Human Capital Lab

The Official Human Capital Lab Blog

Employing and Evaluating Your Collaborative Learning Initiative

On September 2, The Human Capital Lab presented the webinar titled “Effectively Implementing and Measuring Collaborative Learning.” During the presentation we explored our experience with a collaborative learning solution and addressed participant questions, but we did not get to all of the interesting points and intriguing questions contributed by the learning leaders in attendance. I’d like to touch on three.

First, there were several questions about determining an organization’s collaborative learning maturity. I’m not familiar with a model that specifically addresses collaborative learning; however, the American Productivity and Quality Center (APQC) has developed a Knowledge Management Maturity framework. As we discussed during the webinar, collaborative learning and knowledge management are closely related. The Human Capital Lab is a member of APQC and we found their model to be helpful in determining the maturity of our use of social media. The model includes initiating, developing, standardizing, optimizing, and innovating.

The next topic I’d like to cover is ways to support the adoption of a collaborative learning initiative. As I shared, it is often necessary to incentivize use until your system reaches a tipping point. Eventually there will be enough resources and people in the system that you won’t have to push usage – people will pull membership. To get to that point, we used a variety of techniques. Many platforms offer social equity titles, which motivate some users. We offered small prizes and recognition for the best peer-selected contribution. Anecdotal success stories encouraged participation and suggested innovative uses.
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What Millennials Want

It has been written in many recent reports, blogs, and studies that organizations must prepare for the potential departure of high-performing employees when the economy resurges and new opportunities present themselves.

When the economy spiraled and many companies were forced to downsize – although hanging on to those that were deemed the “best of the best” – many organizations kept a keen eye on their competitors in fear of them raiding their organizations and luring away those retained employees. It was not that employees were seeking to leave, as the risk of switching jobs with the volatile economy proved to be too high, instead, companies that needed to fill positions were poaching the best from competitors rather than looking to the pool of unemployed.

In a short time, and as the outlook has become more positive in the employment arena, employees are now more apt to consider leaving their organization on their own accord. In fact, a recent survey conducted by Mercer titled What’s Working,™ found that nearly 32 percent of U.S. workers are considering leaving his or her organization at the present time. Most concerning is that the youngest of employees, those identified as Millennials are the most likely to depart. This Mercer study matches one by SBR Consulting that found 70 percent of Millennials say there is a possibility they will change jobs when the economy improves.
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What’s Necessary for CEO Recommendations to Take Hold?

Capitalizing on Complexity – Insights from the Global Chief Executive Officer Study” is a recently released report that outlines research conducted by IBM. This study includes interviews from over 1,500 CEOs and 3,000 university students asking what challenges and goals they view as top priorities for organizations to be successful in the future.

After analyzing responses, complexity was a major theme that emerged in this research. Global markets, economic uncertainly, workforce variances, and technological advances all contribute to the complex environment in which organizations are trying to survive.

CEOs named creativity (over integrity) as the leadership trait most necessary to compete in our complex world. According to this research,

  • Creativity can encompass turning complexity into a financial advantage.
  • Experimentation and exploration need to be integrated into the fabric of every department (not just new product development teams or R&D).
  • Co-creating products and services alongside clients is essential, leading to customer intimacy.
  • Simplifying operations, products, and increasing dexterity make creative efforts possible.

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Social Learning becomes Collaborative Learning

Social learning, which we now prefer to call “collaborative learning,” has crept into our organizations either by design or unintentionally. What exactly is collaborative learning? Who is using it in your organization? How? And, maybe the biggest question being asked: How does this add value to my organization, and how do I show the impact?

Michael E. Echols, Ph.D., executive vice president of Bellevue University’s Human Capital Lab,SM and other learning leaders have been tackling these same questions. Dr. Echols will be delving into the findings around these questions and more at the ASTD Regional Conference, “Human Performance Improvement: Doing More With Less” on May 18 at the La Vista Conference Center.

Here’s a preview into what Dr. Echols will be sharing:

What is collaborative learning? In its simplest form, collaborative learning is a model based on the idea that knowledge can be created through the interaction and collaboration of individuals. It is not driven by a specific tool, or learning plan, but is driven by the need for information and the accountability that those engaged have to one another. Where we decided to move from the verbiage “social learning” comes from the attempt to really define the term and realized that the focus continually goes back to “social” (and often social media tools) rather than to “learning.” It’s not about the tool, it’s about the learning and collaborative method by which it is accomplished.
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Doing More With Less

Do you have plenty of resources at your fingertips? Or, are you continually being asked to do more with less? In today’s economy we are constantly being pushed to stretch ourselves and our resources to deliver more productivity, faster, and all while spending less. We need to look for best practices and new ways to do just this in order to not only survive, but thrive in today’s workforce.

Whether you are leading business operations, human resources, talent management, or organization development, the tighter the budget and the higher the demands, the brighter your ideas need to be in order to achieve more with less! So look around you, talk to your colleagues, look to experts in the field, or just find your favorite place to think creatively and come up with those bright ideas!

In addition to hosting the Human Capital Lab’s recent webinar, “Innovation on a Shoestring Budget: A guide for today’s learning leaders,” another way we are helping to create innovative solutions to doing more with less is by sponsoring and speaking at the ASTD 2011 Regional Event, “Human Performance Improvement: Doing More With Less” on May 18.

This event brings together business and talent management leaders from across the country to interact and learn from seven world-renowned speakers. It’s an entire jam-packed day of learning from the experts and collaborating with your colleagues, preceded by an evening of informal networking with our speakers and other conference attendees.
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A Little Social Learning and Predictive Analysis

I recently returned from the spring CLO Symposium. The theme was “Learning Evolution: Alignment, Agility, and Adaptability.” There were approximately 350 attendees and the workshops covered:

  • Organizational hacking
  • Social learning
  • Adaptive design
  • Predictive analytics
  • Business acumen
  • Developing business advisers
  • Social learning
  • Adapting training to worker skill realities
  • Lessons from the LearningElite
  • Predictive analytics, and
  • Social learning.

Did I mention topics included predictive analytics and social learning?
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Thriving on Failure

Does your organization thrive on failure? Do you work in a culture of experimentation and risk-taking? This isn’t the most comfortable space for many executives in this volatile economy. Yet, organizations like Zappos are thriving on a culture of innovation.

Building an organization driven on innovation doesn’t require a formal R&D department. Your employees have the ideas, insights, and drive to implement innovation. Below are seven steps for building an innovative culture that thrives on failure.
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Talent Flight. In this Economy?

Three years into a national record-setting recession, with unemployment figures still hovering at the ten percent range, is it plausible that organizations could be facing a human capital crisis of talent flight? For those CEOs who look at these trends and foolishly dismiss the potential of talent flight, they should start to pay heed. (A recent article from Talent Management does a particularly good job addressing this issue.)

Retention planning begins with employee engagement. Choosing to make employee engagement a low priority could have detrimental impact. And, focusing on the bottom-line expenses of human capital is a prime example of penny-wise and pound-foolish.

As highlighted in a recent white paper I co-authored with Mike Freel, Ph.D., U.S. organizations are facing a congruent and unprecedented challenge: how best to replace the talent pipeline as baby boomers have reached retirement eligibility and the workforce available to replace them pales in comparison – an alarming 1:4 ratio. The intersection of this knowledge void with talent flight will be felt dramatically if organizations are not effectively managing the talent currently within their span of control. How do we stave off this crisis? How can managers and C-suite executives proactively avert a disaster – INVEST!
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Strategic Planning…Backwards

Well, not exactly. I was recently privileged with the opportunity to take part in Bellevue University’s strategic planning sessions, hosted by John Warden from Venturist. (I strongly encourage you to check out or to get a copy of Winning in Fast Time.) John has been ingrained with the team at Bellevue University for the last several months, helping us identify our strengths, challenges, and, most importantly, our future picture! This was one of the most profound strategic planning experiences in which I’ve had the opportunity to participate.

Without giving away the farm, the premise of the extensive three-day planning was to start with the end in mind. Start from what you want your organization to look like and then work backward to connect the pieces, the strategic plan, to help you accomplish your goals. The goal is two-fold: first, to establish a broad, clear understanding of the organization’s future picture and second, to align the entire organization around that future picture.

This was somewhat of a new concept to me, being grounded in more serial, process-oriented planning sessions in the past. As an advocate for a model of strategic management, I view strategy in organizations as a cyclical process, one of identifying potential impacts, formulating strategies, and measuring the effects. Identifying the wrong environmental impact to the organization or implementing a strategy ineffectively (or the wrong strategy) is usually discovered by the organization that also views strategy as a similar, cyclical process. Strategic planning, therefore, is a significant element of this process and directly contributes to the success of the organization…provided there’s a comprehensive future picture.

In working backwards from your future picture, your desired state, the organization is better equipped to identify what it really does well, its centers of excellence, and how they contribute to reaching the future picture. It also enables the organization to recognize other centers of excellence that are external to the organization. These either need to be in place for the organization to succeed, or the organization needs a plan on how to influence or change the external environment.

In addition to the centers of excellence, organizations are able to envision new services or products that may support the future picture. If a new service is necessary to reach the goal, but isn’t created yet, then action teams are used to set the process of development in motion. These action teams have a passion for the product or service, but more importantly, are driven to succeed strategically! All of their efforts and all of their decisions are strategically aligned and moving toward the future picture.

Just imagine your own organization aligned around a common set of values; a common strategic picture of what you could become. That’s a powerful image. Once everyone is aboard, once all of the efforts of the organization are strategically aligned, once you are able to envision how your efforts and decisions contribute to the future picture, you’re well on your way to achieving your desired state. But remember, putting your future picture first will help you plan strategically backwards.

Mike Freel, Ph.D.

So Transparent, It’s Invisible

The ongoing release of information from Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks is the defining event of at least the last 10 years. Many have compared it to the March ’71 leak of the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times. But, WikiLeaks is fundamentally different. Daniel Ellsberg shared the Pentagon Papers because he felt the American people were being misled about the Vietnam War. Although Assange’s motivations are often contradictory, he appears to advocate complete transparency in the interest of governmental justice. In other words, he may feel that if a government’s actions are visible to all it will be less likely to use its power inappropriately. Maybe he sees himself as a preemptive whistle-blower.

Of course, what’s lacking in his motivation is a clear wrong-doing that requires global attention. It’s as if secrecy in any form is unacceptable. Individuals, organizations, and governments require a degree of privacy to function. All entities require space to develop new ideas, refine ongoing efforts, and collaborate candidly. This is exactly the purpose of the diplomatic cables. They were thinking out loud. The information shared was formative. It was intended to shape actions, decisions, and policy. These communications were not public position statements.
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