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The Truth About “Free” L&D


I’ll always remember Christmas 1996. After endless, painful months of waiting, my brother and I finally received the gift we’d been longing for.

That morning, we got our hands on a brand new PlayStation. And it felt like life would never be the same again.

A Glimpse of the Future

What a moment! Suddenly, we had the power to play incredibly good computer games without having to leave our living room. No longer did we have to listen enviously to stories of our friends’ on-screen adventures. Now we had the cutting-edge kit: a vast built-in memory, CD-quality music, 3D graphics…

For once in life, the reality more than lived up to the expectation.

The only problem was, we couldn’t afford any games. Even if we pooled our allowances, it would take us months to save up for anything new.

Playing for Free

But what we did have was “Demo One.” This was the CD that came in the PlayStation box, containing sample versions of about 20 games. And it was great. If you ask anyone from my generation, there’s a good chance they’ll go glassy-eyed when they reminisce about their “Demo One” disk.

I genuinely loved the variety and potential offered by those scaled-down games. They kept my brother and me engaged and excited for months.

Thankfully, we did get hold of new, full-version games eventually, and we saw what our PlayStation could really do!

But I’ll always remember “Demo One.” And I often think about it when I’m talking to prospective clients – particularly if they mention Learning Experience Platforms (LXPs), or say that their people can just search for what they need online.

Because both of those approaches tell me that they’re limiting themselves to cut-down, disconnected, “demo disk” learning.

Free L&D?

“Free” L&D can – like my beloved “Demo One” – be extremely appealing. It beckons to the battle-weary HR leader, sick of being criticized for falling engagement levels and underused resources. On offer: a very modern-looking technology solution from Silicon Valley. (It likely has a cool logo, too.)

But if that leader looks a little closer, they’ll soon see why they’re not paying much for this stuff – if anything. In L&D, as in the rest of the life, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

So, how do these “bargain bucket” providers do it? They use five key techniques – all of which come with warnings attached:

1. Open Source Content

When an LXP takes you into the farthest reaches of the internet, or scoops up user-generated content to share around, who’s testing its quality?

Everyone who uses it should try to check it for accuracy, authority and relevance. But we all know that’s not going to happen.

And when the learners in your organization don’t know what they’re going to get, or how good it is when it arrives, they’ll struggle to engage. As a result, there’s very little chance of them building up the cohesive body of knowledge and skills they need.

2. Advertising

If a company can create content that achieves good SEO traffic, it can make its money from advertising. Unfortunately for readers, the adverts are likely to become more and more intrusive – which is a particular problem when you’re trying to learn.

Ads can also devalue the text they sit in. Serious, relevant subject matter quickly loses its credibility when seen alongside gaudy, flippant advertising.

Some sites even interrupt you with ads mid-flow. “Sorry to bother you, but would you mind answering a few questions from our sponsor?”

For me, personalized ads are the most distracting of all. If I’m investing time to develop myself and my career, I really don’t want to be reminded about the car, holiday or cleaning product I searched for six months ago!

3. Donations

However politely you’re asked to contribute, and however worthy the cause, this is another approach that just doesn’t support good learning.

It’s hard to commit fully to a service that keeps telling you it needs more money to stay in business.

Donation requests can disrupt your train of thought – especially when you’re already pushed for time.

They’re also constant reminders that your company hasn’t provided you with a high-quality, properly paid-for resource.

4. Paywalls

Some L&D sites tempt you in with free material, then shut you out just when things are getting interesting! That’s fair enough if you’re a public consumer – but not if it’s your company providing you with such limited access to learning.

It dampens your enthusiasm and disrupts your plans. Every time you hit the paywall, you feel like you’re banging your head against a… well, you get the idea!

5. Partners

Be wary of content that’s only free if you agree to receive marketing messages – not just from the learning provider, but also from their myriad commercial partners. In my book, L&D shouldn’t feel like a shopping trip!

Once again, high-quality learning will be hampered if you’re constantly being prodded to look, reply – and buy – elsewhere.

Demand More!

Thinking back to 1996, my brother and I were remarkably understanding. We knew that our parents had pushed themselves to buy the PlayStation, and we patiently stuck with our sample disk until we finally got the “real thing.”

However, the people in your organization probably won’t be so forgiving!

LXPs are still in their infancy. New sources of free content are springing up all the time. Maybe people need to play “Demo One” a bit longer before the message fully hits home.

But, leave it too long, and I’m convinced that the problems caused by cut-price learning will take their toll.

Short Term Gain, Long Term Pain

It’s something I’m passionate about. It’s also an increasingly regular conversation point with clients. Money’s tight, targets are tough. They’re under pressure to help everyone to learn and grow. But they can just point their people toward the cool logo, and the free resources, can’t they?

No, is my answer, loud and clear. You can do so much better – for all the reasons above, and based on everything else I’ve learned, from my PlayStation days onward.

You may be saving cash by providing entry-level access to learning. But, in the long run, you and your people will pay the price of sticking with “demo disk” L&D.

Patrick Burns is Mind Tools’ Enterprise Accounts Manager for North America.



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Microsoft and Jio: Accelerating India’s digital progress


Today we announced a comprehensive long-term alliance with Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited (Jio), a subsidiary of Reliance Industries Limited. This is an exciting advancement that will accelerate India’s digital transformation and bring the latest technologies to millions of businesses across the country. This alliance represents a unique collaboration between our two organizations.

Jio has transformed the communication and data landscape here in India, connecting more than 340 million people in the country with the power of affordable data. Microsoft has helped businesses revolutionize the global landscape of digital transformation with the worldview of intelligent cloud and intelligent edge. With a solid foundation of trust, we’re committed to accelerating the pace of innovation and delivering more value to every customer, be it large enterprises, SMBs, startups or consumers, and our partners.

This unique alliance also reinforces our commitment to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

Earlier today, this announcement was shared as part of the Reliance Industries Annual General Meeting where Reliance Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh D. Ambani shared the news. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella shared his thoughts as well and reinforced our enthusiasm for the work we will do together and the potential benefits our alliance can bring to organizations across India, and to the country itself.

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What this means for businesses 

India has one of the largest small and medium business markets in the world, which continues to grow significantly. Small and medium businesses in India will have access to a range of cloud-based productivity, collaboration and business applications including Office 365, enabling them to compete more effectively in the Indian marketplace. This collaboration will accelerate innovation to create more affordable offerings for Indian SMBs and startups, including a new range of solutions for one-stop IT capabilities and allowing front-end applications on mobile devices, desktops and other tools.

Jio will build new custom solutions on Microsoft Azure for large enterprises who have already benefited from our technology platforms. Companies will also have easy and affordable access to best-in-class technologies like data analytics, AI, cognitive services, blockchain, IoT and edge computing to accelerate India’s digital transformation and enable grassroots innovation.

Jio will also leverage Microsoft’s speech and language cognitive services for its device ecosystem, providing support in 13 Indian languages, with the flexibility to add other languages. Its internal workforce will now leverage the cloud-based Microsoft 365 productivity and collaboration tools and all their non-network applications will also move to the Microsoft Azure cloud platform.

For the partner ecosystem in India, these new offerings create more avenues for greater innovation, deeper customer relationships and exponential growth for their businesses. And in a diverse nation of 1.3 billion people united by the power of digital, the solutions this collaboration will bring around connectivity, computing, storage and tech services will redefine how we empower employees, enable customers, transform products and optimize operations.

This joint effort is likely to unlock and accelerate digital innovation in India at an unprecedented scale. I look forward to working with and learning from our current and new customers and partners as we chart a new path with this alliance.

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Healthcare Benefits are Broken. Fixing Them Requires Redefining the Industry.


Much attention has been paid to fixing our country’s broken healthcare system. But what often gets missed are the problems with employer-sponsored health benefits and the role they play within the broader healthcare crisis. Employers in North America alone are spending hundreds of billions of dollars to provide healthcare benefits to their teams. In fact, the current cost is estimated to be $15,000 per employee, with 49% of the U.S. population relying on employer-provided health benefits.

The current problems with healthcare benefits were exemplified in a recent Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report for League. The report surveyed 238 executives about employee health benefits. The findings illustrate how companies and employees alike have fallen into a lose-lose cycle where healthcare costs keep rising while the experience — and even the benefits themselves — get worse. Employees are often left unsure and overwhelmed about what benefits they have, how to properly use them and which healthcare decisions to make. A dizzying number of benefits vendors and digital platforms make this more confusing than ever. Meanwhile, HR teams are spread thin trying to answer questions and guide employees.

So what’s the solution? One thing is for sure: it won’t be found in the status quo. For companies to reduce healthcare costs while also engaging employees, the entire ecosystem needs to fundamentally rethink the health benefits system. What’s needed is an entirely new category focused on an employee-centered health benefits experience.

When Lack of Awareness Leads to Lack of Engagement

The Harvard Business Review responses showed a stark lack of awareness among employees, which has larger implications for their long-term health. Sixty-three percent of respondents said employees don’t know enough about how to leverage their company-provided health benefits. Meanwhile, more than half (58%) of organizations reported that employees are unaware of the health benefits they are entitled to. This lack of awareness extends to the quality and cost of healthcare, as well as which plan is right for them.

The consequence of this lack of understanding shouldn’t be surprising: employees can’t use something if they’re unsure of its existence or don’t know how to. Just 28% of respondents said that employees actively engage with all of the health benefit programs they are offered. In fact, employees reportedly use the full range of health benefits at only a little over one-quarter (27%) of organizations.

These statistics become alarming when you consider that a large number of chronic illnesses are preventable. The World Health Organization estimates that 80% of heart disease and stroke, 80% of type 2 diabetes and 40% of cancer could be prevented with simple lifestyle changes like healthier eating and moderate exercise. An employee-centered benefits platform, with personalized health profiles and journeys, could empower people to better manage their health, with dramatic potential to improve outcomes.

Burnout on Both Sides

There’s a more far-reaching impact of this lack of awareness and engagement: both employees and HR teams are overwhelmed and fatigued. Employees are often required to access multiple disparate systems in order to learn about and access their full range of health benefits. Only 10% of organizations reported that employees can use only one system to do this. At many organizations, employees need to use three, five or even more systems.

Employee confusion and frustration are being passed on to HR teams, whose time is being taken up answering routine questions from employees about coverage, out-of-pocket maximums and co-pays. In consequence, 41% of organizations report that HR doesn’t have the time or resources to perform more strategic activities, like benefits planning.

Rethinking the Benefits Experience

This holistic problem can only be solved by a solution that helps both employees and employers. It’s time to rethink the system in its entirety to focus on the overarching health benefits experience —not tools, or platforms, that cater to only parts of the ecosystem, but a centralized platform that can help you, no matter who you are or what you need, get the help and support you need from a benefits perspective. Companies from entertainment to retail have disrupted industries by focusing on personalized platforms that cater to a user’s unique needs for a better experience. Imagine the potential of recreating this model not to stream movies or order groceries, but to help people live healthier lives.

What employees need is a “front door” to their benefits. Instead of multiple accounts and platforms, employees should be able to access and learn about all of their benefits from a single source. Simplifying the source of information and engagement will help employees understand and use their benefits.

The benefits experience should also be completely separate from both the employer and the insurance company. Employees deserve a trusted, neutral place where they can get health advice and support. This environment will empower people to proactively manage their health and utilize their full range of benefits.

The good news is, there’s reason to be optimistic that companies are ready to demand a better experience for their employees. Our report found that the majority (68%) of organizations are open to changing their employee health care experience.

A better benefits platform is one that prioritizes engagement and supports employees in being better healthcare consumers. It’s one that ultimately helps employers break the higher cost/ worse experience cycle by driving benefit utilization and reducing costs. These changes are necessary to creating a health benefits system that works for everyone. For further insight into these findings, download “The Key to Better Health.”

 

This post is sponsored by League.



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#WorkTrends: How to Take Control of Your Career as an “Employeepreneur”


We’ve all had those moments. You’re sitting at your desk, frustrated with your job, wondering just why your coworkers seem so happy. Are they crazy? Are you?

Well, maybe a few of them are, but they can’t all be. That revelation sent Dethra Giles on a journey of self-discovery, and by the end of it, she’d mastered the art of navigating her career. Now, she’s a leadership coach, keynote speaker, and author sharing her wisdom throughout the professional world — and with our audience this week on #WorkTrends.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

Your Biggest Distraction is Yourself

Giles sees her job as helping people optimize performance and eliminate distractions. But what are the distractions that hold us back? “Our biggest distractions are ourselves,” she says.

She points to quite a few of her clients who don’t apply for jobs because they’re scared of failure, a universal feeling. Or, as Giles puts it: “our messed-up way of thinking about ourselves.”

But why we are our own worst enemies? Giles says it’s simple. “We have killed that little kid in us who believed we could do anything,” she says. To get back on track, you’ve got to channel that brave kid — the one who had no problem climbing trees, getting hurt, and taking a few chances.

How We Can Be Better Leaders and Managers

But what about how we can impact others? Giles says that many organizations’ leaders fail because they do not have an accountability strategy. It’s something that confounds her. There is not much to an accountability strategy, she says. In fact, these strategies are pretty basic. “This isn’t new stuff,” she says. “We’ve learned these things since kindergarten.”

Additionally, Giles says, she believes that managers are simply not given enough training. Instead, too many organizations are focused on training their C-Suite, and they ignore the people who are in the trenches day-to-day with an organization’s employees. In her previous position working in HR for a large university in Atlanta, she actually made it a point to implement more training for managers. She found that managers who had more training earlier received fewer discrimination complaints, fewer sexual harrassment complaints, and fewer employee relations complaints. It was also better for the organization’s bottom line. “If we trained them earlier, we saved money,” she explains.

Why The Tough Conversations Are So Important

Giles is a strong proponent of addressing difficult, thorny issues in the workplace, such as race, religion, and politics. She believes that it’s a necessary part of moving these conversations forward, and finds it strange that people shy away from talking about tough issues. After all, she says, nearly every organization has a diversity initiative — “But you don’t want us to talk about it? That is the most backwards thing ever,” she says.

Ultimately, the lack of conversations around these topics stem from the same fear factor holding us back in other areas of our lives. We’re scared of talking about these topics in a way that might offend someone, or perhaps we don’t even know how to talk about some of these issues. “The reality is, we don’t want to address our incompetence and our fear,” Giles explains. But there’s only one way to address that incompetence: jump right in! You’re going to feel a lot better once you do.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode



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How Leaders at a 100-Year-Old Company Built an Innovative Recruiting Process


Tech and recruiting go hand in hand. It’s hard to recruit without a strong HR tech stack. But implementing these tools can be a challenge. If you work in HR, you may have experienced pushback from employees who don’t want to change their workflows, or from senior leaders who aren’t sold on the ROI of rolling out new recruiting tech.

But no matter how daunting change — or the Autobahn-like pace of it — may seem, tech is here to stay in HR, and if you want to attract quality candidates and create a candidate experience that serves them, you’ll have to embrace that change.

Angie Wesley, senior vice president and head of talent acquisition at TIAA, has overseen a wholesale change in the company’s recruiting process, as it has embraced new tech to navigate the modern candidate marketplace. “It was either going to come to us or we were going to have to join it,” she says. The tools have helped the organization, particularly in regard to creating a better candidate experience and creating a more streamlined process for compliance.

She shared her experience and advice for HR organizations implementing the tech tools they need to keep up with the Joneses.

Train, Train, and Train Some More

When it came to introducing new technology and automation to the recruiting process, Wesley says there wasn’t much organizational pushback, though she did have to navigate the concerns of her recruiters. “A lot of these recruiters are seasoned, so they have their own way of moving candidates through the process,” Wesley says. “We just had to make sure that we could show them how technology actually helps them, instead of inhibiting them.

To help recruiters understand the power of their new tools, TIAA used a variety of training programs, working with vendors to provide either in-person or web-based training. Wesley’s team also helped recruiters understand how their new tools had helped other businesses.

But Wesley says training isn’t just for implementation. Her team tracks the usage of some tools so they can see whether staffers are having issues. “If we have folks that are not using a certain technology or tool that’s in the process, we’re able to identify them and work with them to understand what the difficulty might be,” she says.

Put Candidates First

It should go without saying that employees’ comfort with their tech tools is a priority for organizations. But Wesley says the primary question TIAA asks about its recruiting tools is related to a different audience: candidates. “Candidate experience really sits at the front,” she says.

In order to meet candidates on their own terms, TIAA created a device-agnostic application process, and also updated its website to ensure it was mobile-friendly. “That was clearly a gap we needed to close,” Wesley says.

Candidates are provided assessments that can be done online on a schedule that is convenient to them, and TIAA has begun to embrace technology such as text messaging to further its commitment to reaching candidates on their own terms. “Not everybody’s checking their email,” Wesley says. “Texting is real time, and that allows us to immediately get some responses.”

The company also started a talent network to demonstrate its value to potential candidates, even if there isn’t necessarily a job available at the moment.

Wesley says TIAA’s embrace of technology is helping it meet the demands of a candidate-centered employment market. TIAA uses video interviews so that candidates don’t necessarily have to come to the office. “The majority of the population is currently working, so it’s a passive market,” Wesley says. “We don’t really want to intrude or disrupt their day.”

Keep Recruiting Human

Ultimately, rolling out tech in the recruiting process comes with an important consideration: making sure you keep the human element front and center. “What we are finding is candidates still want that human touch in the process somewhere,” Wesley says. “They don’t want technology to take care of everything.”

While Wesley says there’s no magic formula, she believes recruiting leaders need to understand the importance of telling their story and highlighting what makes their organization a unique place to work. “It’s hard to get technology to tell that story versus a human on the phone,” she says. In other words, technology is just the first step. “We leverage technology to start the conversation, and then we step in to finish it.”



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7 Tips to Manage a Diverse Workforce


Diversity! It’s an important topic we’re talking about a lot lately. Here’s something to think about: We often talk about diversity and inclusion within the confines of training and programs. But what about the day-to-day challenges and best practices of managing a diverse workforce? Here are seven tips from HR experts to help you successfully manage a diverse workforce.

Stop Thinking of Diversity as a Buzzword

HR is full of buzzwords these days, but diversity isn’t one of them — nor should it be treated as one. Too many organizations fall prey to superficial efforts to increase diversity. Programs and initiatives can be great tools, but they’re ultimately temporary.

Instead, remember that building a diverse and inclusive organization is something you must work on every day, just as your sales team hustles for leads and your accounting team keeps the books in order.

Make Diversity Part of Your Hiring Process

Building a diverse organization from the ground up takes time. Try auditing your hiring process to ensure that you’re interviewing a diverse slate of candidates. “Mandate that before a requisition can be closed, you have to be shown that you had a diverse slate,” says Amy Cappellanti-Wolf, chief human resources officer at Symantec.

Taking this actionable step is small, but it ensures that hiring officers aren’t simply hiring people who remind them of themselves. “It starts at the hiring process,” Cappellanti-Wolf says. If you want to show that you’re serious about building a more diverse organization, you have to look critically at how you assess and hire candidates.

Build Connections to Create Talent Pipelines

It’s enormously important to build internal talent pipelines for your organization, and ensuring that you have standards in your hiring process for interviewing diverse candidates is an important step toward creating a more inclusive business and culture.

But in order to create a truly diverse pipelines, companies need to look outside their walls, says La’Wana Harris, diversity and inclusion consultant and author. Harris recommends that companies reach out externally to organizations devoted to promoting diversity in the workplace, as well as educational institutions such as historically black colleges and universities. You’ll find plenty of talented candidates, and also will expand your hiring base.

Make Sure Leadership Is Aligned with Your Goals

Managing a diverse culture can be challenging at times. But without buy-in from leadership from the very beginning, it may be a lost cause.

As you look to address issues of diversity in your organization, be sure that leadership is briefed and on board with your plans. “If you don’t have leadership support, these things fail,” Cappellanti-Wolf says. Additionally, leadership’s behavior and actions will serve as examples for all levels of the organization, and set the tone for what’s expected of employees.

Examine Your Policies to Fight Systemic Inequality

Creating a more inclusive organization takes effort. But no matter what actions an organization takes, it must also be aware that its policies may be promoting systemic inequality. “Workplace policies, systems and processes can disproportionately impact historically marginalized populations,” Harris says.

To counter this, audit your policies. Ensure that your family-leave policy is supportive of LGBTQ parents as well as traditional couples. “Remote-work policies are another point of consideration for building a truly inclusive work environment,” Harris says. “Remote work can open up opportunities for individuals with visible and invisible disabilities.”

Create a Culture of Empathy and Forgiveness

Just as with any process within your organization, there will be hiccups with diversity and inclusion. But both Cappellanti-Wolf and Harris say that’s OK — and it’s no big deal. “We’re all struggling with the same challenges,” Cappellanti-Wolf says.

Leaders need to admit to mistakes, and to encourage others to do the same. Harris says that one way leaders can do this is by adopting a servant leadership mindset. “How do you bring out the best in someone else?” she says. “I’m a proponent of leaders making it their No. 1 goals to mine their employees: mine for the genius, mine for their power, mine for their brilliance.”

Ultimately, it’s about unlocking the potential in your employees. By tailoring your leadership philosophies to meet their needs, you’ll be better able to empathize with them, and when hiccups occur, they’ll understand that an honest mistake was made.

Find Your Blind Spots

Leaders must have the self-awareness to know that they’ll have certain blind spots when it comes to their employees and their employees’ experience. For example, maybe a leader doesn’t know the pronouns an employee prefers.

But what’s most important in these situations is that leaders be aware of their blind spots — and that they work to solve them. “I like to look at it as mirrors, windows and doors,” Harris says. “You look in the mirror and that’s self-awareness. You look out the window and you get perspectives from others to try to get a clue about your blind spots.”

The final step is the door — “What actions do I need to take to build an inclusive environment?”

This article was originally published in 2016 and substantially reworked in July 2019.



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8 Reasons Why You Should Be Prioritizing L&D NOW!


There are many benefits of learning at work. But L&D professionals often struggle to get stakeholders on board when pushing for investment in learning programs.

Yes, rolling out an effective L&D strategy can be expensive. But, in the long run, it’s an investment that can pay for itself many times over!

So let’s jump straight in with the research that can back up that boast, and explore eight good reasons why your organization should make learning and development a priority.

1. Learning Is Important to Employees

It’s important to listen to what your employees want. And, according to a 2019 report by human capital management software providers Ceridian, an overwhelming 86 percent of employees said it is important for employers to provide learning opportunities.

So, if you’re not providing the training they want and need, and not allocating enough time for it, it’s something that you need to address.

2. Learning Opportunities Attract New Talent

Learning not only helps you to retain the talent you already have, it can attract new talent, too. Learning specialists Udemy surveyed Millennial workers for their 2018 Millennials at Work report. They discovered that 42 percent of Millennials placed learning and development as the second most important benefit when deciding where to work.

3. Learning Leads to a Happier Workforce

Organizations that provide learning are found to have happier employees. And when people are happier, they’re more productive. The same Ceridian report mentioned above found that 83 percent of employees who work for a company that provides learning opportunities feel happy in their jobs.

4. Learning Leads to Better Engagement

If your employees are engaged with their roles, they’re less likely to want to work elsewhere. According to U.K.-based recruitment specialists Robert Half, businesses with a strong learning culture enjoy employee engagement and retention rates around 30-50 percent higher than those without. 

5. Effective L&D Boosts Your Bottom Line! 

It’s easy for the “bean counters” to target L&D when they’re looking for ways to trim corporate budgets. But that could prove to be a false economy. Research suggests that 63 percent of companies who cited leadership and management development as their top priority had an increased year on year turnover.

6. Replacing Employees Is Expensive!

Replacing talent is not only a time-consuming task: it’s costly too. Figures from recruitment experts Maddison Approach show that that replacing a current employee can cost up to a third of their annual salary, so it seems that investing in ways to retain your talent is worth every penny.

7. You’ll Retain Young Talent

How often do you hear, “Millenials are job hoppers,” or, “They’re always on the hunt for their next role?” Well, it turns out that’s not exactly the case.

U.S.-based employee development gurus Bridge reported that offering career training and development would keep 86 percent of Millennials from leaving their current position.

8. Learning Reduces Staff Turnover

If you’re not going to provide the training that your employees desire, it’s likely that they’ll start searching for somewhere else that does.

And this 2018 survey found that 51 percent of employees would quit their job if training was not offered. So unless you want your people to start sending out their CVs, you better get an L&D strategy in place, quick!

Click on the image below to download your free infographic, and use it to help make your case for Learning and Development!



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#WorkTrends: Building Your Personal Platform


If you work in HR, you know the importance of branding, particularly your employment brand. But what about our own personal brand?

The concept of personal branding might sound a bit uncomfortable for some, but this week’s guest, Cynthia Johnson, says personal branding really is about transforming your resume for the online age. She’s the author of the book “Platform: The Art and Science of Personal Branding,” and she joined us to give her advice on building a powerful personal brand — and why it’s important for employers to encourage their employees to do so.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

What Exactly Is Personal Branding?

“Personal branding” sounds a bit like a buzzword, but it’s not. In fact, it’s something that’s enormously useful for all of us, particularly those navigating the corporate ladder. “It’s an evolution of your resume,” Johnson says. “It’s a communication credit.”

In other words, think of personal branding as an opportunity to put yourself out there online. After all, “brands want to be people” in order to try to seem more human, Johnson says. But “humans are already human, so the branding part is pretty much done.”

What Can Companies Do to Encourage Personal Branding?

If your company gets skittish about employees posting on work-related issues then listen up, because Johnson has a stat for you: “If your employee shares information about you online, there’s a nearly 600% increase in engagement over what an influencer would have.”

That’s valuable from a marketing standpoint, and it’s no surprise that Johnson recommends that organizations encourage their employees to take charge of their personal brands. Employees can be natural advocates for their employer, and posts from employees have an authenticity to them that an influencer’s never can.

So provide guidelines — not rules — on social media etiquette to your employees. Explain how to represent the brand and what are acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. Trust that your employees will have good judgment, but remember that you’ll have to accept that things could go awry. Odds are that they won’t if you provide the right help. “If you aren’t giving resources, tools or guidelines on how to [post on social media], that’s when you’re going to lose control,” Johnson says.

What Can You Do to Build a Personal Brand?

Of course, maybe you recognize the importance of building a personal brand but you’re not sure how to do it. You’re juggling kids, work, yoga and bunco nights — how on earth are you supposed to find the time to build a personal brand?

Well, turns out that you probably do have the time. “Look at how much screen time you spend on your phone,” Johnson says. It’s probably more than you’d like to admit, but that screen time is time you can apply to building your personal brand.

“Start small,” Johnson says. “Take down old photos that shouldn’t be there. Put a nice photo up, put your job title somewhere — just those small steps.” As you take those steps, focus on putting out information about yourself. Remember, all you’re doing is creating a new type of resume. As time goes on, you’ll begin to see the benefits. And make sure to check in periodically to ensure you’re putting your best foot forward.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode



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L&D Blog » 6 Things the Best Firms Are Doing to Give Learning Impact!


Developing and implementing a learning and development plan is only half the story – you also have to show that your learning is having a real impact within your organization.

And there’s more to that than just gathering some data, picking out a few metrics, and pointing to “success” on paper.

Over the past five months, talent management and learning specialists RedThread Research have surveyed more than 40 L&D leaders about their strategies for measuring and analyzing employee development.

And earlier this week, RedThread shared their findings with us during our webinar, “Having Learning Impact vs. Showing Learning Impact.”

RedThread co-founder and principal analyst, Dani Johnson, highlighted six practices that leading organizations follow to demonstrate what they do to encourage and deliver employee development, and the impact it has on their organizations.

1. Understand Your Business Goals

In order to carry out your L&D strategy successfully, it’s important that leaders are aware of, and understand, their organization’s overall aims.

There are three basic questions that more evolved organizations need to ask about setting clear business goals:

1. Business direction: how will L&D affect the business goals?

2. How success is measured: how does the organization measure business goals?

3. Collaboration is key: who do you need to collaborate with in order to ensure that this is successful?

2. Consider All the Levers of Learning Impact

RedThread found that there are six “levers” to learning, and in order to enable learning in the workplace, L&D leaders should be using them all.

  • Plan: how are we helping employees to plan their own development?
  • Discover: how do we help employees to find what they need?
  • Consume: what channels do we provide for delivering learning content and experiences?
  • Experiment: how do we enable experimentation with new knowledge and skills?
  • Connect: are we connecting employees with each other in the right ways? 
  • Perform: how do we help people to learn while doing their job? 

3. Make Your Metrics, Choose Data

Many organizations default to the metrics that their learning technology offers them. But RedThread found that more evolved organizations determined their own metrics and chose their own data sources. 

There is often confusion between data and metrics, and in order to choose the right measurements for your organization, you need to understand the differences between the two. 

There are four main characteristics that you can use to define metrics:

  • Contextual: metrics aren’t just numbers on a screen. There has to be context as to why they’re chosen.
  • Deliberate: they are chosen deliberately to tie into a particular measure of success.
  • Calculated: metrics can be analyzed to determine their value, and how or where they should be applied.
  • Directional: metrics are used to measure success, so understanding which way you want your metrics to move is really important.

Choosing your data sources is important too, so don’t just round up the usual suspects – look for data that will help you tell your story.

4. Choose Leading and Lagging Indicators

L&D leaders also highlighted the importance of using indicators to predict and explain trends in data. These kinds of indicators can be split into two types: leading indicators and lagging indicators.

Lagging indicators are used to confirm long-term trends, as significant changes in a company generally occur before trends in the market.

Leading indicators are often predictive in nature, and can offer valuable information to help organizations to adjust or change.

5. Be Consistent

When it comes to collecting data, consistency is key. The L&D leaders highlighted two factors to keep in mind to help keep your data consistent.

First, even if you’re collecting the right metrics, they aren’t always immediately useful. Make sure that you collect them consistently over time, so you can refer to them at the moment of need. 

Second, make sure that you’re standardizing your results. Collect and format data in the same way across your organization.

6. Illustrate Your Story

When you’re telling your data story, present it in the most engaging, compelling way. Here are three things that top L&D leaders consider when delivering their information.

Be graphic: a picture is worth a thousand words, so grab people’s attention with a great visual display. Use charts and diagrams and images, not just facts and figures.

Know your audience: think about who you’re presenting to, and make sure you’re talking about the data points that are important to them.

Focus: it can sometimes be tempting to include everything, but not all data is relevant to everyone. Make sure that you only use data that helps to make your point, or tells your story.

Want to learn more? Download the full webinar and slides here, or visit the RedThread Research to see the full report.



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Looking back, looking ahead: Customers are driving capabilities for their business and people


On stage at Microsoft Inspire 2019, Judson Althoff, Microsoft executive vice president, and Unilever’s Dave Penrith, chief engineer, demo a digital twin of Unilever’s Valinhos, Brazil, factory on a computer animation created by Microsoft Studios.

This week in Las Vegas, at Microsoft Inspire, our annual partner event, I had several conversations about  the year we’ve had and what is next for the industry, including opportunities to bring the latest innovations to our mutual customers. Together we are building incredible momentum, truly transforming industries and redefining the art of what is possible. As we move into this new fiscal year, I am particularly energized by the traction I see with open cloud engagements – and the collaborative nature of our partnerships with companies across the world.

This morning’s news of our extensive and multi-year strategic collaboration with AT&T is another example of partnering to deliver unique solutions for our mutual customers, leveraging the strength of AT&T’s network and our cloud expertise. We expect our customers to benefit across a range of scenarios where 5G can enable critical near-instantaneous communications across industries. For example, imagine a first responder using AI-powered live voice translation to quickly communicate with someone in need who speaks a different language. Microsoft will be AT&T’s preferred cloud provider for non-network applications on Microsoft Azure and support AT&T as it consolidates its data center infrastructure and operations. In addition, AT&T will provide most of its workforce with robust cloud-based productivity and collaboration tools with Microsoft 365.

Unilever, a company whose products touch 2.5 billion consumers every day, also made a big impression this week at Microsoft Inspire. Dave Penrith, chief engineer at Unilever, joined me onstage to showcase how digital is empowering the company’s nearly 155,000 employees globally to do their best work with Microsoft 365 (including Teams and Yammer). Unilever is also building custom apps that harness real-time insights from data with PowerApps and Power BI and using Azure IoT’s digital twin technology to represent the physical production lines in its Valinhos Dove factory to digitize its supply chain network.

Of course, Microsoft Inspire is just one moment in time. Over the past 12 months, we’ve made headway across a diverse set of customers and industries.

Earlier this year, in the health care industry, we announced a seven-year, strategic cloud partnership with Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA). WBA will harness the power of Microsoft Azure, Microsoft’s cloud and AI platform, Microsoft 365, health industry investments and new retail solutions with WBA’s customer reach, convenient locations, outpatient health care services and industry expertise to make health care delivery more personal, affordable and accessible for people around the world. Most recently, UCLA Health shared how they are moving to our cloud to help speed research and improve patient care, and our new multi-year strategic alliance with Providence St. Joseph Health will harness the power of Azure and AI to deploy next-generation solutions in health care and power their employees with Microsoft 365 and Teams.

These are just some of the recent examples that highlight Microsoft’s customer-first approach. In fact, the world’s leading companies choose Azure for their mission-critical workloads, including more than 95 percent of the Fortune 500. In addition, this year we shared stories with retail industry leaders like Walmart, Kroger, Gap, Inc., Albertsons Companies, Starbucks, Neiman Marcus and Coles, and in the automotive industry with Daimler, BMW, Volkswagen and Renault Nissan Mitsubishi. With manufacturing, Airbus demonstrated how HoloLens and mixed reality are helping double its life-to-date aircraft production while improving quality, safety and security.

We continue to invest in technology partnerships to ensure Microsoft’s cloud is the best platform for our customers not only to access all their data, but to understand, process and act on that data to innovate.  Microsoft’s open cloud approach has been demonstrated time and again. We continue to advance our Open Data Initiative with SAP and Adobe, including progress announced earlier this year empowers customers like Coke, Unilever, Walmart and HP to build data models that meet their enterprise needs. In the past quarter, we announced a strategic partnership with Dell Technologies to provide customers with a fully native, supported and certified VMware experience on Microsoft Azure and the ability to extend Microsoft 365 and Windows Virtual Desktop. We announced a cloud interoperability partnership with Oracle using Azure services like Analytics and AI, and are continuing our work with Red Hat to make its extensive portfolio of technologies available on Azure. Plus, we announced last week that Service Now, running on Microsoft Azure, will enable enterprise customers in certain highly regulated industries, such as government, to accelerate their digital transformation and drive new levels of insights and innovation.

It is humbling to see all the ways our customers and partners are embracing technology. Whether large or small, companies are driving new experiences and solutions across every industry, redefining innovation and creating impactful change for the future of their businesses and employees. Their journeys are powerful, and we are fortunate to have the opportunity to be their trusted partners along the way.

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