explore other learning and development opportunities then you are creating the scenario whereby a person makes themselves more valuable to your organisation and this should be linked to performance appraisals.   I like to include a large section of the Performance Appraisal that is capturing the learning undertaken by the individual [competencies achieved] and weight these results at least on par with other measures.  You can increase or decrease weightings as needed to encourage learning outcomes.

The Performance Appraisal now has a forward looking perspective.  We are acknowledging learning and development and hopefully gaining some insight from the person on how they applied their learning in their work.  A manager should also be seeking feedback on learning activities and resources during the appraisal and ensure this information is captured.  A new Development Plan can now be discussed and in most cases I encourage the employee to create their development plan first and then have it reviewed by their manager as necessary.  This ensures individual stewardship and responsibility for their career development.

If you would like to see how this can be set and structured in the DOTS LMS you are welcome to make contact with me [Brian Clark] by calling our Brisbane office or submitting a form on this website.