Using Social Media for Learning Gets Better Foothold in Workplace


By Garry Kranz

Social learning may not yet be a mainstay of corporate training departments, although it’s more than a trend inside larger enterprises.

A Jan. 22 report from Bersin by Deloitte, an Oakland, California-based research firm formerly known as Bersin & Associates, says large employers are fueling increased adoption of social-learning tools, such as internal employee blogs, wikis and online expert communities. Enterprises with at least 10,000 employees spent an average of $46,000 on social tools in 2012, three times the average two years ago.

The uptick contributed to an overall spending jump of 12 percent on employee training last year, according to The Corporate Learning Factbook 2013: Benchmarks, Trends, and Analysis of the U.S. Training Market. The study is based on research involving 300 organizations of various sizes and industries.

Most U.S.-based employers use some type of social tool to facilitate greater employee learning, including internal blogs, wikis, subject-matter directories and “communities of practice,” in which employees develop and share their expertise, says Karen O’Leonard, a Bersin by Deloitte analyst who authored the report.

“The big challenge for learning and development professionals is to create a new mind-set of continuous learning, not thinking of social tools as one component within a specific program,” O’Leonard says.

Organizations using social tools face another near-term hurdle: how to seamlessly organize the increasing volume of user-generated content. “We expect content management will become a growing issue. The research shows that the most effective learning organizations have created a strategy for content management and knowledge sharing,” O’Leonard says.

This year’s report uses Bersin’s proprietary “maturity model,” which lets an organization benchmark its learning function based on four levels of effectiveness and business impact.

Most companies are not at the highest rung of maturity, but there is a marked difference between those that are highly mature and those that are still getting there, O’Leonard says. The most effective learning functions are less involved with program management and play an active role in developing long-range strategies.

“High-impact learning organizations have L&D professionals who are very adept at performance consulting and building the capabilities the organization will need in the future,” O’Leonard says, referring to learning and development. “They’re outsourcing noncore competencies and getting away from the business of delivering ad hoc training.”

Also, the manner in which companies spent their training dollars reflects the varying level of effectiveness and maturity. U.S. companies spent about 16 percent of their training budgets on outside learning services, products and consultants in 2012, up from 12 percent in 2009. In general, organizations spent less money on expensive customized training and opted instead to purchase commodity-priced vendor products, the report finds.

At organizations deemed highly mature, the inverse is true: they invested money in instructor-led custom content and assessment programs, with off-the-shelf training products a lower spending priority.

Other notable findings:

The 12 percent rise in training expenditures equates to about $706 per employee. However, companies at the top end of the maturity scale spent $867 per employee—34 percent higher than spending by companies at the lower maturity level.

Many companies beefed up their learning and development staff last year, but the gains were offset by faster growth in the number of employees receiving learning. That dynamic has led to a decline in the trainer-to-learner ratio at many companies and is “one sign of the changing role of the L&D function” from clearinghouse to facilitator.

Training spending increased the most in the technology and manufacturing sectors, which each posted year-over-year increases of 20 percentage points.

The 12 percent spending surge shows companies are reinvesting in skills development after a long period of financial instability, O’Leonard says.

Value of Employee Communication Sessions

By Jay Delahousay, Demand Media


Despite the many ways to pass information in the workplace -- email, social media, phone, text or via the company intranet -- inadequate communication between managers and employees exists. Employees need guidance from their supervisors, and management needs input from the entire team in order for the company to succeed. To help foster an open and honest culture, many companies host communication sessions that can provide measurable benefits to all employees.


An employee communication session is a give-and-take opportunity where employees can air their concerns and where management can share what's happening in the company. Hewlett Packard, for example, holds upward of 22 communication sessions with more than 10,000 employees in attendance at sites around the world. Many companies also encourage employees to complete surveys to voice their concerns regarding management or the company in general.

Facilitates Dialogue

When a company is multifaceted, one department might not be aware of the strategic goals of another part of the business, -- or information trickles upward, but not downward. Companies such as Flextronics and Emerson Process Management use employee communication sessions. These scheduled meetings positively reinforce the objectives between management and employees, according to Alan Miu, managing director of TNT Express Worldwide. When an employee can communicate with management at its highest levels, it improves the transparency and openness in employee dialogue.

Inspires Involvement and Loyalty

Employee communications programs help give the employees the perception that they are greatly involved in the company's objectives and goals. A 2001 study by the Hay Group revealed that employees who are engaged in the direction and decisions of the organization are more productive and will stay with the company longer. The employee communication session tells the employee at all levels: "You and your opinion matters to us." When employees take this message to heart, they tend to feel more inspired and are motivated to support company goals, according to a 2008 study published in the journal of the Public Relations Society of America.

Builds Trusting Relationships

Employee communication programs can be a tool to build a trust level that encourages employees to speak freely about their work, according to Evan Reineking of HR When an employee feels heard and is kept well-informed, he feels respected by his employer. While a company might not be able to disclose all the details about management decisions, keeping employees in the loop with accurate and complete information makes them more likely to trust what is shared.

Minimizes Gossip

Gossip is prevalent in many workplaces, especially where communication is nonexistent and where employees are left to speculate about conditions or the company's health. When employees don't receive necessary details from their supervisors, rumors are likely to be spread, which can damage morale and cause uncertainty among employees, according to Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam. Keeping employees abreast of the current climate in the workplace can alleviate the need to speculate.

The Power of the Daily Huddle


By Wally Adamchik

Quarterbacks use it, with much success, all the time—and it can work for you, too. It is one of the most effective leadership and management tools at your disposal, and takes just a few minutes to execute. What is it? A daily huddle.

You need to tell your team things they need to know to do their jobs—and contrary to popular belief, there are employees at all levels and all ages who want to hear those things. Employees who are disengaged feel that way because the boss is not communicating with them. The daily huddle is a great solution, and it can work in any industry.

Dynamics of a Great Huddle

Before the workday starts, gather your team to deliver key information to align them for the day. Are there any special events/visitors/promotions? How about a key training tip? Perhaps you will talk about production or sales targets for the day? All this information gives them direction and helps them to be more productive. Remember, the goal of the huddle is short-term—what do you want to accomplish today, not two years from now.

You also might toss in some feedback about how things went yesterday. While this is not the time to single out poor performers, you may highlight some wins from the day before.

Make sure to ask for input and questions. If the huddle is a new concept for your team, people will be reluctant to share anything initially. But, over time they will see you are serious about the huddle and will work with you to make it better.

Why a Huddle Works

Let’s look at why it works. First, it is personal. No texting or e-mail is involved. This is direct, eye-to-eye contact—still the most compelling form of communication we have. When we look someone in the eye we know we have their attention and we can see them understand our message.

Also, engaging in eye contact shows people they are important, that you want to communicate with them. It conveys the message that you respect and trust them enough to share this information with them. When you ask for their input, you are saying, “I want to hear what you have to say. I am interested in you and the value you contribute to our team.”

When an employee speaks of his company in terms of “they do… they say,” that employee doesn't feel connected or even part of the company. The huddle helps change that "they" mentality, to a "we" way of thinking. The huddle helps educate and align your team on key business issues, while making them feel like they are part of the team.


What’s the payoff? You get employees who understand what is expected of them on a daily basis and who feel more connected to the team. In turn they will work harder and are more motivated to do their jobs the best way they know how.

Does it always work? No. But starting the day without a huddle insures a workforce that is uninformed and de-motivated. Communication is one of the keys to success. (In fact, over 85 percent of my surveys have indicated that communication from management is in need of drastic improvement.) The huddle is a quick, easy and inexpensive way to fix this major problem.


How to Improve Communication Skills in the Workplace

By David Ingram


Communication skills are an essential component of a productive workplace, allowing employees to work together cohesively and professionally. Small business owners can do well to hire employees with solid communication skills, and there are also ways to improve communications skills in the workplace to boost employee productivity. Improving employee communication skills through training exercises and behavior modeling can give your company a competitive edge.

Step 1

Include communication skills in employee training programs. Some people are inherently more social than others, but anyone can learn and practice effective communication skills to increase personal effectiveness on the job. Teach new employees the fundamentals of good communication, including listening skills, the concept of encoding and online communication challenges.

Step 2

Model excellent communication skills to leverage the social learning theory. The individual personalities of small business owners can have a large impact on the culture that develops in their companies. Employees who spend a lot of time working alongside company owners may begin to model the communication style of their bosses. Take an inventory of your personal communication habits to gain insight into any communication problems your employees are having. If you consistently provide a model of professional, respectful communication, your employees will take notice.

Step 3

Promote your most effective communicators into supervisory positions to set the tone in the company. Your managers set the bar for employee performance just as you do as the business owner. Make sure all your managers understand your commitment to modeling effective communication skills. Your managers should be confident and develop their own communication styles as they gain experience on the job.

Step 4

Include communication skills in performance appraisals. Tying company objectives into performance appraisals is a proven way to motivate employees to achieve organizational goals. If communication is a significant issue in your workplace, consider setting personal goals for improving communication skills for each employee, and giving incentive awards to employees who meet these goals.

Step 5

Develop team-building exercises to strengthen intra-office communication. High-performance teams become more cohesive over time as they gain experience working and communicating with each other. Exciting activities that require employees to work together can speed up the team-building process, allowing team members to learn the best ways to communicate with others in the team through experience.

Challenging employees boosts engagement



Most employees don’t want to sit at their desks bored, mindlessly sift through their work and punch out when it’s time to go home. Especially in today’s competitive work environment, employees are looking for positions that are challenging, and when that need is not met, employees often become disengaged, says Sheryl Kovach, president and CEO of Kandor Group, a human resources consulting firm in Houston. Not only can this hurt retention levelsbut it can also impact the corporate culture as a whole.

“When employees don’t feel challenged, they tend to get bored, and when employees get bored, generally, their motivation levels decrease,” Kovach says. “Their degree of overall commitment toward the organization begins to suffer. Symptoms of boredom are decreased motivation and commitment, an increase in errors, lack of an optimistic attitude, increased absenteeism and even increased turnover. When these types of symptoms are manifested in an organization, they’re contagious. Others start to see and feel the effect of that attitude.”

The top performers at a company are especially prone to feeling unchallenged in their roles, Kovach says. Generally, top performers excel quickly and have go-getter attitudes. With that kind of motivation, high performers have to be stimulated constantly in order to operate at such efficient levels.

To prevent employees from becoming unchallenged in their roles, managers must open communication lines, Kovach says. On a regular basis, managers should discuss career goals, how success is defined and workplace challenges with employees. Managers should also take the time to find out from employees what they need from a managerial level to develop within their roles. While many employers offer career development programs, they are often underused.

“A lot of times companies have career development programs, but none of the employees participate in them,” Kovach says. “The main reasons I see for this is the employees either don’t know they exist, and the managers in charge of driving career development in their employees are not promoting them. The managers need to be educated on how these programs work, so they can help encourage further development.”

Many successful development programs allow employees to test and apply their knowledge, skills and abilities that they may not be able to fully apply in their current roles, Kovach says. This might include tasking an employee with a project that includes heightened responsibilities on a larger scope.

Performance reviews can also help keep employees from becoming unchallenged in the workplace, Kovach says. With performance reviews, a manager can measure how an employee has been performing relative to the goals and expectations of the position while identifying any gaps in knowledge or skills. This helps a manager determine whether the employee is ready for new challenges and development opportunities.

“Performance reviews can help shed light on whether employees have really mastered their positions,” Kovach says. “If they’re hitting that level of mastery, in order to keep them engaged and retain them, we have to keep them challenged.”


Getting the Word Out on the Positives of Employee Benefits


Employers who want to boost employee satisfaction with their benefits need to evaluate their employees’ current benefits experience and identify ways to improve the process through more effective communications and education.

A new study by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America shows a strong relationship still exists between an employee’s benefits enrollment experience and their perceived value of the benefits that their employer offers.

According to the study, 70 percent of employees who were able to receive benefits communications in their preferred channels said they were very confident in their benefits selections versus just 57 percent of those who did not. Workers who were able to enroll in their preferred channel were significantly more satisfied with their overall benefits package (70 percent).

Thirty-seven percent of employers say their benefits communications are very effective in helping employees make the right benefits decisions, and only 34 percent of employees say that the benefits communications they receive are very effective.

“Employee benefits are not the easiest to understand to begin with and as healthcare continues to evolve with employees needing to take a greater role in the decision-making process, the right education and communication is critical,” said Elena Wu, vice president, Group Marketing and Learning Services at Guardian.

“As we gear up for the annual open enrollment period, it is important for employers to realize that the benefits selection process must be top-notch, and communicated effectively, in order to ensure the highest employee satisfaction possible.”

Preferences vary by employee, so single-focused communication efforts, such as only communicating benefits-related information via email, is not likely to have as great of an impact as a benefits communication plan that encompasses multiple channels, the study found, especially during the enrollment period.

Almost 20 percent of employees said they would like to receive benefits communications through six or more options.

When exposed to the same message through different mediums, employees said they are more likely to understand their options.

Eighty percent of workers appreciate being able to sign up for benefits online so they can enroll when and where they choose, and 9 in 10 workers say they are quite satisfied with the online enrollment experience.

The study shows that when employees have benefits communications delivered in the channels they prefer, and are able to enroll in the channel they prefer, they are more likely to make more informed enrollment decisions and ultimately feel more satisfied with their benefits.

This employee confidence in benefits choices then reflects well on their employers, leading to greater loyalty. Employees who are more confident and satisfied with their benefits selections have a higher perceived value of their company’s benefits.

These employees go on to have longer tenure with their current employers and are more likely to say that they plan to stay in their current positions, the study found. Although many factors can affect engagement, it is clear that an effort to enhance the employee’s benefits experience overall can play a major role in creating a positive outcome for not just the worker but also their employer.

The data from this study came from two separate Internet surveys conducted concurrently among 1,667 benefits plan participants and 1,071 benefits plan sponsors. Plan participant results were conducted among those age 22 or older who work full time for a company with at least five employees.

The plan sponsor survey was conducted among employee benefits decision makers, including business executives, business owners, human resources professionals, and financial management professionals. The Center for Strategy Research, a Boston-based, independent, market research firm, conducted the interviews from May-June 2012.


Foul Mouths

A new survey by CareerBuilder finds that 95 percent of employees use foul language around their co-workers, while more than half swear in front of the boss. While foul mouths may be common, most employers still view cussing as crass behavior, with 64 percent saying they'd have a lower opinion of an employee who repeatedly used bad language.

Are You Listening to the Right Employees?


By Jason Lauritsen

Employee engagement surveys are a pretty big deal in a lot companies.  It makes sense that leaders want to understand how engaged their employees are with their business.  After all, who wouldn’t want employees who are switched on and putting in extra effort in their jobs?  It also makes sense that an all employee survey is the most efficient way to gather this kind of information.

Then, it’s time to make some changes—presumably changes that will increase our employee engagement level and then our company results.

But, before you go and invest too much time and money in making changes based on your engagement survey results, ask yourself this one, really important question:

How do you know if you are listening to the right employees?

Not all employees are created equal.  All leaders know that.  There are employees who are driving our business results and those, at the other end of the spectrum, who are hanging around waiting to see if we’ll ever get up the guts to fire them.  And certainly, the opinions of different employees like these shouldn’t be treated as equal when it comes to how to manage the business.

The opinions of highly accountable, emotionally inexpensive employees who exhibit a high degree of commitment to results and who seek continuous improvement are highly credible.  These employees take responsibility for results even when they miss the mark.  They also mitigate the risks of a plan and make great team members.  They raise the bar for those around them.  These are great employees.  And the exciting news is that they are probably pretty engaged in your business by nature of their high personal accountability.  They aren’t getting wrapped up in unnecessary drama and distraction at work because they are too busy making things happen.  So, when these employees speak, you should listen intently to what they say.  When they ask for something, it’s likely to be a resource that will help them create more value for you and your customers.  These employees have highly credible opinions about how to make your organization not only more engaging, but more productive.

On the other hand, the opinions of employees who exhibit signs of an entitled or victim mindset are simply not credible.  These employees focus on what they haven’t got, they wait for things to happen instead of making them happen, and they find excuses and blame others when things don’t go as planned.  Their primary focused is on being comfortable, not being productive.  And they are full of opinions, bordering on being noisy, about how you could make their working environment work better for them.  And as a reward for you, if you give them what they want, they will immediately focus on what else they don’t have.  These employees drag down your environment, acting like a parking brake that tries to hold you in place.

So, whose opinion are you looking for in your engagement survey?



A new report by Ragan Communications and Qumu finds that nearly 82 percent of corporate communicators say they have trouble communicating with co-workers when they are out of the office. However, 77 percent say they expect mobile technology would increase efficiency. The study also found that respondents preferred video over nonvideo for companywide or department meetings.

Why is Engaging Employees on Wellness so Hard?

by: Helen Box-Farnen

Employee engagement is the goal of just about every wellness and health management program. You need to engage employees to be more active, eat better, get more sleep.  … You get the idea.

So why is engaging employees so hard? Maybe it’s because we haven’t really thought about it from the perspective of the employee – the end-user of the wellness initiative. According to research from a partnership of Aon Hewitt and The Futures Company, most people fall into discrete attitudinal segments that influence how they think and feel about wellness.

The folks in the C-Suite and most in leadership fall into a category that embraces a sense of control and responsibility when it comes to their health. And, they see wellness as part of the solution to important business problems: lowering costs and increasing productivity.

The average worker, on the other hand, has a completely different mindset. Here are a few of the attitudes that define nearly half of the U.S. population:

  • Time-starved
  • Seeks entertainment
  • Family-oriented
  • Stressed
  • Likes high-tech media and social networking
  • Interested in group activities and competition
  • Wants to look and feel good
  • Wants recognition for their accomplishments
  • Trusts friends and family as information sources

In addition, while you might appreciate a lot of detail, the people you need to engage are not information-junkies. Try this approach with your clients and see if it doesn’t engage more of their workforce:

  • Make it entertaining and create some buzz: To get employees’ attention, it needs to be fun, hip, humorous, and exciting.
  • Appeal to what’s important to me: Tell employees how it will help them look good, feel good, and be more confident.
  • Make it easy: Today’s workers are stressed and starved for time, so it needs to be simple and uncomplicated.
  • Make me feel part of a community: Family and friends are important, and people like to feel connected to others.

Whether you are advising a client about products and services that will help them engage employees in wellness behaviors or you’re a benefits executive needing to achieve business objectives through improved health, wellness, and benefits consumerism, being successful might mean stepping outside of your own attitudes. Instead of approaching wellness as a way to solve the company’s issues – sell it to employees as a way to solve their issues. In other words, if you make it about them, you might just get what you need.