Sunday, October 21, 2012

Employee Development

This week’s blog is actually a Power Point presentation showing an approach to employee development.  Employee development is more than just training and companies should take time to consider what employee development really means and how to implement.

Along with this presentation is my personal development plan – these are the areas into which I would like to expand my knowledge base.
1.       Online University – I need to continue my current work in pursuit to gain my Master’s Degree in Instructional Design and Technology.
2.       Mentor program – I would  like to work together with someone who can provide guidance in my current role and expand my role to utilize what I have learned thus far in my pursuit of my Master’s Degree.  I understand the old saying, “If you don’t use it, you lose it” and I do not want that to happen with the information I have gathered with my degree.  The company has supported my position by providing tuition reimbursement so I would think they would want to have me use what new training/information I have acquired.
3.       Coaching program – I would like to offer my services to help coach new trainers coming onto the team.  I have had years of experience both in training and the technology world and I would like to utilize this information to help others in their career.  Coaching will also help me fulfill my personal need to help others obtain what they need or looking to gain out of their jobs.
4.       Job Rotation – If at all possible I think we should start a job rotation program.  The team has grown immensely and it would be helpful to see what others on the team experience so we can all perform better in our main roles.  When rotating to different positions each person will learn what is needed to be successful in that particular role and it is a great way to find out what is of interest to us.  It is hard to know what direction to pursue when one is not sure what the other roles are and what is expected in those roles.  This could help with the “where do you see yourself in 5 years” question which is reviewed during every evaluation.
5.       Job Enlargement – while coaching is in and of itself a job enlargement, I would like to help out where ever my skills are needed on the team.  After the completion of my degree (which should hopefully be the end of this year) I will have more time to devote to extra responsibilities in my career.  I am not a person that does well sitting still and I would like to fill that time with helpful work.
6.       Volunteer work – again with the completion of my degree and the large integration/conversion project I would like to take time to give back to the community.  I know the company is an advocate for such things and I have been lax about getting involved – I would like this to change next year.
Those are the items that are imporatnt to my personal development.  There is a lot in that list and while I hope to do it all I know it is a large undertaking.  Some items are shorter in duration than others so instead of 6 it is probably more like 4.
Helene A. Smith

Noe, R. A. (2010). Employee training and development (5th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Technology and Training – Where Are We Headed?

In the readings for this week it is painfully clear that technology will have a strong role in the training each and every person will encounter at some point in their lives.  In today’s fast-paced world we have even moved to having training available on our handheld devices.  I am almost nostalgic for the days not too long ago where we could leave our homes and not be encumbered by the outside world – those days are long gone.  Today we leave the house with our cell phones (smart phones) in hand and our tablets under our arms ready to face the day.  We are in constant contact with everyone, everywhere we go.  Hotspots are found everywhere and where there is not a hotspot we have “aircard” connections built right in to the device so we do not miss a thing. 
Take for example the collaborative study done between IBM and Columbia University.  They were trying to see if the IBM employees utilized their smart phones for training programs.  The training group was under the impression that if they offered accessible online training through the smart phone that more of the employees would prefer to do training in this manner.  The study actually found this not to be the case, however the employees did like to use some key applications which were adapted from their desktops on their smart phone.  IBM is not ruling out using the smart phone to deliver training; however at this time they are heading towards developing applications which will help the employees (Ahmad & Orton, 2010).
There is another article which I reviewed that also discussed the e-learning concept.  This article was not discussing the use of smart phones; it was talking of the generic e-learning arena.  This article discusses the fact that e-learning is here to stay and will only improve with time.  The article discusses the critical factors for successful online learning initiatives within an organization.  These factors are: “
·         Accessing or evaluating corporate culture and readiness for online learning
·         Specific content and programs
·         Internal capabilities or infrastructure
·         Cost options of the initiatives
·         Targeted clients or employees
Hence there are five C’s of online learning; culture, content, capability, cost and clients-this would help acknowledge and address a wide range of online learning issues confronting organizations (Maxwell, 2012, p 93)”.
After the organization qualified itself that it is open to online learning, the management would then have to consider how they would administer online learning to their employees.  There are different methods for online learning which will be discussed.  The obvious method to start with is the CD-ROM or DVD.  The development of the CD-ROM as a delivery method made it possible for anyone with a personal computer to access sophisticated programs with animation and video clips (Noe, 2010).  These applications made it easy to create an online classroom on a personal computer and then the employees or learner could run the programs anytime they had time and run it at their own pace (meaning they could pause or fast forward if needed).  This method also made it easy for a company to deliver training to any employee regardless of where they were physically located.  Moving for the CD-ROM, the next logical step was to make these applications interactive.  People learn when they can actually participate in the training – it keeps them engaged.
This moves us to the next logical method which is learning through the internet.  With the advent of the internet e-learning delivery has exploded.  The World Wide Web has made it easy for just about anyone to learn anything at any time.  With the availability of the web, an organization can deliver training material to their employees that are located anywhere in the world and not have to worry about delivering a CD-ROM to their location.  The organization can also secure the site if they wish only the employees of their company have access to the training.  Most internet-based training is developed to be as user friendly as possible and the accessibility is usually easy as well.  As long as your computer is connected to a network through either a wire or wireless, access to training is available (Noe, 2010).  Training through the internet makes it possible for employees to interact with each other as well as doing training on their own.  It is also easy to update the learning modules when they are on the web so everyone uses the same version.
There are other methods for learning which utilize online training – the next method to be discussed is the blended learning.  Blended learning is a combination of instructor lead sessions and online learning modules.  “Blending learning courses provide learners with the positive feature of both face-to-face instruction and technology-based delivery and instructional methods (such as online learning, distance learning, or mobile technologies like iPods and PDAs) while minimizing the negative feature of each (Hysong & Mannix, 2003)”.  This is an ideal situation for corporate America.  Many companies need to train their employees and computers, while used regularly in every job, are just tools and not all employees are comfortable in their use.  The blended learning gives the employees the opportunity to work with a trainer for the hands on guidance needed after reviewing the online training material.
The last item I want to discuss is the Learning Management System (LMS).  A well-developed LMS is crucial in today’s corporate world.  The LMS will help an organization track training an employee has completed, if the course had a test it will track how the employee performed.  This information will help the organization help the employee.  If the employee is struggling in an area there are other training methods that could be utilized and if the employee is excelling the organization could look for ways to offer more challenges for the employee for their personal growth.   “New developments in LMSs include providing the ability for users to simultaneously search the database as well as their company’s intranet for information on training courses, contact experts who are identified by the company as topic experts, enroll in all courses related to a certification or particular training top at one time, and use simulations to determine whether employees are complying with ethical standards and skills they have been trained in using by the LMS (Boehle, 2008)”.
Ahmad, N., & Orton, P. (2010). Smartphones Make IBM Smarter, But Not As Expected. T+D, 64(1), 46-50.
Boehle, S. (2008). LMS Leaders. Training. 30-34.
Hysong, S. J., Mannix, L. M., (2003). Learning outcomes in distance education versus traditional and mixed environments. Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology: Orlando, FL.
Noe, R.A. (2010). Employee training and development: Fifth Edition. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Irwin.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Men's Wearhouse - "I guarentee it" - George Zimmer

After reviewing the Men's Wearhouse website I realized a few things and one in particular that I never noticed before. My ex-husband did not wear suits too often but when he needed a suit we always went to the Men's Wearhouse because the store was not located in a mall and it only dealt with men's fashions. What I had never noticed is that the word "Wearhouse" was not spelled as "Warehouse". I watched a video about how the store came to be and about the founder George Zimmer. One of the items that concerned some of the early employees and George himself was the image the company may obtain from the public because of the name having the word Wearhouse. People may read that a get an idea that the store only had low end cheap clothing, but what people do not realize is that the name is not "Warehouse" like one of these big chain stores however the name is "Wearhouse" as in you wear the clothes in this house – there are clever people in marketing at the Men's Wearhouse even before it was "The Men's Wearhouse". Poll people on the street and I will bet that only about a quarter of the people surveyed will realize the spelling difference.
When working on a needs assessment for the organization I would definitely include the founder and CEO George Zimmer. From the information I gained through their investor relations site George is hands on with the company. He is out in the stores and is part of the team of employees that make the business run. Since George is out and feeling the pulse of the organization he should be a great source of information and would be the best "cheerleader" for any changes that may need to be made. Other people to include would be any employee in any of his stores as well as Diana Wilson the CFO. Diana would have to sign off on any expenditure needed for any training or changes needed and any of the employees would give honest feedback. Again, from the information I reviewed, George has built a company where the employees are actually rewarded regularly and he has built a place to work that is open to suggestions.
Some of the questions I would ask of George would be:
·         What is the strategic direction of the company and do you feel the company is headed in the right direction?
·         Is training a key component in the company’s strategic direction?
·         Do you support the training of managers as well as employees regular day-to-day activities?
·         Do you yourself attend regular training for both personal and business needs?
·         Would you recommend personal training for the people of your company?
·         Is the strategic direction of the company documented for all employees so they are aware and would these documents be made available for review?
·         Would you be opposed to an instructional designer(s) administering a survey to determine the pulse of the company and seeing where development/training may be needed?
·         Is there an employee handbook which lays out the roles and responsibilities of the employees and management team?  If so, could this handbook be made available to the assessment team?
·         Would you be opposed to the creation of focus groups for information gathering?
Some of the questions I would ask of any employee in any one of the stores would be:
·         Do you feel the company is headed in the right direction?
·         Do you know the strategic vision for the company?
·         What have you observed to be an area of the business that is weak or lacking?
·         Are you offered training to extend your knowledge of your role at the company?
·         Is training encouraged within the company?
·         Does the company offer opportunities to expand your knowledge and potentially your role within the organization through training and/or schooling?
·         Is there adequate training at the firm?
·         Would you feel comfortable being part of a focus group for information gathering?
Some questions I would ask Diana would be:
·         Is the company in a position to put forth a comprehensive training plan for anyone that would like to expand their knowledge of the company?
·         Does the company encourage its employees to expand their knowledge by offering incentives such as tuition reimbursement?
·         Is there an in-house training team and if not is the company able to support such a team?
·         Do you feel that you are receiving the training necessary to keep you abreast of the changes in the company?
·         Do you have personal goals for which training is necessary?
·         Would you be able to produce documents showing the financial viability for developing a training curriculum and or division?
When conducting a needs assessment for the Men’s Wearhouse I would implore all the techniques mentioned in Table 3.2 of the Noe textbook if financially feasible.  The questions being asked of the CFO should determine if these techniques can all be used.  If it is not feasible and from the review of the company’s website I think the best course of action would be in this order of priority:
1.       Observation – the employees of the company seem to enjoy working at Men’s Wearhouse.  This company was voted in the top 100 companies to work for in the United States which tells me that they would probably not change their behavior since they already enjoy their jobs.
2.       Online Technology – again since the company was voted on of the top companies to work for the employees should not be worried about any ramifications from the answers to a survey.
3.       Questionnaires – I think the employees would be forthcoming with their answers.
4.       Interviews – although they are time consuming and expensive, interviews when done right gain much knowledge about the organization.
5.       Focus Groups – most employees at this company would volunteer the minute they hear focus groups are being assembled to gain information into the workings of the company.
6.       Documentation – while the information in the documentation is probably up to date for this company I do not like to rely on this information.  The company can “spin” information any way that optimizes their goals.  The real pulse of the company comes from talking to the employees
(Noe, 2010).
This should generate the information needed to determine if the company is in need of training.  At the very least the company will find out how it stands in many areas including morale.  Again from the website, it appears morale at the company is high.  The people seem to love to work for the company and they consider their CEO almost like a rock star, but what else would the website of a company say.  Talking with the employees is the true way to find the pulse of the company.
Noe, R.A. (2010). Employee training and development: Fifth Edition. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Irwin.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Truth about Training

The Truth about Training
Hello Mr. Davidson – glad I ran into you here in the elevator.  I have heard that you believe that training is not necessary for your organization and that you are thinking of cutting your training budget because the company is having economic issues.  What I would like to discuss with you when you have a minute is how training can actually be the best thing for your organization during these tough economic times.
Now is probably the best time to do training while business is slow.  Recently many advances were introduced at your firm, so many that the employees did not have a chance to really understand everything.  Now is the time to train the employees in the depth of the advances so they can utilize the information more effectively for their clients.
This is also the time to develop those in the organization that are showing extraordinary talents.  These talented employees will be looking for ways to improve themselves and by extension the organization so by taking time and setting up some talent development training we can help build these employees knowledge. 
Lastly, consider the fact that your organization is global – we can develop training to be utilized by the employees at their own pace thereby keeping costs down and still allowing everyone access to the same information instead of bringing everyone together in one place to learn what is needed.
How does next Thursday at 2:00 look for you to talk about training for your organization?

(it appears that blogger will not allow audio only video - the audio is posted to the blog links in the classroom - will fix this for future versions)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Scope Creep

Scope Creep
Many years ago I worked as a computer programmer for a local printing company.  It was my first job out of school and I felt lucky that the company gave me a chance at a job with them since my degree was not in computer programming.  I graduated college with a B. A. in Communication and a Business Programming Certificate (the equivalent of an Associate’s degree).  Like many college graduates at the time I did not start working in a field related to my degree so I guess you could say that the scope creep actually started early because I was working outside my knowledge base.
The position I held was as a computer programmer and I worked on many different projects.  One project in particular was to take a local bank’s information with regard to their clients names and addresses and print out form letters addressed directly to the clients.  Like I said it was many years ago so at the time to do a project such as this it took a lot of programming just to format the data correctly.  The data was supplied in all capitals and we had to convert it to proper format (upper and lower case letters – there was not an app for that!).  Along with doing the programming to convert the data we quickly learned that special programming was needed to have the machines that ran the printers actually print the material properly.  This special programming was not considered in the original estimate.
Along with the extra programming needed for the printer there was the added situation that I was a new programmer and did not have the experience needed to program the printer for the extra work.  I had never been trained in the programming language the printer used so I had to learn how to program the printer fast.  I do not know if the inexperience was factored into the job estimate or not, however I have a feeling it was not considered because I came on board after the contract was awarded and before another programmer on the team decided to leave. 
Keeping in mind that I was a new programmer straight out of college I was inexperienced and as many inexperienced people do in their first job, they make mistakes.  I made a major mistake when writing the program to convert the data from all capitals to upper and lower case.  The mistake I made was that I did not clear one of my fields and thus when the field populated with data, that field stayed populated with data and was never blanked out.  What happened is that one of the clients had a long name and part of their name was duplicated to the clients that came after them, for example:
                                100th client -> MR. JOHN WILLIAM MICHAEL JAMES III M.D.
                                101st client -> MRS. EDITH JAMES
After applying my program:
                                100th client -> Mr. John William Michael James III M.D.
                                101st client -> Mrs. Edith James  M.D.
The field which held the “M.D.” data never cleared so everyone printed as a doctor after their name.  As you may guess this was a major issue and it needed to be fixed.  The mailings had already started going out and the issue was actually caught by one of the clients reporting it back to the bank.  I spent the better part of 3 days fixing this issue.  I never made that mistake again however it cost a lot to the company. Now in hindsight and after taking the class I am taking for Project Management, I am realizing just how much my “little” mistake cost the company.
Not that these issues were enough to deal with, the bank that hired us came back and requested that we do a second mailing as part of the project.  They wanted us to create their W2s for tax season while we were doing these form letters.  The request for the W2s was not in the original contact.  The bank needed to supply the data for the W2s and we had to do special programming again to print these specialized forms.  Not being involved in the negotiations I really do not know what transpired in the meetings for the contract, all I know is that we had to do additional work for the bank that was not originally requested and we had to work a lot of overtime to complete the project.
Scope creep happened several times within the project, some self-inflicted and some directed by the client.  It was a great learning experience for me and at the time I did not realize that it was scope creep.  The experience definitely had an impact because it is now 20+ years later and I remember the experience like it was yesterday.  There was another instance of scope creep with that same company but I will not elaborate on that one at this juncture.  Suffice it to say that the scope creep happened when the division I was working at in my home town was closing and they were consolidating with another division in another state.  My job was to help them move the projects to the new facility; however when I arrived at the other location instead of helping train people on the contacts being moved, the management had me working on new projects thus splitting my time between projects – big scope creep!
Looking back on these issues, if I was management, I do not know how these issues could have been avoided – definitely not the mistake.  In the situation of the additional request I would hope I would have had enough strength to say to the client that this addition is really not an addition it is actually a new project and we will treat it as such.  The management at the time did not want to upset this client because the bank was their biggest client.  It is easy to “talk a good game” and say that I would have made them do a new project but who knows what politics would have drove me to do in the same situation.  In the case of the inexperienced employee (myself) and needing more time to complete the project, that was not the bank’s issue it was my company’s issue so we needed to find ways to make the project work and be delivered on time.  Overtime was the only option because the company was short staffed.  As I came on board another more experienced person was giving their notice.  I am sure that if the experienced person had been around there would be more hands on oversight of what I was doing thus hopefully avoiding the mistake altogether.

Friday, March 16, 2012


Ever play the game of telephone around a campfire when you were young and by the time the message was received at the other end of the line it was nothing like the original message?  I believe the modern version of this game is email.  Emails may have the same wording as voicemails and even in person meetings; however emails cannot show emotion and can easily be misconstrued.  When communicating via email it is important to review how the email is worded before sending – if possible have a colleague or friend read the email prior to sending. 
In this week’s assignment we are to review and interpret “The Art of Effective Communication” (Laurette Education, n.d.).  There are 4 tabs on this site: 1.) Start 2.) Email 3.) Voicemail 4.) Face-to-Face and the email tab seems to be sarcastic.  When I read the email message I interpreted it as the person sending the email was annoyed with the person receiving the email because what was requested was still not completed. When reviewing the voicemail tab it was clear that the sentiment was not at all what the email had implied.  This tells me that voicemail is a better form of communication (at least for this example) than email.  Perhaps a combination of the two could be done; however you then run the risk that the receiver will read the email before listening to the voicemail.  If this is the case then the receiver may not listen to the voicemail with the same open mind they might have if they did not read the email first.  With the advances in technology it is entirely possible to read an email prior to listening to a voicemail. Lastly is the Face-to-Face communication which of course is probably the most effective form of communication.  In this exercise it was clear that the person was not trying to be sarcastic about the situation but they did need and want movement on the issue at hand.  The sender of the message was trying to communicate the message in a positive light also making sure the receiver knew that what was being requested was a priority to the sender.
My suggestions to anyone working with a team would be to try and communicate in person as much as possible – this could include video conferencing.  When we communicate in person (visually) everyone in the group can see the facial expressions, hear the tone in the voice, and see the body language.  Since a large part of our communication is non-verbal it is important to see the other person when communicating to obtain the total picture.  I am aware that in-person communication is not always possible.  The second best form of communication is the phone call which may end up in a voicemail.  I personally do not believe in leaving long detailed messages on voicemail because many people get “tongue tied” on the phone especially when the machine comes on.  My thought is to leave a quick message requesting a call back.  This could lead to “phone tag” and if this goes on too long then a message may need to be left but by that time the person on the phone has relaxed enough to leave a decent message.  The last type of communication should be email and hopefully you can use email as just a follow up to a conversation which had taken place earlier.  Again if you must use email, type the message, leave it for some time, come back and re-read the message and only send after feeling confident with the message.  Review the message for unintended emotions or the lack of emotion when an emotion is needed.  The important thing to look for is that the message cannot be misconstrued.  This is a difficult feat to master because each person is an individual which means each person reading the message could have a different understanding of the message than the other people.  That is what makes the world interesting.
Laurette Education (n.d.) “The Art of Effective Communication”. Extracted from

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Project Near Disaster

Project Near Disaster
Many years ago I was working as a programmer/analyst for a prestigious company when there was a decision by upper management to expand the business into Canada.  The Canadian office would be housed in Mississauga, ON which is not too far from Buffalo, NY.  At the time I was working as the programmer and network system analyst.  As part of my duties I would: 1.) make sure the network structures for the offices were in place and 2.) maintain the computer systems.  When the decision was made to open the new office and because of the successful work I had done in the past I was put in charge of the office setup.  At the time I did not know what a project manager was and heck the role probably did not exist.  I had been part of setting up offices in the past so I was comfortable with knowing what is needed to organize the project.
My project plan was well defined and considered every item that would be necessary to setup the office (or so I thought).  I was still young and did not understand all the rules of business between the United States and Canada.  I was unaware that paperwork needed to be filed in order to work in Canada when you are not a resident of Canada even if the office was part of an American company.  I tried to cross the border and when asked my purpose for going to Canada I told them I was going setup our new office in Mississauga.  This answer delayed my entrance into Canada and thus my delay the start of the project.  I was not the only person with this issue.  There were other people being sent from our main office in the United States to the new office in Canada to help with the setup.  The proper paperwork had not been completed and filed with Canada so each person attempting to enter into Canada to work on this project had difficulty.  
The project that was planned initially worked well once we could get all the workers to the site.  The only issue with the project was a delay in the start time so it pushed back the start date for the office opening.  Due to the delay of the personnel the office, wiring was not complete when the hardware arrived at the office.  This was not a problem because we were doing all our own installation, the deliveries were just that, deliveries.  Nothing that was delivered needed expertise other than us to complete a proper setup.  Other than the project being pushed by three weeks all steps of the plan worked. 
The take away with this project was to plan the logistics for the staff that is required to be on site.  There were no issues when working within our own office; it was only the interaction between the two countries that needs to be organized well in advance of the project start date.  As I stated at the beginning of this post, this event was many years ago and completing the paperwork requirements for the workers temporarily working in Canada did not take too much time.  In today’s world the time frame for completing the paperwork to travel between the countries would be a longer and more involved process.  It is vital that any organization working with other countries start the inquiry into what is needed at least six months prior to the start date – probably more like a year.  It was a lesson learned and luckily it did not take too long to resolve and not impact the project too drastically.