Saturday, June 23, 2012

Learning and Development – Cost Center or Profit Enabling Center? – Part 2

Now that you have taken your first leap and convinced the business leaders that as an L&D professional, you can make a difference to enhance their business, it is time to move to the next most critical phase – prove what you said…in other words, ‘Walk the Talk’.

This is where the real work lies. Remember, in part 1 of this article, you did a lot of research on the business by spending quality time on the shop floor?  In this phase, you will put all of your research study in a document and then get ready to prepare your training content. Keep in mind that while preparing the content what’s important is not what you want to tell your trainees, but what they need to know to become more effective and efficient at work.

Start by preparing a basic program flow to understand the duration and the key topics to be covered. Bear in mind, that the business cannot release its people for luxurious number of hours. Be wary of the duration, keeping in mind the criticality of the business. If required, plan the session for (say) 2 days (depends and varies accordingly), keeping 1 as a business day and the other as a non-business day (say Friday and Saturday, giving them the usual Sunday off). This way, it will be easy for Ops to release their folks. Otherwise propose to conduct the training on off-peak hours of a day, or on off-peak days.

Once you have an ok on this, formulate a first-cut draft which you can share with the business. Take their inputs to understand if you are on the right track. If yes, take it further to organize a final cut for your presentation. If no, seek some more time to understand where the gap lies – this is a very critical step, so no compromises here. Keeping your audience in mind, don’t forget to add lots of simulations, activities and real-time examples in your session. Experiential learning is the key.

After taking a final ‘go-ahead’ from Ops on the content, take at least 2 dry-runs with the facilitator, to see if there are any gaps. If it is a 2 days workshop, prepare content for 1.5 days, so that you have ample time for extra role-plays, questions, etc…

While the program is being conducted, it is always great to have a positive kick-start from a business leader. Let him inaugurate the workshop and request him to sit through as and when his time permits. Once the workshop is over, conduct a mini quiz to judge the participants understanding.

After the end of day 2, it does not mean that your job as an L&D professional also ends. Do not cut the umbilical cord yet. Let it gradually decay off. As a coach, spend time with these agents on the shop floor. Guide them wherever and whenever necessary. Make buddy’s and let them help each other. Remember to keep them charged at all times, by making them realize what difference they alone can make to the business.

At the back-end, ensure that while you continue coaching them, you are also monitoring their performance, in terms of any positive shift.  Keep reinforcing this regularly. Also, start creating mini competition platforms to ignite the challenger within them.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Learning and Development – Cost Center or Profit Enabling Center? – Part 1

The question is crystal clear, but is the answer?…Are we part of a fraternity that is an unnecessary cost to a company’s financials or are we, in the real sense, being able to enhance productivity towards the P&L graph progressing northward?

Digging some graves here would mean that we led a function that conducted trainings either because some employees were sitting free and had no work (shows the inefficiency of their managers and ineffectiveness of the recruitment team whose hiring forecast was crap), or because there was a new product launch / update, so functional training had to be imparted? Operations would tell us what training needs to be done, what should be the duration, what should be the content………and so on and so forth…doesn’t this sound like “Operations team rules us and we have no say in the organization”? Does it not make you feel hand-cuffed???

Well, the tables have turned now and for those who have not turned them as yet, you better wake up!!!

Our key motive should and needs to be “Optimization and Enhancement of Operational Excellence”. Now the question is what do you do? First and foremost it is imperative that we ‘collaborate’ with Ops, instead of ‘becoming their slaves’. This can, for sure, be challenging initially, but believe me, once this is achieved, you will take your first giant leap towards contributing to the business of your organization.

Now the next question that comes up is ‘how’ will you do this? Start by understanding WHAT is the business. If as an L&D representative, you do not understand what business you are catering to, how will you decipher the customer’s needs vs actual production? Start spending time with the ones who are directly dealing with the customers, taking it to the senior management level where you will see why and how a strategy is made to enhance business. Spend more time on the ground / shop floor and ask questions till you are 100% sure with what and how a business unit functions. Simultaneously, communicate with peers of other companies or other industries, to work around a benchmark. As an example, I remember, when I was with ‘X’ telecom company, I would visit the market stores of ‘Y’ and ‘Z’ also, to understand what we were doing great or not too great. This helps in generating the needs for development and coaching.

Once you have good hold on the business acumen front, you will be more confident to walk up to your business leaders, stating (with numbers, figures and other data) the training needs of that unit. Explain to them that if the attrition right now is 40%, then what is it that L&D will do to bring this number to 20% and keep a turnaround time against it. You need to convince them through data only (they hate listening to English ‘gyaan’) that we can help your sales figures shoot up by 5 or 10%...Even a small positive movement will make a huge difference to the monthly / quarterly / annual P& L sheet.  

(…To be continued)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Gen Z – How will You Handle Them?

In college, while sitting in my Social Psychology class, I had studied the importance that the environment plays in building someone’s personality. Today, I am experiencing it. We have had differences with our parents, elders, teachers and the like in the past; however, what we did not realize then was the difference in values, thoughts and interests between them and us. All generations look at (say), gender biases, music, family, work, etc…in different ways, which seem perfect for them individually, but flawed for others.

Generation Z or the Internet Connected Generation, is by far the newest and most complex pedigree that humanity is experiencing. Before I share my thoughts on handling Gen Z in the corporate world, it is imperative for us to understand few basic traits of Gen Y, i.e. what WE bring to the table.

One of the most accomplished generations with respect to professionalism, dynamism, knowledge and perspicacity, Gen Y is known to be ethnically and racially diverse. They believe in being committed to a brand until something titanically negative happens. They believe in leading their life their way; however, also ensuring that it is in line with the family / corporate values and norms. They ensure that they are involved with their community and in other social development passions. Not only this, education plays a very important role in their life. At the workplace, they believe in achieving targets as a team. Gen Y also believes in sharing ‘Best Practices’ with each other.

Looking at these areas, lets see where Gen Z stands and more than anything else, how will you handle them when they start working with you.

Gen Z is full of competition and this attribute is what Gen Y (Parents) is creating in them. A sense of individualism is what we will get to see. To ensure teamwork, you may have to put in lots of extra innovative effort as a manager. They will do anything to stick to their identity…”Watch it! They are like Glassware, HandleWith Care”.

Since they were born in the era where they were surrounded with their parents’ smart phones, tablets, LCD’s, etc… expect them to be very smart and unbeatable at technical expertise and that is why they are called ‘Digital Natives’. Once they hit the corporate world, you will realize that everything for them needs to be digitized and manual work will be shrugged away. Be prepared to see those open doors of super-fast communication that we keep knocking as of today. Their cognitive ability will be at lightning speed. At every step they will challenge the status quo and will start putting a question mark on the traditional ways of working by labeling them as archaic.

Gen Z is ‘plugged in’ 24 x 7 and they breathe technology. Multitasking for them is as easy as pie. Keep them stimulated at all times to relish their high production levels.

Z-yer’s believe in experiential learning. You cannot just tell them that they were right or wrong…give them valid reasons, quoting instances. They like to be made accountable for things, so give them responsibilities, but also ensure to stay at the background. Bossism does not work with this pedigree. Give them logic for all that needs to be done.

Early to the corporate world is what this genre believes in. They are ok to continue with their studies alongside work. It will become very challenging for organizations to successfully absorb the best candidate. For these applicants, what was a new development a year back, is now basic necessity. Companies will have to attract them not only monetarily, but also through other employee benefit schemes, etc.

Public reprimand is absolutely intolerable for Z-yer’s. You do that as a manager and be sure to lose them. In stead, work on their positives and subtly, yet firmly share the ‘what’ aspect in their areas of improvement along with the ‘how to improve’ plan. Share constructive feedback with them. Very soon we may witness the so-called one-time appraisal process becoming biannual or quarter-based, as this generation will look for regular inputs and a concrete, realistic self-growth chart for their enhancement.

The power to make radical changes is in the hands of this coming generation, so hone their skills accordingly. They should know when to get aggressive and when to get assertive. They may sound like trouble, but given the right working environment you can harness the best of this generation and let them lead your business into the future.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Name of the Explosive: BOMBER - B

In my previous article you looked at how to leave a first, lasting impression in the minds of your audience. Today, let’s look at the overall strategy to deliver a classic, super successful presentation.
“He exploded the dance floor” is what we hear in parties about a great dancer who captured everyone’s attention. Now’s the time for you to explode in the presentation room. Drop the explosive called BOMBER – B and see the effect!
But, even before this explosive, remember the most critical part of a presentation – if you have been given 2 hours for your delivery, prepare only for 1.5 hrs. There may be questions that you have to answer; otherwise, there may be some topic during the delivery that may lead to a longer discussion.
BOMBER – B is described as you continue reading this page.
B – Bang: Always start your presentation with an attention seeking ‘hook’, as we discussed in my previous article. (Read it for more details)
O – Opening: Once you have commenced the program, the opening, regarding the key essence of the presentation should be shared immediately. Do not drag the main points to be covered throughout the session. It is always good to outline the top 5 discussion items and place them in bullets for easy comprehension. 

M – Message: No matter how long a presentation, the audience WILL NOT take back more than 4 – 5 key points with them as learning. Revolve your entire presentation around these pointers.
B – Bridge: Bridge the gap between each key message and the participants experience and needs. You need to link every point to “what’s in it for them”; else, don’t be surprised if your audience starts playing with their phone or passing sly remarks or keeps looking at their watch time and again, etc…
E – Examples: Share loads of examples to put your point across effectively. Make your participants visualize what you are saying. The more the examples, the better; but remember to not overdo it, else, you will lose the essence of the presentation. Examples also enable you to connect well with your listeners. Customize them according to the crowd. A simple example here, would be something like if you have more young men as your listeners, give more examples linking the presentation to say, cricket or cars and bikes, etc… With more women, cooking examples are the safest bet. Believe me; you can link ALL your presentations to some or the personal connection.
R – Recap: Be sure to summarize you’re your 2 hours presentation in 10 minutes before concluding the session. It is critical to check the audience’s understanding of these 2 hours, by asking them to summarize, before you do. This also gives you an opportunity to repeat anything that has not been comprehended the way it should have.
B – Bang: The closing of your presentation is as crucial as the opening. You may use the same gimmicks to close the presentation as you would to open. Just keep in mind that when your audience leaves from the room, they should either:
  • have some food for thought, or
  • have some action items to work upon, or
  • be totally charged-up to achieve (say) the future target, etc…
Usage of this explosive, will give you a clear understanding on how you wish to carry your presentation forward. It will also help you plan better.
Failing to plan leads to planning to fail. Make a choice!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Presentations - Start with a BANG...!

Let me remind you of a very old quote, “You never get a second chance to make your first impression”. Believe me, through experience I can tell you that, if you win the hearts of your audience in the first 15 minutes, the show is all yours. God forbid, if you don’t, then, no matter how many magic tricks you perform, you will still be looked at with nasty expressions asking you to JUST STOP.
Let’s unlearn the clich├ęd way of introduction where the presenter welcomes the audience, introduces himself, takes a brief background of the audience and then starts the session. You have to gain attention of the audience; don’t just enter and complete your presentation like a tick-mark activity.
Whether your audience takes you seriously or not, is totally dependent on these first 15 minutes. Let’s look at some tried and tested ways to open your presentations with a BANG…!!! 
  • The Mirror is your Best Friend: Before entering the presentation room, please don’t think that it is funny to visit the washroom. In fact, you MUST visit the restroom as a religious practice. Look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself, “Do you look formally presentable and one step above-dressed than the audience?” If you are dressed like your audience, you will look and be like one of them. All good orators ensure to be dressed very formally before any presentation. When you enter the room, the audience should be able to catch the ‘wow’ attention instantly. Ensure to wear the right deodorant and perfume. Something too strong – woody and musky – will be indigestive for the audience’s olfactory senses.
  • Love your Kinesics: We are referring to your body language. Walk like you are the king; however, be careful, you should not look haughty. No slouch please; it looks so shoddy and sub-standard. Carry yourself with your head held high and a straight back. Walk tall; it shows your confidence.
Once your first impression has been created, focus on the remaining 14 minutes. There are several ways in which you can start your presentation by ensuring that you leave your mark on your listeners.
  1. Be personal: You may link one of your personal experiences to introduce the topic of your presentation. By starting on a personal note, your audience gets the feeling of the human element in you and will be ready to open up and share their experiences. You will connect with each other much better.
  2. Humor: Your audience will enter the presentation room with various things going on in their mind. Humor, will relax them and will bring the audience on a common platform. Don’t just crack a joke because you think it is funny. Share a humorous anecdote, quote, story only if it is relevant to the presentation. Be wary while using humor, as it may become offensive for some. Do not consider sarcasm to be anywhere close to humor. Be sarcastic with one person and your will lose the attention of all your participants. Even when you use humor skillfully, don't expect your audience to convulse in laughter. There's no laughter meter and you're no standup comedian. Don’t laugh at your own jokes. In my experience, not more 4 instances of humor in a 60 minutes presentation should be demonstrated. Just use it to convey your point, not because you have nothing to say.
  3. AV’s: Visuals add a different dimension to your presentation and it is very critical to capitalize on it. Using visuals will stimulate your audience and work well in the physical setting of your presentation. In many studies, experimental psychologists have found that retention of information three days after a meeting or other event is six times greater when information is presented by visual and oral means than when the information is presented by the spoken word alone. Almost 83% of human learning occurs visually and the remaining 17% through other senses.
  4. Thank your Audience: Why not start by thanking your audience for their time? It’s the equivalent of complimenting your date and handing her flowers as soon as you meet her. It will make the audience feel valued, respected and valued.
  5. Introductions: This can either be the most fascinating or the most unexciting part of the presentation. You may run your intro session in the usual “what is your name, how many years of experience, hobbies, etc?” But, if you do this, be rest assured that your audience will be disconnected from the beginning. Commence with an interesting activity like start a chain by saying that you are taking all of them for an imaginary picnic and each one has to introduce themselves with their name and prefixing it with an adjective of what they are; this too should start with the same letter as the first letter of their name. Additionally, each participant has to bring something with them for the picnic; that too should start with the same letter as their name. Eg. Aggressive Anamika went for the picnic with Apples. This is just one example of an activity during a training program. There are so many more activities that can done for a presentation session as well.
Remember to make your initial 15 minutes full of life and zeal. If you succeed, your audience will be with you throughout.
So, open with a BANG…!