Thursday, August 13, 2009

Training and Development - Conjured Learning

Simulations as more than learning tools

Key learnings:

  1. Gaming simulations have carved a niche in training
  2. But they also have the potential to move a little beyond that

Gaming will enable learning professionals to reinforce key learning ideas, deliver more attractive, engaging sessions and ensure higher retention levels is an irrefutable fact. Organisations are so satisfied with just this much that only few have exploited the true potential of gaming.

“Simulation games have more potential than what is currently being harnessed,” says an expert in gaming technology. The biggest discovery is using games to bolster business performance. In fact, once organisations understand the correlation between gaming and business performance, the final word in the learning world will be games!

Simulation games allow learning professionals to reproduce complex market, organisational and customer-service systems and conditions. As a result, learning interventions are better poised to support business performances. Read on to understand the link between simulation games as a learning tool and improved business performance.


The question, “Why simulations?” though answered a hundred times before, todayt in answering the same question, the objectives are to highlight:

  1. Using simulation games is relevant in present times
  2. How simulations boost business performance

The joys of simulation

Besides their high entertainment value, using simulation games can create knowledge. By modelling work-life conditions, they enable learners to understand:

  1. Complex market functioning
  2. Tactics that support improved business performance
  3. Competencies and skills needed to achieve high performance

In short, simulation games, when well leveraged, give organisations a unique business advantage. Detailing reasons why simulation games should become a hot favourite, especially when increasing business performance is the key learning objective.

Generational preference:

With gamers representing an increasing chunk of the employees, short, intermittent online learning exposures will leave learners dissatisfied and disillusioned Simulation games offer modern learners what they expect - a wholesome online learning experience.

Equally important is for organisations to understand the importance that modern generations place on technology. To them, technologically non-savvy organisations have no future. As the head of a telecommunications company reiterates, “With the younger generation in particular, it is important to attract such employees with the kinds of technology they have come to expect, including simulation games and Web 2.0 capabilities” .

As well as to helping organisations cater to the learning needs of newer work generations, simulation games help attract and keep the young crowd! But these benefits are just the beginning.

Built-in learning:

Simulation games place learners in practical performance management situations. Here, learners play a central role in managing and controlling and gain practice in making the right moves. Learners also enjoy the luxury of making errors without suffering its outcomes. With rapidly changing trends, having learners return to classrooms or online sessions often is not possible. With this limitation, simulations provide a great learning platform and what is best is that learners are not getting short-changed in the bargain. On the contrary, they benefit more from the experience of being-in-the- moment. “Compared with traditional classroom learning, simulations help learners master content and new behaviours forty – seventy percent faster,” says an expert. Speeding learners to new learning competencies translates into quicker business results.

The differentiator

There are market simulations that allow learners to perform ‘what if’ analyses. By modelling cause and effect associations that exist in a particular market environment, these simulations allow learners to get a first-hand feel of complex market functions and human interactions. Simulations also make learners better assessors of real-life situations. Known as the ‘déjà vu factor’, a learner who has experienced something in a simulated meeting will immediately link it to what he is going through in real-time.

Simulations can also help business plans and organisational structures to enable employees to understand the complex web of their operations and functioning. Organisations have used such simulations to identify actions and interactions that act as obstacles or hamper functioning. Simulations have also helped them test the solutions. In fact, an emerging practice is using simulations for corrective and preventive measures. Customising all these simulations to the‘t’ will have the desirable impact.

As mentioned above, simulations can help gain critical skills and competencies even when individuals have had no prior experience in it. A railway company employed a cost-centre simulation solution to help their employees, who were engineers with no exposure to finance, gain financial management skills. By engaging those in complex role-playing and allowing them to plan and perform operational activities, the engineers felt as comfortable as their finance counterparts by the end of their training.

The benefits of simulation continue to charm organisations. But thinking of them as learning tools alone will prevent organisations from using them as part of performance management. Given the increasing complexities of the business world, speeding employees’ knowledge and competency gaming is a definite way to ensure better and quicker business results.

Ref: TheManageMentor.

The Grim Reapers!

HR specialists are experiencing extreme burnout as they carry out multiple lay-offs ...

Key learnings:

  1. HR professionals need support to manage lay-offs induced stress and anxiety
  2. Emotional distancing is one of the key fallouts of lay-offs Numbered List
  3. Training and HR support networks can help ease the pain associated with conducting lay-offs

HR professionals are living their worst nightmare! Their worst fears suddenly have come true, with lay-offs and job cuts becoming more frequent than one would have ever imagined. .HR professionals are feeling the heat from the emotional outbursts of people being laid-off and the stress caused because of overseeing continuous rounds of lay-offs. The most disturbing part of lay-off related stress is that more than thirty percent of HR professionals are considering a job shift! The reactions seem graver than one would have bargained for, Organisations thus need to take notice of the not-so-welcome trend that is beginning to unfold. Understanding the reasons for anxiety, stress and depression and providing help to overcome these negative feelings is thus pressing for organisations that wish to preserve their HR asset.

The weathered and wilted

HR professionals surely are gaining experience of a different kind by engaging in lay-offs round after round. The experience is extraordinary and faraway from normal. While the experience can be enriching as human resources professionals, getting weathered by the storm is terrible. Some would argue that excessive weathering is causing them to wilt under pressure and stress is leading them to disillusionment. .

Traditionally, it has been the human resources department that has provided counselling to stressed and anxious employees, however, today HR professionals need support of the same kind more than anybody else. Statistics provided in the report presented by workforce management would enable better understanding of its gravity. The HR anxiety survey reveals that:

  1. Out of the 370 respondents surveyed more than sixty-five percent had started drinking more while others lit up when they felt unduly stressed
  2. More than thirty percent HR professionals are thinking about a job change
  3. Sixty-six percent of HR professionals are worried about losing their jobs
  4. Seven percent HR professionals have already lost their jobs
  5. Fifty percent of the surveyed professionals have conducted three or more rounds of lay-offs in a time span of 16-18 months
  6. Majority feel distressed as people call them names like “grim reaper” and “the axe man”
  7. Seventy percent have reported with complaints of sleeplessness and stress-induced depression

The foregoing statistics are alarming and suggest the need to take preventive measures for containing the negative impact of today’s uncertain economic times as it is resonating deep and far within the corporate fold.

According to corporate psychologists, HR professionals have been corporate caretakers. They have played a key role in hiring people to ensure better organisational productivity. Removing them for ushering cuts in corporate outlays and containing loss because of poor economic conditions is a bizarre experience for HR professionals. Such conflicting experiences are taking a toll on the mental and physical health of HR professionals. The implications can be worrying for both employers and HR professionals. While HR workers would have to battle out ill-health and a poor mental state, the employers would have to worry about the morale of HR workers and the resulting medical costs that the company would have to bear.

The most worrying fact about the whole lay-off caused stress and anxiety is that, most employers are oblivious to the implications of lay-offs on people who conduct them. All remedial measures are directed to those being laid-off and none towards HR professionals who have been sitting for lay-offs round after round. For instance, the employer providing laid-off employees with outplacement services, however, there is no counselling or aid provided to HR professionals to help them cope with the pressures of axing jobs.

Emotional distancing

Apart from the health issues, emotional distancing is the most obvious fallout of excessive lay-offs. HR professionals are increasingly distancing themselves from their colleagues. According to Laura Rhode, HR director of Bonita Springs, Florida-based hardware giant, “as HR professionals we do not want to get too close with other colleagues as it would really hurt if they were asked to leave”. Where HR professionals are not emotionally distancing themselves we find employees distancing themselves from their “HR friends”, as they believe that they are “sorrow makers”. According to a survey, twenty-five percent of HR professionals believed there has been a dramatic change in their relationship with their colleagues ever since they carried-out lay-offs.

HR professionals thus need help. The criticism, self-induced stress, anxiety, tagging by friends and depression are reasons enough to take professional help. Most HR professionals are fighting the ailments at their personal level without much success. The need to get some professional counselling that can make them feel better about their work is important to spread cheer and gaiety among the HR fraternity. Apart from professional counselling HR professionals can set up formal support networks that work towards providing common comfort. However, the disadvantages of a formal network would be that it could lead to a “HR” versus “us” idea..

This apart, HR professionals can enrol for training on how to conduct lay-offs and deal with issues related to lay-offs. Most HR professionals surveyed believed the training they received helped them cope with stress and therefore recommend it with great conviction. However, experts believe that while training surely helps HR professionals get a grip on conducting lay-offs, explaining the strategy behind lay-offs can highlight the impact of training.

While the survey brought out some real grim facts about conducting lay-offs, it also has given hope and a reason to cheer. According to the survey only nineteen percent respondents believed the stress and anxiety would have a long-term impact on their health and adversely impact their attitude towards HR function. The rest sounded upbeat and positive and believed that this phase too shall pass and the “grim” reapers would soon become “grin” reapers!

Ref: TheManageMentor.

Recruitment & Retention- Mistaken Identity

Poor hiring is not always about what one does, it’s also about what one doesn’t!

Key learnings:

  1. A mistake-free hiring process is a rarity
  2. This however does not mean organisations do little to prevent typical hiring mistakes

It is surprising how many organisations rave and rant about showing the importance of ROI of recruiting while indulging in actions that eat into the returns. But let’s cut them some slack. Most are ignorant of how they damage their recruiting efforts. This week’s mailer reveals a few common damaging activities that ail most recruiting processes. The hope is that once aware, organisations will tread the recruiting path with more caution than before.

What really happens?

In a recent finger-pointing research, analysts confirmed how the high-handedness of hiring managers and supervisors affect most recruiting functions. The objective to improve the recruiting returns is to target the hiring managers and supervisors since final hiring decisions lie in their kitty.

Here are a few mistakes that can easily be avoided with little awareness and effort.

Mistake: Rebuking recruiters about candidate quality only to reject the qualified based on gut feelings or resume information

Complaints on how only a few candidates match are rampant. But what hiring managers and supervisors overlook is the number of qualified candidates they reject citing reasons such as, “I don’t think he’ll like the job”, “I’m sure he’ll get bored with the job profile soon” and “He is overqualified for what we have to offer”. Maybe these reasons are not flippant but how many organisations ask their hiring managers to confirm their reasons for rejecting a candidate. Once this stipulation is in place, hiring managers and supervisors will be wary of rejecting candidates for unjustified reasons.

Mistake: Failing to make it to the interview

There have been instances when critical positions have been vacant for long and when ‘right’ candidates finally show up, hiring managers have done the disappearing act on the day of the interview. Good fits are always a rarity and competition for them is always on. Therefore, not showing up for scheduled interviews is the biggest mistake some hiring managers make. Most candidates are unwilling to reschedule their interviews or make reappearances. While their unwillingness has all to do with their market worth, hiring managers are quick to say, “The fact that he cannot reschedule or come on another day shows his reluctance to work for us”. It may not be true. Start pulling up hiring managers and supervisors for not showing up on scheduled interviews.

Mistake: Turning up ill-prepared for interviews

There have been instances when recruiters have had to resend candidates details while the candidate is seated across the interview table. Recruiters have not only resent resumes but have also attended those urgent; “Hey, quick tell me something about this guy” calls. A hiring manager or supervisor’s lack of interview readiness speaks volumes of how serious he is about hiring the best. Getting hiring managers and supervisors to share their interviewing schedules a week in advance and asking them to clarify their concerns about shortlisted candidates in advance should help hiring managers and supervisors get serious about their roles.

Mistake: Turning up late for interviews

Asking candidates to wait beyond their scheduled time gives them the impression the organisation is unorganised, ill-prepared or could not careless about them. Though most candidates would wait for the interview, only the desperate would wait to accept an offer. Typically, the desperate are not always the best. Hold hiring managers and supervisors accountable for sticking to their interviewing timetable.

Mistake: Getting to the interview only to ask dimwitted questions!

Asking interviewing questions is not akin to being a quizmaster! Questions asked should help hiring managers and supervisors make the right hiring decisions. However, most hiring managers and supervisors ask irrelevant, inappropriate and wrong questions. Interviewing questions have to be to-the-point and information generating. Blaming those in-charges of interviewing is unfair when they have had no formal interviewing skills training. Here is where more organisations falter. All organizations do not make artists out of their interviewers, interviewing skills is a recognized art. Hiring managers and supervisors must be trained with the dos and don’ts of interviewing and exposed to questioning skills.

Mistake: Delaying decision making Delayed decision is refuted decision.

Although not yet recognised as an idiom, it holds true in recruiting circles. Hiring managers and supervisors who delay hiring decisions stating, “We are yet to hear from our team” or “I am waiting for the green from my boss” are doing a disservice to recruiting. Although some have the courtesy to tell candidates about the delay, undue time lags between interviewing and hiring are the banes of recruiting. Most top candidates are lost during this time. Justifying their time lags is a must for hiring managers and supervisors. Also, penalising them for keeping critical positions unfulfilled even after interviewing.

As some experts rightly say, the success of most actions lie in not what is being done but what is not, in hiring too, success lies in avoiding the preceding mistakes. Hoping this week’s mailer will enable organisations to indulge in a mistake-free hiring process - happy hiring.

Ref: TheManageMentor.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tapping Top Talent in a Downturn

HR leaders often are faced with the task of downsizing in one business unit and recruiting highly skilled professionals in another. They have to cope with an exponential increase in applicants for a much smaller number of open jobs, maintain morale in constantly shifting external and internal environments and help their organizations retain key employees. This must be done with reduced recruiting and HR staffs and slashed budgets, at a time when brand image is a critical success factor.

Today, more than ever, organizations must recruit and select the best talent where they have openings and upgrade talent in areas where it will advantage the business. Change in the business environment has happened so fast, many organizations have been slow to adjust and take action. In the current economic climate, it is necessary to take a step back and evaluate workforce plans, as well as talent acquisition processes and enabling technology and determine a strategy that works for the organization in the new recruiting reality.

A Fresh Approach

The biggest mistake an organization can make in this challenging environment is to let down markets drive its vision and shut down recruiting completely. Don't ignore reality. Take a well-planned, creative approach to workforce planning and talent acquisition.

When recruiting departments are faced with more work and fewer resources, build in efficiencies, maximize existing tools, eliminate waste from existing processes, innovate, manage vendor relationships and establish strategic partnerships.

Consider the following steps:

1. Re-evaluate recruitment marketing strategies.
Don't stop running ads and posting jobs, but do be strategic and take a planned approach. The market has shifted from a scarcity to an abundance of candidates in a very short time - adjust accordingly. Don't overspend or spend in the wrong areas. Now is a great time to be out in the market as the competition for talent is much lower. Take advantage of it.

Also, renegotiate existing vendor relationships; don't pay last year's rates this year. There will still be skill shortages and geographic recruiting gaps, so rewrite copy and spruce up the company's look. Speak in a genuine voice for the organization by working with the marketing department.

2. Leverage the hidden gold mine.
Arguably the most commonly overlooked tool in any organization is its existing database. A real gold mine of information, the resumes collected by recruiters and HR staff during the past few years should provide great leads on passive and active candidates. For instance, run a Boolean search on the company's internal ATS database.

3. Improve competitive insight.
Leverage candidate interviews to collect market data on competitors. Actively call leads and network to gain insight into their knowledge about competitors. As talent managers interview candidates from competitors, gather critical information to help position the company to win in the market.

4. Tap the current employee pool.
Take a fresh look at the existing employee pool. Which individuals shine in the downturn? Identify individuals who have been interested in gaining experience in other functional areas and who would be willing to wear two hats during difficult times.

For the right employees, the current climate might provide real opportunities to gain much needed and desired experience in another area. Strong employees will appreciate the opportunity for long-term career growth, and it will show them how much they are valued.

5. Maximize social networking in recruiting.
When used properly, social media networks are an effective tool. The time demand is surprisingly low. If an organization has limited time, choose one or two networks to try. One recommendation is LinkedIn, which is targeted to professionals and requires little maintenance.

6. Automate candidate contact, and employ well-designed self-service.
Tracking down candidates can be time-consuming and frustrating, not to mention costly. Be efficient. One of the easiest solutions is to work with a provider to automate the process. There are myriad tools and software options on the market. The most attractive are those that include auto-scheduling, online minimum qualification screening and telephony/video interviewing platforms. Talent leaders also will want to improve and perhaps automate selection tools to ensure they find those few best needles in the now huge haystack.

Many talent managers can relate to the challenge of responding to the growth in candidate calls to "check status" and a single candidate applying for multiple positions. Turn on auto e-mails. A recent Pinstripe survey showed that less than 20 percent of organizations use that functionality in their ATSs.

Books Are Fun Ltd., a Chicago-based subsidiary of Reader's Digest, and the world's leading display marketer of books and gifts, experienced the benefits of automation firsthand. To meet expansion goals and cover attrition rates, Books Are Fun recruits 250-300 independent sales representatives every year. Before automation, the company's six internal recruiters spent 70 percent of their time screening applicants.

"We knew that the most important part of the recruiting process is the late-stage conversation that we have with a candidate about the job as a lifestyle change rather than just another position," said David Hammond, vice president of sales recruitment. "We needed our internal folks to focus on these late-stage conversations. It was a waste of time for my staff to handle the screening process."

Books Are Fun outsourced the sourcing and screening process to an organization that was able to reduce costs and time to fill by streamlining candidate tracking; managing all recruitment marketing efforts including postings and active and passive candidate sourcing; and accessing additional resources, including community-based recruiting from libraries and organizations, franchise and sales-niche recruiting, various national and regional job boards and TRM contact searches.

7. Find the right candidates from the onset.
Many organizations put too many people through too far in their processes. Design talent acquisition, screening and selection processes carefully and stick with them. Screen people in - and out - early.

"In the past, Books Are Fun offered a contract to the first qualified candidate that appeared. Now we want to offer a contract to the most qualified candidates only," Hammond said. "Our new system generates enough volume of qualified candidates to provide us with real choices."

8. Review the funnel and revise processes.
An organization may have fewer openings, but now there will be more people applying, which will significantly increase the amount of time spent screening and responding to applicants. This can exhaust an HR team, particularly one that recently reduced staff, and could increase effective cost per hire.

Adopt a high-volume recruiting model to process a high volume of candidates in a time of low job requisitions. Technology enables the process in a candidate friendly way. Move online prequalifiers to the top of the funnel, and save the paid online screens and assessments for the spot where the funnel is slimmer.

Books Are Fun revised its process and brought about significant improvements, including a 45 percent decrease in costs, a decrease in time to fill from 52 to 42 days and clear recruiting metrics including weekly summaries, pipeline reports, hiring funnels and detailed process maps.

9. Protect the brand.
When an organization is one of a few that is hiring, and getting 500 resumes for every job posted, process change is necessary. Work with experts to ensure the company doesn't miss good people or alienate future prospects and customers. This is particularly important if an organization is a major consumer brand, and every applicant also is a consumer.

Be polite and respectful every time. Companies are not usually good at this, and HR will find it especially important to partner with marketing and hiring managers when everyone is being asked to do more with less.

Times are tough and the human resources function is on the frontlines of the battle. But remember, every downturn yields winners and losers. Some organizations will not merely weather this storm; they will seize the opportunity to emerge as a more efficient and successful.

[About the Author: Sue Marks is founder and CEO of Pinstripe Inc., an HR and recruitment process outsourcing firm serving large- and middle-market domestic clients, as well as the Global 5000.]