Management Mistakes 101: Training Tomorrow’s Leaders

Picture this; you’re a fresh-faced leader just getting to grips with your new role. Your main bugbear? One team member who is underperforming. It doesn’t matter how many SMART goals you set and performance conversations you have, over the next few months this individual fails to pull their socks up. To an experienced leader, this is a manageable problem with an obvious solution but, to a new manager, it’s terrifying.

You have no more tricks left up your sleeve, and it feels like the only option available is to terminate. Now, it might be that termination is a valid approach – even rigorous coaching has its limits – but having the confidence to know you’ve done everything you can and are justified in pulling the trigger is far beyond the experience of most new leaders. So, how do we as experienced managers ensure that those still finding their feet have the tools they need to succeed?

Training new Leaders

The head in the sand solution

We all have a tendency to opt for the easy option, and that means avoiding confrontation or tricky situations. With an underperformer and an inexperienced manager, this approach typically leads to the invention of a ‘special project’, something to keep the lacklustre colleague occupied and limit the damage they can do to team productivity. Of course, there is one other option; do nothing – and silently resent the underperformer’s presence while you do.

Neither option is conducive to the long-term success of the team, the organisation, or a developing manager. In fact, feeling powerless to improve the situation can turn new leaders into cynical, passive-aggressive, or sarcastic managers. It should come as no surprise that all these traits have a significant impact on employee morale, engagement, and productivity¹.

The unprofessional approach

Sarcasm, cynicism, and passive-aggression are all avoidance behaviours, and they’re the go-to reaction for many of us when we become overwhelmed. Needless to say, they have no place in a manager-employee relationship. Not only are they detrimental to organisational productivity¹, but they’ve also been shown to negatively impact employee engagement and job satisfaction, and increase burnout². Hardly surprising – it’s harder to trust sarcastic, cynical, or passive-aggressive leaders, many of whom will avoid giving direct critiques of work and actionable feedback³. Put simply; employees don’t know where they stand with these types of managers.

Of course, instilling the need to avoid such behaviours in a new manager is only part of the problem. Your developing leader might be able to rise above the annoyance caused by an underachiever, but what about the rest of their team? Passive-aggression is just as detrimental in a team as a leader. At an organisational level, it can slow decision making and stall execution, at a team level it hinders communication and productivity. For individuals, it causes unnecessary stress⁴.

New managers are responsible for the entire team, and they need to have the confidence to address issues like this and the skill to foster productive conflict before their first day on the job.

From theory to practice

“There is nothing so easy to learn as experience and nothing so hard to apply.”

-Josh Billings, American Humorist

Learning management theory is easy, it’s translating all those strategies into the real world that can be tricky. Those of you who caught my article on promoting high performers will know that I’m firmly of the opinion learning to become a manager takes time and practice. I’m all for an apprenticeship approach.

Letting individuals grow into management roles and develop their skills by managing freelancers or overseeing important projects means we create fewer frustrated or overwhelmed new leaders. Without an approach like the one I’m advocating, potentially good managers can be undone by the challenges of practicing leadership.

Making a manager

An apprenticeship approach requires a serious commitment to coaching and training. Budding managers need to understand just how important their role is to the long-term success of the organisation. It’s up to them to align, motivate, and inspire their teams, and they’ll need a whole new set of skills to achieve that:

  • Communication. Gone are the days of off hand comments to colleagues. New managers need to be mindful of what they are saying and the impact their opinions can have on a team. Good communication is critical to many productivity initiatives, especially delivering employee feedback, and new leaders need to learn how to win the trust and respect of their team.
  • Delegation. One of the biggest challenges for a new manager is recognising the difference between delivering results at a team level as opposed to as an individual. New leaders no longer have complete control over an outcome, and if they don’t have the support and experience to delegate, the urge to micro-manage may become too hard to fight.
  • Critical Thinking: Not a widely used skill in junior roles, many new managers need time to learn how to think strategically and identify the most productive workflows for their team. All the theory in the world won’t help them with this one; it’s a skill only experience can teach.

To sum up…

Managers – the good ones at least – are not made overnight. As senior leaders, it’s up to us to mentor promising individuals. This means creating opportunities for potential managers to lead long before they take on an official management role, and continuing to mentor and support new managers to ensure they have the support they need to excel as leaders.

What was your experience of junior management? Did you ever wish you’d had more training and support?

References

¹Kessler et al., 2013. Leadership, interpersonal conflict and counterproductive work behaviour: An examination of stressor-strain process. [Abstract]. International Association for Conflict Management. 6 (3). pp. 180-190.
²Leary et al., 2013. The relationship among dysfunctional leadership dispositions, employee engagement, job satisfaction and burnout. [Abstract]. The Psychologist-Manager Journal. 16 (2). pp 112-130.
³Jones, 2012. 5 signs of passive-aggressive management: why it kills employee motivation and how to deal. Brazen.
⁴Davey, 2016. Reduce passive aggressive behaviour on your team. Harvard Business Review.

What skills will be most in-demand in 2025 (that’s only 10 years away)?

Imagine being the HR Director at Acme Industries and attending the annual strategy meeting. The theme is ‘What will Acme look like in 2025’ and you will present ‘What skills will Acme’s employees need in 2025’.

Product Development will present on how they see Virtual Reality (VR) becoming part of the design process. Manufacturing, anticipating being seamlessly integrated with Product Design will demonstrate how 3D Printing will replace and change manual production. Marketing will share how Integrated Social Media and the automated analysis of Big Data will revolutionise identifying who, when and how Acme should be communicating with its customers and other stakeholders.

As the HR Director, you have the unenviable challenge of anticipating how such radical changes in technology and the company’s operations will translate into what skills employees should own in 2025.

Skills demand

I have empathy for this HR Directors situation. The question is too broad, and there are too many current possibilities and, even more, future unknowns.

Whenever I pose that same future skills question rather than specific answers such as Sense-Making, Social Intelligence, Novel and Adaptive Thinking and New-Media Literacy as suggested by the University of Phoenix Research Institute in their Future Work Skills 2020  research, I typically receive two polarised broader views:

  • From optimists, I hear that technology and connectivity will continue to improve, political and socioeconomic stability will prevail, and that human ingenuity will figure out the rest and employees will be an integral part of the future.
  • From pessimists, I hear about the removal of the human involvement by automation, a substantial reduction in the workforce and direct social consequences.

In a previous post I asked the question ‘How do you build a future-ready workforce?’ As the roles and the way we work changes, how can an organisation ensure the workforce will thrive?

Along with Acme Inc., Australia’s Federal Government has been asking the same questions and recently released Australia’s Future Workforce? The report shares the view that the key drivers of changes in the job landscape in future are our ageing population, technology and automation, and an increasingly globalised and fragmented workforce.

Our Professional Challenge

As human resource professionals, I believe we should be open-minded and engaged internally and externally with the changing nature of even traditional roles.

Specifically, I am referring to not pulling a role definition out of the HR documents library and requesting ‘same again please.’ Instead, I am suggesting invoking a process that seeks input from the department head as to how and why that role and its function is changing. Reviewing recruitment advertisements for similar positions can also be a valuable input to be presented to managers.

The Evolving Workplace

History presents new specialist skills that are initially sourced externally and over time brought in-house if they become mainstream. However, in part because of the pace of technological change, I believe that this transition will decrease over the next decade, and the ‘on-demand’ workforce will substantially increase.

Evolving workplace

I’ve enjoyed sharing my views about the ‘on-demand’ workforce and how your organisation can make sure you get the most out of them. Many might think of this as simply ‘freelancing’ but this is a fast, evolving, agile new version of the professional services sector.

In their paper Five Trends that are Dramatically Changing Work and the Workplace   Knoll Workplace Research highlight the ‘coming shortage of knowledge workers, the continuing distribution of organisations and the availability of technologies and social collaboration tools’ will cause organisations to utilise the ‘on-demand’ workforce.

Providing ‘on-demand’ services are lucrative and rewarding personally for the individual. Therefore, I think it’s reasonable to assume this new sector will adapt before new skills become mainstream guaranteeing their availability.

A never ending cycle of transition and transformation

I would like to reassure the pessimists that on our path to 2025 you will not hear a technological big bang, rather, the quiet turning of the wheels of a cycle of transition and transformation providing the opportunity for the workforce to hone new skills.

What did an employee learn in the last year?

Employees keep a close eye on the changes in their domain. They will change employers if they perceive their career will stall without gaining new skills that are required.

An employee’s ability to increase their perceived value to an organisation and enjoy the feedback and recognition that brings has a direct relationship with job satisfaction.

Recent history provides reliable medium-term predictions

The pessimists I meet fear that people, can’t or won’t rise to the challenge of change and sit back and watch their roles be consumed by automation. In my opinion, that severely underestimates the tenacity of the human spirit to grow, learn and adapt.

Technology has been evolving since the wheel. Our skills have been developing ever since someone had to manufacture and fit that wheel.

When one occupation declines, it is replaced by another or perhaps by an enhanced variation that’s requires new skills.

To sum up…

Rather than a list of specific domain skills that will be in the greatest demand on our journey to 2025, I believe that those skills are in fact the willingness to accept and embrace change, being adaptive to new workplace structures that combine internal and external resources and a commitment to acquiring new knowledge.

How to identify and reign in competency gaps

As you’ll know, many of the topics I’ve been writing about lately share a broad theme – optimising your workforce’s productivity. That might be through good talent management or creating a fertile working environment. But when it comes to figuring our your overarching workforce strategy, it all relates to competencies, competency gaps, and reining them in.

A short 101 review – a competency gap is simply the difference between the current competency level of your workforce and the competency level needed to achieve a certain outcome. The process of discovering the nature and extent of that gap – and then taking the necessary measures to overcome it – is one of the most important deliverables of HRM in any organisation.

In the past I’ve written about how to conduct a skills audit and identify skill gaps. But, the notion of a competency is a bit broader than just a skill.

I’ll explain. The difference is that a skill can be considered a specific proficiency in some area of expertise. Take, for example, software development. A key skill in this area would be the ability to write code in a particular language, like Python or Ruby. However, the ability to analyse a software development problem and create an elegant and efficient solution using that language is a competency. (We have an article on the exact definition of a competency for those of you interested in a more in-depth discussion).

Essentially, competencies focus on the ability to produce certain outcomes through the application of various skills, and the synthesis of knowledge, understanding and other psychological traits.

If you think about your workforce in terms of competencies, you’ll reap some great advantages. For instance, you’ll get a much more meaningful picture of your present capabilities. It also makes it easier for you to better define what will be needed to achieve a specific outcome in future.

Conducting a competency audit is one way to uncover the present status of your workforce. When you’ve defined the competencies you need, the deficit is called the ‘competency gap’. A business’s role then is to shrink that gap through policies, encouraging great management and leadership, hiring and learning and development (L&D).

Incidentally, it’s often an inadequate understanding of an organisation’s competency gap that is the reason many L&D programs don’t deliver the expected results. It becomes clear to me that when you consider the relatively high cost of development activities (and limited resources), having a clear picture of the actual competencies needed to fill that gap can make or break your change effort.

The latest on measuring competencies

The purpose of a competency assessment is to determine:

  1. how effectively employees perform the duties of their job
  2. what employees are capable of accomplishing, and
  3. how those capabilities align with the needs of the organisation.

First things first. You need to know which competencies are important, both to each individual role and to the organisation overall. This is best achieved through a survey of your workforce that asks:

  • what tasks must be carried out in order to achieve success in your role? and
  • what would someone need to know, be or do in order to achieve that result?

After you’ve compiled these results, you’ll produce a set of agreed-upon competencies for each role in the organisation. The next step is to determine if each worker’s capabilities stack up to the requirements.

You could do this by simply producing a questionnaire that asks each employee to rate their own abilities. Obviously, that’s not ideal though, in that people in general are prone to exaggerating their abilities, so a better approach can be to conduct a 360-degree assessment.

This involves not only asking the employee to rate their own abilities, but those of their co-workers, managers and subordinates as the case may be. By tapping into these perspectives, you create a much more realistic picture of each employee’s true ability.

Addressing competency gaps

Addressing the gaps your assessment uncovers is the next step in the process. When an employee is found to be lacking in a specific area, a good idea is to allow them to share the responsibility of overcoming that shortfall. That is, getting them to help define and manage the process themselves.

This might entail the employee assigning their own goals and formulating a personal development plan that they commit to follow. Such a plan might include attending a formalised training course or in-house mentoring by employees who are already competent in that area.

You might also consider attaching rewards, recognition or extra compensation to the achievement of those goals – think about what would motivate that particular individual and use that as the carrot!

Managing the competency assessment

Managing a company-wide competencies assessment is a complex task, I won’t argue with you there. There are tools at your disposal though, that can make things much easier. Technology used well can streamline processes, analyse your  data, save valuable time and give you an accurate picture of the competencies across your workforce.

With these insights in your toolkit, you’re well equipped to plan L&D strategies, and any strategic hiring, to get you where you need to be to ensure the competitive success of your organisation.

What has been your experience with closing the competency gap in your organisation? Have you got a great example or tips you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you.

Talent Management Talk #2 – The skills crunch (Featuring Hannah Jacques-Jones and Con Sotidis)

In this week’s Talent Management Talk I’m joined by Hannah Jacques-Jones from The Faculty and Con Sotidis from LearnKotch to talk about the skills crunch (and all things learning and development).

This is a fascinating discussion about the impending skills crunch from a number of perspectives. Both Hannah and Con give their unique insights into how employers can use training and the right L&D approach to combat the coming skills shortage.

You can watch the discussion and read the full transcript below. If you have any further insights you’d like to share, jump on the comments below or reach me on Twitter at @cognology.

Watch the highlights below (or see the full 30 minute discussion here)

Talent management talk 2

Jon Windust:   
Hi everybody and welcome to Talent Management Talk. I’m Jon Windust CEO of Cognology, and with me here today to talk about skills and capability and development is Hannah Jacques-Jones from The Faculty, and Con Sotidis from LearnKotch. Welcome.

Con Sotidis:              
Thanks.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:    
Thank you. Thank you for having us.

Jon Windust:            
Thank you. Okay, so what I’d like to do is start by exploring who The Faculty is and what their connection with skills and capability and development is.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:     
Sure. The Faculty is a management consultancy but in a very niche industry. We operate purely in procurement and supply chain. There are three main sections of The Faculty. There’s a networks and round tables element, there’s consulting and there’s the training and capability section which fits in with you at Cognology. Through that we run a lot of skills assessments, capability assessments. We have a long history of doing that over 10 years.

Jon Windust:    
I find it fascinating that you’ve got this organisation that specialises in one space. I wonder if this is actually part of the future. We’re going to hit a skills crunch in maybe 10 years’ time, some might argue we’ve got a skills crunch now, and whether what you’re doing at The Faculty is part of the answer. Tell me about the capability frame works that you guys have developed and how you guys actually use that with your clients?

Hannah Jacques-Jones:     
One of the things we see a lot of is that technical skills are really important, absolutely, but it’s the softer skills, leadership, the influencing skills that really set people apart from normal.

Jon Windust:     
Right.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:    
Our frameworks are based upon competencies that are made up of those technical skills but also commercial skills and leadership skills. So we’re finding a nice balance, or that sweet spot between all three and we really focus on developing commercial leaders.

Jon Windust:           
Right and how did you actually go about developing this framework? How did it come about?

Hannah Jacques-Jones:     
So the competencies themselves, we did a lot of research looking at the future and where the future of procurement was heading. Then actually breaking that future down into procurement skills and also commercial and leadership skills.

Jon Windust:     
Con, you’re an expert in learning and development, what do you think of the skills crunch? Is it real now? What’s it going to look like in 10 years’ time?

Con Sotidis:       
Look Jon, what we’re seeing in current research is that there’s definitely going to be a skills crunch in the next 10 years. Employers are already saying that they’re finding it hard to find appropriate employees with the right skills. Mainly it’s because of the digitisation of the economy and also because we’re moving towards social media usage in business like Hannah touched on before.

I think it’s crucial that we get more development happening because the area is still very much lacking, and we find that investment in that area is still not meeting the investment in our technical skills.

Jon Windust:           
Right, and actually if there’s one thing that’s not going to change over the next 10 years, it is that crucial need for leadership, right?

Con Sotidis:         
That’s right.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:    
Absolutely, and it will just become even more necessary.

Jon Windust:       
Yes. We won’t name the clients, but you’re going to work with a particular client’s procurement group, how do you work with them? How does the sort of capability framework fit in there?

Hannah Jacques-Jones:     
We have a standard framework that we use but in order to make it meaningful and sustainable for the client, we suggest that we actually tailor it to them and what their specific needs are. We run a lot of workshops as well and that really helps with the change in management to any assessment because the people automatically get a bit nervous or scared when they hear about assessments.

If they’ve actually been part of the build and really inputted into it, it helps a lot and we have a great success rate. Even when assessments are non-mandatory, it’s actually getting 100% uptake on that.

Jon Windust:        
Right, okay. So you go in there, you develop these capability frameworks, and then what happens there?

Hannah Jacques-Jones:
Then we have the assessment. We partnered with Cognology to house our assessments. We have a manager assessment and a self-assessment normally, that’s the standard. But we’re also, as part of the round table networks that we’re doing, doing some research this year and we’ve set some benchmarks, across industry benchmarks, for what “good” actually looks like.

Because it’s all well and good having a self-assessment or manager assessment in numbers but what does that relate to and what should you be aiming for and striving towards? So those benchmarks really help to ground those results.

Jon Windust:    
I think what you guys have done with benchmarks is actually really interesting, and how you arrived at those benchmarks. Can you share how that happened?

Hannah Jacques-Jones:     
One of the difficulties, and this happens in a lot of industries but in procurement especially, is that job roles in one organisation to another look very different, so how do you actually compare one person from one organisation to another, even if they have the same job title.

Jon Windust:          
Right.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:    
The first thing we did was looking at job roles across the procurement industry and what are they actually called… actually defining the responsibilities and forming a description of that role. Then based upon those descriptions, those outputs, getting our round table members to say what level of capability is required based on the outputs only for those different competencies. That’s how we set about producing that benchmark.

Con Sotidis:          
And in the learning world we visualise that, or we call that a know-do-be framework. So it’s what you need to know, what do you need to be able to do, and what are you aiming to be like?

What you do is you go in there, Jon, and you set up a conversation with the business about that know-do-be perspective, and then you find what the minimum is that people need to know, and then you build on that for different levels. Say if you’re a leader in that procurement area, you also need some soft skills. If you’re a more technical operative, you probably don’t need those same soft skills but you need some other skills about business acumen or something like that.

The other thing, just quickly Jon, that Hannah talked about is that collaboration, that co-design. When you co-design with business you get a lot more buy-in, and when you get a business involved and is part of that process which The Faculty is doing, you’ll find that when you roll out, people are very much able to adapt and also embrace the learning because they know they’ve been part of the process That’s what The Faculty is doing.

Jon Windust:         
Okay, so we’ll do this assessment process, and then what happens with that information then?

Hannah Jacques-Jones:   
Well, good question. What should happen is that the manager should sit down and have a very good conversation with their employees, sit down and discuss the report and the outputs because it’s all based upon development and what they need, then coming up with some development options to actually meet those gaps.

Another thing I think is really important, especially in the skills crunch, is to do the succession planning, because gone are the days where people are invested in their organisation and their waiting for their 40 year gold watch. It just doesn’t happen anymore.

People are invested in their careers, their development, and as an employer, if you’re able to show them a career path in your organisation and make it clear and transparent, people are more likely to want to stay and invest back into the organisation as much as you’re investing in them.

Jon Windust:     
Yes, this is one of the things I really like about your capability framework, you can see a clear path.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:   
Absolutely.

Jon Windust:      
So you’re at this level here, you can see what’s required there.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:     
And then it’s empowering. It’s up to you to drive that forward.

Jon Windust:    
Right, yes.

Con Sotidis:          
That’s what we find with the skills crunch. What businesses are finding is that because people are leaving because of better options, then they haven’t got the right people to come up to that level.

Jon Windust:  
Right.

Con Sotidis:        
So identifying that talent via the capability framework or via management observations, by other processes, is very key to business sustainability going forward.

Jon Windust:     
Right, all right, let’s move on to now the learning development side of things. We’ve done assessment. We’ve worked out that, “Okay, these are the gaps that we’ve got and we need to develop.” Perhaps Con, can you talk about what are best practices …

Con Sotidis:  
I think just quickly there, what Hannah said is “people perceive assessment in different ways”. I think you’re right. I think we all come from that traditional learning environment. We went to school and we did our exam, we got assessed.

There is a perception with our probably more mature workforce that, “I’m going to be assessed. If I’m not good enough I’ve got to go back and get retrained,” this or that. How we position assessment is part of the ongoing development. That’s why you find these days we don’t have the traditional pass or fail, it’s about competent, not yet competent and so forth, moving up to that next level.

Assessment is important, like Hannah said, sit down with your manager and frame a learning plan about a process, “that I am currently here. I need to get to here. What are we going to do about it?” And not just the formal stuff. There’s a lot of informal stuff, the coaching, the mentoring on the job, but also support the individual to undertake some of their own learning.

In the previous organisation I was with, the graduates, they were keen to do their learning outside normal hours. They would say to me, “Con, where’s my tablet? Where’s my iPad? I want to be able to do this,” We don’t support that at the moment. So we’ve also got to be in tune with our workforce and how they want to learn, and support them in that learning journey.

Jon Windust:    
Yes, I kind of have this sense that coaching, mentoring, and something more akin to what an apprenticeship is going to start becoming the norm in organisations.

Con Sotidis:     
Yes, that’s a big thing. Coaching and mentoring is becoming more effective because it’s got the experiential aspect too, so it’s about learning on the job. We find in that formal classroom, it’ll give you that knowledge and also might give you a bit of that what we want you to do, but if you want to start bettering the behaviours, it’s that coach, that mentor that works with you on a day to day basis.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:     
We’re finding that trend as well. I mean everything that we recommend is through that 70/20/10 framework. So 70% on the job, 20% in coaching and mentoring, and then 10% in the classroom. We really see that coaching and mentoring is the trend moving forward but what it requires is some training to begin with because you have to have a base level because otherwise the coaching and mentoring is just almost one-on-one training. You’re not going to get the return on investment then, so you need to make sure that …

Con Sotidis:              
That’s where a framework that Hannah talks about, gives you that benchmark about what is the minimum knowledge you need to have.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:   
Yes.

Con Sotidis:  
So develop a program which gives that and whether it’s formal, it could be an E-learning product that gives you that knowledge, it could be a quick guide, something like that, maybe a two or three page document. There’s a variety of ways we can do it. We don’t always think about a formal classroom. As you know, there’s a variety of ways to get that knowledge.

Jon Windust:  
Yes, that’s one of the things I like about a good quality capability framework, is that it actually first tells you what you need to know but also in a sense it teaches you if it’s a good quality framework.

Con Sotidis:     
True.

Jon Windust:      
So we were talking just a moment ago about baseline development. How do you actually go about doing it? What is the baseline development?

Hannah Jacques-Jones:     
In terms of training, is that what you’re referring to?

Jon Windust:  
Yes.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:     
We develop a lot of tailored training for organisations and again a lot of those going in and workshopping it to see what their needs actually are. And then making sure that whatever training it is that we are building for them, aligns in some way back to the business objectives and their overall strategies. It’s helping the business and the organisation move forward as well.

Jon Windust:     
Yes, we mentioned before 70/20/10. Con, what is 70/20/10?

Con Sotidis:
Okay, well 70/20/10 has been around for a while. I probably don’t know the author’s name off the top of my head but it’s… basically like Hannah said, it’s about how we find learning is most effective and how we find that the knowledge transfer occurs. So we find that as individuals we get 10% of our learning from formal scenario, it could be online, it could be a classroom.

Jon Windust:  
So is this the training course?

Con Sotidis:     
Yes, the training course. The other 20% occurs from other activities. So it could be …

Hannah Jacques-Jones:  
Coaching or mentoring.

Con Sotidis: 
Coaching, mentoring, all that sort of stuff.

Then the 70% is the actual on the job. It’s actually learning on the job. More and more we find that’s more that sort of social interaction, the social media, we become more and more play in the space, the enterprise social networking, the Yammers, the SharePoints are playing a major role in that sort of learning on the job.

Jon Windust:   
Why does that work? Why does social learning work?

Con Sotidis:      
Because, again, it’s basically the way our DNA works, Jon. It’s how we’re made up. As individuals, as human beings and as a race we learn better by talking actively to each other. The water cooler conversations, “Did you know blah, blah, blah?” You think, “Oh, I never thought of it that way.”

Hannah Jacques-Jones:    
It’s also spoken so it resonates with you, to kind of really embed in the thinking.

Con Sotidis:   
Plus because it’s stayed in a social atmosphere where there’s no fear of observation or there’s no fear of being assessed. You are, I suppose, more prone and able to acquire that knowledge and learn from someone. I know, for example, when I go to the training course, you do the training course and then once you’ve finished the training course you go back to the work and when you get stuck, what do you do? You don’t go to the manual. I’ll tell you what I do, “Hey George, did you remember that at the course?” That’s what we all do.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:    
That goes right back to why the coaching and mentoring we’re seeing is a real trend, because that’s the bit that embeds the training you learnt in the classroom. It’s like, “Okay, I’ve come back and here’s my manual, what do I do with this?” It’s, “Okay, let’s workshop how that would work in reality and let’s work through some real examples.”

Jon Windust:    
I think it goes back as well … it’s something you said earlier that was pretty important though that the whole coaching and mentoring picture cannot work unless we’ve got the leaders there.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:   
Absolutely.

Jon Windust:       
So how do we develop leaders to actually be able to do that?

Con Sotidis:      
It’s skilling those leaders to be able to play that role. When I found the organisation we were at, we put a lot of … you’ve got to put effort into that. It’s the old “feed a man a fish, you feed him for the day, teach him how to fish” …

Hannah Jacques-Jones:     
Feed him for his life.

Jon Windust:        
Feed him for life, yes.

Con Sotidis:              
So it’s teaching those managers how to be able to undertake that process. You need to invest and the holy grail of any learning in an organisation is a middle manager.

Jon Windust:  
Right.

Con Sotidis:      
The holy grail of any learning event is not the senior manager, the senior manager is for buying. But it’s that middle manager who actually interacts with the individuals, the staff, that play a major role in how a good organisation progresses, because they’re the ones that are going to influence the subordinates and also up.

So invest in your middle managers as much as possible in relation to leadership training, coaching skills, mentoring skills, workshops.

Jon Windust:     
How are you guys doing it at The Faculty? How are you training the leaders to actually do this coaching?

Hannah Jacques-Jones:     
Well, one of the training programmes that we’re running at the moment, I mentioned earlier that it’s technical and leadership skills, we’re actually partnering with known business schools and the executive school. We do the more technical side and they’re really upskilling the leaders in those softer skills.

Jon Windust:   
Right, that makes a lot of sense.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:     
A lot of what we do is around stakeholder engagement. Whether that’s within the business or whether it’s external, its suppliers, and how you actually get them on board and sell the value that you can offer, a lot of that is to do with personality profiling, understanding what makes people tick and how you’re actually going to connect with them and communicate with them. We’ve found that that partnership with MBS has been really successful.

Con Sotidis:   
Can I add here that we also find it’s maybe more about the L&D space. We find that if we can invest in in that space, that coaching and mentoring space, us as L&D professionals need to also be aware of what we need to do. So we find that a distribution L&D practitioner needs to now expand their suite of offerings to be able to undertake that role, to be able to coach a leader on how to mentor, how to be a coach.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:     
Yes.

Con Sotidis:         
We find that L&D people need broader business acumen skills, and need broader communication relationship manager skills, because traditional L&D people are now meant to move out of their just purely structural design.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:  
Another thing that we’re finding helps is with the coaching and mentoring is “train the trainer”. So in terms of embedding something and making it sustainable for an organisation, we go in and maybe do the first few workshops. We’ll get people along and that we’re actually mentoring in delivering the training, and then they take that forward.

Jon Windust:    
Yes, and what we were talking about before about social learning, I actually think that’s a sort of fact there as well.

Con Sotidis:    
It is. It’s a big factor.

Jon Windust:     
You’re teaching someone else what you’ve actually learned yourself.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:    
Yes.

Con Sotidis:           
There’s a lot of power, Jon, in what I call the user generated learning. There’s a lot of evidence to suggest now that we, as learning professionals, we’ve moved more from the creation to the curation.

Jon Windust:       
Right.

Con Sotidis:    
And what curation means is by supporting individuals to be able to have a conversation, and us as learning professionals facilitating that and curating the gems in a way where we can then offer them to the broader cohort of learners. Does that make sense?

Jon Windust:   
Yes.

Con Sotidis:      
So it’s about taking what the gems out of the conversation and curating and providing them as part and parcel of a more, I suppose, formal offering or whatever the case may be.

Jon Windust:      
Yes.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:   
It’s come from a meaningful background. It’s come from real life.

Con Sotidis:  
Exactly, people that have got their eye on the job.

Jon Windust:       
There are some big changes, isn’t there at the moment, happening in the L&D space? The roles are changing a lot.

Con Sotidis:  
The role is changing enormously. We’re finding now that … and I’ll just read you the recent ASTD, they do an industry report every year. We find that somehow or other, classroom learning is still number one, which is good. I always say to people, “We’re not going to see the end of classroom learning. We are humans. We need interaction. We need to be able to have a coffee and a biscuit and learn from people.” But we also find that there is a lot more invested in self-paced learning but unfortunately the thing we all thought was going to be big: the e-learning part, the mobile learning, we’re not seeing much take up.

Jon Windust:         
Right, interesting.

Con Sotidis:              
I think about 1.7% … 1.7% from memory reported that they were using m-learning, as in tablet, mobile. We find that there’s a lot invested in e-learning and I’ve been able to say that I think we need a bit of an e-learning craze. That’s okay but unfortunately that’s not expanded down to m-learning. T

he other thing we’re finding, Jon, is things like MOOCs are very popular. MOOCs are massive open online courses for those who are not aware.

Basically they’ve come from places like Harvard University and Stanford got into certain various arrangements and partnered up with Ed-Ex and Udacity, Coursera. So they are massive, they’re big, they’re open, they’re free, they’re online and you learn.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:  
Is it just like tuning into a lecture?

Con Sotidis:   
Yes but it’s more structured, it’s more modularised. You’ll have a video, you’ll have some content, you’ll have assignments, you can actually study towards a certificate saying you’ve done this course. And that can lead to some sort of RPL or recognition for a degree or course with Stanford or with Harvard or something like that.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:  
Do you think they’re effective?

Con Sotidis:         
Well look, there are two sides to this story. I think with MOOCs, I think in the higher education sector yes they can play a major role. I know someone like my son who is at Uni, never went to any lectures, just podcasted everything. These days they don’t go to any lectures. So a similar MOOC would have been really good for him to have but I think in a corporate environment, I think we still need to assess what role they can play.

There’s been some traction and that with certain organisations where they’ve done some trials of it. I’ve not yet seen any major evidence around effectiveness of MOOCs in a corporate environment. I think there’s a role for them to play as supporting some of the learning, maybe even supporting some of the coaching and mentoring. I just don’t think they’re the fad that was sold to us as one of the solutions we really had to have… So Jon, do you have a view on that?

Jon Windust:   
Well, I do have a view on that. The thing I like about MOOCs is … I think there’s a long way to go. I think there’s a lot of development that’s going to occur with them but the thing I do like about them is that you get the best quality teachers and they’re the ones doing the teaching. So it improves the quality of the presentation of the learning. There’s still the question about coaching and tutoring but I think that’s probably where the old role of teachers changes.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:     
Sorry, is there any interaction between the lecturer or the teacher and those that are tuning in?

Jon Windust:    
I think the way they try and do it, perhaps you can talk about this Con, is to get people to peer up and work with each other, which is the other thing that I think is great about it.

Con Sotidis:   
There are things called C-MOOCs they interact with each other on social networks and they interact with each other on assignments and things like that. One of my friends, a plug in for Helen Blunden, she’s a real firm believer of the C-MOOCs. I can see why because it’s about connecting. It’s about not only learning but also tapping to people …

Jon Windust:   
Just tell us about the C-MOOCs…

Con Sotidis:  
C-MOOCS are about, they’re called connectedness MOOCs. It’s more the connected MOOCs where you’re connected with individuals while you’re also learning.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:
It gets back to the social …

Con Sotidis:  
Exactly. It’s not just a course you do and, “Thank you, see you later.” You’re also connecting, interacting, continue to learn, post events on what’s been presented. So they are, I suppose, more effective, and probably that’s where I think it’s going to move into the connected MOOCs rather than the stable MOOCs. But again, on MOOC, I think they’re finding there’s research there. We hear a lot about the dropout rates. Thousands of people join these MOOCs, I mean you can’t follow them down to completion.

Jon Windust: 
I actually heard one of the courses had over 300,000 people sign up for it.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:     
Wow, how many are tuning in but are actually busy typing doing something else.

Con Sotidis:      
That’s what I find too. There’s more offline. So you get the lectures there, you can do it offline.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:
Okay.

Jon Windust:        
Is that actually an issue though, people dropping out? If 300,000 people that sign up for a course, if only 50,000 finish, is that actually an issue? Is it a case of try before you buy, “I don’t like it, I’m going to drop out and do something else?”

Con Sotidis:      
Look, you make a very good point Jon and it’s a point that’s made quite a bit. The way I approach this is like any new intervention, we need some sort of measure. Every intervention is a measure in relation to completion.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:     
A measure of success.

Con Sotidis:     
Yes, assessments, transfer the learning and all that. Unfortunately, one of the measures that’s been associated with MOOCs is the sign-up rate and the completion rate. Look, it’s gone through a number of iterations with people and the conclusion we’ve all reached is, “Look, success is not really based on completion.” I’m okay with that but what happens with MOOCs is we find that the majority of people that are signing up have already got one or two or three degrees.

The vision for the MOOCs was to teach those people in Africa, Uganda, give them a chance to learn. Although there is signup from them, we find the majority of the signup is the people that already know this stuff, and to find that people already have one or two or three degree.

As one author quoted, “We are teaching people how to do something which they probably already know and are just looking to make some additional connections online.”

The other development that’s happening around learning is gamification. Gamification, I don’t know if you’re using it yet but gamification is really going big guns. Honestly, unlike e-learning which hasn’t picked up, I think gamification will continue to pick up. Gamification is about … we’ve all probably seen our teenage kids of friends or nephews and nieces, they play these games and they really get excited. It’s because they get to what? They get to move up. They get recognition.

Jon Windust:     
It’s instant feedback.

Con Sotidis:     
Exactly. They get recognition by peer. They get instant feedback. So things like badges, things like … even via LMS courses completing a course you get a little stamp on your little record. I can go in and say, “George has done that.” It gives me to go and do it too. It also creates motivation they say in most people to continue to develop, to keep up with the Joneses.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:     
We have an online procurement based industry networking site called Procurious and we have online learning there. Once you’ve completed the learning it goes on your profile so then people can see you’ve completed X module or what have you.

Con Sotidis:        
They get the recognition, credibility.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:   
Yes, it’s like creating your CV as well.

Con Sotidis:  
That’s right. So if you think about things like badges which is part of the gamification, and things like getting stars or unlocking a particular part of the next part of the learning process, really very popular. I think it’s going to be an area that’s going to take off.

Jon Windust:          
Yes.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:  
People like recognition. They like those gold stars.

Con Sotidis:  
We all do. We all like to be recognised, and Jon hit the nail on the head, Jon said instant feedback.

Jon Windust:    
Instant feedback, yes. I think that’s a large part of it.

Con Sotidis:      
It is.

Jon Windust:   
Let’s talk about Procurious because this fascinates me. What is Procurious and why did you guys actually create it?

Hannah Jacques-Jones:     
Procurious is an online social network specifically for the procurement industry. The Faculty mantra, if you like, is empowering procurement and actually bringing the procurement profession together. We see this really culminate in social media or social networking.

Jon Windust:    
Right.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:     
So it’s a place you can go and connect with likeminded people. You can ask questions that are specific to the industry. You can filter out all the noise that might be in LinkedIn or somewhere else.

Jon Windust:        
So it’s like LinkedIn but it’s sort of learning and development as well?

Hannah Jacques-Jones:     
It’s LinkedIn plus learning and development but specifically for procurement. So everything that goes on there is relevant to you as opposed to scrolling and scrolling to find something that means something.

Jon Windust:      
Yes.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:    
And yes, a part of that is online learning as well.

Jon Windust:            
Right, is recruitment part of the picture there as well?

Hannah Jacques-Jones:     
It isn’t at the moment. We’re trying to keep recruitment separate to that but you never know how things will evolve. We’re building it for the profession so if people want that, we’re very open to it …

Con Sotidis:              
Sorry Jon, you said earlier on in the piece about the skills crunch, I see what Hannah is doing in the Procurious sphere is developing specific areas for particular areas and specialisations, to be able to interact with each other, is going to be a way to go forward in relation to developing that particular skill set.

Not only to develop the particular skills but also their soft skills. Having separate little areas where individuals feel safe because they know the other people on there, they know these people are likeminded, they know what they’re talking about. I might throw a few acronyms out there and they know what that means.

Jon Windust:      
Yes.

Con Sotidis:            
It gives me that confidence to interact with these people and I feel comfortable.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:   
It’s also people are far more comfortable with recommendations as opposed to marketing or media. They trust what a peer says versus what an advert says.

Jon Windust:        
Yes.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:   
So that’s another thing.

Jon Windust:   
That’s right.

Con Sotidis:       
We’re finding also that at the moment through tweet chats, where people get together with a common purpose and have a conversation online via Twitter. In the conversation, you might have some experts on there too, you’re learning, what people do is archive that and have it as a resource to go back in later and tap into it.

So it’s, again, specialised little areas, like I run one around L&D and we have people that contribute to that. We talk on a variety of issues, then we archive it and you’ve got a little bit of a thread that people can tap in later on. And also make connections with people they trust, people they know. So that’s the way I think learning … it’s about that network, and that’s going to occur a lot more.

Jon Windust:            
Let’s switch gears and talk about 10 years’ time. What do you think the skills crunch is going to look like in 10 years’ time because on one hand we’ve got this aging workforce and then on the other hand we’ve got all these jobs that are expected to be automated. What do you think it’s going to look like?

Hannah Jacques-Jones:   
I think first of all we need to be worried about it now, not in 10 years’ time.

Jon Windust:          
Right.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:     
Absolutely prepare for it. I think, yes, the aging workforce, I think the workforce becoming ever more transient, the world becoming smaller. We’re going to have a lot more cultural issues and so cultural awareness, emotional intelligence become critical.

Con Sotidis:      
Remote working in Australia, teleworking, catering for work life balance…

Jon Windust:    
Right.

Con Sotidis:  
I’ll give you an example. We’re finding already Telecom New Zealand already allows their people, certain people to work from home in different shifts, so people are able to pick up their kids. Where I see that going Jon is that we’ll have a lot more ability for people to work when they want to work, how they want to work, and tap into their skills in that way, and organisations will change in that way.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:    
I totally agree. I think at the moment with work life balance, we’re already at 24/7, so how much can it increase by?

Jon Windust:     
Not by much.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:     
But I think that 9 to 5 will change. I think that’s the aspect, so those eight hours in a day might be two hours here and four hours there, depending on which time zone you’re in or you’re communicating with.

Jon Windust:       
Another thing I think might be part of this as well is we’ve just recently, in the last week, hired a retired guy and he wants to do 10 hours a week of work. Beautiful, perfect, we’ve got an experienced person that we can bring on board for those 10 hours of the week.

Con Sotidis:      
I think you’re right. Tap into the mature workforce. Also I believe that also if we tap into the disabled workforce, there is opportunity for those people who can continue to add to the workforce, who are available and got the skills we can tap into. I think that’s also important; that untapped workforce that’s out there.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:     
Yes.

Jon Windust:         
Yes, okay. Actually, that makes me think about freelancing sites as well. When you’re actually recruiting someone from a freelancing site, all you’re really concerned about is what skills does that person have and how well have they actually been rated against those skills, what their previous feedback is, and nothing else actually matters.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:     
It’s all the rating, back to the rating again.

Con Sotidis:     
If you’ve got a capability framework, you can put them through that and get an assessment on them, and straight away you’re laughing because you’re already there. You know what they need to know, what they need to do, what they need to have and need to be.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:     
I think those technical skills, those core skills that are required, are almost your license to come to the party.

Jon Windust:    
Right.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:     
Then it’s those recruiting on those softer skills, the kind of cultural fit is where I see HR and recruitment heading as well.

Con Sotidis:     
You’re right, we’re going to see a lot more of the freelancing occur. I think, like Hannah said earlier on, the relationship of individuals within the organisation is not going to be as strong in the years to come. It’s going to be more about me rather than the organisation. But having said that, they’ll committed and dedicated to what they’re doing.

Jon Windust:        
I think so and particularly if there’s a rating or reputation badge or something like that at stake, feedback.

Con Sotidis:  
Yes, reputation.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:     
I think employers can really invest, really invest with their staff and their development. They can earn the employer of choice status, then that will give them a competitive advantage.

John Windust:   
Well I think as the workforce is aging, there won’t be any choice. I mean you’ll die if you don’t make that investment, advancing … helping people advance their careers.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:     
They’ll just go to somebody else.

Jon Windust: 
Yes. All right, well look, thank you very much Con and thank you Hannah. It’s been an absolutely fascinating discussion.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:  
No problem, thank you.

Con Sotidis:      
Thanks for having us Jon.

Hannah Jacques-Jones:   
Yes, thank you.

Jon Windust:    
Thank you.

How to identify skill gaps

Imagine you are running a women’s fashion business.  You’ve focussed your product line on flattering dresses and managed to build a great brand name by getting those products right.  You’ve done so well in fact, you’re ready to expand.  Being an adventurous sort of person you decide to do something different, actually a lot different.  A new swimsuit product line.  It’s both exciting and daunting all at the same time because you have no experience in the swimsuit industry, but you are sure your designs will appeal to most women.

After some research you’ve sketched out a plan to make it happen.  But that just introduces another problem.  Making swimsuits requires a different skill set to producing dresses and you’re not sure if your people have the right capabilities…

What can you do?  Hiring a completely new team is not possible from a cost perspective.

The answer is to identify skill gaps.  You need to find out the gaps between the skills needed and those your people have.  Once you know that, you can fill in those holes with targeted training or recruiting.

But how do you do a skills audit?

The basic approach

A very basic approach is to just go out to your people and ask them some open-ended questions like “please list the skills you have?”.  As you can imagine, the answers you receive will be unstructured.  Since your people had no parameters around what skills to list, you may end up with irrelevant responses, or worse a shortage of information.

A slightly better approach is to list the skills needed for the various roles, then go out to your people and ask them which they have.  Here’s a few samples to give you an idea:

Swimsuit Fashion Designer
  • Swimsuit fabric selection
  • Swimsuit fabric procurement
  • Patternmaking
  • Functional design
  • Grading Ruler
  • Tracing Wheel
  • Computer aided design
Swimsuit Production
  • Industrial sewing machine
  • Interlocker
  • Overlocker
  • Cutting
  • Industrial steam iron
  • Fusing press
Marketing
  • Photography
  • Photoshop
  • Model management
  • Lighting
  • Swimsuit props, background and lighting
  • Web design
  • Display advertising
  • Search advertising
  • Promotional events

You can then map each person and their actual skills to the role and skill requirements.

The benefit of this approach is that it provides most of the information you need very easily.  The downside is that the skill list is basic and has little use beyond the immediate gap analysis.

A more robust approach

A more robust approach is to define the competencies or capabilities needed for each role. There’s a great article explaining competencies here.  In essence, it’s a more detailed definition of the skills needed for each role.

After defining the competencies, you would then assess your people against them.  There are a number of ways the assessment can be done:

  • Self-assessment
  • Manager assessment
  • 360-degree feedback (we have a great article on this too)
  • Assessment centre

The advantage of this approach is that on top of the gap analysis, you also get thorough skill definitions that you can continue to use for:

  • Ongoing development of your people
  • Recruiting
  • Onboarding
  • Workforce planning
  • Succession planning
How do you do this when you are time poor?

How do you conduct the skills audit and find your skill gaps when you’re running a business and are already time poor?  The answer is technology. Cognology have a competency assessment system designed to make the process easy and give you great visual analysis of the results.