T+D MAY 11 // Intelligence //

D.C. Area CLOs Share Human Capital Challenges at Local Forum

By Ann Pace

Learning leaders in the public and private sectors discussed practical strategies for engaging employees and developing new skills in an ever-changing workforce.


Employee engagement is a hot topic in the training and development arena today, so it may come as no surprise that a panel of learning leaders from the greater Washington, D.C., region unanimously identified effectively engaging employees as a current challenge and key focus.

The panelists—Jody Hudson, chief learning officer at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC); Fred Lang, director of training and knowledge management at the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC); and Kimo Kippen, chief learning officer at Hilton Worldwide—convened on March 4 at the Learning Tree International–hosted forum, “Engage the Experts: What’s Working in the Learning Industry,” to discuss solutions to current organizational and human capital challenges.

“It’s not about us-versus-them,” Lang noted. “We must have a dialogue with employees to find out what’s important to them.” Lang urged attendees to tap into employees’ full potential and make it possible for them to use all of their skill sets, not merely those for which they were hired.

Hudson cited the importance of combining training with development opportunities, specifically through the use of rotational assignments across various teams, departments, and locations. These experiences cultivate employees’ professional evolution and help them to connect the dots throughout the organization.

Engaging the business, collaboration, innovation, and “unlearning” arose as additional essential themes.


Kippen explained that unlearning can occur when employees are provided the tools, resources, coaching, and assignments that give them richer knowledge and new experiences. Reverse mentoring—when a more senior employee seeks knowledge and skills from a newer and younger employee—is another method for developing new competencies in the midst of a changing workforce.

For organizations to remain at the helm of change and innovation, Kippen charged learning professionals to focus on the younger generation in the workforce. He explained that creating change is about intentionally developing this next wave of leaders. “As leaders, how do we deal with change, not as a sprint, but as a marathon?” Kippen posed. “Our response should be: How do we continue to keep things very simple? It is our job to create learning that is quick, accessible, and easy to use.”

Emerging technologies and social media are practical tools that employers can use to train and engage the workforce. Although the public sector has been slower to adopt social networking platforms such as Twitter and Facebook because of its concern with protecting information security, both Hudson and Lang noted the importance of leveraging new technology and digital media for learning.

“Inside the NRC, we’re trying to stay on the front end of social networking,” said Hudson. “I think there is so much power in social networking as far as the informal learning methods that go on in an organization, and the passing of information from more seasoned employees to younger individuals.”

The DOC is piloting a new executive education program that uses mobile learning tools such as laptops and smartphones. It also recently developed one of its training courses for federal government employees using avatars and 3D technology. “It was not that expensive to develop, but the evaluation we’ve received is that people love it,” Lang said. “And not just the younger generation. There’s a whole breadth of the employee workforce that enjoys that kind of engagement and that kind of challenge.”





Global Coaching Pulse Check

By Eileen McKeown

According to a recent global study, satisfaction with professional coaching experiences is high, especially among the younger generation.


Organizations that have seen one of the worst economic downturns in decades are dealing with the difficult task of rebuilding morale and bolstering their employee base. Many are turning to team building and coaching in an effort to strengthen their individual employees and maintain a competitive advantage during the economic upswing.

The findings of the 2010 “ICF Global Consumer Awareness Study”—conducted by the International Coach Federation (ICF) and PwC’s international survey unit and alliance online panel provider Research Now—highlight the general public’s awareness of professional coaching and what it can do for them. The survey was conducted in 20 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, and South America.

The study focused on areas pertaining to awareness, usage, and satisfaction in regard to professional coaching. Key questions touched on why respondents participated in a coaching partnership, their perceived importance of certification and credentials for coaches, and their overall satisfaction and feelings about their coaching experiences.

More than half of all respondents were generally aware of coaching opportunities (51 percent), and nearly half of all respondents who indicated that they were unaware of coaching did divulge that they had an understanding of professional coaching as a development tool. Interestingly, general awareness varied greatly by country, from a high of 92 percent in South Africa to a low of 20 percent in Germany.

When asked why people were involved in a coaching relationship, 43 percent of respondents who participated in coaching chose “to optimize individual and/or team performance,” followed closely by “expand professional career opportunities” and “improve business management strategies” at 39 percent and 36 percent, respectively.

Of those who had been coached, satisfaction levels were very high (83 percent). Furthermore, having a credentialed coach increased satisfaction levels significantly and also led to the increased likelihood of respondents recommending the professional coaching experience to others.

“The results are significant because they give us the first look at how widespread coaching has become in the last two decades on a global scale,” says ICF President and Professional Certified Coach Ed Monell. “Knowing more about the public’s knowledge of and experience with professional coaching now will help us to sustain and build our industry’s future.”

Most significantly, of the four age groups analyzed in the study, the youngest segment (ages 25 to 34) had the highest rate of awareness of coaching and the highest levels of satisfaction with their coaching experiences. This statistic has promise as workers of the next generation become more involved in their organizations and careers. Being open and willing to participate in development opportunities such as professional coaching can give organizations a significant advantage in maximizing their professional potential and achieving the business results they desire.





Hamster or Honeymooner?

By Stephanie Castellano

A new study shows that low levels of employee engagement correlate with a lack of trust in senior leaders.


At work, do you consider yourself a hamster or a honeymooner? Are you crash-and-burning? Or are you happily engaged? In consulting firm BlessingWhite’s “Employee Engagement Report 2011,” surveyed professionals indicate that trust in company leaders directly correlates with employees’ feelings of engagement.

The report identifies five levels of engagement, based on how satisfied an employee is with her role and how much she contributes to company success. The levels—“engaged,” “almost engaged,” “honeymooners or hamsters,” “crash-and-burners,” and “disengaged”—can then help to pinpoint which employees may be flight-risks, and which are most critical to retain.

“Trust in leadership is an important factor in achieving high levels of engagement,” says BlessingWhite CEO Christopher Rice. “Individuals can enjoy their work and have a strong sense of accomplishment, but if they don’t trust their boss or their boss’s boss, they’ll begin to question how they fit in with the company, and have less pride in the organization overall.”

The survey also found that employees trust their immediate managers more than company executives: 72 percent of North American respondents trust their managers compared to 52 percent who trust their senior leaders.

Rice suggests that it is difficult for senior leaders to inspire trust in employees because they are often removed from the daily goings-on of the organization. “Most immediate supervisors and managers can demonstrate trustworthiness in their daily actions and become known beyond their titles. Executives don’t have that luxury,” Rice states. “The workforce scrutinizes what they do and will draw the most unexpected, unfortunate conclusions if leaders do not communicate carefully. In our leadership development and high-performance culture, we find this same trouble spot across organization size and industries: Even in well-run companies, half the workforce typically does not trust the senior team.”

This “trouble spot” was clearly reflected in the survey’s results: Only 31 percent of total respondents feel engaged at work, and 17 percent consider themselves disengaged. Even employees who do not identify as disengaged may still be classified as hamsters, honeymooners, or crash-and-burners—with medium to low levels of job satisfaction or contribution. Meanwhile, fully engaged employees are high performers who contribute to their organization’s mission and supporting initiatives, while deriving maximum satisfaction from their roles in the company’s success.

Providing employees with the ability to apply their talent and skills in an environment that supports high performance has the strongest correlation to employee engagement, according to the study. Unfortunately, half (51 percent) of all respondents indicated that their work environment is not one that drives high performance. This result could be a reflection of an organization’s senior leadership. Also, because trust in senior leaders can have twice the impact on employee engagement than trust in immediate managers, the responsibility for strengthening engagement falls mainly on executives’ shoulders.

So what are the take-aways for senior leaders? The report urges more frequent and in-depth communication, consistency with words and actions, and the forging of strategies that are clearly in line with the company’s
goals and values.



T+D MAY 11 // FAST FACT //


Temporary Workforce Stronger Than Ever

Businesses have been using more and more contingent workers as a way to remain flexible, yet productive, during the recession. As the economy recovers, this trend will continue according to “The State of the Contingent Workforce,” new research on the use and management of contingent workers, conducted by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp).


The study shows that high-performing organizations have upped their use of contingent workers, expanding from traditional administrative positions to technical support, operations, and increasingly, high-skilled professional positions, including engineering, legal, and finance. And organizations are keeping them on longer.

On the other hand, lower-performing organizations are more likely to use contingent workers in management positions. i4cp warns companies about doing this because temp managers are unlikely to have a deep understanding of the organization’s issues. “Lower-performing organizations are making a mistake in using contingent workers in managerial functions,” says John Gibbons, vice president and general manager of research at i4cp. “Managers truly understand the culture and are the primary conduits for strategy and culture, so the ramifications are significant.”

Regardless of how contingent workers are being used, the trend of using even more of them is here to stay, says i4cp. Research suggests that these workers will play an important role in the economy’s recovery and continue to increase in numbers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 2.2 million U.S. contingent workers in November 2010, up from 1.7 million in September 2009.

i4cp notes that to take advantage of the trend, businesses will need to focus on managing and using contingent workers efficiently and strategically for long-term advantage and growth.





New Virtual Career Site Launches in July

Made possible by a grant from the Department of Labor, a forthcoming Virtual Career Network will create a variety of career development and training options for healthcare workers.


To help individuals make wise career choices and build a plan to pursue their education and career goals in healthcare, a new Virtual Career Network (VCN) is coming soon. With the help of eight partner organizations with expertise in workforce development and online delivery, the VCN is described as an open source, open-content workforce services and online learning delivery platform. It is under development by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) through a grant from the Department of Labor.

“Our mission with this project is to help new entrants to the workforce and those who are unemployed or underemployed into careers in healthcare by assisting them with obtaining the credentials they need to secure jobs in healthcare and related occupations,” says David Morman, project director for the VCN.

Within the platform, users will be able to

  • explore different careers
  • select a potential career target
  • assess interests, aptitude, and readiness to pursue their targeted career
  • identify education and training programs that help to secure required job credentials
  • determine whether any gaps exist in their academic preparation or prior work experience that would prevent their participation
  • take basic and foundation courses online (most at no charge) to prepare them for the appropriate postsecondary programs
  • locate and enroll in training or instructional programs that are convenient, and that lead to credentials needed for healthcare careers
  • access tools that assist them in using those credentials to locate and apply for relevant job openings.

The platform will offer users an opportunity to create, use, and maintain individual career management accounts (CMAs). Through these accounts, users can continue to access the VCN tools and resources they initially used to enter or transition to healthcare occupations. And, most importantly, they will own and maintain a portable, lifelong record of their academic and career competencies and accomplishments, including transcripts, certificates and certifications, test and assessment results, resumes, websites, letters of recommendation, counselor notes, and career planning documents. The VCN’s social networking media will provide additional opportunities for career development.

The platform contains a learning exchange, which includes a learning registry (similar to a course catalog) and a learning repository (actual course content). Both are connected to the platform’s learning management system to deliver courses and manage learners. The VCN’s learning exchange component offers an authoring tool to build e-learning courses and a team of expert developers to assist subject matter experts in converting classroom-based curricula to online courses. The platform will connect to resources that can be used to validate prior learning (for example, college courses, military experience, or employer-provided training) to earn college credits toward appropriate postsecondary programs.





2011 Characteristics of Psychologically Healthy Workplaces

For the past six years, the American Psychological Association (APA) has honored organizations with outstanding practices in the areas of employee involvement, health and safety, employee growth and development, work-life balance, and employee recognition with the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Awards.