Why Our Kids’ Video Games May Prepare Them For Career Learning Tomorrow!

This weekend I’ve been writing a paper about various types of learning that have evolved and become break through in the past decade or so.  The most fascinating by far has been the partnership of virtual reality in the realm of training and development.  Believe it or not, some major names are using this! Did you know that Cisco Systems has something called the AMLE, or Account Manager Learning Environment?  This is a virtual learning experience designed to help account managers learn best practices in driving up sales and revenue, speed and cost reductions (Noe, 2013, pg. 360).  Another example of virtual reality meeting training is Motorola and their use of a virtual reality training opportunity to teach employees to assemble products in the Pager Robotic Assembly Facility (Noe, 2013, p. 342).  Don’t know about you, but I’d rather have a virtual injury than a real one.  Manufacturing can be dangerous if a worker is not well trained.  How brilliant an idea to teach them virtually.

Last but not least, a pretty serious example.  Our soldiers today are being trained in large scale virtual training facilities.  An example of this is Camp Atterbury in Indiana.  Here, soldiers learn how to respond to realistic battle scenarios in what is called a Dismounted Soldier Training System.  Essentially, using simulation equipment and virtual technology, the solider can actual rehearse a battle scene. This type of training can mean the difference between life and death in the real battle.

So, to the title of this blog.  Maybe all the whining and nagging I’ve done about my tween son’s hours of labor in front of the gaming screen has been in vain.  Will the future of learning when he is entering for workforce in ten years be filled with these virtual learning environments?  I think perhaps so.  I chuckle as I write this.  I’m envisioning a virtual reality video game of employee relations and corrective action hypothetical scenarios.  Boy those DOL regulations would have been seared into my brain with greater intensity had I had the chance to virtually interact with a real lawsuit via a virtual reality video game!

I typically don’t think of myself as old until I observe the evolving face of technology.  It fascinates me.  I believe our children of today will be learning in a far different world in the future than anything I might have ever imagined.  We are already getting degrees online at rapid fire pace.  Imagine the classrooms of tomorrow.  Perhaps your child will be sitting virtually alongside other students from ten different countries.  The possibilties are endless!


AMLE: http://www.cisco.com/web/learning/le31/l59/learning_credits_manage.html

Camp Atterbury: http://www.campatterbury.in.ng.mil/Mobilization/tabid/692/Default.aspx

Noe, Raymond. (2013). Employee Training and Development. New York,

NY: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

HR Audit – Data to Build Your Scorecard


Today’s topic is a little less fun than recent posts.  But, it’s key foundation material for any HR Department to be able to prove their worth.  At the end of the day HR like any business unit needs to prove their worth. You as a HR leader need to prove your worth.  Return on Investment 101 here.

A vital component to getting to the end goal of proving ROI is first being able to audit for what is working and what is not working.  Then, based on areas needing development, one can develop a scorecard. Finally, one must compute the dollars at risk where there is a shortfall, and the dollars to be gained by improvements and strategies come to fruition.

So, for example, an audit of I-9s may show that based on number of missing or incomplete I-9s, the company could be fined 50K.  This is risk.  Strategy would then be to rectify the situation thereby mitigating risk. A second example is turnover.  I actually did this at a previous company that had high turnover.  Based on turnover rate and known cost to replace/cost of attrition, we computed the annual cost of turnover to be $1 million.  We broke that down by number of people.  Then, as we applied specific strategy to reduce turnover we could quantify the dollars saved as attrition was reduced. I was able to pay for my whole team’s salaries, and some, just by moving the needle on this one metric.

Some of the areas one reviews may be hard to quantify.  This just requires some critical thinking.  For example if I determine the method of training delivery is dated (say, boring classroom training that engages too few learning styles) I may list as an area to fix.  To drive to ROI one must quantify the lost dollars due to poor training delivery.  Let’s say the learners take four extra weeks to learn because the real learning happens on the floor since the classroom training was poor.  This may mean 25% less productivity due to time spent with repeat learning.  This can be calculated into hard dollars by computing hours and wages in that period.  So, get creative and logical to prove this stuff.

But, before one can even get to the end goal of measuring ROI, one must know what’s broken. Below is a very simple model of a few of the key areas I feel HR needs to audit.  This just scratches the surface to get to the end goal of measurements but it’s a starting point.  One can then take the takeaways and build a metrics deck and measurement points to get to ROI.

This is not easy stuff, but it’s critical for HR to survive.  Transaction based and administrative HR cannot survive in today’s work environment.  Our jobs are not about upholding rules and throwing parties.  We may do that as part of the function, but it’s not enough.  Our job is about elevating the workforce to the next level.  It’s about managing, shepherding, developing, retaining and creating human capital in a manner that beats our competition.  It’s a tough job. And, without metrics, it can’t be done.

I’m curious to hear from fellow bloggers — what else do you rate when evaluating a HR department for risk, compliance and effectiveness?

audit pic one

audit pic two

audit pic three

audit pic four

Add a Splash of Color to Your Workplace!

add some color

I’m not a big fan of mundane things, which is probably why I like to write.  I have been writing since I was a kid.  Instead of going to all the school dances I was more likely to be at Barnes and Noble reciting poetry about the passions of life at poetry jams.  I always thought I’d be a professional writer, a journalist perhaps.  But there were bills to be paid. So, I used my interviewing fascination to interview people for jobs. And then this whole HR thing evolved.

But I’ve never lost that spark of pizazz.

As Anais Nin said,”Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them.”  I believe that.  I will probably not settle down until I’ve contributed to ending world poverty or something else profound because I spend inordinate amounts of time worrying and thinking about the broken things in the world.  But you know what?  That’s what makes life worth living. Zest. Zeal. Passion. Energy. Motivation. Splashes of Creativity.  I want my life and work to be like the photo above. Colorful.

And so I have brought this with me to the walls of Corporate America.  I’m better for it.  I have many longstanding friendships from my relationships at work.  The message of today’s blog is just this. Risk it a little bit.  Let your passions motivate you to do something really creative and great at work.  And let this bubble over and cascade down to those you impact and lead at work. Don’t just retreat to your computer and pencil pushing.  Get to know people. Get excited about their growth and development.  Love people and use the workplace as an extension of life.  If your company is a fan of altruistic work – start a service project together and make a difference together!  I’m a firm believer that when we serve together, we grow together.  Suddenly 9-5 can be a heck of a lot more special when we step out and start relating.  Work can be a community.

One more thing.  Being a leader in the workplace has nothing to do with title.  I to this day hang a precious story that a housekeeper from a nursing home I worked at gave me. It moved me, and he led me to see life and work through much more rainbow like lenses.  It’s called “The Law of the Garbage Truck” http://www.simpletoremember.com/jewish/blog/garbage-truck/. If you haven’t read this story I encourage you to.  It reminds us that we own our own attitudes.  Nobody and nothing can change our outlook.  Attitude is a choice.

As such, I challenge you to add a splash of color and life to your workplace today.  Watch out, it’s contagious!

Do You Want Compliance, Or Brilliance?

fish market
A few years ago I had the pleasure of working at a company that changed me forever. It was a company where we actually had FUN as a value we sought to live out. Never had I heard of such a thing prior to working here and, frankly, this small town, hard working, no nonsense Midwestern girl was a bit skeptical at first. Fun, whatcha talking about? This is work man and I’ve been working my behind off since I was providing for myself at age 19! The place where you sweat and toil for that check to buy the American Dream! That’s not supposed to be fun. That’s supposed to be hard!

I must confess that after a little time of daily inhaling this new culture, I was wooed by this FUN suitor and my hard little no nonsense shell was cracked. And before you know it I was doing crazy things like rolling out the red carpet for new hires (no joking I purchased a red carpet and marched all new hires down it in front of the rest of the staff). And creating limerick contests for staff members to write little ditties to win a game. And playing with Legos and drawing pictures at teambuilding and training events I led. And acting out skits with much humor imbedded to drive home HR lessons in what would otherwise be boring compliance training I led. Heck I even dressed up for new hire orientations. Reality is I got steam rolled by the fun wagon and I have never been the same again.

Over the years I’ve studied the virtue of this value of fun on a more intellectual level. Captured above in my photo is a visit to a fish market in Seattle. Some of you may have heard of it. It’s called the “Pike Place Fish Market” and they have become famous for the enjoyable and engaging environment they create for both employees and patrons. From their flying fish http://www.pikeplacefish.com/about/flying-fish-presentations/, to the more serious and empowering virtues they teach about helping people be themselves and be engaged, they just simply get it in my opinion. If you haven’t heard about this group, I would encourage you to study them. They also sell videos and materials for those in the training profession who want to learn about this methodology.

So, why the fun? What’s the point? Let me explain the title of today’s blog. It’s in the form of a question. The question is: Do you want compliance, or do you want brilliance? Here’s my point. One can get compliance through many tactics. I once worked in an environment where the almighty handbook was the management team’s end all be all. We could quote line and verse and point out that on the tenth day of the fifth month thou hast broken the attendance command for the third time and as such landed thyself on a final warning. We were hounds about this. And dang it we were good at this stuff, if the measuring stick of good is understanding every rule and crafting write ups to excellence. However, we were good at little more than this. You see, of course rules count and need to be applied and respected. However, if it’s just about rules you are in trouble. One can get lip service and checking off the list with a little fear and intimidation style management. Fire a few people, enforce those rules, get tough and you’ll get a reaction. And frankly given the human condition and some souls in the world who enjoy flagrant defiance of rules, the handbook is a must. But back to my original question. Do you merely want compliance, or do you want brilliance? Compliance is easy. It’s a shortcut. It’s old fashioned. It gets lip service. But if you stay there and there alone you are in trouble because you engage the lips but no more. And this typically leads to high turnover and high disengagement.

You see, GREAT companies advance further than compliance. They decide that lip service ain’t enough. They want heart service. They want to tap into the human spirit and unleash something special. They want brilliance. And you go there, to brilliance, by engaging the heart AND mind in a person. You go there by daring to put a little spirit into things. By daring to care. By drawing people into work by getting to know them and getting to lead them in a way that shows you care.

To get to this place a leader needs to let down his guard and bare a little soul. Reach out to your employees as fellow human beings. Laugh a little. Love a lot. Throw fish. Write limericks. Roll out the red carpet for people because every person is worth it. Work hard, but be sure to play hard too. Ask them how you can be better, and then listen. Don’t pretend you’re here if you have never asked them. I guarantee you you are not here if you don’t have the guts to ask your employees honestly about the way you’re leading, listen, and be open to personal change.

If you want some solid models of companies that get this you might peruse the WorldBlu most Democratic places to work list. I was blessed to work at one of these companies in my career. I was very changed and for the better because of it. http://www.worldblu.com/awardee-profiles/2012.php

Culture Cues – Teach Them To Survive!

My theory is that we as people can be trained in a very similar fashion to cats. In fact a joke I’ve shared with folks when I enter a new team is that I need to have a spray bottle of water on my desk for learning opportunities. Each time I open my mouth to share something that is out of place in the new abode, squirt! Each time I attempt to live out my prior company culture, forgetting I’m somewhere new, squirt! Each time I commit any kind of company cultural faux pas, squirt!

All joking aside, the reality is that cultures vary and probably the most critical component to the corporate success formula other than being smart is getting the culture. The reality is that we as people are quirky, varied, imperfect and gosh darn it we are not robots and we can be moody. I suppose that is why I chose HR – because I am a student of the human condition and oddly I really enjoy working with the idiosyncrasies of folks. When there’s a tough nut to crack (eg a super difficult person who I can’t reach), I kinda enjoy the opportunity to try to win even a connection with them. You see the reality is that people are all different. I may like vanilla ice cream. You may prefer pistaccio. Who is to say one is better than the other? Nobody is to say. However, I best be eating pistachio ice cream and not vanilla if I choose to join a pistachio loving culture.

Point being, as companies are full of people, and people are unique, there comes to be a unique and specific culture at each company. As a case in point, here are just a few things that I have experienced in different cultures. Each one if transferred to another culture may be means for serious political fallout and very possibly even formal discipline.

1. We had a couch and video games in the main entry space of the office for employees’ fun and enjoyment (message: fun is a serious value here and we appeal to the Gen Y culture we often hire based on the field we’re in)
2. I was required to don a hat and sword for employee orientations (message: this is a charismatic place so get on board and show your drama if you are a leader here)
3. Calling a boss without going through the EA was major taboo; and meetings occurred no more than 1-2x monthly (message: be self sufficient and don’t bug the boss with any minor stuff)
4. Neglecting to run even the most minute detail past a boss could result in significant negative repercussion (message: leadership is a bit tighter, centralized decision making is preferred)
5. Failing to hug someone or pat someone on the back at work at least once a week was frowned upon (message: we are an affectionate workplace and it is expected that you show you care… I am sure the HR folks reading this are cringing right now)
6. Hugging someone at work or even a pat on the back might result in a hostile work environment claim (message: we are a business professional environment and take HR protocol seriously)
7. Walking the floor frequently to chit chat with employees is expected of leaders (message: engagement and friendly environment matter to us)
8. Walking the floor frequently to chit chat with employees is frowned upon (message: we are a high performance, no nonsense place and should not have too much levity at work)
9. Upon meeting with a boss during weekly meetings one must update a task list and personal learning plan to show growth in personal skills (message: we are a learning culture)
10. Working at home is encouraged and common and there is no firm absence policy (message: we want to be progressive and see balance)
11. Working at home is seen as irresponsible and unnecessary (message: we are more conservative and traditional with work style)
12. Specific food venues and sequence of events is expected at employee gatherings (message: formality matters and if you are not on board you won’t fit in)

The list could go on, but the above are all examples of varying expectations that I have encountered in my seventeen years of working. These expectations all held by very successful companies that happened to operate differently. I guarantee you however that nobody gave me a rule book on video games, pats on the back, level of detail one must share with a boss or not share with a boss, expectations of proceedings at gatherings, and so forth on day one. I will tell you that it took about a dozen or so verbal squirts to get it when transitioning from one extreme to another.

All to say, one of the absolutely most critical things we can be doing to develop new employees is to tell them the unspoken stuff. Just like a mother teaches her small child not to pick his nose in public or chew with her mouth open, we too need to lead people to learn the ways of the workplace. Nobody wants to be stuck in the middle of a meeting with an I’m clueless sign on his back. So love your people enough to go there.

One little practical way of doing this is by providing a buddy for the early months. This buddy should not be a boss or person of authority. If it is, the buddy code is essentially broken. The whole idea of a buddy is that someone at the same level, comfortable and approachable be there to help guide the newcomer. A buddy will share the subtle behaviors in a non threatening way. When choosing a buddy, make sure it is a person with strong verbal skills, patience and a people-oriented personality.

Happy culture learning! If you teach them, they can adapt!