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September 2017 |

Signature Healthcare’s

Mary McNevin

Black Belt Mentors - Avoiding the Curse of the Consultant - Learning on the Fly Soft Is the New Strong - Designing a Learning Budget You Can Defend

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Don’t Know Much About History


t a press conference during a recent state visit to France, President Donald Trump thanked his host, French President Emmanuel Macron, and said, “France is America’s first and oldest ally. A lot of people don’t know that.” He followed that up with, “France helped us secure our independence, a lot of people forget.” What was that you heard? That was the thunderous clap of America’s history teachers slapping their foreheads in unison. Forgive them their frustration. This is American History 101. During the long years of the American Revolution, it was France that provided cash as well as troops and ships under the command of the Marquis de Lafayette to aid the struggling young nation. Now, before I go too far, my intent is not a political one. I’ve studiously avoided writing about politics in Chief Learning Officer. That’s not because I don’t have opinions. I’ve got a few. Rather, there simply hasn’t been much coming out of Washington that’s of consequence for the work of CLOs. Outside of a brief mention about apprenticeships, the

Closing the skills gap is a chance for CLOs to be historic. biggest education news happened when Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said during her Senate confirmation hearing that we need guns in schools to control the rampaging bear problem that is apparently keeping our students from their studies. That crazy story was quickly overshadowed by wave after wave of news about the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the election to repeated efforts by Congressional Republicans to repeal Obamacare and tales of internal drama at the White House. Through it all, CLOs simply go about their job despite the Game of Thrones in the nation’s capital. Diligently and without drama, they ensure employees up and down the organization have the tools, information and skills to carry out the organization’s mission. Back to the French revelation. It’d easy to brush off the president’s comment as a joke if he didn’t have past form. It’s not the first time he seemed to express genuine surprise at information many Americans already know. At an event for African-American History Month, he said abolitionist and civil rights pioneer Frederick Douglass “is being recognized more and more” even though Douglass’ autobiography of his amazing journey from 4 Chief Learning Officer • September 2017 •

slave to President Abraham Lincoln’s confidant is required reading for students of history and literature. And of course, who knew health care could be so complicated? Not the president but it’s a safe bet that the 600,000-plus doctors, 3 million or so nurses and the legion of insurance and care providers who work in the $3 trillion industry did. And, of course, there are the legislators and policymakers who have been laboring at it for decades. But none of that changes the fact that the president is actually right. Not a lot of people do know about the French role in the American Revolution, nor do they know much about history in general. According to one survey, less than 20 percent of college graduates could identify what effect Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had on the nation. It’s not just knowledge of history that is lacking. Half of U.S. employers think college graduates are not adequately prepared for their post-collegiate careers, according to a 2016 survey by PayScale. Herein lies a golden opportunity for CLOs to insert themselves, not into politics, but into education policy. There was a time in the not too distant past when a young person could acquire a skill and fashion a lifelong career out of it. No longer. The generation entering the workforce now will likely go through three or even four significant career changes in their working lives. That fact, with the existence of the skills gap, means employers need to play a much more direct role in pre-employment education. Beyond educating your current workforce, get involved in local workforce development groups that are working to address the skills gap. Get in touch with community colleges and universities to see how you can work together. Reach deep into the pool of future talent by getting involved in STEM programs. For a role that laments its lack of a seat at the table, closing the skills gap provides a stellar opportunity for CLOs to be strategic. Your employer needs you to do it. The workforce needs it. The economy as a whole can benefit from your involvement. That might be information not a lot of people know. But they should. And that includes the president. CLO

Mike Prokopeak Editor in Chief

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CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Matt Bingham Ken Blanchard William C. Byham Randy Emelo Tasha Eurich Sarah Fister Gale Elliott Masie Lee Maxey Bob Mosher Jack J. Phillips Patti P. Phillips Gary Schafer Arva Shikari


CHIEF LEARNING OFFICER EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD Cushing Anderson, Program Director, Learning Ser vices, IDC Frank J. Anderson Jr., ( Ret.) President, Defense Acquisition Universit y Cedric Coco, EVP, Chief People Of ficer, Brookdale Senior Living Inc. Lisa Doyle, Head of Retail Training, Ace Hardware Tamar Elkeles, Chief Talent Executive, Atlantic Bridge Capital Thomas Evans, ( Ret.) Chief Learning Of ficer, PricewaterhouseCoopers Ted Henson, Senior Strategist, Oracle Gerry Hudson-Martin, Director, Corporate Learning Strategies, Business Architects Kimo Kippen, Vice President, Global Workforce Initiatives, Hilton Worldwide Rob Lauber, Vice President, Chief Learning Of ficer, McDonald’s Corp. Maj. Gen. Erwin F. Lessel, ( Ret.) U.S. Air Force, Director, Deloit te Consulting Justin Lombardo, ( Ret.) Chief Learning Of ficer, Baptist Health Adri Maisonet-Morales, Vice President, Enterprise Learning and Development, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina Alan Malinchak, CEO, Éclat Transitions LLC and STRATactical LLC Lee Maxey, CEO, MindMax Jeanne C. Meister, Author and Independent Learning Consultant Bob Mosher, Senior Par tner and Chief Learning Evangelist, APPLY Synergies Rebecca Ray, Executive Vice President, The Conference Board Allison Rossett, ( Ret.) Professor of Educational Technology, San Diego State Universit y Diana Thomas, CEO and Founder, Winning Results David Vance, Executive Director, Center for Talent Repor ting Kevin D. Wilde, Executive Leadership Fellow, Carlson School of Management, Universit y of Minnesota Chief Learning Officer (ISSN 1935-8148) is published monthly, except bi-monthly in January/February and November/December by MediaTec Publishing Inc., 111 E. Wacker Dr., Suite 1200, Chicago IL 60601.  Periodicals postage paid at Chicago, IL and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Chief Learning Officer, P.O. Box 8712 Lowell, MA 01853. Subscriptions are free to qualified professionals within the US and Canada. Digital free subscriptions are available worldwide. Nonqualified paid subscriptions are available at the subscription price of $199 for 12 issues.  All countries outside the US and Canada must be prepaid in US funds with an additional $33 postage surcharge.  Single price copy is $29.95 Chief Learning Officer and are the trademarks of MediaTec Publishing Inc. Copyright © 2016, MediaTec Publishing Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of material published in Chief Learning Officer is forbidden without permission. Printed by: Quad/Graphics, Sussex, WI






22 Profile A Vital View on Learning Sarah Fister Gale Signature Healthcare’s Chief People Officer Mary McNevin is changing the lives of employees and patients through learning.

50 Case Study Growing a Model for Leadership Arva Shikari Consulting firm Mindtree’s revamped leadership model puts down its roots in leadership agility.

54 Business Intelligence The Business Case for Leadership Development William C. Byham New analysis sheds light on how CLOs can prove leadership development pays off. ON THE COVER: PHOTO BY WILLIAM DeSHAZER

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September 2017


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Black Belt Mentors


Randy Emelo Whether done informally or formally, certifying people to lead mentoring programs is an important component for success.

Elliott Masie The Future of Learning Careers


Avoiding the Curse of the Consultant Jack J. Phillips and Patti P. Phillips As learning organizations turn to a consulting-based model, simple steps ensure this approach delivers the value promised and builds rather than harms your department’s credibility.

Bob Mosher What’s Old Is New Again


Learning on the Fly

Sarah Fister Gale Though not a new concept, adaptive learning is gaining favor as a fresh way to personalize the learning experience.


Soft Is the New Strong Sarah Fister Gale Companies are prioritizing soft skills training especially for millennials who aspire to lead.

Designing a Learning Budget You Can Defend Gary Schafer Use this budget season to ensure your learning organization achieves its true business potential.

Ken Blanchard The Two Sides of Servant Leadership

Lee Maxey Bridging the Last Mile


Tasha Eurich Backing Up Feedback

Resources 4 Editor’s Letter

Don’t Know Much About History

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Chief Learning Officer • September 2017 •



The Future of Learning Careers

Shrinking learning departments reflect a changing role for learning • BY ELLIOTT MASIE

T Elliott Masie is the chairman and CLO of The Masie Center’s Learning Consortium and CEO of The Masie Center, an international think tank focused on learning and workplace productivity. To comment, email editor@ CLOmedia.‌com.

here’s a shift happening in the learning field that mize and does not contain any learning professionis easy to notice. I see significantly fewer full-time als; yet it is deeply involved in content and activity learning and development employees delivering prodevelopment. I met with one of this team’s leaders grams to their own staff. who said that they don’t use words like “objective” In some organizations, the number of L&D profesor “outcome” because they are in what this leader sionals has dropped by as much as 80 percent. Yet, called the “social knowledge space.” The future of there is actually more learning happening than ever before. So what is happening to our field and what lies ahead for learning as an organizational function? Here are several elements that have collectively led to a smaller number of full-time L&D employees: • Reduction in face-to-face classes: A large number of learning folks used to be called “trainers” in “training departments.” They were subject matter experts who had a passion for classroom delivery. We brought them into the learning function for a few years or for long careers as teachers. The total number of internally led classes has dropped, replaced by asynchronous e-learning or by webinars that are delivered virtually. In those cases, SMEs are still being used but they are borrowed for that learning will include more embedded content and function while keeping their line jobs. context than traditional courses. • Learning roles in the business units vs. L&D • Skill gaps in learning: A big challenge is the need groups: In areas that have high levels of turnover for a new set of skills. There is an enormous need such as retail, sales and front-line roles, there are for expertise in data analytics, curation of learning larger numbers of learning colleagues with jobs that content, performance and workflow support, and are located in a line of business or function. They user experience design. often have a modifier to describe their learning re- • Glass ceilings: There are significant limits that sponsibility such as sales readiness manager or field constrain the long-term career opportunities for leader for induction. They may have a dotted-line current and future learning professionals. Some connection to the L&D department but often see of these are titles (e.g. instructional designer) that their careers aligning with another business funcdescribe competencies but do not suggest the tion. As a result, they are less likely to identify themability to perform other functions. I like to use selves primarily as learning professionals. the title “learning producer,” which has a wider • External sourcing of learning development: set of future options. In addition, many learning The number of internal instructional designers professionals are perceived as lacking hard busihas also dropped significantly. A large percentage ness skills. This can be corrected with stretch asof asynchronous content is being designed and signments in business roles and by shifting coldeveloped under contract by external providers or lege programs to include more content on career licensed from a content supplier or industry assoenablers like business performance rather than ciation. In some companies the on-site instruclearning strategies and models like ADDIE. tional designers may be brought in for a specific It is time for the learning field to have a deep and project rather than added to the learning team. open conversation about how we re-engineer our craft, • Learning that does not sound like learning: our skills and our careers. The workforce and our One large manufacturing company has a team that world need agile, innovative and business-aligned creates short video clips focused on recent safety learning colleagues to face the changing workplace of problems or challenges. The team is called Maxi- the future. Let’s step up to the challenge. CLO

10 Chief Learning Officer • September 2017 •

The workforce needs agile, innovative and business-aligned learning colleagues.



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What’s Old Is New Again

Let’s talk about new methodologies before introducing yet another approach • BY BOB MOSHER


Bob Mosher is a senior partner and chief learning evangelist for APPLY Synergies, a strategic consulting firm. To comment, email

’m going to start this column by sharing my bias. Our industry is full of jargon and too attracted to the shiny penny. If there’s anything my 35-plus years in the learning field have shown me, it’s that we like to make stuff up, give it a name, talk about it at conferences and stuff it into our toolkit way too quickly. We quickly jump to new approaches before we fully vet them against how we are currently doing things. There’s a long list of examples to prove it. From the laserdisc player (that’s right, I was around when that technology hit the learning radar) to gamification, we often put modality ahead of methodology. It has not served us well. Before you start sending hate mail, let me be clear. I’m not saying gamification or any of the newest trends don’t have merit or aren’t worth your time. I’m saying we need to be careful and analyze these approaches before we throw them into the mix. Learners are already overwhelmed by the options existing today. Adding one more is not always the answer and if we decide to do it, isn’t it time we retired a few? Our love of shiny new pennies isn’t matched by a desire to get rid of dull, old modalities that don’t complement approaches we’re introducing. More is not always better. Enter microlearning. I have to admit when I first heard that term, I rolled my eyes and thought, “Is this informal learning all over again?” There is such a thing as informal learning but the category is too broad to get our arms around. It means everything from conversations around the communal coffee pot to sophisticated electronic support systems. How do you design for that? Thankfully, as the dust settled we heard less about informal learning and more about specific disciplines and modalities which help us better serve learners. It has also helped us develop scalable design methodologies to serve the many areas of informal learning. One thing that has helped me recognize an effective, well-defined discipline has been the response from our industry or the learners we serve. If you can’t explain with a one- or two-sentence answer, you’re in trouble. Virtual instruction, e-learning and instructor-led training are easy to explain. Does microlearning pass the test or do you end up explaining with other modalities such as, “It’s a lot of videos on our server” or “We’ve made a lot of smaller e-learning modules.” As an industry, we must have the all-important con-

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versation about a new term or modality before we inflict it on learners. I’ve experienced this frustration in my own work in performance support. Gloria Gery did a brilliant job of introducing us to this discipline as far back as 1991 yet I continuously see our industry’s effort

When I first heard microlearning, I rolled my eyes and thought, ‘Is this informal learning all over again?’ to blur the lines with yet another buzzword or approach. Every time we arrive at a label and methodology, a conference speaker or vendor throws out a conflicting term. Not only is this frustrating for learning professionals, it clouds the landscape for learners and those who pay our salaries. So what is microlearning? New? Old? Window dressing on existing approaches? How do you design it in a scalable way and measure effectiveness? How does it complement existing approaches? What technologies enable it effectively? We are obligated to answer these and many other questions if we’re going to introduce yet another approach to the already crowded learning and support ecosystem. I don’t pretend to have the answers to these questions. But I would like to have the answers before investing already over-stretched resources on building it and explaining to clients what purpose it serves. I’m not a pessimist but rather a realist. In more than 35 years in this industry, I’ve seen many new and effective learning and support methodologies and technologies. Each has had a profound impact on what I do and how well learners ultimately perform on the job. My reservations come from my own experience and the many black eyes I suffered when rushing to an approach ahead of its time. Let’s not do the same with microlearning. Whatever that is. CLO


The Two Sides of Servant Leadership

Combine visionary and operational thinking to generate results • BY KEN BLANCHARD

W Ken Blanchard is chief spiritual officer of The Ken Blanchard Cos. and coauthor of “Collaboration Begins with You: Be a Silo Buster.” To comment, email editor@

hen people hear the phrase servant leadership, they are often confused. They think you can’t lead and serve at the same time. But you can if you understand that servant leadership consists of two parts: • A visionary or strategic role — the leadership aspect of servant leadership. • An implementation or operational role — the servant aspect of servant leadership. The visionary role involves establishing a compelling vision that tells people who you are (your purpose), where you’re going (your picture of the future) and what will guide your journey (your values). When Walt Disney started his theme parks he had a clear purpose. He didn’t say his company was in the theme park business. He said, “We’re in the happiness business.” Why the distinction? Being in the happiness business helps keep Disney employees aware of the company’s primary goal. Disney’s clear purpose for his theme parks also helps his people understand the company’s picture of the future: “To keep the same smile on people’s faces when they leave the park as when they entered.” The final aspect of establishing a compelling vision for Disney theme parks was to identify values that would guide staff and management on their journey. Disney parks have four rank-ordered values called the Four Keys: safety, courtesy, the show and efficiency. Why is safety the highest ranked value? Walt Disney knew if a guest was carried out on a stretcher that person would not have the same smile on their face leaving the park that they had when they entered.

strategic initiatives for their people to focus on. After the vision and direction are set, it’s time to turn the organizational pyramid upside down and focus on implementation — the servant aspect of servant leadership. Nordstrom excels at this. Leaders at the Seattle-based retailer work for their people — and now the focus and the energy flows toward the customer not toward leadership. This one change in mindset makes all the difference. Nordstrom’s servant leaders help their people live according to the company’s vision, solve problems and achieve their goals. For years, the story was that Nordstrom employees were given a card with 75 words printed on it. It read: Welcome to Nordstrom We’re glad to have you with our Company. Our number one goal is to provide outstanding customer service. Set both your personal and professional goals high. We have great confidence in your ability to achieve them. Nordstrom Rules: Rule No. 1: Use your good judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules. Please feel free to ask your department manager, store manager, or division general manager any question at any time.

I love to tell the story about a friend of mine who went to Nordstrom to get some perfume for his wife. The salesperson said, “I’m sorry we don’t sell that brand in our store. But I know where I can get it. How long will you be in the store?” “About 30 minutes,” he said. “Fine. I’ll go get it, bring it back, gift wrap it and have it ready for you when you leave.” That’s exactly what she did. And she charged him the same price she had paid at the other store. Nordstrom didn’t make any money on the deal but what did they make? A raving customer. So you see, servant leadership isn’t a strange conThe traditional hierarchical pyramid is effective cept at all. Large organizations like Disney and Nordhere in the leadership aspect of servant leadership. Peo- strom have been practicing it for years and doing pretple look to their organizational leaders for vision and ty well. How about you and your company? direction. While these leaders may involve others in Give servant leadership a try. You’ll be surprised at the process, the ultimate responsibility remains with how it will help you achieve great relationships and the leaders to establish a compelling vision and define great results. CLO

Servant leadership isn’t a strange concept at companies like Disney and Nordstrom.

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Bridging the Last Mile

Closer ties between CLOs and universities can help close the persistent skills gap • BY LEE MAXEY

A Lee Maxey is CEO of MindMax, a marketing and enrollment management services company. To comment, email editor@

ccording to U.S. employers, a lot of American college graduates aren’t prepared to join the workforce. A 2016 survey by PayScale noted that only 50 percent of the nation’s employers believe college graduates are ready for professional careers. So what skills do managers want that graduates lack?, which reported on the PayScale survey, noted the top skill desired is writing proficiency. After that came public speaking skills and data analysis. The soft skills managers crave but most graduates can’t seem to demonstrate are problem solving, paying attention to detail, communication, leadership and teamwork. The news isn’t all bad, though. There are people working on the problem. Mike Sweet, CEO of Credo Reference, launched Credo Education last year to help universities assess their instruction in core skills like critical thinking, communications, global citizenship, logic and reasoning. Ambiguity is something that graduates seem especially uncomfortable with, he told me. American Public University System — a for-profit, online learning institution composed of American Military University and American Public University – uses Credo assessments to evaluate how well the APUS courses teach these much-needed workforce skills. That, in turn, helps APUS evaluate thousands of students per term and prepare them to contribute the day they are hired by an employer. Ryan Craig, author of “College Disrupted: The Great Unbundling of Higher Education,” said senior executives want the problem-solving skills that can be developed through a rigorous liberal arts curriculum. The skills gap lies in part in the applicant tracking systems that filter for technical skills instead of cognitive skills, he said. When those cognitive skills haven’t been sharpened, companies like Fullbridge Inc. say they can deliver. Through products like its Learning Labs, the company gives students a taste of the business skills they’ll need and a chance to apply what they learn. In a way, Fullbridge is like a finishing school for an era in which the jobs that companies have are evolving year to year. Whether its Credo’s service or Fullbridge’s approach, the goal is to arm graduates with real-world skills in a more purposeful way. That’s an uphill climb when many companies don’t know what their needs will be a few years from now. Not only are new jobs being created at a rapid pace but the environment within

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which grads will work is undergoing a metamorphosis with the evolution of collaborative robots, machine learning, drones and automated vehicles. To date, companies have recruited graduates based

The world is moving too fast for companies to succeed for long with a traditional skills development approach. on their behavior, personality and some credentialing. Once recruited, companies put a new hire through some sort of training. That may have worked 30 years ago. But the world is moving too fast for companies to succeed for long with this approach. Like any race, the first employer to complete the “last mile” wins. Finishing the last mile brings CEOs to a crossroads. To use a sports analogy, the CEO can forgo a first pick (a new graduate) and instead find a veteran who’s been a top performer for two or three years. That’s a greater financial investment, of course. Or the CEO can find the brightest 22-year-old graduate relatively inexpensively while hoping they develop into a valuable employee. My advice to CLOs is this: First, build partnerships with the universities your best employees come from. Second, be more expressive about what you want a college’s graduates to have in terms of durable, critical thinking skills. Ask yourself: How is my company making sure the schools we know and work with are preparing grads to contribute to our workforce? By sitting down with the deans of your partner schools, CLOs can explain what’s working, what’s needed and what’s on the horizon. All the experts I’ve spoken with agree that it requires a partnership between the suppliers of competencies (higher education) and those who want the competencies (CLOs). CLO

Black Belt Mentors BY R ANDY EMELO

Whether done informally or formally, certifying people to lead mentoring programs is an important component for success.


hen the U.S. Government Accountability Office decided to develop a mentoring program in 2016, organizational leaders knew they wanted to integrate it seamlessly into their learning environment. But to be successful, they also knew it couldn’t just be the learning department’s job to carry out. “GAO is a learning organization,” said Gus Crosetto, chief learning officer at GAO. “However, the Learning Center is not the center for all learning at GAO. It is a shared responsibility.” The GAO Mentoring Program, as the program they developed became known, aims to create a collaborative learning environment, improve employee morale and provide opportunities for employee development, Crosetto said. It’s also designed to create a shared culture of learning dispersed throughout the organization. To carry out this aim, GAO recruited volunteers outside the learning center — they call them “mentoring focal points” — to serve as the face of the program to their colleagues and champion the initiative at the local team and unit level. “For a mentoring program to be successful, it is important that mentoring is viewed as a vital component of a learning organization and has the support of both upper and middle management as well as participation and buy-in from all levels of employees throughout the agency,” said Crosetto. As mentoring has grown in popularity over the past couple of decades, so has the complexity of running a mentoring program. Creating an iterative experience for people who will lead mentoring programs — or certification for mentors themselves — allows organizations 18 Chief Learning Officer • September 2017 •

Chief Learning Officer • September 2017 •


to bring purpose and structure to the practice as well as build a culture of mentoring. Some organizations may have multiple mentoring programs being run at the same time through different departments, locations or initiatives. Others may, like GAO, have a single, broad program spanning the organization but require localized support to manage the program, recruit participants and promote the program to employees in their area. Whether done informally or formally, certifying people to lead mentoring programs is an important component for success.

Going the Informal Route at GAO GAO opted not to formally certify mentors but did put in place an orientation program to give mentors information about the program and the software they use to implement it. That’s in addition to training and technical assistance to support mentor leaders in their new role. “In addition, we meet with our mentoring focal points on a quarterly basis to update them on key developments and provide ongoing support and training with input and assistance from our mentoring system vendor,” said Crosetto. The program started with a GAO implementation team that solicited volunteers from units across the organization, a process similar to one they used for the adjunct faculty program. These volunteers would serve as mentoring leaders as well as internal champions and ambassadors for the organizationwide mentoring program. A program manager in the GAO’s Learning Center oversees the overall program. “Each GAO mission team or operations unit has at least two mentoring focal points,” said Crosetto. “We worked with the management for each mission team and operations unit to solicit volunteers that demonstrated enthusiasm for mentoring.” Volunteers participated in the pilot phase of the program, provided input into the overall design, advised on strategies for implementing and increasing participation and provided an overview of the program to their team members via staff meetings. They also promoted enrollment in their respective units, served as liaisons between the GAO Learning Center and their respective offices and units, communicated updates and program activities and provided ongoing feedback and support for the program. The mentoring program, along with GAO’s social learning, coaching, collaborative learning and other methods of interaction with peers, helps to facilitate the

As mentoring has grown in popularity, so has the complexity of running a mentoring program.

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20 percent of learning that employees learn from others, Crosetto said. “As a shared responsibility, learning must be supported at all levels of the organization,” Crosetto said. “A successful mentoring program supports this organizational effort. With Gus Crosetto our mentoring program as a critical component of our learning ecosystem, all GAO employees including executives, midlevel managers as well as entry-level employees have a role in facilitating learning.”

Going the Formal Route Some organizations may want to pursue a more formal certification process or even create a certification option for mentors and people who will lead mentoring groups. This type of formality helps organizations create a consistent level of quality among mentoring leaders, which can be critical to the success of individual relationships, as well as to the program as a whole. Not everyone who becomes a mentor or group leader will know what to do to help people develop new skills or learn new concepts. They may be subject matter experts who are talented in their specialized areas but not well-versed on how to start small group conversations, set goals with a mentee, provide feedback to individuals or any of the other duties that come with being a mentor. Establishing a way for mentors and mentoring leaders to be trained and certified ensures that those who will be responsible for leading mentoring will be able to do so successfully. It also provides a level of quality and a sense of comfort to mentees because they know that no matter who they get as a mentor that person has been trained and certified to do the job. For a more formal approach to certification, organizations can follow a three-level certification process. Level 1: Complete a workshop. At this first level of certification, participants attend an in-person or online workshop to learn the basics of being a mentor or leading a mentoring group. This helps develop awareness and educates participants on the process, allowing them to complete a course of instruction and do mock activities. Topics could include the roles and responsibilities of mentees and mentors, how to set development goals, how to pro-

vide feedback and how to create trust among participants. Participants should complete at least six hours of training and workshops in order to receive Level 1 certification. Level 2: Engage under observation. To complete the second level of certification, participants should complete two tasks. First, take part as mentees in a learning group that is focused on being a mentor or group leader, and which is under the direct tutelage of a Level 3 certified mentoring group leader. Next, successfully launch their own one-to-one mentoring relationship or lead their own mentoring group. By completing these two tasks, the people seeking Level 2 certification will put the concepts from the Level 1 workshop into action and do so under direct supervision of a Level 3 mentoring group leader, who will give them guidance and advice as they set goals, design learning activities and give feedback. Those seeking certification should have their activities assessed against a set of pre-established measures in order to receive their Level 2 certification. Measures could include items such as: Did the individual produce at least five learning activities for their mentees or mentoring groups? Did the individual keep people motivated and engaged in the relationship? Did the individual provide effective feedback to the mentee or group?

Level 3: Lead the leaders. The final component of mentoring certification consists of becoming a mentor to Level 1 and Level 2 leaders and guiding them through the certification process. People seeking this level of certification should actively recruit and successfully manage these future leaders in order to receive Level 3 certification. It is important to note that not everyone will want to ascend to Level 3 certification, meaning there may be fewer Level 3 participants compared to Level 1 and 2. A successful certification process can be run with just a handful of Level 3 mentors. The quality of these participants should be the most critical factor as opposed to quantity. A culture of mentoring means organizations need to have a consistent message, approach and mindset about why they should use mentoring in their organization and how to leverage the practice of mentoring. Offering a certification process for mentoring leaders — both broad program leaders and more narrowly focused mentors and mentoring group leaders — is a great way to start down this path and bring about a cohesive framework that can spread to all areas of the organization. CLO Randy Emelo is author of the book “Modern Mentoring” and chief strategist at River, a mentoring software company. He can be reached at

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A Vital View on Learning Signature Healthcare’s Chief People Officer Mary McNevin is changing the lives of employees and patients through learning.



n 2013, Mary McNevin was sitting at a table in a Signature Healthcare dining room feeding dinner to an elderly patient with dementia. At first the woman was friendly and chatty, but then she grew agitated and started swearing. “My instructor warned me that she’s prone to hitting,” McNevin said. “So I backed away.” McNevin wasn’t a nursing assistant in training when the incident occurred. She was the chief learning officer for Signature Healthcare, a provider of long-term care, rehabilitation and health care services with 148 facilities in 11 states and more than 22,000 employees. A majority of the company’s staff are certified nursing assistants who spend their days fulfilling basic quality of life needs for patients, including bathing, dressing and feeding them. “They are our front line, and the most important people in our facilities,” said McNevin, who earlier this year was named chief people officer for Louisville, Kentucky-based Signature. The role of a CNA, or certified nursing assistant, can be emotionally and physically challenging, and it is a relatively low paying job — industry averages are less than $12 an hour. To make sure the management team at Signature understands how tough these jobs are, they are all required to complete CNA training and to spend two days a year working in one of the company’s facilities. “You can’t improve the workplace if you don’t know the work,” said CEO Joe Steier, who came up with the idea for CNA training but relied on McNevin to make it happen.

A Match Made at Penn McNevin attended the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point in the 1980s and later received her master’s in business from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 2000. She got involved in L&D while working at John Deere Credit and later led talent development at the multinational McCain Foods. 22 Chief Learning Officer • September 2017 •

While moving up the ranks at McCain, she attended the CLO executive doctoral program at the University of Pennsylvania, where she first met Steier in 2007. “We were classmates, then we were friends,” she said. McNevin joined the program to advance her career as a global CLO while Steier wanted to understand how to create a learning organization. The two of them immediately bonded. “She was a humble leader and a great teammate, always ready to help,” Steier said.

“This is a tough job and you can’t learn it by spending 50 hours reading a book. The first time you change a brief or give someone a shower is pretty daunting. The training shows them how difficult it will be.” — Mary McNevin, chief people officer, Signature Healthcare So in 2012, when Signature Healthcare needed a new CLO, McNevin was the first and only person Steier contacted. She was excited to move into health care, particularly because her mother had been a thirdshift CNA when she was growing up. “What we do isn’t glamorous, but it is purposeful work,” Steier said. “I knew Mary would be right for the job, because she could see a path for change.” Going from a food conglomerate to health care was a steep learning curve, but McNevin embraced the challenge. She signed up for an online course on the Affordable Care Act and formed a CLO group of health care industry leaders to share best practices and network with her new peers. “I wanted to get the lay of


Chief Learning Officer • September 2017 •


Profile the land and figure out what it takes to make a health daunting,” she said. “The training shows them how care business successful,” she said. difficult it will be.” She also started sitting in on every executive meetSignature Healthcare began piloting the training in ing she could get invited to, wanting to learn the busi- facilities earlier this year, and McNevin is already seeness and figure out its pain points. ing a significant impact. In one facility, the 30-day “She listened to their problems and over time she turnover rate dropped from more than 100 percent — brought ideas we had never thought of before,” Steier not uncommon in this field — to 20 percent. “It said. “Now when someone has a problem, she is the shows that trainees were better prepared and it paid first one they turn to.” off,” she said. Among the first programs she implemented at Finding New Talent Signature was the CNA They are now planning to offer the training to potraining requirement for all tential recruits, which not only ensures new hires will top management, which be better prepared for the job, it is also opening up a lead to another innovation whole new field of applicants, said Kim Vermilyea, for the company. CNA cre- who works in Signature’s Tampa, Florida, location as dentialing is state regulated. chief operations officer. “Before this program, you had Each state offers its own to be a CNA to apply for a position,” she said. “This CNA training program, but gives us the ability to take people who have an interest — Mary McNevin all are basically the same, in the job but didn’t know CNA training existed or she said. When McNevin took her training in Kentucky didn’t have the means to get certified.” most of it involved logging onto a computer and readFinding new pools of candidates for these positions ing a textbook. “It was the worst educational experience is a top priority for the company. Health care jobs are of my life.” expected to grow faster than any other industry, and McNevin knew she could do better. She reached positions for nursing assistants and orderlies are proout to a colleague at the University of Pennsylvania jected to grow 17 percent from 2014 to 2024 — much with a plan to reinvent CNA training. Together they created an adaptive, story-based curriculum featuring videos and real-life experiences. The content is interactive and structured to teach not only the skills CNAs need on the job, but to also transform the mindset of the caregiver. “The stories feature engaging characters with gripping stories folded into a soap opera story line,” she said. Each of the eight case studies get progressively more challenging so trainees see what the job is really like and how important it is. The interactive multimedia format is especially useful with the target demographic, she noted. CNAs tend to be CEO Joe Steier, above, voiced the idea for CNA training, but relied on McNevin to make it people who were not successful in happen. “You can’t improve the workplace if you don’t know the work,” he said. school, or who speak English as a second language, so they are not likely to thrive in a large- faster than the average for all occupations, according to ly text-based learning environment. the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Now we find candi“This is a tough job, and you can’t learn it by dates with potential and train them in the way we spending 50 hours reading a book,” McNevin said. want them to be trained,” Vermilyea said. Not only will the story-based training make their tarMcNevin’s long-term goal is to sell the training get population more successful learners, she believes it program to other health care facilities, which will crewill help to lower the high rate of turnover among new ate a revenue source for the company while raising the hires, who are often shocked by the reality of how chal- level of expertise in the CNA community. “We hire lenging the CNA job can be. “The first time you each other’s staff all the time, so it is in our benefit to change a brief or give someone a shower is pretty improve the skills of every health care worker.”

“We hire each other’s staff all the time, so it is in our benefit to improve the skills of every health care worker.”

24 Chief Learning Officer • September 2017 •

Profile The entry-level training for CNAs was an important first step, though McNevin wanted to do more than just get them in the door. Because these positions are low paying they have a high rate of turnover. “If someone gets offered 5 cents more an hour from another facility, it can be an incentive to leave,” she said. She wanted to create a place where CNAs could build a future for themselves and for their families. “We don’t want people to see this job as a dead end. We want them to see it as a career.” To do that, McNevin worked with Vermilyea to create Pinnacle, a clinical career ladder for CNAs that will help keep them engaged with the company and improve their skills through training and development to increase their earning potential. The program offers four phases of training, each of which provides a salary increase and additional skills and leadership responsibilities. “A lot of people get into the CNA job as a means for survival and they get stuck,” Vermilyea said. “Pinnacle gives them the ability to go back to school without paying tuition or taking time off so they can better themselves.” At the same time, Signature Healthcare gets a better-trained staff and sees a lower turnover rate. “Everyone wins.”

on Signature’s systems and culture. These were candidates the company had never considered before, and it addressed a real business need. Her commitment to improving the talent and experiences of workers across the organization has led to reductions in turnover, improved engagement and numerous awards including a 2015 Best Places to Work

McNevin wants CNAs to see their job as a career and a chance to provide for their families.

Learning Is Just One Approach McNevin’s ability to combine the notion of purpose-driven work with real world business results is why she has thrived at Signature Healthcare and why Steier is so happy he found her. “Mary knows how to leverage learning as a viable solution to business problems,” he said. “She made our team think differently about what a CLO’s role is.” Along with creating career paths for front-line workers, McNevin established communities of practice for directors of nursing, who each lead nursing for their own facilities. The communities of practice give them access to a network of peers who can help solve problems and share best practices. They also have a dedicated peer mentor who works on-site with new directors to help them acclimate to the culture and workplace systems before they are left to lead the facility on their own. “They get up to speed faster, and we make sure they have what they need to be successful,” McNevin said. She also makes time to meet regularly with business unit leaders to understand what problems they face and whether training can provide a solution. Her solutions aren’t always training based, Steier said. For example, to address challenges in recruiting, she came up with an idea to open an in-house agency model that offered flexible scheduling, allowing retirees and part-timers to be hired who could work at multiple facilities as needs arise. This allows the company to fill gaps in the workforce with people specifically trained

in Healthcare from Modern Healthcare magazine, and the 2015 BEST Award from the Association for Talent Development. McNevin also measures the impact of every program to demonstrate business results, often benchmarking results against peers across the industry to provide executives with perspective on what the company has accomplished and where there is room to improve. And if a program doesn’t measure up, she shuts it down, Steier said. “There are no sacred cows in her department.” Steier noted that many C-suite executives see learning as a cost they have to fund, but McNevin has proven that learning programs can deliver real business value. “Over time our board has come to realize that if they give Mary a dollar, they will get $1.50 back, and that got their attention,” he said. Over time the company has expanded McNevin’s budget. And as Signature’s new chief people officer, McNevin now oversees recruiting and career development for the company. Her influence has encouraged the team to take a more holistic approach to problem solving, Steier said. “Whatever the company pain point is she wants to be involved.” CLO Sarah Fister Gale is a writer in the Chicago area. Comment below or email Chief Learning Officer • September 2017 •




As learning organizations turn to a consulting-based model, simple steps ensure this approach delivers promised value and builds rather than harms your department’s credibility.

26 Chief Learning Officer • September 2017 •


onsulting has become an attractive occupation and internal consultants have proliferated just about everywhere. Much of HR is now performed by HR consultants. Performance consultants are now permeating learning and development. There is a compelling reason for this growth: Internal consultants can play an influential role. External consulting continues to grow, too. Although large companies seem to dominate the space, small firms account for the largest number of consultants. The U.S. consulting market grew 7.7 percent in 2015 to reach $54.7 billion, up from $50.8 billion in 2014. Although 2016 data hasn’t yet been published, the growth trend was expected to continue with the U.S. accounting for nearly half (44 percent) of the global market, according to analysis from Greentarget, a public relations firm.

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This growth comes along with concerns that tarnish the image and effectiveness of consultants. Consultants represent a cost to the organization that can be cut in uncertain times if executives don’t see consulting as an investment. Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, one of the most valuable companies in the world, goes to great lengths to stop his company from using consultants, joking at his 2017 shareholder meeting that he would come back from the grave to stop the practice. In addition, many consultants offer off-the-shelf solutions that may not be appropriate for a particular problem or opportunity. They can also be reluctant to deliver results that executives want to see. Clients who fund consulting want to see the business value and sometimes even the ROI. Worse yet, consultants can become a habit — once they get inside the organization they are hard to eradicate. Consulting can also be a risky business. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, consulting has the highest failure rate among professional occupations, with as many as 80 percent of new consulting firms failing during the first two years. Being an effective consultant is not easy. You must have expertise, experience and a passion for the topic. That’s not to mention the ongoing costs to sustain a consulting practice.

The fourth challenge is to explore the prospect of ROI forecasting and guaranteeing results. Some clients are now asking for a forecast before they go into the project. A few will add the prospect of a guarantee of results. This could be a risky proposition but it’s feasible when addressed properly.

Designing Effective Consulting Consultants have to be consistent, effective and deliver value, every time with every project. This is best achieved by using design thinking at all stages of consulting. With roots in innovation, design thinking suggests that detailed goals should be set around what you want to achieve, with everyone involved in the consulting project mobilized to achieve the goals. Eight important steps based on design thinking are necessary to deliver results and use those results to enhance the image of and investment in consulting. Step 1. Start with Why: Aligning Consulting with Business. The first task is to identify the business need (the problem or opportunity that should be addressed) with a specific measure or measures. Examples include reducing out-of-compliance fines by 50 percent in one year or reducing product returns by 20 percent in six months. Step 2. Make It Feasible: Selecting the Right Solution. With the business need clearly defined, the next step is to decide on a feasible consulting solution to improve the business measure. The focus is on what the organization should be doing or stop doing that will have the appropriate influence on the business measure. This may involve a few questions or additional analysis using problem-solving methodologies, brainstorming, fishbone diagrams or records review. Step 3. Expect Success: Designing Consulting for Results. Objectives are developed to define the success needed at each level. The ROI objective is the minimum acceptable return on investment from the project, if ROI is pursued. Objectives should also be set for business impact, application, learning and reaction. Specific objectives are important to the success of the program as they provide design guidance and expectations for everyone involved in the consulting project. Step 4. Make It Matter: Designing for Early Stages of the Project. The consulting project must

Being an effective consultant is not easy. You must have expertise, experience and a passion for the topic.

The Four Challenges for Consultants To continue to thrive, consultants must tackle four key challenges. The first challenge is to deliver credible business results to clients. In today’s climate, showing ROI for major projects can be a market differentiator. The second challenge is to keep clients satisfied, particularly in the face of changing projects, fastpaced environments and ever-changing demands. If clients aren’t happy, client referrals won’t develop and it’s difficult to have a sustainable business. The third challenge is to avoid creating a narcotic effect where consultants always need to return to address the situation. The key is to solve the problem, implement the correct solution and eliminate the need for consultants in the future. Although this sounds counterproductive, it’s the best way to sustain the practice in the long run. The focus is on sustainable process improvement. 28 Chief Learning Officer • September 2017 •

The Learning Experience Platform

Content Creation & Curation Video Capture and Share Social Assessment

be relevant, meaningful and important to the individuals and the organization. This requires selecting the right people at the right time to be involved in the project and requires the consultant to provide activities and simulations that reflect what the project participants are learning and what they will do with what they’ve learned. Step 5. Make It Stick: Designing for Application and Impact. If the people involved in the project do not use what they’ve learned, then it has

the fear of results. ROI evaluation should be tackled in a proactive way. If consulting is not successful, the consultant must understand why it’s not working and correct it. If consultants are proactive, clients will accept this easily even if the results are negative. But if consultants wait to be asked for the impact or ROI, it places the consultant at a disadvantage. Step 7. Tell the Story: Communicating Results to Key Stakeholders. The consultant must communicate results. Presentations can range from executive briefings to blogs, from a detailed report to a onepage summary. The important point is to tell a story with results. Storytelling is effective and it’s the best way to get the audience’s attention and have them remember the results. The five levels of outcome data (reaction, learning, application, impact and ROI) represent a compelling story with credible, executive-friendly evidence and anecdotes. Step 8. Optimize Results: Using Black Box Thinking to Increase Funding. If the results are disappointing, you know how to correct it. Black box thinking is needed at this step. In the airline industry, black boxes point to the cause of a crash of an airplane and investigators analyze the data and identify the actions to be taken to prevent this type of accident in the future. Consultants can take the same approach. When consulting projects are evaluated, the data are used to make them better. When this happens, results will improve and ultimately the ROI is enhanced. Optimizing the ROI presents the best case for increasing funding, providing a very credible rationale for additional funding. This approach ensures that executives see consulting as an investment and not a cost that can be controlled or reduced. Make sure consulting delivers value and satisfies all clients, including those who ultimately fund the consulting project. That’s absolutely necessary in today’s climate. An eight-step approach based on design thinking shows how to deliver results and protect the consulting investment in the future. CLO

Consultants have to be consistent, effective and deliver value, every time with every project. This is best achieved by using design thinking at all stages of consulting. failed. Transfer of learning from the consulting project to the workplace occurs over time and involves all the stakeholders. Step 6. Make It Credible: Measuring Results and Calculating ROI. This step can be one of the most rewarding parts of the process. The first part of this step is to sort out the effects of consulting from other influences. Simple, easy-to-use techniques are available for this. If ROI is needed, three more actions are needed. The impact measures are converted to money to create project monetary benefits using values developed internally or externally. Next the costs are tabulated and then the ROI is calculated and expressed as a percentage. In formula form, the ROI is: ROI (%) =

Net Project Monetary Benefits X 100 Project Costs

Net benefits are project monetary benefits minus project costs. This formula is essentially the same as the ROI for capital investments. The challenge is to overcome the barriers to moving to this level of evaluation and evaluate at this level only when consulting projects are expensive, important, strategic and attract the interest of top executives. The principal barrier is 30 Chief Learning Officer • September 2017 •

Jack J. Phillips is chairman and Patti P. Phillips is president and CEO of the ROI Institute. They are authors of “Maximizing the Value of Consultants: A Guide for Internal and External Consultants” can be reached at


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32 Chief Learning Officer • September 2017 •


Adaptive learning is gaining favor as a fresh way to personalize the learning experience and collect real-time data.


magine if companies could customize their training so that it met the exact needs of every learner, giving them only the lessons they need and making sure they learned those skills before moving on. This is the premise of adaptive learning and it is going to change the way learning leaders think about training and the content they provide to their people. Adaptive learning uses algorithms and machine learning to adjust the learning experience on the fly, explained Candace Marie Thille, assistant professor of education at Stanford University. “It uses intelligent educational technology to predict what the learners know, and what they need to learn next.”

From college to corporate Such customization could have a huge impact on the quality and efficiency of corporate learning environments where there is a wide diversity of skills and knowledge. Courses presented in an adaptive learning environment would respond to that diversity, allowing learners to focus on the lessons they need and skip the rest. While adaptive learning has its roots in academia, the applications for corporate learning are immense, said Zach Posner, managing director of the learning science platforms for McGraw-Hill Education in New York. “Whether you are in a classroom or using an online module, traditional corporate learning is very one-size-fits-all,” he said. Everyone works through the same content at roughly the same pace regardless of their baseline knowledge or learning style. He sees adaptive learning as a proxy for one-to-one coaching. “It is a scalable way to personalize the learning experience.” Such personalization delivers benefits to individual learners and the business, he said. Learners spend less time completing content, which improves productivity and lowers costs associated with time away from work. But they are also more likely to stay engaged and to learn more because the content is appropriately challenging. In return, companies get a flow of real-time data on what their people know and where they are struggling, which they can use to tweak current content, make personalized career development plans and identify where new or different programs are needed. Chief Learning Officer • September 2017 •


Workplace Primed to Adapt to Adaptive Learning For learning leaders who fear that adaptive learning represents yet another advanced technology skill that they need to add to their development team, don’t worry. Chances are your current staff has all the skills necessary to make this transition, said Zach Posner, managing director of the learning science platforms for McGraw-Hill Education in New York. While there is analytics and machine learning technology involved, most of it is handled by adaptive learning vendors who translate existing content for these formats. Companies that want to develop their content in house can take advantage of adaptive learning authoring tools that simplify transition process and require little technical expertise. Posner noted that most of the users of McGraw-Hill’s tool are instructional designers who are up and running after a half day course. “The challenge is not learning to use the technology. It is learning to write amazing questions that will chart the paths learners take.” For companies interested in sampling adaptive learning, Axonify CEO Carol Leaman suggested they start with a pilot course focused on a skill that has a measurable business result, like growth in sales for a specific product or team. That way you can define a baseline of knowledge, and track the impact of learning over time, she said. Companies may also want to consider using a control group to compare the differences. “It is a good way for CLOs to demonstrate that adaptive learning adds real business value.”

—Sarah Fister Gale 34 Chief Learning Officer • September 2017 •

“Adaptive learning opens the door for a new level of sophistication,” said Dan Lovely, chief learning officer of multinational insurance giant AIG in New York. “It enhances the learning experience and gives learners what they need rather what has been deemed necessary for a cohort of learners.” This isn’t just in theory. Companies like McGraw-Hill, Area9 Learning and Axonify Inc. are producing thousands of titles with adaptive formats and working with customers to convert their in-house content. “The outcomes speak for themselves,” Posner said. His team recently helped a large financial services firm convert their five-hour online new-hire training course to an adaptive learning format, then they ran a pilot, tracking results in the new program against a group taking the traditional course. The average time spent in the adaptive course was three hours, with Christiana Houck some people completing it in 40 minutes. The adaptive learners also scored an average of 25 percent higher on a final test than the traditional learners. “They saw wins across the board,” he said. AIG is hoping to see similar results with two adaptive learning programs it is currently piloting for underwriter development and compliance training. “Both are in the early stages, but we expect to have results in six months,” Lovely said. He hopes these will be the first of many adaptive learning programs the company will deploy as the technology and content management options advance. “The good news is that the software exists off the shelf to this today, though we would need it to be more flexible to fit our needs,” he said. He imagines that in the future, AIG will partner with a vendor to co-create adaptive learning content in an effort to find that balance.

Doubling Down in Las Vegas Along with being more flexible, adaptive learning is more fun than traditional training, said Christiana Houck, director of learning solutions for technical training at Aristocrat Technologies Inc., a Las Vegas-based gaming machine manufacturer with 3,000 employees. Aristocrat relied for years on longer online learning modules for its remote techs, who had to take the courses during breaks or after hours. “They dreaded it,” she said. Last year, she teamed with Axonify to make the content both mobile and adaptive. They rolled out the new format in February. Now, techs get daily microlearning modules sent to their phones and they can review the content in minutes between jobs then answer a few short questions. “The adaptive part is the test at the end,” she said. “The system uses their score to learn their strengths and weaknesses, then chooses what content to send next.” Every tech needs to master each module twice before they can move on to the next section, though some may see it five or six times before they advance. “They love it, it’s like a game,” she said. The program initially hit a few small bumps. Houck noted that the learning culture at Aristocrat had always been that once you took a course you

passed the test, and there are a lot of techs on her team who never scored below an 80 percent. But when she rolled out the first set of modules, only 11 percent of techs got an expert rating (above 90 percent) the first time through. When they didn’t master the modules the first time around, some of them started to get nervous. “They felt like they were failing, and that their managers were watching,” she said. Once she explained that they were not expected to pass the first time around, they relaxed. Houck closely tracks success rates on the modules and uses the data to determine where individuals might need more intensive training, or where the team as a whole has a skill gap. For example, a majority of the 140 techs struggled with a set of meter-reading questions, which is a skill they are expected to learn on the job. “We were making assumptions that they all know how to do this,” she said. When her team saw the scores and compared them to error rates in the field, they realized there was a knowledge gap in the workforce and added a meter-reading course for all new hires. Axonify has seen many examples of clients discovering surprising knowledge gaps in their workforce, said Carol Leaman, the company’s CEO. In one example, a large retailer in the Middle East assumed frontline staff had core customer service skills, including how to upsell, greet customers and use language appropriate to the setting. But when they gave them an adaptive learning-based customer service course, they mastered less than half of the lessons. “Customer service skills are table stakes in retail, so the results were shocking,” Leaman said. Once they started sending daily learning modules and tests and using the algorithms to determine who needed to review which core principles, their scores shot up. In a matter of weeks everyone was scoring above 75 percent. Adaptive learning provides companies with an evidence-driven baseline of knowledge, and charts its progress, she said. “It can be really exciting for executives and employees to see the acquisition of knowledge and confidence grow over time.”

Extension of Micro-learning Many leading learning organizations have already taken the most important first step toward preparing their learning content for an adaptive environment — chunking their content. Adaptive learning is all about creating lots of small pieces of learning and testing, then threading them together via machine learning algorithms. Lovely said that microlearning has been a trend for a long time, with companies building libraries of videos and tiny bits of content that learners can absorb on the go. “Adaptive learning intersects this 36 Chief Learning Officer • September 2017 •

Candace Marie Thille, Stanford University

trend to create a more productive learning ecosystem,” said Lovely. The vendors — or in-house teams — may then reduce that content into even smaller chunks, breaking one lesson with three to five learning goals into 40 to 60 microlearning objectives, to get at the heart of exactly what people know and where they have gaps. “We take chunking to a whole new level,” Posner said. Breaking it into tiny pieces lets learning leaders pinpoint the learning need. “If 100 percent of learners get all the questions right the first time, the module is too easy,” he said. Whereas if everyone fails, it might suggest they need to break that module into a series of even smaller hyperfocused lessons. “The great thing about adaptive learning is you can get that data and respond in real time.” That analysis and response to data is critical — and it cannot be done by a computer, said Stanford’s Thille. “There must always be a human element.” She worries that companies think these kinds of technologies can replace human interaction, or that CLOs might rely too heavily on data generated by these systems to make promotion or hiring decisions without considering all the facts. For example, if a learner takes longer to master a topic than their peers it might have to do with their learning style, cultural differences, language mastery or personal issues, all of which could mask their true knowledge of a subject. “It’s fine to use the data to support decision-making, but you must not be uncritical,” she said. As with all technologies, these systems can be biased especially when judging something as complex as a person’s abilities. “That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use these tools, but be cautious of taking a computer’s word as truth.” CLO

38 Chief Learning Officer • September 2017 •



Companies are prioritizing soft skills training, especially for millennials who aspire to lead.



hen Philipp Schramm was offered the job of chief financial officer for Webasto Roof Systems in Detroit in 2014, he expected the U.S. office of the global automotive supplier to operate as smoothly as its German headquarters. What he found was a disorganized and often hostile work environment where people made excuses for why work wasn’t getting done. “The entire organization was dysfunctional,” he said. When he asked why work wasn’t getting done, everyone complained that they were never properly trained. Schramm had been brought in to turn around the financial side of the organization which was losing both money and customers. But he soon realized that the problem ran deeper than financial issues. “Something on the culture side was broken,” he said.

Chief Learning Officer • September 2017 •


Without clear corporate values, HR only focused on administrative tasks and training was determined individually by managers’ budgets. “It was shocking,” Schramm said. This cultural breakdown led Schramm to work with the executive team on a culture change project that introduced soft skills training on leadership, communication, collaboration and problem-solving along with Philipp Schramm the financial and operational changes he’d been brought in to implement. “The soft skills training focused on a lot of the emotional aspects of leadership like using ‘I statements’ and active listening,” he said. Many of the courses were taught by managers who went through instructor training to reinforce the importance of the change to the business, a detail that Schramm said added needed authenticity and made the biggest impact. “The training helped us significantly change the way people behaved,” he said. “It engaged them to be change agents for the company.” The effect on employees and the business was profound, Schramm said. Within 15 months of launching the program, the division returned to profitability, turnover dropped significantly and employee engagement survey scores showed double digit increases. It had a personal effect on Schramm, too. He was named vice president of human resources to go along with his CFO title.

Learning and development professionals across industries seem to agree. In LinkedIn’s “2017 Workplace Learning Report,” more than half said developing managers and leaders is the No. 1 objective for their organizations and that coaching, leadership communication and team collaboration are specific leadership skills in greatest demand. One of the challenges is identifying these skill gaps in employees, said Michael Chavez, CEO of Duke Corporate Education in Durham, North Carolina. You can tell from a résumé or work experience if a candidate can program software or build spreadsheets but when it comes to determining whether they can speak publicly, lead a team or collaborate effectively, it gets murky. “These skills don’t fit easily into any one discipline but they are vital to all of them,” Chavez said. Because soft skills are applicable in virtually every aspect of business, Duke integrates them into all of their leadership development content, often using what Chavez called “error-based learning” to help learners see where they fall short. In these courses, participants are put into difficult situations and tasked with solving problems as a group. In one course based on a real life case study created with Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, leaders play the role of members of an emergency room team who have to diagnose and treat an unconscious patient whose family disagrees over what is wrong and what medication he is taking. The course is designed to underscore the importance of teamwork and making quick educated guesses under pressure. “In most cases, they kill the Shocking Results patient through inaction,” Chavez said. Webasto’s story may be an extreme example but It’s a visceral experience that replicates how parit underscores the importance of soft skills to busi- ticipants make decisions in real life and shocks ness success. “In the end, we are all human and we them into realizing where their communication have to work togethand leadership skills er,” Schramm said. are lacking. That In a global marshock is an important ketplace where comfirst step to changing panies need to rapidbehavior and building ly adapt to changing soft skills. market conditions “We hold up a — Stephane Charbonnier, chief human and woo customers mirror so they can see resources officer, L’Oréal USA with excellent service what’s not working and timely solutions, then we teach them business leaders can’t afford to not invest in soft skills to do better,” Chavez said. skills training, said Leslie Knowlton, partner with Deloitte Advisory Services in Houston. Soft Skills Drive Business “Whatever your role, success comes back to your Developing strong leadership and communiability to collaborate and build relationships,” said cation skills isn’t just useful for managers leading Knowlton, who also heads learning and development internal teams. It can have a real impact across for Deloitte US. the business especially for companies like De-

“The leaders with greatest soft skills deliver our best business results.”

40 Chief Learning Officer • September 2017 •


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ROBOT COACHES: A NEW MODEL FOR LEADERSHIP TRAINING? Despite growing interest in soft skills training, courses to teach them haven’t seen much innovation in how they are developed and delivered. While much of the industry has been focused on creating self-paced microlearning content, leadership courses and other soft skills are still mostly taught in classrooms via coaches or in live online environments. “You can’t teach soft skills in a 10-minute YouTube video,” said Deloitte’s Leslie Knowlton. “To get good, you have to practice these skills in a real-world setting.” One artificial intelliDavid Mendlewicz

gence software company is challenging

that assumption., based in New York, has developed and automated a tool for young managers in need of on-the-spot coaching. The app features a self-learning bot named Felix, who delivers custom tips and content and provides short, iterative feedback directly to managers. “Traditional coaching takes time and money so companies don’t do it very often,” said David Mendlewicz, CEO and co-founder of That often leaves novice leaders figuring out how to manage on their own through trial and error. That’s where steps in, providing tips based on real-time feedback from the manager’s team. It can also be programmed to alert managers and HR if they are in need of additional support. “It flips the traditional management training model on its head,” Mendlewicz said. Eventually, companies will be able to use the data they capture to identify high performers and to better fit leaders to teams. Mendlewicz sees this function as a natural iteration of data analytics in workforce planning. “We are going to optimize talent management using soft

loitte whose clients rely on their consultants for guidance. While Deloitte’s people have to be up to date on the latest technology trends and industry data, they also have to be able to communicate those trends and build relationships with clients and cross-functional Stephane Charbonnier, chief human resources teams. “Without pro- officer, L’Oréal USA fessional and relationship-building skills they won’t be as effective,” Knowlton said. Rather than teaching soft skills in separate courses, Deloitte integrates them into programming often through experiential learning where participants must collaborate to solve technical or industry-specific challenges. During Service Relationship Mastery courses, senior consultants have to learn how to become trusted advisors on topics of importance to customers. The course covers industry knowledge but the content requires them to role-play in teams using core people skills including empathy and engaging through meaningful dialogue. It’s an optional course but it is always booked, Knowlton said. “Our people know that it’s not enough to know everything about cybersecurity or analytics,” she said. “How they deliver that information to clients is just as important.” Much like the Webasto example, most Deloitte courses are led by senior executives, thereby reinforcing the value of soft skills development to the next generation of consultants. “When they see a leader take time out of their work schedule to practice, it sends the message that learning these skills are important for the business,” Knowlton said. The realization that soft skills are core to business has led learning leaders and vendors to incorporate them across courses to ensure everyone continues to develop them. With the rapid pace of change and disruption in global markets, it is vital that individual contributors and leaders have the skills to predict and adapt to change, said Stephane Charbonnier, chief human resources officer at L’Oréal USA. “Soft skills and technical skills are two sides of the same coin,” he said. L’Oréal offers leadership development at every stage of an employee’s career beginning with new hires who complete training on self-awareness as part of the onboarding program. They also provide courses for first-time managers and senior leaders who often attend multiday off-site training through Harvard, MIT and other programs. The company’s investment in soft skills training is fully sup-

skills data,” he said.

— Sarah Fister Gale 42 Chief Learning Officer • September 2017 •

SOFT SKILLS continued on page 56

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Learning Budget YOU CAN DEFEND Use this budget season to ensure your learning organization achieves its true business potential.

44 Chief Learning Officer • September 2017 •



earning organizations are under constant pressure to prove their value to the enterprise. And learning leaders must design budgets that deliver performance gains while being defensible and justifiable from a business standpoint. This requires careful planning, a considered approach and a transparent process that illustrates exactly where and how they intend to spend company funds. Before learning leaders can secure the funding needed to deliver on business objectives, they first need to make budget requests that are justifiable and defensible. The learning function must deliver Chief Learning Officer • September 2017 •


Budget Planning Timeline (calendar fiscal year) January-March: Meet with stakeholders throughout the enterprise. Discuss organizational and business unit priorities for the next 12-24 months. Offer ideas on how L&D can contribute to those goals, laying the foundation for future collaboration. September: Follow up with stakeholders. Find out if priorities have shifted. Provide high-level concepts for meeting learning needs in the coming year. October: Enter the concrete planning stage. Align with stakeholders on next year’s goals and what portion of those goals L&D will commit to achieving through learning. Provide ballpark estimates around project timelines, resourcing needs and costs. Include in the business case the cost of not providing the appropriate learning solution. Throughout the Year: Estimate the business value contributed by the significant initiatives L&D has supported. Share estimates with relevant stakeholders to obtain agreement, buy-in and support. Build a scorecard showing the cumulative value L&D has contributed (top line, bottom line, qualitative, all of the above).

— Gary Schafer 46 Chief Learning Officer • September 2017 •

performance gains and measurable ROI — both of which require careful planning and a transparent process illustrating exactly where and how funds will be spent. Don’t just cross your fingers and hope the dollars come through — take a more strategic approach to budgeting. First and foremost, understand who ultimately controls the purse strings, what kinds of information they need and want to know and the optimal timeline for submitting budget requests. If the request involves an outside vendor firm, get ahead of the master services agreements approval process to avoid getting tripped up by red tape. Additionally, lay a little political groundwork. Identify and court supportive business stakeholders who can champion your efforts. Where possible, tie your pitch to their own pet interests and priorities. You’re much likelier to get a sales training initiative funded if the vice president of sales is an active proponent of the project, for instance. When discussing project proposals with business unit stakeholders, share cost information with them. Karen Freedman, vice president and manager of enterprise learning for FM Global, a large commercial and industrial property insurance company, recalled the time a stakeholder discussed a learning budget request with another business leader. Freedman had previously made the case for training including insight into the cost so, lo and behold, the business leader defended the budget request and it eventually went through. “It’s all about communication and relationships and making sure they understand what we do,” she said. “Don’t wait until budget season to do that.”

Do Your Research It’s tough to ask for money if you can’t clearly articulate how it fits into the overarching learning strategy. Before building your budget, account for the various projects, deliverables and initiatives that are in progress and on the horizon along with their anticipated ROI. Know what’s happening elsewhere in the industry by reading research reports, benchmarking surveys and trade publications. This valuable intelligence can be used to provide context and support to frame your own budget requests. Determine how much comparable organizations are spending on similar projects, what your project headcounts should be and what technological advancements are needed to remain competitive. Likewise, use industry data to compare your learning organization to high-achieving counterparts that you aspire to match and to determine alignment to accepted best practices and standards. If you do your research right, even assumptions and forward-looking guesswork will be rooted in reality. Of course, it doesn’t matter how well the budget is supported by evidence if stakeholders don’t understand how the learning initiatives will deliver on the business case. Make sure that executive management sees the connection between L&D operations and corporate aims. Learning organizations that have well-defined and carefully considered learning strategies aligned to enterprise goals and objectives are far likelier to achieve budget fulfillment. The reason is obvious: Business leaders have a clear understanding of exactly what the funds will be used for and why it matters in the bigger picture. Be able to explain in some detail the thinking and analysis behind each budget request. To this point, it’s critically important to have the right metrics and measurements in place ahead of time in order to clarify how the budget will ultimately add value back to the business. Gregg Spratto, vice president of operations for the global customer service organization of California-based software company Autodesk, said when learning bud-

gets are rejected, it’s often because the request was either too ambitious or the organizational payoff was unclear. “Pretty frequently, people go after too much budget right away,” he said. “Go after the low-hanging fruit first. Solve that — show that ROI — and say, ‘If we can apply that technique across everything, here is the ROI we could get.’ ”

Illustrate the Alternatives

stand. It’s up to you as a learning leader to make sure they’re working with a complete view of the situation. In some cases such as compliance and regulatory matters, the cost of training may be dwarfed by potential penalties that could arise from poorly trained workers. For such mission-critical endeavors, it may be worthwhile to take a more heavy-handed approach. Draft a risk assessment statement that details the knowledge and skills gaps that will persist if the training doesn’t take place and the ensuing liabilities and business challenges that will result from inaction. Then insist key decision-makers sign it. Beyond documenting your efforts to get needed training funded, this bold tactic effectively forces stakeholders to personally accept the risks associated with not moving forward with training, which they may be reluctant to do. Or they may stand by their decision. Executives making budget decisions likely have a more complete

Don’t cross your fingers and hope dollars come through — take a more strategic approach to budgeting.

There’s the cost of training but there’s also the cost of not training. If your budget requests are indeed defensible and justified, then there will be a tangible negative impact if funding fails to come through. Lay out the implications of a funding shortfall, making informed projections where necessary. Aim to explain in measurable terms the ill effects of subpar training. That could mean estimating a dollar figure for a given customer service mishap or calculating the lost productivity of workers taking outdated and inefficient training. Don’t assume that business stakeholders fully understand these implications — make them under-

BUDGET continued on page 56

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Writer and co-producer of HBO’s “Silicon Valley”.

Why does Silicon Valley have such cultural power? So many great ideas emerge from companies there. And so many of those products are ones that we use every day and are familiar with — Google search, Apple’s iPhone. And, though I’ve often made fun of the Valley for its over-inflated rhetoric, a lot of companies in Silicon Valley really are “changing the world” and “making the world a better place.” There’s also always a sense in Silicon Valley that there is even more change just around the corner, that even bigger things are just about to happen. What is the downside in looking to startups for inspiration? Their experience doesn’t always map very well to the needs of an established company. Startups are primarily focused on top-line revenue growth and don’t concern themselves with being profitable. Many of them are behaving rationally since their goal is to go public and to cash out and, for now anyway, the public markets are rewarding growth and are not concerned with profitability. However, most established companies cannot pursue a business model that involves losing huge amounts of money for many years. What do startups do differently when it comes to developing and training people? Startups hire young people and put them into tasks for which they are not prepared and tell them to figure it out. That is somewhat overly simplistic but it’s generally the case. Startups prefer to hire younger people. They often are growing so quickly that they don’t have time or resources for training. One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard from people who worked in startups was that the company did not invest enough in training or career development. Beyond the table tennis and foosball tables, what makes startup culture unique? One thing that’s unique about startup culture and that I really admire is their willingness to take risks. They’re willing to be shameless — meaning they’re not afraid to try something and fail, even in public. Also, there’s a flip side to having people who are young and inexperienced. One of the good things about that is you don’t have people saying, “Oh, we tried that and it didn’t work,” or “That’s not going to work.” The default setting is toward risk-taking and enthusiasm for new ideas even if they might seem like crazy ideas. There are fewer naysayers in the organization which can be really refreshing.

Are the robots coming for the jobs of chief learning officers and heads of corporate training and development? I hope not for your sake! I do think there is a push across companies of all kinds to try to automate as much as possible across all departments and all tasks. We see it a lot in HR and recruiting, where software algorithms now screen candidate résumés. I suppose I’m old-fashioned but I tend to think there are virtues to the analog world where actual humans did things. Education has always seemed to me to be one of the areas that is least able to be automated. We humans are messy biological beings and we each learn in a different way. I still think that you need a human to teach humans. (My wife is a teacher, so hey, I’m biased.) Of course, technology plays an ever bigger role in training and education and development but the human factor remains incredibly important.

The Los Angeles Times called it “the best book about Silicon Valley today.”

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Case Study

Growing a Model for Leadership BY ARVA SHIKARI


uilding a leadership pipeline is important, and a clear leadership model can link strategic areas of the business. For a fast-growing company like Mindtree with clients across the globe, development of that model and the leaders to go along with it was central to growth from inception. Mindtree, an IT consulting firm founded in 1999 in Bangalore, India, by a group of 10 IT professionals, now employs more than 16,000 workers who provide e-commerce, cloud computing and digital transformation services from 43 offices in 17 countries, including a U.S. headquarters in Warren, New Jersey. The company booked revenue of $715 million in 2016. Mindtree had done some coaching to build its leaders in the early days including a development experience led by the company’s former chairman, said Vidya Santhanam, Mindtree program director, people function. But moving forward, the company chose to invest more heavily into leadership building after studying the state of the industry and talent. One challenge — thriving in an Mindtree employees discussing an action learning project. ambiguous environment — stood out in particular and formed the core of Mindtree’s leadership approach. “We came up with the Mindtree Leadership Model in September 2011 to build recognizable leadership talent and create clear differentiators from competition,” said Santhanam.

Building a Leadership Model Co-created with Korn Ferry International, the model is based on two foundational inputs: what the company expects from its leaders and benchmarks from best-in-class leaders. From there, the model measures three dimensions: learning agility, leadership competence and self awareness. Learning agility — the ability of a leader to succeed 50 Chief Learning Officer • September 2017 •

SNAPSHOT Consulting firm Mindtree’s revamped leadership model puts down its roots in leadership agility.

in new situations — is the core of the model and is designed to measure a leader’s adaptability. An agile leader combines a number of traits — curiosity, comfort with ambiguity, interpersonal skills and resourcefulness. Leadership competence is organized into four career tracks: Coach, Ninja, Thought Leader and Rainmaker. Each track is aligned to the decision-making styles of high performing leaders in the technology industry. A Coach shares personal purpose, inspires people, creates a shared vision and develops talented people. A Ninja consistently delivers quality output and business value through operational excellence. Thought Leaders are creative thinkers and experts in an area relevant to Mindtree’s business, and Rainmakers have the capability and initiative to find customers, create new opportunities and develop segments that directly impact business. Self awareness, the third dimension of the leadership model, means leaders deploy strengths in situations and effectively navigate challenges in areas that are weaknesses. Mindtree leaders are also required to seek feedback through leadership assessments like 360s and an individual feedback report. “Both these instruments are tightly integrated with our talent review succession planning which at any point of time leaders may reflect upon,” said Santhanam. Each leadership role in Mindtree is linked to a primary and secondary career track, highlighting key skills a leader displays in a current role as well as skills they aspire to hone as they move to a destination role. During developmental career conversations or role transitions, the outcome of the leadership assessment focuses on role requirements and a leader’s primary and secondary competence area. For example, a sales leader might display Rainmaker as primary competence and Ninja as secondary competence, meaning the leader needs to spot opportunities and convert them into business in addition to driving excellence when it comes to deliverables. A

Collected, organized and tailored to your needs. WORKFORCE DATA FOR YOUR ORGANIZATION


CEO’s primary competence would be a Coach and secondary competence a Thought Leader.

Bringing It to Life The leadership model is aligned to Mindtree’s overall approach to talent management, including hiring, onboarding, assessment, performance and retention. Leaders are hired based on expertise for the role, key competencies and leadership behaviors and on-boarded with a structured, individualized plan. During the first week, the new leader defines their role and sets goals, works with peers, supervisors and eventually with others in the organization, customers and partners. New leaders also begin to craft their network within the organization, meeting other Mindtree leaders to exchange ideas and experiences. Santhanam called the process “homing and cultural immersion.” “We give them a holistic perspective to make the integration a strong one,” she said. Throughout their leadership journey at Mindtree, leaders undergo an ongoing assessment and feedback process, including EDGE and Decision Dynamics assessments and debrief sessions. They also develop an individualized development plan for the annual talent review and integrate the output and development feedback from that talent review into leadership development, succession planning and role transitions.

“The biggest difference in my leadership behavior is the level of accountability.” — Anoop George, associate vice president of sales, Mindtree.

Depending upon their goals, Mindtree leaders undergo one of two six- to eight-month learning programs, the enterprise management leadership journey or the enterprise technology leadership journey. “Every leader can select an individual experience like coaching, mentoring or shadowing with our top management team in an investor or analyst meet,” Santhanam said. “Or they can mentor a start-up. They are also given a study assignment by the top management like a business situation and how would you take it four notches higher.” Leaders also take part in group action projects set by the CEO or top management such as cognitive computing or prototype solutions for customers, she added. People are nominated for these projects after completing 18 months as a new leader. Learning can take the form of coaching, field immersion, learning labs combining business issues and technology, action learning projects, experiential learning, external networking groups and what San52 Chief Learning Officer • September 2017 •

thanam called “learning from unusual sources.” “Unusual sources include learning about managing complexity and publicity from the leading refineries in India or understanding performance management leaders by studying doctors or learning supply chain from a coffee estate,” she said. Whatever route leaders take, the goal is to use the leadership model to help that leader become successful in their current or future role. “The outcome is individualized,” said Santhanam.

Making Change One Leader at a Time The results from programs tied to the leadership model resulted in higher performance and retention. In one group of leaders who went through the enterprise management leadership journey in 2016, participants received a score of 85 percent in performance in their current role and the potential for transition into future leadership roles. Retention of those leaders remained high, too; 80 percent remain with the company. Anecdotal feedback from leaders who completed learning programs tied to the model has been positive as well. Anoop George, associate vice president of sales at Mindtree and a 13-year veteran at the company, credited two training programs with changing him as both a salesperson and a leader. George said the leadership development programs focused him on the people side of business and changed the way he thought about managing. “Previously, I focused a lot on short-term goals like revenue, profitability or closing a deal,” he said. “Over a period of time, I realized that the focus is on getting the right person and system to deliver.” The coaching component also gave him a new view of what leadership looks like by exposing him to leaders across the company. “I could bounce new ideas or hear them come in and how you could succeed,” he said. That experience has helped him move faster by visualizing how projects might work and motivate his team to perform better. “The biggest difference in my leadership behavior is the level of accountability,” he said. “I may have to step out of what I do and see the impact of it, how it affects everyone, what is the investment and how careful I need to be in how I do things.” Leaders are the key connectors of business, bringing employees and customers together. The experience of Mindtree illustrates the role development plays in nurturing leadership capability through multipronged approaches to building the depth and breadth of experiences that will steer the company to its future. CLO Arva Shikari is a writer based in Mumbai, India. She can be reached at

Business Intelligence

The Business Case for Leadership Development New analysis sheds light on how CLOs can prove leadership development pays off. BY WILLIAM C. BYHAM

n recent years, CLOs have faced growing headwinds when it comes to making a business case for leadership development. An article in McKinsey Quarterly accused U.S. companies of lavishing $14 billion per year on programs to nurture their leaders while seeing little in return. The Wall Street Journal ran an article a few years ago titled “So Much Training, So Little to Show for It.” And the authors of an October 2016 article in Harvard Business Review referred to leadership development programs as the “great training robbery.” The irony is the need for better leaders continues to grow. Global CEOs identified improved leadership development practices as a top five human capital strategy, according to the “Global Leadership Forecast 2014-15,” conducted by The Conference Board and Development

Dimensions International. Yet, the same study found just 40 percent of leaders said the quality of their organization’s leadership is high and only 15 percent said they have a strong leadership bench — a decline of 18 percent from 2011. The considerable need for leadership development but low expectation of a documented return on it presents a quandary for CLOs who understand how critical developing their organizations’ leaders is. They are in the awkward position of having to make a business case for investing in programs when there seems to be little proof that they deliver impact. However, a DDI analysis of longitudinal data from one leadership development program offers useful evidence to CLOs charged with making a case to CEOs or senior executives.






Customer satisfaction ratings

Business referrals

Productivity 36%

Operational efficiency

Work quality





Business metrics show how leadership development impacts the bottom line Absenteeism




Average decrease across studies

Turnover 77%

54 Chief Learning Officer • September 2017 •

Rework 90%

Supplemental labor costs 237%

Accidents Overtime 49%


Grievances 105%

Production time 26%

Figures’ Source: Development Dimensions International Inc., 2017


The study looked at data gathered over more than 40 years from more than 18,000 leaders and 12,000 managers, peers and direct reports of leaders who completed on average five courses from a leadership development program designed to improve business and interpersonal skills.


Leaders have more positive interactions after training. Openly share feelings and concerns regarding important issues Before training After training

59% 77%

Listen and respond to others’ feelings with empathy and understanding 59%

Yes, Leadership Development Works One of the biggest findings of the study was, contrary to the negativity, leadership development really does work: 82 percent of managers, peers and direct reports of people trained cited higher frequency of observed positive leadership behaviors among leaders after they had completed development courses. Positive behaviors included leadership competencies such as building trust, influencing, leading change, managing performance problems and resolving conflict. This finding is more reliable because it’s based on data from observers — the people who leaders interact and work with every day — as opposed to leaders’ self-ratings of their own effectiveness, which is less objective. Additionally, the study found that 81 percent of people who report to a trained leader said they were more engaged in their jobs. Even more important is how the change in leader behavior in 43 companies affected important business metrics (Figure 1). A further 22 companies calculated return on investment for their training programs and found ROI figures ranged from 147 percent to 633 percent. FIGURE 2: MAKING UP FOR EXPERIENCE

Leadership development helps level the playing field.

% of effective leaders after training

% of effective Time leaders before in role training 1-2





overall increase (greatest impact)















Provide others with support without removing their responsibility for action 58%


Maintain or enhance others’ self-esteem 54%


Ask for others’ help and encourage their involvement 54% 76%

Leadership Development Supports Business Goals In building a business case, CLOs also need to be aware of how leadership development programs can support broader business goals. Leadership development can make new leaders effective faster. The research found that a good development program can elevate the capability of leaders who have been in their roles for just one to two years to a level comparable to leaders who have been in their roles 10 years or more — promoting consistency in leadership quality regardless of tenure (Figure 2). Improved gender equality in leadership is another result. Analysis showed that a leadership development program will be equally effective at improving the skills of both men and women but 82 percent of women reported their confidence in being a leader increased after participating in a development program. Lack of self-confidence is a significant factor holding women back from career advancement. Leadership development also helps leaders perform better as they transition into global roles. A global development program can promote a common leadership language across borders and help set leaders up for success as they take on global assignments. Building a business case for leadership development can be a challenge for CLOs. But, it needn’t be that way. Identifying metrics and showing the bottom-line impact improves standing as a trusted partner for the business and paves the way for investment in your leaders — and the organization’s future. CLO William C. Byham is executive chairman of DDI and the author of 28 books, including “Leaders Ready Now.” He can be reached at Chief Learning Officer • September 2017 •


BUDGET continued from page 47

SOFT SKILLS continued from page 42

view of the organization, including goals, outlook and finances. Freedman advises learning leaders not to give up when a budget request is refused. “When a budget gets cut, it may not mean, ‘No, we won’t do that,’ ” Freedman said. “It could just mean, ‘Not now.’ ”

ported by the executive team because they see the business benefits, Charbonnier said. His team conducts regular surveys of the impact of training across the organization and he said they’ve found consistently strong correlations between leaders with effective soft skills and the level of engagement on their teams. “The leaders with greatest soft skills deliver our best business results,” he said.

Tell a Story When framing a budget request, craft a throughline: Start with the business problem, explain the identified solution, illustrate how the L&D initiative will achieve that solution and paint a picture of the desired end state. In other words, tell a story. “Every budget needs a story,” Freedman said. “Otherwise it’s just numbers on a page … and people just want to cut the numbers.” There are two basic methods of building a budget. The first is top down, in which total categorical expenditures are given spending limits with costs divvied among line items. The second is bottom up, where departmental subunits and managers make allocation requests which are then totaled. Both approaches have benefits and drawbacks, which is why it’s best to use one method to crosscheck the other. If you choose to start from a topdown approach, apply real world hypotheticals to the numbers to make sure they are workable and plausible. If starting from the bottom up, compare the categorical totals to past years’ actual data, trimming the fat where possible and taking budget requests down from a dream scenario to a more realistic level.

Prove Your Successes with Metrics An L&D organization that lacks an effective metrics and measurement program is going to have a difficult time proving its business value and that in turn means budget requests may not be taken seriously. Comprehensive learning metrics help L&D gain respect and trust from business leaders and it goes a long way toward getting talent development initiatives funded — both now and in the future. When establishing a metrics and measurement program, it’s critical to measure training ROI but also important to measure things like a learner’s intent to apply the training, transfer of knowledge and whether desired performance change is taking place. Take a strategic approach to budgeting and make this the year your learning organization achieves its true business potential. CLO Gary Schafer is president of Caveo Learning, a consulting firm that delivers ROI-focused strategic learning and performance solutions. He can be reached at 56 Chief Learning Officer • September 2017 •

21st Century Skills Providing soft skills training early in the career development process is becoming increasingly important as millennials and Generation Z candidates flood the workforce. College students today are advised to build their science, technology and math skills if they want to find a job but as a result, soft skills training appears to be suffering. Despite the fact that the National Education Association has identified the 4 Cs (critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity) as the most important skills young people need to succeed in the workplace, most college graduates come up short. In a 2016 Payscale report on workforce skill preparedness, hiring managers listed critical thinking, problem solving, attention to detail and leadership as the soft skills most lacking among young job seekers. This fact has forced companies to ramp up newhire training programs to close the gap, as well as show young workers the company is investing in their future. Charbonnier has begun to promote L’Oréal’s commitment to leadership development for new hires as a way to engage millennials and position the company as an employer of choice for the next generation. “We develop talent who can anticipate, innovate and thrive in a constantly changing economy,” he said. “We want recruits to see that we will give them the skills to be confident in the workplace.” Providing leadership development options may give companies a competitive advantage when recruiting millennials, who expect to move quickly into leadership roles. A 2015 Hartford study showed 69 percent of millennials aspire to be leaders in the next five years and they said leadership training was the most important skill development they expect from their employers. When that development doesn’t happen they are more likely to leave. Deloitte’s 2016 “Millennial Survey” showed that among millennials with plans to leave their companies in the next two years, 71 percent were unhappy with how their leadership skills were being developed, 17 percentage points higher than those intending to stay beyond 2020.

The study also found the most loyal young employees are actively encouraged to aim for leadership roles and provided ample support and training to move into these roles. “Millennials are being put into com-


also last a lot longer, Charbonnier added. Technical skills become obsolete but teaching employees how to communicate effectively and lead teams builds a company’s overall agility and resilience,

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Providing leadership development options may give companies a competitive advantage when recruiting millennials, who expect to move quickly into leadership roles. plex leadership roles on multigenerational teams and they are eager to develop the skills to be successful,” Charbonnier said. While the impact of soft skills training may be difficult to measure, the long-term benefits of having strong and engaging leaders is unquestionable. The impact of good soft skills training can

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Backing Up Feedback

Providing candid information leads to true learning and growth • BY TASHA EURICH

F Tasha Eurich is an organizational psychologist, researcher and author of “Insight: Why We’re Not as Self-Aware as We Think, and How Seeing Ourselves Clearly Helps Us Succeed at Work and in Life.” She can be reached at editor@ Eurich is a keynote speaker at the Fall CLO Symposium+PLUS, taking place Oct. 2-3. For more information, visit

eedback has become a bit of a buzzword in the business world today and for good reason. It’s the best tool we have for building self-awareness — the meta-skill that forms the foundation for high performance, smart choices, strong leadership and a fulfilling career. People who regularly solicit feedback at work are seen as more effective not just by their bosses but by their peers and employees. One study showed that 83 percent of top performing leaders regularly solicit feedback compared to just 17 percent of the worst performing ones. Moreover, in the absence of feedback about our performance how will we know where we are coming up short and what we can do to improve? But while most of us know we should be getting more feedback from our colleagues, team members and bosses, the approaches used in most companies often fail to provide the kind of candid, focused and objective information that leads to true learning and growth. We need to get the right feedback and realize that not all feedback is created equal. We have to choose the right people to give feedback, ask them the right questions and use the right process to get the kind of valuable information that leads to actionable insight.

observations about how I’m doing,” that client won’t know what’s on the table. Am I asking about my coaching style? Or whether the jokes in my talks are funny? The more specific you are, the more successful the process will be.

We need to get the right feedback and realize that not all feedback is created equal. Form a working hypothesis. For example, “I think I have a tendency to come across as timid at work. Is that your experience?” A hypothesis will give you a framework for the conversation and help you either confirm or deny your suspicion. Be realistic. You can’t and shouldn’t expect to transform yourself overnight. Instead focus on one area of improvement at a time.

The Right Process

Armed with a list of the right people and the right questions, the process is relatively easy. Look for what I call “loving critics.” Loving critApproach three loving critics but don’t ask for ics are people who will be honest with you while still feedback immediately. Ask if they will give it at having your best interests at heart. They are people some future point in time. Offer context on what who you trust and have a genuine desire to see you you want to learn and why. succeed. And they’re willing to help you do it. Agree on the gestation period. Give them a Loving critics also should have sufficient expo- window of time to observe you and record some sure to the behavior you want feedback on. If you observations. A month is usually sufficient. Then want honest feedback on your public speaking harvest the data. I suggest one 30-minute phone skills, you shouldn’t choose someone who has never call or meeting every month with each loving critseen you give a speech. ic for the next three months. The right people also are willing to be brutally After you’ve identified the right people and given honest. Does this person generally speak his or her them time to observe you, follow up with them. mind? The best yardstick is whether they’ve ever Check in again after six months. Have they noticed told you a tough truth. changes in you based on the feedback you discussed? One caveat to this whole process: The most useThe Right Questions ful feedback isn’t always the easiest to hear. You may While the questions themselves will depend on be surprised, defensive and even angry but the inyou and your specific situation, here are a few tips: sight you gain will be well worth it. When it comes Be specific. If I said to a client, “I’d love any to learning about yourself truth is power. CLO

The Right People

58 Chief Learning Officer • September 2017 •

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