Learning Anytime Anywhere

ADHDA while back I said that my next musings would be around Dr. Tom Gilbert and the Behaviour Engineering Model (B.E.M). but I keep running into other things that catch my attention! I will  tie the BEM into the story at the end.

Last weekend we hosted a friend of my daughter’s who recently arrived at CFB Kingston to start his training as an Intelligence Operator (INT OP) in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). One of my first two projects as a Training Development Officer (TDO) was to convert the first forty hours of training for this course from Face-to-Face (F2F) to self-directed online learning. That was ten years ago… wow time flies!

2006 was “the year of the social network” (R. Macnus, 2006). Phones were getting smarter and the 3G network was here! Important to the CAF was the increased stability of its Learning Management System (LMS) “DNDLearn” which at the time was provided by Desire2Learn or D2L. Since then, the CAF has moved onto SABA and D2L created Brightspace. My point here is that with respect to Distance Learning (DL), the CAF was really at the beginning of a major shift when I was assigned the project.

When I took over the DL project, the school had already thought through a lot of the logistics and access issues. There was real (valid) concern that the learners might not have a computer, reliable Internet access or the support of their supervisors to commit the time required to complete the DL portion of the training. To address these issues, laptops, headsets and hard shipping cases were purchased to send to each student so everyone started at the same level with respect to technology. An instructor was available every day to support the learners. Learning contracts were developed that the instructor, the learner and the learner’s supervisor at the “home unit” had to sign.

This learning contract is really key to the story. The CAF is – understanding its culture – pretty particular about where it’s people are and what they are doing. The more junior you are, the more this applies! The staff at CFSMI were not about to let these new INT OPs run willy nilly all over the country unsupervised while they did this training! The instructional staff and I had some passionate debates about learner centricity and giving the learner responsibility. A tall order for an organization that is so control oriented.

Fast forward to last weekend. Matt and I were talking about his upcoming training and given my history with the initial attempt, I was naturally curious about what had changed! I wasn’t disappointed. The DL curriculum has expanded from 40 to 72 hours (9 training days) which is a pretty solid demonstration of success, but the change that really got me was that Matt has already headed back to Victoria while he completes his DL phase of training. The Chief Instructor’s directions were (in Matt’s words) “I don’t care where you do it, as long as you get it done on time and you don’t get hurt.” Quite a different contract from 2006.

Of course, logistics and access have changed quite a bit in the past ten years and the Defence Learning Network (DLN) has matured. More importantly, connectivity is not the issue it was and we are almost all connected. Internet access by individuals jumped from 67.9% in 2005 to 80.3% in 2009 (Statistics Canada, 2010). I couldn’t find more recent stats, but I think it is safe to say that access has surpassed 2009 levels and mobile technology keeps getting better.

So how does this story about learning relate to workplace performance? As  noted in Expectations of the Workforce, there is a consensus amongst  research and experts in the field of performance improvement that around 75-80 percent of the factors that influence performance are environmentally rather than individually based. The top row of Chevalier’s Improved Behaviour Engineering Model in Table 1 below helps focus the analyst’s attention here first.

 

BEM

Table 1: Updated BEM (Chevalier, 2003). Reprinted with permission.

The expectations “I don’t care where you do it, as long as you get it done on time and you don’t get hurt” are pretty clear! The maturity of the DNDLearn system ensures that guides, materials and tools are in place and support performance. The biggest change to me in this environment is the level of trust displayed by the leadership in allowing young Matt to really learn anywhere anytime, within the allotted timeframe of course. A truly incentivized environment!

My hat is off to the School of Military Intelligence and I trust Matt is enjoying being at home with friends and family while taking this first step in his journey to becoming an Intelligence Operator.

References

Macnus, R. (2006). 2006 Web Technology Trends. readwrite. Retrieved from http://readwrite.com/2006/12/11/2006_web_technology_trends, 09 Mar 2016.

Statistics Canada (2010). Internet use by individuals, by location of access, by province. Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/tables-tableaux/sum-som/l01/cst01/comm36a-eng.htm 09 Mar 2016.

Chevalier, R. (2003). Updating the Behavior Engineering Model, Performance Improvement, 42(4), 8-13. Retrieved from www.aboutiwp.com

Advertisements

Those Darn Job Descriptions

Job DescIn my last entry “What do you really want me to do!?” the focus was on how a job description is used to inform the employee about the manager or organization’s expectations. After reading that post, a colleague of my loverly wife, I will call him Mr. J. Hunter, shared a recent experience where the job description was being used for recruitment and selection purposes. Same tool, different application.

So… have you ever read a job description in a job posting and thought “What is this job – really!?” Mr. J. Hunter works in the IT industry and he’s a pretty sharp guy with loads of experience working in the upper levels of the field. His experience in this situation raised some potential things to consider in writing job descriptions for a job offering.

If you are only going to offer the first level in a salary range, why dangle the upper end of range? I had the same experience with a local University. The salary range was (let’s say) $65-$70K and seemed like a bargaining point until we all sat down. The HR folks said there were Union rules and the likes that would necessitate starting at the bottom and in 5 years I could be at the top range. That was some bad juju for both Mr. J. Hunter and I.

Make sure the the tasks you are describing are aligned with the level of the job. In Mr. J. Hunter’s case, the job was a “first level support technician.” However! The employer wanted this first level techie to also:

  • Ensure data integrity through backups for client data (daily and weekly) and monthly verification of the backup media integrity; 
  • Maintain daily virus detection and inoculation procedures on the network; and
  • Provide computer consulting services to clients on a project or enquire basis according to IT standards and procedures.

Mr. J. Hunter pointed out some serious questions he had about the above wording, specifically the bold words, which made me think back on some job descriptions I have read (or maybe wrote – oh my goodness).

Backup media integrity relates to Business continuity/Disaster recovery planning which is way beyond 1st level support. Client or Desktop Support is related to personal computers while network support has to do with servers, switches, routers etc and belongs in a different job description all together.

The last point on consulting services, projects and standards is very vague and the questions raised by the previous two points compound the uncertainty. Would the consulting services and projects be related to PCs or networks? What are the size and scope chickenof the projects? Finally, the standards and procedures could be better explained. Are they the standards of the organization? Provincial? National? International?

Now – this last point, “other duties as required,” was also in the description and I am definitely guilty of using this. It seems to be a pretty common add on at the end of many job descriptions.  Doug Savage calls it “the slavery clause,” Mr. J. Hunter called it “the big catch all for doing other people’s jobs” while on further reflection, it appears to me as an easy way to cover one’s backside in case you forget to include a task.

In Mentors, Managers and Metrics we looked at the need for alignment between organizational goals, metrics and the expectations of your workforce – which was the spark that started this whole train of thought. Mr. J. Hunter’s situation shows us another place where alignment is key! The tasks in the job description must be aligned to the correct job level in order to ensure that the correct pay and benefits are being offered for the work being done. This misalignment is what ultimately convinced Mr. J. Hunter not to proceed further with the application. I don’t blame him!

Get to know the job intimately that you’re applying for. Don’t just read the job description – study it and picture yourself performing every task required of you. When you interview, framing your responses so that you reveal your significant knowledge about the job gives you a massive advantage
~Travis Bradberry

Clearly, Mr. J. Hunter was applying the advice of Travis Bradberry above and really thought about the job he was applying for. Another expert whose wisdom I cherish is Dr. Allison Rossett who shared an article today that relates to this topic… “The gig economy: Distraction or Disruption.” The authors ask “How can a business manage talent effectively when many, or even most, of its people are not actually its employees? Networks of people who work without any formal employment agreement—as well as the growing use of machines as talent—are reshaping the talent management equation.”

That has me wondering how relevant job descriptions will be at all in another ten years. Food for thought! Speaking of food… it’s supper time! Later ‘gater!

 

 

Expectations of the Workforce…

Expectations of the Workforce or “What do you really want me to do!?”

Have you ever started a new job or moved into a new position and thought “I don’t have a clue what I am supposed to be doing!?” How about the frazzled manager who gets the new hire and says “Here’s your desk… don’t worry – you’ll pick it up as you go.”

More than once in my career I have been transferred into a position where my “job Capture
description” consisted of a file folder full of printed e-mails, post-it notes and hand scratches on the back of a beer coaster. Frustrating when there are Human Resource (HR) policies and procedures that clearly outline requirements for job descriptions and performance reviews leading up to the annual performance assessment.

After becoming exposed to Performance Improvement and understanding the importance of the job description for setting expectations and the performance reviews as a feedback loop – in each successive position where I wasn’t provided a job description – I wrote my own – and presented it to my supervisor and asked “Is that what you want me to do?” It worked as a way to at least start a dialogue about expectations.

Feedback is the breakfast of champions.
~Ken Blanchard

In my most recent position where I had to manage others, I had one fella who had been bounced from job to job in the unit and didn’t seem to be getting a fair shake. When I took up the job, we sat down and reviewed my first attempt at his job description and made some tweaks, added some of his professional aspirations and away we went. We sat down twice in the year reviewing his progress, as well as at other intervals when more immediate feedback was needed. At the end of the year, I was able to base his performance assessment on all this and substantiate his higher than average rating amongst his peers. Easy when you use the system as it was designed.

A lot of people seemed to have “written off” this young man as needing too much care and supervision. I wondered – as we often do in our field – is it the performer or the work environment (which is the responsibility of management)?

Back in 2012, Guy Wallace (another one of my mentors and friends) and I wrote an article for eLearn Magazine that attempted to answer the question:

Where did the statement “80% of performance gaps are caused by other than Knowledge/skill deficits” come from?

To make a long story short, there was a consensus amongst the research and experts in the field that around 75-80 percent of the factors that influence performance are environmentally rather than individually based.

Now there are many (many many) environmental factors that can negatively impact performance. Some we can influence, some we can’t. In this case, simply setting clear expectations and providing regular feedback to show him how he was progressing created a real turn around.

One of the foundational models in Performance Improvement is Tom Gilbert’s Behaviour Engineering Model. Gilbert helps us see performance from both environmental and individual perspectives. A good topic to delve into next…