Oh expert in the crystal ball, please tell all...tell all!
Questions abound in the learning and performance world. Here are a few we have been asked several times recently along with our answers. We welcome additional questions as well as comments and reactions to our responses.
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I have to do a presentation for our Organizational Development team on publicity writing and marketing OD programs. Can you give me some resources to use? Answer
I was wondering if you could point me in the right direction in finding a case study (or studies) that compare the learning results of Instructor-led Training (ILT) versus Web-based Training (WBT)? I am currently working on my Masters thesis in which I am comparing the two, and I am trying to find some numbers that back up my theory that ILT is more effective because of the live human interaction, etc. I remember you mentioning at a conference I attended that well-designed WBT is just as effective as ILT, but I'm still skeptical. Any resources that you could recommend would be greatly appreciated. Answer
A colleague of mine and I are working on the challenges new hires face in organizations. We were wondering when is it worthwhile to hire a star performer? And, the flip side of that, if you are a star performer, should you stay put versus move to other positions and/or organizations? Answer
You were referred to in a webinar I attended as a source in stating that only around 30% of know-how and skills contribute to improvements on performance. This being the case, what are the other factors that make up the other 70% and where may I find this reference? Is it contained in your research or in a publication? Answer
am conducting a study on the workload of university professors.
time-on-task, what other components of the workload should be measured?
For example, you and I could spend the same amount of time on a task but
your results would certainly be of higher quality than mine. Or, you might
spend lesser time on a task than I and, again, your results would be of
better quality. Applied to professors, what is the relation between time-on-task
and performance? Answer
I have to do a presentation for our Organizational Development team on publicity writing and marketing OD programs. Can you give me some resources to use?
Much as I would love to help out, my areas of specialization do not encompass publicity writing and marketing of OD programs. However, if you permit, I will share with you some ideas about marketing and communicating the value of what performance professionals offer to their clients, the people they manage and their organizations.
I begin with an assertion most people in our line of work don't like: we are poor marketers and communicators of our worth to our clients and the organizations we so diligently strive to help achieve results they value. I say this based on almost a half century of wandering through companies, government agencies and even the professional societies of which we are proud members. We talk about what we do, the research in our fields and employ jargons which are generally unfamiliar/unintelligible to those who are not part of our professional cultures. No wonder that we are not heard.
An error we too often make is to listen to our clients who often approach us, not only with their problems, but also with what they believe to be appropriate solutions. They believe that they have already conducted their analyses and know what's wrong as well as what the cures should be. And we, submissively, frequently accept their words and carry out what they have requested. Our justification? They are our "customers," after all, and are, in most cases, of superior rank to us. We then work hard, with not always felicitous results.
So how do we extract ourselves from this?
First, before we write any publicity or engage in marketing, we have to center ourselves firmly. What is our vision and mission of our own work? What is our unique contribution to various levels of recipients of our interventions? What is it that we can uniquely provide that contributes to the successes of our organization's customers, the organization itself, out direct clients, their workers and ourselves? What are our special strengths? What is the menu of services we can currently competently deliver? What should we also be able to deliver and how do we arm ourselves to achieve capability to do so?
There is more, but as we define who we are and what we have to offer, the foundation for being able to communicate this to others becomes more concrete and communicable. However, people have difficulty understanding the abstract. We require strong examples, credible allies and satisfied customers to help our marketing and support our publicity. The maxim in marketing is that "word of mouth" is the strongest and most effective way to attract and/or influence potential customers. Thus, we must clearly define ourselves, our contributions, our services and our value-adds. We must then seek out what I refer to as "compliant clients" - ones with whom we have built positive relationships and with whom we have created a certain amount of trust. Working with them, we can help identify areas for performance improvement or significant desired change and then get them to allow us to do the right things to attain success. Choose small projects that from the outset offer high probability of success. Document what you do. Ensure that recognition of success for the ventures accrue to the clients. Make them feel good about what they have accomplished. Share the glory.
With a few of these cases in hand, hold a show and tell. Offer a "free lunch." Enlist senior managers and opinion leaders to support your efforts and the event. At it, get your satisfied customers to talk about the challenges they faced, what they and you did together and what was accomplished. Use concrete data. Let them be the heroes and you, the hero builders. Write up articles with their and your names on them for internal newsletters or even external ones. At this point, you can distribute materials that succinctly and professionally state who you really are and what benefits you offer to those who call upon your services. Include simple, succinct success stories. Say less, but intrigue enough to stimulate their calling on you.
I have been very brief in my explanations and have left out the how-to's. However, I hope this helps as a thought starter.
There are many books
on publicity writing and marketing. However, you are not Coca-Cola. You
are professionals with great ability, a desire to serve and a solid track
record. Following Socrates' advice, begin by knowing yourselves - thoroughly.
Then let others tell your story in words their listeners understand. Soon,
many will be beating a path to your door.
I was wondering if you could point me in the right direction in finding a case study (or studies) that compare the learning results of Instructor-led Training (ILT) versus Web-based Training (WBT)? I am currently working on my Masters thesis in which I am comparing the two, and I am trying to find some numbers that back up my theory that ILT is more effective because of the live human interaction, etc. I remember you mentioning at a conference I attended that well-designed WBT is just as effective as ILT, but I'm still skeptical. Any resources that you could recommend would be greatly appreciated.
This is a tough comparison. There are so many variables that go into creating a learning session. The delivery mechanism is not the main differentiator. In a large number of media and delivery system comparison studies, the general conclusion drawn has been that "all other things being equal, there is no significant impact from the medium with respect to learning effectiveness." Richard E. Clark has written extensively on this.
What you are trying to compare is a lesson in ILT with one in WBT. How do you maintain perfectly equal design elements? You can't. Long ago, there were attempts (and occasionally you see more recent ones) to effect comparisons between live classroom instruction and some form of CBT. These went nowhere. Culick and Culick pushed this agenda in the 1980s, attempting to demonstrate superiority of CBT. Robert Kozma at the University of Michigan also tried that CBT was more effective for learning. Richard E. Clark demolished their arguments.
I recommend focusing on specific design aspects in live and web-based instruction to determine if they have similar effects. Examples are use of inference, dynamic versus static examples, some form of questioning and forms of feedback. It's the design of the instruction, not its delivery mode that makes the difference.
A colleague of mine and I are working on the challenges new hires face in organizations. We were wondering when is it worthwhile to hire a star performer? And, the flip side of that, if you are a star performer, should you stay put versus move to other positions and/or organizations?
To begin, being a star performer does not necessarily imply that this person is only limited to stardom in one setting and will not perform well elsewhere. If the high performance is based on intimate relationships with various parts of the organization, developed over a long period of time or a deep familiarity with processes and systems unique to the organization, then transfer of success to a new environment is less likely. If, on the other hand, the person operates mostly as an individual contributor or as a leader of direct reports who are there to carry out support tasks for this person, then the success factor can be more readily transported elsewhere. A high performing rocket design engineer, a researcher scientist with deep, specialized knowledge, a star sales person or hair dresser with his or her own system and personal connections are examples of stars that can be more readily moved from one work environment to another. However, this is not a dichotomy. Rather, it is a continuum. The key factors are the sources of success. The more dependent on the current organizations environment, systems and circumstances, the less portable the high performance.
The second question: If you are a star performer should you stay put versus move to other positions and/or organizations? Obviously, there is a linkage between this question and what I wrote above. What the research suggests for star performers is that they not be blinded by their current success, but rather they should build a broad network of connections and contacts outside of their specific work environment. They should also invest in their interpersonal, organizational and communications skills to increase their ability to transport their successes elsewhere. To this point, Groysberg has found that women appear to be more successful with their star portability than men. He suggests that this may be due to women more frequently maintaining broader relationships and networks. Because high performing women tend to meet more obstacles in the workplace, they also tend to weigh more factors than men do, especially cultural fit, values, and managerial style in making job changes. You might want to go to http://www.bnet.com/2439-13070_23-186751.html for more on this.
You were referred to in a webinar I attended as a source in stating that only around 30% of know-how and skills contribute to improvements on performance. This being the case, what are the other factors that make up the other 70% and where may I find this reference? Is it contained in your research or in a publication?
The degree to which skills and knowledge variables affect human performance at work strongly varies with the context of a performance situation and the nature of the desired performance. Overall, however, both research and documented professional practice have shown that there are a host of factors affecting workplace performance. I refer you to several books: Thomas Gilbert (1996), Human Competence: Engineering Worthy Performance; Geary Rummler and Alan Brache (1990) Improving Performance: How to Manage the White Space on the Organization Chart; James Pershing (2006), Handbook of Human Performance Technology. All of these volumes contain a great deal of information concerning the array of factors influencing how people perform. What emerges in a consensus fashion is that about 75 - 80 percent of these are of an environmental rather than an individual nature. Here are the ones most frequently cited: lack of specific performance expectations, conflicting expectation priorities; lack of timely and specific feedback with respect to expectations; lack of timely access to required information; task interferences; inadequate tools and resources; unclear or counterproductive policies, processes and procedures; inappropriate or even counterproductive incentives and consequences; poor or inappropriate selection of performers; lack of perceived value to perform; threats in the environment; environmental obstacles (physical; administrative; emotional); language and cultural issues.
There are many more,
but these are the ones that are most commonly found. As you examine the
literature on human performance technology, you will encounter these and
I am conducting a study on the workload of university professors. Besides time-on-task, what other components of the workload should be measured? For example, you and I could spend the same amount of time on a task but your results would certainly be of higher quality than mine. Or, you might spend lesser time on a task than I and, again, your results would be of better quality. Applied to professors, what is the relation between time-on-task and performance?
You pose a question that has multiple answers. Let me change your question to a more general one and in the process define some terms. Let's start with word "performance." In my world of the workplace, I and most human performance technologists define this critical term as "valued accomplishment derived from costly behavior." [See Thomas Gilbert's book (1996) Human Competence:Engineering Worthy Performance.] Many others such as Geary Rummler, Peter Dean and Harold Stolovitch and Erica Keeps have explored this definition and applied it in a number of workplace instances.
To elaborate, performance is a function of what you do and what you achieve. The doing is the cost portion (effort, money, resources, time). What you achieve, the valued accomplishment, is the benefit or desired result you obtain from the expenditure of the costly behavior. Gilbert proposes his "Leisurley Theorem" which, in brief, says that the best performance is one where we obtain the greatest valued accomplishment with the least effort. This certainly includes time expenditure. The corollary to this theorem is that the more time you require to achieve a valued result, the less "worthy" you are as a performer (worth being the ratio of value to cost and time being a critical cost factor).
Continuing in this vein, in McKinsey's study on the War on Talent (2001), the authors suggest that top performers are 70 percent more productive (achieve more in the same units of time) than average performers. I have been involved in studying exemplary performers in the retail automotive world. What I discovered is that top performers in, for example, automotive sales, are more than twice as productive as the average. The top 20 percent of sales consultants in our study sell 2.1 vehicles to 1 compared to their average colleagues. And this occurs month after month.
In an internal study at the European Patent Office, communicated to me privately, they discovered that their top patent specialists, most with PhDs and/or very highly recognized technical competencies in specialized fields such as medicine, pharmacology, telecommunications and computer sciences, are three times more productive than their average colleagues. That is, they are able to process patent requests and bring them to closure more rapidly with no less quality (e.g. number of appeals, clarity of decision, numbers of communications) than the others.
You have certainly seen the expression, "If you want a job to be well done, give it to the busiest person." In studying appropriate workload, you have to begin by defining accomplishments. In any given field there are "stars." These are top performers who demonstrate what is possible in a given amount of time. They are the models for setting standards. I recommend that you identify these top performers based on sets of generally acceptable performance criteria. Then study what these exemplary persons do and how much time they spend to achieve their valued results. Publications, teaching scores (too frequently neglected), PhDs produced, significant contributions made, research funds obtained, frequency of citations in respected publications, invitations to speak and invitations to consult are some of the success criteria. They can be made specialty dependent.
To conclude, I recommend starting with accomplishments, deriving exemplary standards and then, based on those who achieve the most with the least amount of wasted time, build portraits of appropriate workloads
On a personal note, as an active professor, I was aware of the four requirements for promotion: research and publication; teaching; external notoriety (e.g. leadership positions in my field; invitations to speak and conduct seminars, consulting to professionals in my field; awards); internal contributions (e.g. committee work, administrative work; university leadership positions; mentoring of colleagues). They were fairly clear and, I believe, appropriate. From my perspective they required balancing and equal attention. Find those who do well in all of these and analyze their time expenditures. Also study those who are average and those who do poorly. I believe you will find valuable data for your study.
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