Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Feedback is breakfast for champions

Feedback is sooooooooooooo important if you want to grow, excel or further develop. Both giving and receiving feedback can be very powerful, but for some reason many people are really bad at it. I would like to share my opinion on this topic with you and some useful insights to improve your feedback skills.

Giving feedback

  • Be clear about the message. Don't cover up negative feedback with an endless long introduction with compliments. You only give these compliments to sleep better at night and temper your conscious.
  • Don't think your associate did a good job, but tell him he did a good job ! Many people are apparently afraid to give positive feedback. If somebody did a good job, tell him, and you'll see a smile on his face. If you don't tell him he might avoid the effort next time. 
  • Don't wait for the annual appraisal to give feedback ! OK, the appraisals are a formal moment to give somebody feedback on his work, but during the year you are also allowed to give feedback to your staff !
  • Not only bosses should give feedback ! Upwards feedback can also be very strong. Ok, I agree you should be carefull, especially with negative feedback and OK don't compliment your boss every day or he might think you need a raise. But when you have honest feedback for you boss, give it to him in an authentic way. 
Receiving feedback
  • Listen carefully when somebody is giving you feedback, you might learn something ! Both negative and positive feedback can be great learning moments. Be open when somebody has the courage to give you feedback.
  • Don't turn on the defense mode when you receive feedback. If you turn on the defense mode, great feedback will turn up into a fight and that's a waste of energy as we know. 
  • Accept compliments. Compliments give us energy and make us aware we are doing the right things right. 

And most of all, don't forget the words of Ken Blanchard 


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

How KBC, BNP and Alcatel Lucent use Social Media in Learning & Development

Yesterday (23 October 2012) I attended an interesting seminar about how organizations can use Social Media in Learning & Development. The event was organized by VOV ( Below, you find my take aways on this event, including two testimonials by KBC, BNP Paribas Fortis and Alcatel Lucent and the outcomes of research done by the Brussels University.

Why did I attend this event ? 
I frequently use social media like Blogger, Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, Youtube and when my kids ask me what sound a whale makes, we search youtube and get an answer in the blink of an eye.  And still, there is quite some unknown territory out there for me too. I do believe the use of social media has great added value if it is well used.

Before you continue this article, you can view this youtube movie on social media and its impact on society :

Getting started with social media in Learning & Development :
First of all, I believe we should only use social media if they contribute to the objective of the learning event. We should not use it, because we want to be fashionable.

On the other hand, social media give us sooooo many opportunities to take the learning event to a higher level. Some ideas can be the use of blogs to provide new updates after the training, start up a linkedin community with participants of a certain training to stay in touch...

Case KBC :
KBC developed a specific program for the introduction of their youngsters. An important element in this youngsters program is the development of a virtual community via Linkedin. This community was launched with a get together where all participants got a good explanation of the purpose, how to start & use the group, ...
Important element in this case was a clear WIIFM (what's in it for me) for the participants. All communications about exams in the training program, content, ... was only communicated via the linkedin group. This forced people to visit and use the linkedin group frequently.
A nice side-effect of this group was that people found each other via the linkedin group and arranged lunch to get together on top of the training to exchange ideas. The fysical contact remained valuable for the participants.

Case Alcatel Lucent :
Knowledge is of 2 kinds : we know a subject ourselves or we know where we can find info upon it. Technology and social media can help us to bridge this gap.
There are 3 important questions we should ask ourselves :
  • Do we know what we know ? 
  • Do we know what we should know ? 
  • Do we know where we can find the absent information ? 
An average employee in an organization spends 1 day/week to find necessary information to get his job done. (Laurie Buzeck - Intel).

If you want to start up a learning platform with social media to create a forum for collaborative learning. Before you start up such a platform you need 2 important elements : yellow pages with information of everybody and 1 single workspace.
Besides you need clear specs like how to :
  • find and publish information
  • get in touch and communicate with others in the group
  • Share & build information
  • most of all : a user friendly environment
Once they released the learning platform people just started using the tool. Alcatel didn't have to promote it. It was promoted mouth to mouth because people immediately saw the advantage of it. They started groups on the platform, discussions and shared information. Alcatel allowed them to add both professional and non-professional information (e.g. photography). All of this added to the corporate culture and contributed to the learning at Alcatel.

Once Alcatel installed the tool, the results were amazing :
  • After 1,5 years more than 90% of all employees worldwide use the learning tool
  • 71% find it more easily to connect with others
  • 55% finds it easier to collaborate
  • 60% finds it easier to contribute content to the system

Case BNP Paribas Fortis :
Opposite to the other cases, BNP has (only) a tool for corporate learning and no tool for collaborative learning (like the above mentioned tool). Due to budget limitations, BNP had to be very creative to make learning effects last.

Together with a team of ambassadors they created some really good add-ons. First a large group attended a training on leadership. After a certain period, they asked the ambassadors to tell in a short movie how they used the learnings, what were the obstacles & experiences they perceived, ... These movies are now a very solid knowledge tank for further learning events.

All 3 cases are very different and interesting. All organizations were facing different challenges and it is due to curiosity of a limited group of people who started exploring the possibilities of social media as add on for learning & development that the rest of the orgnanization benefits from it.

What can we learn from this ? 
You don't need huge budgets to start using social media. Just think about it, but don't think too long. Start using it and integrate it in your learning strategy.

Good luck !

Friday, October 5, 2012

Motivated at the age of 90

Today I visited the 90 year old legend of my home town (Brasschaat - Belgium). It was again a great experience.

my kids in "De Zoete Inval"
Flor is 90 years old and runs a candy store - De Zoete Inval (The Sweet Invasion) like no one else could do. Flor started his candy store in 1944 and up till a few years ago he was open 7/7, no staff, just Flor. Today he is "only" 6 days a week open. I used to go to this candy store with my parents and today I took my kids.

How can I describe Flor ? 
Flor is always in for a joke. He is always friendly to everybody and he simply enjoys the small things in life.
He has difficulties to walk, so he has two sticks to stand up. If you want something, he tells you to get it yourself. First take one of his gloves and then you can grab what you want.
He is still very sharp in his head and he'll tell you how much you'll have to pay, without using a calculator.
I remember a few years ago, there was a lady in his store asking advise, because she wanted to start up her own candy store. His reply was frank, but probably true: "don't do it ! there is too much competition from supermarkets and other big stores. People come here because of me, because they grew up in this town". And that's true.
Flor in his candystor (picture Humo 3752)
What can we learn from this ?
I hope, we all find a job that gives you so much energy you can keep on going for 70 years. Happy, motivated, friendly and enjoying what we are doing. I believe we have to search for a job that gives us this energy!

Flor didn't have a PhD, he didn't have a big sponsor behind him. He is just doing what he is good at and what he enjoys.

Thank you Flor for all the sweets we bought in De Zoete Inval. Thank you for being so motivated every day. Thank you.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Are you motivated to get up in the morning ?

How do you feel in the morning ?

  • Option A : Yes ! another day full of fun, opportunities and challenge
  • Option B : Shit, is that the alarm ? I want to stay in bed for another 3 hours...
Living option A 365 days a year is perhaps too ideal. Every body is entitled to have an off-day once in a while. Maybe you had a bad sleep, maybe you are sick that day, I don't know. If you have every week 1 or more off-days there is a HUGE problem. 

And let me tell you something, YOU CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT ! Take initiative. 
  • Take initiative to talk to the colleagues you've been avoiding over the last month for whatever reason you've been avoiding him (probably you don't even remember the true reason by now)
  • If you don't like your job, write a CV and apply for a more challenging job, that matches your passions. Talk to HR to find out if there are any other job opportunities within the company. 
  • If your salary is too low, do something to increase your salary ! Salary is a result of responsibility and complexitiy of your job. If you take more responsibility or do a more complex job, your salary will rise in the near future. 
  • Be positive ! People prefer positive people above negative.
  • Chase the dream you've been thinking about for the last 15 years, but you were always afraid to jump. (I wrote a small booklet about this : get your own download here - only in Dutch, but get a booklet of Ship it by Seth Godin to have an English version)
So bottom line : Take initiative and live your life. Don't waste it or wait for your retirement. Do things you believe in and be positive. 

Keep a calendar to evaluate if you had a good or a bad day. A friend told me yesterday he installed this calendar and every day at the end of the day he and his colleague decide wheather it was a bad day - neutral - good day. It had great impact on their motivation. Even on days when everything went wrong they felt good, because they were challenged and had fun. Visualize your fun-days and in a month you'll realize it was not such a bad time after all. 

Challenge n°1 : Anticipate on the brain drain

Brain drain has always been a sensitive subject. Especially when we talk about the most valuable employees in our teams. But before we dig deeper into the subject, we should think about "what is brain drain ?"

Origin and meaning of the term Brain Drain 
Brain Drain is the loss of competences. In the past, this term was mainly used for the migration of highly educated people from third world countries towards countries with higher development standards. The reasons were often higher salaries, better training, ... The result was (and still is) that third world countries loose their best workforce.

Brain drain in our companies
Today our companies are facing big challenges to retain and keep their most valuable employees. The strenghts of organisations are often within the employees. If a high performer leaves the organization, we can consider this as Brain Drain.

Brain drain happens through 2 doors at the same time !
I see 2 important forms of brain drain : on the one hand there are a lot of people who will retire within the next 10 years, on the other hand, we have young employees who more easily than ever switch companies and jobs.

Anticipate on retirement
These people have gathered great experience and know how over the past decades and most of what they know is tacit knowledge. This tacit knowledge is only within the minds of the employees and not written down in manuals, procedures, ...
Many of these "older" employees are often willing to share their expertise, but... you'll have to give them a hand. How ?

  • Train them to map their experiences, knowledge, skills : what do they know ? Often when you ask them to do a difficult handling and you ask how they do it, they answer "I don't know, I just do it...". 
  • Train them to train others : once you realize what you know, you need to be able to pass on this knowledge. How can share my insights with others ? 
  • Give them time to transfert their knowledge and give them the role of mentor / coach. 
An example :
In one of the companies I used to work for they didn't have any jobdescriptions & competence profiles. Too often these documents are developed outside-in and don't work because of this approach. I wanted instruments that truly work because I believe they are a solid base for many other development processen. I asked the person who was best in the job (often a very experienced person) and the person who could explain it most easily to tell me what they were doing and what competences they need to do this job. This was the first step in the mapping of jobdescriptions and competences. 
I also asked per competence who was the best person in the team. 
Afterwards I developed solid introduction and training plans. Every new hires got a buddy coach and thanks to the competence mapping they knew who to talk to when they wanted to develop a certain competence. 
This resulted in a autodidactic group - they started to train each other and took the group to a higher level. 

Retain generation Y
It is not only generation Y, but we should talk about all generations in this chapter. Studies claim that new generations more easily switch jobs and thus leave companies. This is probably true, and it brings the next question to our attention : why should we train all these new youngsters if they leave us within the next 2 or 3 years. 
The answer is clear to me : if you don't train them they will even leave faster. Generation Y (and younger generations) are eager to learn. They want to develop their skills to grow. A company who doesn't support them in their growth is considered to be a bad employer. 

My advise on this topic is to install solid introduction & training plans for your new hires. Follow up on their personal development and the status of their training plans. And I don't mean to follow up via an IT tool ! Keep the communication personal. Last week I was in a company where all HR related topics go via a help desk who is not even part of that company. People really felt NOT being supported by HR... 

A few years ago I was training & recruitment manager in one of the biggest companies in Antwerp. A newspaper contacted us to give us the award of "best business school" for engineers. Some of my colleagues didn't want to be in the newspaper with this award because they were afraid of headhunters chasing our best engineers. I persisted and we got an 8 page article in the newspaper bringing the story of how we invested in the development of our employees and the internal jobopportunities they got every time the wanted to move up. We had a job- & project market for our employees. This was the secret why all our engineers stayed. 

So my advise to you : keep jobs challenging and open the dialogue with your employees. 
You might say "this is not new!". You are right ! Unfortunately many companies do not have an active policy on these topics and due to budget savings they have to stop good initiatives...

To avoid brain drain in your company, make sure you have a good mapping of who is competent at what and invest in the professional development of each and every employee. This is the simple truth about retention of good employees !