Understanding Guiding Values

Understanding Guiding Values

Being able to influence others is a critical skill in any business environment. Managers leading a team, colleagues looking for buy-in on a project, and employees angling for a promotion – each of these situations involve one person trying to persuade others to support a recommendation.

We may talk big about the “right way” to influence others, but when the time actually arrives even the best of us can make a classic beginner’s mistake. We may stick to expressing our own point of view and major concerns, and give little thought to what the other person is thinking or feeling.

The result is unfortunately predictable – instead of moving towards acceptance, we encounter resistance.

A key piece of the puzzle is empathy.  Empathy allows us to put ourselves in others’ shoes. Empathy makes it possible to understand decision-making processes and motivations that are very different from our own. It uncovers key information that increases our chances of success.

No matter how experienced we are, it always helps to re-evaluate how to apply empathy in a conversation. A simple way to approach it is to think about the Three Guiding Values: the past experiences of the other person, what is imposed on them today, and their relationship with you.

 

Past Experiences

A person’s past experiences will influence their perception of the future.

For example, imagine you need to influence colleagues to accept the company’s new change management process. If the last such initiative they worked on was unsuccessful, it is fair to assume they will view your proposal with scepticism. This does not mean you are doomed to failure, but it does mean you will have to position your message in a way that takes account of what happened before.

Even if you have worked with someone for a long time you will only know a part of their story. You should take the time to get to know the person the best you can, and when the time comes to present your proposal, be sensitive to what you may not know. Ask questions and encourage them to share their experiences with similar initiatives, and then adjust your message depending on their response.

 

Current Impositions

Next, you have to consider what is imposed on the other person today. If you are trying to enlist support on a two-month project with numerous meetings, conference calls and trips abroad, you need to know what other major commitments the person already has. Perhaps a year-end report will take priority or an annual vacation has already been booked.

Sometimes people say no for reasons we are not aware of, and often these may relate to strict management directives which in turn are tied to key performance indicators, budget restraints or staffing limitations, etc. You may not be able to control these factors, but you need to at least be aware of them.

 

Their Relationship with You

This value is more dependent on you, because it involves the strength of your personal relationship. The better that is, the easier it is to get someone to accept and support your ideas.

People are more likely to consider any request favourably if they know you well and respect your ability. In contrast, no one thinks twice about turning down someone they neither know nor care about.  Therefore, if you want to succeed you need to build a level of rapport and trust first.

Understanding a person’s Three Guiding Values will give you a solid foundation on which to build your message.  People do not always tell their co-workers about their various experiences, values, needs and drivers. It is your job to uncover as much as you can by asking questions and actively listening. The process takes and a genuine trusting relationship with the other person.

 

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Group Process Tools for Team Meetings

Group Process Tools for Team Meetings

Occasionally, your team may need to gather and generate ideas and plans for process improvements as a group. These meetings are successful when the participants have identified business problems, come up with better ways of doing things, and agreed on a plan for action. Unfortunately, some meetings conclude with key issues unresolved.

A well-structured meeting is a critical starting point.  But when your team really needs to dig deep for a solution, then it helps to have a few extra tools in your facilitation tool-belt. Otherwise, no matter how good your intentions, the meeting may devolve into discussion loops, silence, or simply return to old ideas.

Here are three helpful group process tools for getting at problems and coming up with solutions.

 

Tool #1: Sequential questioning

This technique is useful when you need to uncover important information as a group.

In this process, the facilitator decides on the main topic and prepares a set of questions in advance.  These questions should progress from broad ideas down to the specific, operational level. Each question should challenge assumptions and prompt detailed discussion.

For example, if the topic is how to improve customer services, the first question could simply be: “Why aren’t our target customers buying more of our product?”  Follow-up questions may focus on specific challenges that you anticipate will come up in response to the first question – each new question digging deeper than the one before.

A good method is to write one question at the top of a flip chart and then ask team members to contribute their thoughts. Write down their responses and compile lists under appropriate headings. Once you have heard from everyone, flip to a fresh sheet with the next question.

The key is to focus attention on one question at a time and always tie back to the original theme or problem statement.

 

Tool #2: Force field analysis

This is useful when you need to identify areas of potential conflict and bring them into the open before they become problems.

Begin by clearly stating the problem, then help the group define the goal it hopes to achieve. Write these on the top of a flip chart.

On the left side of the flip chart, write down the key factors that contribute to that goal. Encourage participation as the group brainstorms ideas.

Then, opposite the first list, brainstorm likely obstacles and challenges. Among the usual favourites are tight deadlines, limited budgets and lack of support from management.

Once all the issues are presented, decide which obstacles must be dealt with immediately and which can only be addressed later on. Then, come up with action points for each.

By mapping both sides of the equation, your team is able to anticipate potential obstacles, which increases the chances of success when executing the solution.

 

Tool #3: Root cause analysis

Managers often spend time dealing with the symptoms rather than actual causes.  A simple root cause analysis can help the group dig beneath the surface and get at the real reasons behind the problem.

The key is distinguishing between cause and effect. You can begin by stating a observable “effect” then ask questions to uncover the underlying causes.  As participants share their ideas, be mindful as a group whether each is the root cause, or a symptom of a deeper cause.

There are a few different approaches to diagramming a root cause analysis.  One simple and impactful method is the 5 Whys.

In a 5 Whys, begin with a question or problem statement, then ask the group why it is so.  As the group settles on an answer, repeat by asking again why it is so.  With each “why” question and answer, your team is adding a layer of depth. Once you have reached five layers deep, you should be approaching the actual root cause.  It is only then that you should begin thinking about the solution.

 

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The Three Stages of a Team Meeting

The Three Stages of a Team Meeting

Meetings start with the best of intentions.  We may prepare team meetings with the belief that the combined ideas of many is better than the thoughts of one.  And yet, these sorts of meetings often lose direction and turn into a briefing session directed by the leader.

The list of reasons may be long, but it often involves a lack of understanding of what is required of a leader when facilitating a team meeting.  As a facilitator, the leader has to get the team members actively engaged in the process of discovery rather than being passive recipients of information.

Not every team meeting is a facilitated session, but when facilitation is required, it helps to approach the session in stages – the beginning, the middle and the end.  Each stage has components which are important, and will challenge you in different ways.  By planning each stage separately, you increase the chances that your meeting will be organised, effective and in control.

 

The Beginning

A strong beginning helps to set the tone for a successful meeting. Your team should be guided throughout the process and have a clear understanding of the what, why, how and outcome of the agenda items.  When beginning the meeting, it helps to follow three steps:

First, start with a welcoming statement.  This doesn’t need to be a long drawn-out oration of the day’s events.  However, clarity, conciseness, and confidence, are critical. You will need to establish your command immediately. This establishes your right to control proceedings and positions you as credible leader.

Second, move to a meeting set-up in which you give the team a clear understanding of the reasons behind the meeting.  Talk about why this is beneficial and urgent not just for you, but also for them. You should also let the team know the outcome you hope to achieve at the end.

Third, explain the agenda, which should outline for everyone the process you will follow.  Don’t just rattle off an agenda items.  Take the time to explain the reason and process behind each item.  You will not be discussing each item in depth, but you do need to give your team some insight into what will be happening.

 

The Middle

As you get to the middle of the meeting there are a few key words you need to keep in mind: objectivity, group dynamics and ownership.

Objectivity means giving responsibility to the group and retaining your independence.  A good facilitator speaks for only 30% of the time and is able to get the team to speak 70% of the time.  You can always tell inexperienced facilitators because they speak too much.  As a facilitator you must allow people to take responsibility for their own issues.  Give them the chance and they will come up with the ideas.

In a pure facilitation, your job is to discover the issues at hand – not give an opinion.  As the team leader you may be required to give your “expert’s opinion” or “management insight” on the topic, but you should still remain objective in the way you handle input from the group.  A good facilitator is involved in “helping” the group come up with bigger and better ideas, not “doing” it for them

Group Dynamics means eliciting quality information from the participants and managing the flow of information from all participants.  Many of the problems teams face are not related to lack of technical knowledge, but rather issues related to group dynamics.  As the facilitator you’re there to ensure the process is fulfilling the meeting’s objectives.

Ownership means guiding the group to self-sufficiency and ownership of their ideas. The group needs to feel that they have buy-in on the process and the results.

You need to constantly check back with the group as a facilitator – clarify the ideas – clarify where there is agreement and dissension.  When there is more group ownership it encourages the group to act on its discoveries.

 

The End

The “wrap-up” or ending stage is where most meetings fail.  Great ideas are generated throughout meeting, but more often than not, no action or ownership follows.  Make sure this doesn’t happen to your team.  When ending the meeting, it is important to cover the following points:

  • Thank the team for their support, effort, patience and time
  • Recap the what, why and outcome for the meeting
  • Review any agenda items that weren’t discussed
  • Make sure everyone is clear on action items and responsibilities
  • Outline next steps, follow-up processes, and how progress will be monitored
  • Take ownership for establishing the next meeting

 

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Getting the Appointment

Getting the Appointment

You are in sales. Your team’s marketing efforts have resulted in a constant stream of interest from prospective clients and your phone is ringing off the hook with requests for meetings. As great as this may sound, it rarely happens. More likely, you have gotten some new contacts and meetings through email campaigns, networking efforts, and referrals.  Still, these efforts alone probably have not filled out your schedule.

The fact is, no matter how successful your marketing and referral efforts are, you still need to occasionally pick up the phone, make the call, and ask for the appointment.

Some people may see this as “cold-calling” and view the practice negatively. True, a call to someone you do not know well can come across as intrusive, and if not handled carefully you can send the wrong signal. There are other challenges as well: navigating gatekeepers, dealing with apathy, creating a sense of urgency, dealing with you own discomfort and fear of rejection… it’s no wonder we make excuses and put it off!  If you understand the principles of calling to get an appointment and couple them with planning and practice, most of these problems can be minimised.

Tip 1: Soften the ground.

Making a “cold-call” is never your best option. You should always try to turn a cold contact into a warm contact before you try a phone call. Do you have any mutual contacts? Are you connected on LinkedIn? If so, do you share any groups, interests, education or employment history? Ideally you should get an introduction from someone you both know. If that is not possible, see if you can look for another way in.

Tip 2: Send an email first. 

Once you plan to connect, always send an email first. This allows you to remind the person how you know each other and introduce yourself in a safe and professional manner. End the email with an invitation to meet, and suggest that you call in a couple of days as a follow-up. There is always a good chance the contact will respond positively and arrange a time for the call.

Tip 3: Keep it brief.

You have one objective – get a meeting. Keep the call no longer than five minutes.

Tip 4: Be clear.

Speak slowly, minimise the ‘ums’, and most of all, be succinct. Practice what you want to say in advance. The conversation should be somewhere between ‘sounding scripted’ and ‘playing it by ear’.

Tip 5: Project an assertive image.

When speaking with a gatekeeper, simply say, “Victor Lee please, this is Calvin Smith from ABC Corp”. Let your tone imply that you’re expected.

Tip 6: Talk about results.

Show value to get a meeting with someone. Refer to the benefits you’ll create (e.g., cost savings, improved efficiency, reduced risk, etc.)

Tip 7: Don’t procrastinate.

There are always excuses. Make a list of people you’re going to call, then do it. Remember: the hardest call to make is the first one.

Keep in mind that the telephone call is just one step in an on-going marketing process. There are many ways to keep in touch with the person in order to build a trusting relationship over time. Often your best clients will require numerous follow-ups and months (even years) of cultivation before a contract is signed. But in order to do any of that this, you have to pick up the phone and make the first call.

 

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Reactions to Change

Reactions to Change

No two people are the same. When driving change within your team, each of your team members will exhibit his / her own response to the changing situation. Some will become defensive and uncomfortable. Others may be overly zealous and become impatient with the roll out. Below are the seven most common reactions. Thinking about likely reactions in advance will help you plan your response and improve the overall changes of success.

Reaction 1: People will feel uncomfortable and tense. This is particularly true when someone is asked to do something different. To understand this idea better, think of playing golf. Have you ever tried changing your grip? If you have, chances are that you have become more aware of the way you hold the club, the people watching you and the bad shot that may follow. The same is true in the workplace. During the first few days in a new job, people are very conscious of wanting to make the right impression.

Reaction 2: People will think first about what they have to sacrifice. For example, when a corporate restructuring is announced, the first thing that goes through people’s minds is not, “this is going to be great for my career” (although some people may be thinking that). Most are more concerned about losing their status, responsibility or team. Their thoughts are about what is going to be different. Only much later will they consider what they stand to gain.

Reaction 3: People are at different levels of readiness for change. Some will believe it is time things changed and will feel impatient to get on with it. They will even volunteer to be the ambassadors of change. Such people will be the most likely ones to switch jobs frequently, shift to new roles in the company, and typically believe disruption caused by new technology is a good thing. Others will see any change regardless of now insignificant, as the worst thing that could possibly happen. They have a mindset that denies change and will probably deal with it by believing that everything will be back to normal soon.

Reaction 4: People will often feel lonely. Most significant changes introduced in organisations have an effect on the staff. During a merger or a takeover, everyone in a department will feel the consequences. However, some individuals tend to feel that the change will have a bearing only on them. They are almost unaware of the feelings of the person sitting in the next cubicle.

Reaction 5: People can handle a certain degree of change. However, if the changes are too drastic and happen in too short a timeframe, people may be overwhelmed and fail to adapt accordingly. Imagine this: you hear about the appointment of a new managing director while moving offices to a new location after a leveraged buyout of your company by its rival. Taken independently, these changes may not be too big, but collectively they can be overpowering even for a person accustomed to change.

Reaction 6: People will feel that there are not enough resources. When change takes place, the general reaction is that there will not be enough time, people, systems and budget to meet the new demands. People often believe in the new goals but mistakenly think that the only way to achieve them is by doing what they have always done.

Reaction 7: People will revert to the old ways when the pressure is off. When change is introduced, the focus will be on implementation. Some are excited while others are nervous. However, regardless of initial reactions, when the focus changes from immediacy to continuity, people go back to the way they used to work.

The first step to navigating your organisation, division or team through change is to recognise how people will react.

Although it is useful to be aware of these seven reactions, they are only reference points to get you started. Keep in mind that everyone reacts differently and many will have some combination of reactions that appear over time.

Your job as a leader is to understand how the change will affect your team before it happens, anticipate their reactions, and put systems in place to ensure that positive opportunities are maximised and negative aspects are minimised. When you do this, the change in your organisations will become newsworthy – and will lead to success, not failure.

 

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Making a Good Impression

Making a Good Impression

When delivering an important message, a leader can follow a simple checklist for creating the right impression with the audience. Once the basic content and structure of the message is decided, shifting focus toward creating the right impression is a big part of ensuring that the message is well received and leads to prompt action. The following are three elements that you can add to your own checklist: channel, tone and observable behaviours.

1. Choose the right channel
Leaders have an understandable tendency to use email to communicate some of their most important messages. The reasons are obvious – instant circulation, immediate impact and consistency across recipients. But that may not be enough when you have to communicate something really significant. Before you deliver a crucial message to your team, ask yourself whether the idea is to inform, engage or persuade. Which method is the audience likely to prefer? Email and other electronic tools make it faster to share information (inform). However, if you need to impress your team as a leader, it is best to communicate in person and follow up, if necessary, with something in writing (engage / persuade). In a large organisation, where face-to-face meeting with every employee is not possible, you could consider a webcast as an option. They are easy to arrange, cost-effective and more personal than email messages.

2. Choose the right tone
To strike the right tone when communicating, every leader has to walk a fine line. At one end of the spectrum, you risk sounding too “macro”, falsely optimistic or too assertive. At the other, you can come across as obsessed with details, worried, or uninspiring. Either perception can lead to unwanted consequences. Just a few ill-chosen words or poorly phrased comments can result in a loss of support and trust, and can lead to inaction. The daily challenge for leaders at every level in an organisation is to steer clear of extremes and stay in the “credibility zone”. To do this, you must ask yourself what you want the message to achieve and what you think the audience wants to hear. The answers to these questions will help you communicate more effectively.

3. Choose the right observable behaviours
The way subordinates perceive you directly affects their willingness to co-operate or go the extra mile. If they see you as unprofessional, you already face an uphill battle when attempting to exert authority. However if you come across as competent and knowledgeable, the team is much more likely to work towards the goals you set. These perceptions do not have to be 100 percent correct, but they certainly count. A leader must be sure to create the right impression and should be aware that people are forming perceptions by observing seven specific things:

posture, movement, gestures, facial expressions, vocal delivery, choice of words and attire.

It pays to take a moment or two to think about how you want to be perceived. Once you have done that, consider any changes to make in these areas to have more effective style of leadership.

 

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Using Assertion to Influence Others

Using Assertion to Influence Others

The best way to influence others is to put yourself in their shoes. In our last post, we covered the persuasion cycle, which helps you to outline the statement, value and evidence for adopting your recommendation. In an ideal world the other person should be able to understand when a solution that is in their best interests, but that is not always the case. If the other person is having a hard time responding to you best use of evidence, emotion and rational appeals you may want to try being assertive.

This is the concept of saying “do this” constructively, while maintaining a positive and friendly tone. After all, if your aim is to continue working with the other person, you do not want to jeopardise your relationship.

The key difference between persuasion and assertion is the use of time, tension and ownership.
Assertion is a six-step process:

1. Define and own the problem
This is a crucial first step. Do not proceed unless you have clearly defined and assigned “ownership” of the problem. This eliminates the likelihood of people later denying there is a problem, stonewalling or getting side-tracked.

It does not matter if you own the problem or the responsibility is jointly shared, but it must be stated up front. For example, if the company is not serving clients to the best of its ability, admit that this is a problem. Once that has been done, it is time to focus on the solution.

2. Identify a solution
This can be done unilaterally, such as by suggesting that the sales team needs to have more face-to-face contact with clients. The key is to spell out clear and workable solutions. The more direct, succinct and articulate the message, the better the chances of success.

Another option is to use the facilitation approach. Instead of telling people what to do, consider asking them for ideas on how to resolve the problem. If you handle things this way, you must ensure a solution is identified at the time and that decisions are not deferred.

3. Transfer ownership
This can be subtle or very direct. However, the party you are dealing with must understand
they now own the solution and must take action. If it has been agreed the sales team should
spend an extra eight hours a week with clients, this should start without delay. Acceptance of ownership and execution by the other party shows your attempts to influence have worked.

4. Raise tension
If the previous steps have not achieved your objective, you may need to raise the level of tension. The vital thing is to be strong, yet subtle. You can do this by rephrasing your message, but with a more assertive tone and gestures.

5. Do not justify
Once you start to justify something you are no longer being assertive, but trying to persuade. It is not a mistake and, if you think it work, then adopt this approach. However, if you start persuading someone after trying to be assertive, you may just end up arguing
Inconclusively.

Besides, if you start to justify at this point you will appear on the defensive. This will lower the level of tension, and that is the key factor which makes assertiveness effective.

6. Change in tone
By raising the degree of tension, you hope to create an opening for the other party to agree. You can spot this by listening for a change in mood, or tone. It might last for only a few seconds. Therefore, pay close attention to any signals and, when you detect a change, repeat
the request.

When applying assertion it is important to continue to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and listen closely. Preserving the relationship means knowing when to step back and reduce the tension without justifying the source of the problem. Delivered effectively, assertion become a powerful tool for influencing stakeholders toward positive change.

 

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Using Persuasion to Influence Others

Using Persuasion to Influence Others

Why do we sometimes fail in our efforts to influence the other person? It may be because we are not focusing our attention on the right thing. The natural tendency is to look at every situation from our own point of view. We consider first the ways we need help, believe our own recommendations are best and set agendas that cater to our personal priorities.

In other words, when dealing with other people we are usually thinking: “What’s in it for me?” When two people approach a conversation with this same mindset, it is not surprising that the chances of reaching agreement diminish.

To get someone to accept your advice or opinions, you need to put yourself in their shoes. In doing this, you must speak their language and talk about the values or potential benefits that will mean the most to them.

For example, if you want a colleague to back a new strategy for client contacts, it would be better not to focus on what it means to you. Instead, concentrate on how the proposed strategy will help your colleague and the rest of the team.

You might start by saying you need their support, and then point out how the reorganisation will create more opportunities to cross-sell and that other companies have been able to increase revenue by 15 percent using a similar process.


The Persuasive Cycle: Statement, Impact and Evidence

This approach uses a “persuasive cycle”, which should contain three main parts. The first is the “statement”, which outlines in your own terms the main idea, recommendation or initiative. In the case above, it is the request for your colleague to support the new contact strategy.

The second part is “impact”. This should be delivered in terms most readily understood by the person you are trying to influence. The objective is to refer to the benefit they will get, or to give a compelling reason why your statement is important for them. Here, it is the chance to capitalise on cross-selling opportunities.

The final part of the cycle is “evidence”. Saying that something is a benefit is not always enough. You should back up your statement with facts, statistics, visual aids or even testimonials to provide added meaning and make it easier for the other person to take action.

In most cases, using the persuasive cycle will get you far in an influencing conversation. However, as we all know there are cases in which you might need to take a different approach. The colleague or client you are trying to influence may have an awkward personality, and some people just have an innate resistance to change or new concepts, even after the benefits have been expressed. Sometimes no amount of emotional or rational justification, clarification or evidence will sway a fixed opinion. In these cases, you may want to try being more assertive.

We will talk about an approach to assertiveness in our next post.

 

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The Right Way to Brainstorm

The Right Way to Brainstorm

The concept of brainstorming is simple. But that does not stop people doing it the wrong way. Participants might keep quiet, stick too closely to the status quo or put forward ideas that just are not related to the topic. Here, we will look best practices for leading effective brainstorming sessions with your team.

1. Set clear objectives
In order for the session to work, you need to first clarify the objectives so that nobody has any doubts on what is being asked. Before the session, conduct some problem analysis of your own and come up with a solid problem statement or SMART goal for your team to work with. Have this in writing for everyone to see. This will help you to set clear boundaries and give you something to refer back to when if the process gets stuck.

For example, when directing the team to come up with new process improvement ideas, rather than simply asking “how can we do this better” you could identify some specific pain points in the current process, summarise the what and why of a needed solution, and then ask for the team to come up with the how. On the other hand, you could take a step back and ask the team to suggest the pain points first. Either way, the team should know the scope of what you are asking for.

2. Allow time to think
Participants will need some time to think deeply about the problem and develop their ideas. You may hand out some post-it notes or sheets of paper for people to write suggestions – lots of them – and then decide which ones they are going to put forward. At this stage there should be no talking. The more time each person has to think, uninterrupted, about their suggestions, the more likely you are to get high-quality output when the time comes for sharing.

You may ask participants to think of “ideal perfect world solutions” where time, budget and resources are no object. The point is to generate as many ideas as possible with no restrictions. Later on, you will get to narrowing down and selecting ideas with a decision matrix or other analysis tool, but for now the goal is to get all sorts of new ideas out in the open.

3. Let ideas flow
Next, ask everyone to share with the group what they have come up with. Let the ideas flow and record everything without discussion or elaboration. If you have handed out post-it notes, have them come to the front of the room, present their idea and stick it on board. Remember that during a brainstorming session there are no bad ideas. Often, team members will be tempted to comment on or even criticise someone else’s ideas. Criticism of any sort should not be tolerated. It will put a damper on creativity and participation. As a leader of the process you should actively discourage any commentary, especially the negative kind. Keep things moving, adopt a light tone and get everyone to participate in the process.

4. Narrow the options
Only after all ideas are on the board and you are satisfied that everyone has had a chance to participate should you then begin to narrow the options. As before, avoid any criticism. Rather than ask about “pros” and “cons” of each idea, focus on the “pros” and get the participants to weigh in on what they like best. You can have a vote to identify the top ten options – but again, the outcome is best if you are elevating what the team likes, rather than eliminating what they don’t like.

Remember that the point of a brainstorming is to be creative and identify possibilities. Don’t expect to leave the session with a fully-baked solution and action plan. You could go into a separate decision-making process in which you weigh priorities and come up with one or two solutions to plan around – but then you will have moved well beyond the brainstorming stage. To get the most of your team, it’s best to put your critical mind aside for a while and just let the creative juices flow!

 

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5 Learning Trends to Watch in 2017

5 Learning Trends to Watch in 2017

In many ways, 2016 has continued to break with global norms in technology, industry, business and politics. The new ways in which people consume media have been disrupting established flows of information around the world and impacting virtually everything we do in business. What are the implications for your organisation’s learning and development initiatives? Udemy, an online e-learning course provider, shares their perspective in a report on the trends and predictions they have seen for 2016-2017.

The 5 Key Trends:

1. People Around the World Increasingly Learn Online

Online sources now are critical to how people around the world take in information. 70% of modern learners rely on search engines like Google to find in formation and 50-60% now access online courses in one form or another. It’s not surprising then, that today’s workforce is now much more comfortable with online learning for L&D training than in years past.

To keep up with modern search, browsing and reading habits, online learning platforms need to be responsive to the devices people normally use to access online content. For many this means mobile. In fact, according to Udemy’s research, mobile now accounts for one quarter of all learning worldwide.

2. Millennials are Addicted to Learning and It’s Reshaping L&D

Millennials now make up more than one-in-three U.S. workers today and have surpassed Generation X in 2015 as the largest segment of the workforce, according to the Pew Research Center. Having grown up with the latest technology, Millennials have a keener interest in technology-based learning solutions and tend to be more open to new approaches than older generations. Research also suggests that Millennials tend to be more interested in career development than pay, and being relative young, Millennials are still highly focused on skills development. This dynamic is shaping L&D for the future as organisations respond to the demands of the incoming crop of managers.

3. Mobile Video On-The-Go is the New Normal

Video is by far the fastest growing category of online mobile traffic. According to Gartner Research, video is expected to account for over 60% of mobile data traffic in 2018, and Ericsson Mobility Report forecasts 55% growth in mobile video traffic, every year, through 2021.

As the general population spends more free time on smartphones, consuming all types of video content (sports, news, entertainment, how-to tutorials, etc.) we can be certain that workplace skills development supported by mobile video will be expected.

4. Optimal Learning Occurs Mid-Week

Employees expect to be given time to learn new professional skills while at work and prefer not to spend time studying on their weekend. Wednesdays, mid-afternoon (around 3:00 p.m.) is the most popular time of day for workplace learning. For mobile self-directed learners, content also tends to be consumed during the morning commute.

5. Technical Skills Across Industries Continue to be In-Demand

Online learning is especially popular for technical skills such as IT, software development, office productivity, data analytics and design. Each of these categories saw massive growth during 2016 and are expected to continue growing in 2017.

At the same time, certain areas of soft skills development will continue to rely heavily on coaching and immediate facilitator feedback delivered in a classroom or during a virtual instructor led training session on a platform such as WebEx. In the coming year, L&D departments will need to consider approaches that blend online learning with live instruction, so that each of the right skills are developed using the right approach.

 

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