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Practise what you preach

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Tang Li Chow, senior regional learning and organisation capability manager, Asia Pacific South, at Molex, says as HR leaders, we understand a lot about what we “should” be doing – so why do we often forget to apply what we already know?

There are many “truths” we would preach to our fellow HR colleagues or declare to our employees, but we often end up violating these “truths”, either in part or in full, when it comes to us going about our work.

Some reasons could be that we are just too busy to do the right thing, or perhaps we do not have the support from fellow HR colleagues or our line managers to co-operate and play their role in the whole scheme of things. Maybe it’s just too difficult to educate and convince our employees the value in doing what we know is best for them.

So what are some of these “truths”?

Every employee is different

All of us are familiar with psychometric assessments or personality inventory instruments. We either use them during team-building meetings, training workshops or career counselling sessions to help employees better understand their own personalities – their strengths, weaknesses and behavioural styles. Using these tools, we aim to know how to better relate and communicate with each other, how to lead more effectively and how to better manage our own careers and the kinds of jobs and tasks we should be focusing on.

We all know there are some of us who are introverted and there are others who are extroverted. If we have introverted employees who would feel more comfortable speaking up in small group settings, why is it that most of the ways we communicate with employees are through large, town hall-type meetings? Why are we still putting everyone in one class using one uniform method when everyone learns differently?

I have tested my hypothesis that introverts prefer mentoring and being mentored, while extroverts prefer coaching and being coached with hundreds of colleagues in different countries. We need to help managers understand which development method they should use – based on the preference of their people – or their methods will not be effective no matter how much audio, visual and kinesthetic methods are used.

70:20:10 development plans

Almost all of us are familiar with the 70:20:10 model of structuring a development plan. Out of the competencies we require to perform our job effectively, 70% should come from experiences gathered from real-life tasks or assignments, carefully designed to address our development needs.

For example, having an employee lead a task force on a subject matter they know almost nothing about forces them to acquire listening skills because they will have no choice, but to seek the views and insights of other experts on the task force.

A further 20% should come from learning from others – our coaches, mentors and peers who share best practices at networking or benchmarking meetings. Only the last 10% is to be acquired through training.

Being typically under-resourced because of the relentless pressures to do more with less, how many of us can boldly say the development plans of our people are structured this way? I am sure most of us cannot even claim that we do this for every one of our high potentials – the very talent we are supposed to devote most of our time and effort to develop. Don’t we all give in to the pressures to create one-off training programmes because they are easier to sell and implement?

Knowledge should be transferred to the workplace

Those of us who have been audited for ISO9000 or by a customer would know the one question every auditor asks is: “How do we evaluate the effectiveness of training?”

I believe no auditor would be satisfied if you told them you only used the smile sheet, or the evaluation form that we typically fill out at the end of a training workshop. That’s because it only equates to Level 1 (or reaction) of the Kirkpatrick’s model of Learning Effectiveness Evaluation. Level 2 (learning) would be better, but still not good enough because what is kept in the head has no change to one’s behaviour.

We all aspire to have people transfer what they have learnt to the workplace so that there are returns on our training investment. One way of evaluating the transfer of knowledge is by measuring the competency before and after an employee participates in training, either through self-evaluation or by having a manager observe and assess. Another way is to get the employee to commit to something they will apply and, after a period of time, check back with them or the manager to verify if that commitment has been delivered.

How many of us actually go through the trouble of ensuring the learning transfer of more than a select group of our employees? We all know the percentage of people who actually implement what they learn in a course is very low. This is because people are primarily resistant to change and it is difficult for most of us to unlearn what no longer works.

Most of us are not resourced to follow up on how people convert their learning into observable, measurable behaviours. Why are we spending more time designing, developing and deploying training when we should be spending it on monitoring how it is being used by our people?

What I hope you will do…

Re-examine what you are doing. We should understand that every small difference you make for your employees can help make your organisation a more effective one. If you are already doing what you believe to be the right thing – and are also able to afford it – I am happy for you.

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