Customizing Your Learning

Customizing Your Learning

For the past three days we have discussed our classes with: What Subject Specific Classes Can Do for You, Building the Foundation, and A Pathway to Learning. In combination, these posts have given you a clear picture of what it is we do with employee development classes and how we do it. There is still a remaining option that we have not discussed: customizing your learning.

But we are not locked in stone and think we have the answer to everyone’s training needs and employee development thoughts and ideas. Because of that we have available under the “Contact” tab on the banner line the ability for our customers to “GET IN TOUCH.” If you ever find a need for a program that you don’t already see on our site, you can get in touch to talk to us about customizing your learning.

You can address us on our Assessments, Classes, Custom Training, Writing or Speaking.

We have already received several requests from dealers wanting additional assessments or more classes. We are already working on specialized assessments, customer service, operations, selling, finance, and leadership. This will also lead to “Learning Paths” for each of these areas within both Parts and Service.

So, we ask simply: what would you like to see from us that we don’t already offer?

Never hesitate to get in touch! 

The time is now.

For more information, please visit our website at learningwithoutscars.com

Millennials and the Work Place

Millennials and the Work Place

The other day I was having a conversation with a friend and colleague about communicating with the audience for our Learning Without Scars business. An associate of ours has stated “Ron, everyone knows you. But they don’t know you.” He wants me to make a series of film clips with short stories about my career. How I started teaching, how I got into this industry, my early involvement with Computers and Dealer Business Systems, etc. That is not normally something that I like to do.

So, I asked my friend if this was something that would be a good idea and his answer surprised me. He said “for people over the age of forty-five probably, but it doesn’t do anything for millennials.”

He told me a story about a millennial that they employed who asked him what his future held. That stopped him cold, as it would most of you. We don’t typically think about or have structured programs for career path. We all kind of just wing it. Millennials are smarter than that and much less patient than my generation was at the same age. I applaud them for that. They want to know if they are going to be given opportunities. A chance to learn and develop. No, I don’t mean the corner office without any skills. That is the exception not the rule.

I wanted to continue with the theme of the past three or four blogs on the changes in learning and the path going forward.

We just put up our Job Function Assessments in Spanish and today the French language will be up as well. That means that we will have thirty-two job function assessments available, excluding the technicians. We also have ninety-four classes. Let’s talk about how we put this together.

Once an assessment has been taken for the employee’s specific job, they get a score. That score will put them into a Skills Category; Basic, Core, Advanced or Expert. In the next phase of our website development, hopefully it will be completed this summer, we will be providing navigation help in the form of short surveys. Most websites I have seen contain a lot of very beneficial and useful information. However, most of us have to find our own way to get to what we are looking for from the site. We want to do it differently.

First, when you arrive on the site there will be a short film clip welcoming you and asking you what it is that you are interested in viewing on this visit.

  • Is it an assessment?
  • Is it a class?
  • Have you already taken an assessment and you want to advance?

Your answer will bring another film clip to further assist you.

Second will be another question. Which department are you interested in seeing?

  • Parts
  • Service
  • Selling and Marketing

With the answer to that question we can take you to the next step.

If you selected an assessment the web site will deliver the assessments available for that department. You pick your job function and you will receive a description of the assessment and given the option of enrolling.

If you selected a class there will be another film clip and we will have another question. What learning category is of interest? Customer Service, Finance, Operations, Selling or Leadership. The website will then deliver the classes for that department for that learning category. Your choice will take you to a description of the class and give you the option of enrolling.

If you have taken an assessment, we already know the department, now we will ask you which job function assessment you took. With your answers we can place you in a skills and knowledge category level for that job function; basic core, advanced or expert. The website will then deliver the classes available for that skill and knowledge category that will allow the employee to improved their skills. They can pick from the classes recommended, get the description and if they so choose, they can enroll.

All enrollments are e-commerce ready and they will have their class or assessment put into a shopping cart. They can either continue shopping or pay by credit card and go forward.

I am explaining all of this because the millennials will be given an “active learning” opportunity.

  • They will know what their particular skills and knowledge level is for their job.
  • They will know what classes they need to take to improve their scores.

In other words, they will be control of their own destiny.

That is what my friend told me that they wanted. I think everyone wants to have some control over their lives and their job opportunities and are rarely given that.

What do you think? Please let me know with a comment. Thanks.

The Time is Now.

The Evolution in Learning which is fast becoming a Revolution

The Evolution in Learning which is fast becoming a Revolution

From my grandmother who taught in a one room schoolhouse, to today we have seen a lot of change in education.

I want to go back a little further than that today. Socrates, our logo, and one of the fathers of teaching, distrusted learning from books. Students reading words would gain only shadows of the original authors’ insight and worse would not understand the difference. Of course, there were not many books back then.

In his book “The End of College, Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere” Kevin Carey puts forward some interesting statistics.

  • Less than 40% of students enrolling for the first time at a four-year college actually graduate in four years. Fewer than 66% within six years.
  • There are almost thirty-three million college dropouts in America over the age of twenty-five. Many with large student loans.
  • Fourteen percent of college graduates scored at the basic level of literacy. That makes them good enough to read grade school books.

Richard Arum in his book “Academically Adrift, Limited Learning on College Campuses” said, “American higher education is characterized by limited to no learning for a large proportion of students.”

The purpose of post high school learning according to educators was practical training, research, and a liberal arts education. In 1869 Harvard University hired thirty-five-year-old Charles William Eliot to lead the school. One of the many things he did was replace the mandatory curriculum with an elective system. This exploded the courses offered, increased the faculty dramatically and caused expansion of facilities to accommodate the increased student body. The rest is history.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, (NCES) part of the Department of Education, there were 4,726 degree-granting institutions at the peak in 2012. That consisted of 3,206 four-year institutions and 1,700 two-year institutions. The enrollment in these institutions peaked at just over 21,500,000 students in 2010.

The final straw was when the Federal Guaranteed Student Loans and tuitions exploded upward. The average debt is estimated to be $37,172 per student in 2016. The total outstanding student loans in the United States reached an all time high of $1.41 trillion in 2019. Amazing isn’t it?

Today as noted in previous blogs surveys indicate that nearly 75% of three hundred professionals prefer internet-based learning instead of classroom learning.

There is one other critical factor to consider. Teaching and Learning has made a radical and very dramatic shift. We have shifted from “passive” learning to “active” learning.

With passive learning the teacher is responsible for improving the skills of the student. With active learning it is the student that has the responsibility for their own learning.

Creative thinking, collaboration and interpersonal skills show great improvement with active learning methodologies. Businesses need to pay attention. One of the main challenges in the coming decades is going to be in the area of personnel. Attracting, Recruiting, Hiring, Developing, Appraising, and Retaining talent will be a huge challenge. I believe to the core of my being that with the right people in your business you will prevail in whatever it is that you want to do. Without them you will fail.

Companies must set up a proactive learning environment to motivate their workforce.

At Learning Without Scars, we start with JOB FUNCTION SKILLS ASSESSMENTS to determine the knowledge and skill categories of individuals. From the skill category of an individual we can customize their learning experience. We can direct them to the applicable subject specific classes available for their personal progression through the skill categories; Basic, Core, Advanced and Expert.

If individuals want to take a subject specific class(es) we can tailor that as well that into five specific areas; Customer Service, Selling, Operations, Finance and Leadership. The individual can select from an array of classes choices in each of those disciplines.

This is all aimed at allowing the individual employee to design their own learning path with JOB FUNCTION SKILL ASSESSMENTS in place to monitor their progress. This is our contribution to “active” learning where the individual employee takes control of their own destiny at work. They can grow their skills and in so doing increase the likelihood of earning more money and taking on more challenging and rewarding work assignments.

As R.C. Sproul, the founder of Ligonier Ministries, said “Our problem as people is not a lack of intelligence or a lack of passion. Our problem is that we are lazy.” And if we want to go further with him, he says “If you’re not accountable in your life that means ultimately that your life doesn’t much count.”

You have a choice to make. To be on a path of constant exploration and learning or to do nothing. The choice is YOURS to make.

The Time is Now.

Who Is Your Customer?

In Business – Why are you here?

WHO is your CUSTOMER?

I had an interesting conversation with Caroline, my daughter, yesterday. Caroline is a teacher, and a very good one. Of course, I am going to say that but it is very true. She teaches in an extremely underprivileged community where a very large percentage of the student body who are English Learners. Further, as with the majority of the students in our region, they rely heavily on the food programs available through schools to be able to have a meal each day. With many agricultural jobs, we see very hard-working families who still need the extra resources. A difficult situation to say the least.

We were talking about education and how this current situation, with the country closed down, is going to affect the future of education. My granddaughter goes to University, it is closed and her classes are all being conducted virtually: even the labs, as she is in the sciences. My grandson is in High School and all his classes are done virtually. My daughter teaches High School and she teaches all day, every day, virtually. Imagine that, would you? They are all in school and no one leaves home.

This is what I have been talking about since the early 2000’s. From the Khan Academy, to every major University, to IT training, most everything that anyone wants to learn is available on line. AND for the most part it is free. At Learning Without Scars we have provided a learning platform for individuals who want to improve their skills and knowledge. Unfortunately, that is not everyone. Being optimistic I believe that more people, particularly the younger generations will change that and that they will constantly be striving to make themselves better. Of course, the world has to catch up. In order for online education to succeed, our students need to have access to a decent connection to the online world. That is still not true in many parts of our country today.

Which brings me to the customer and my conversation with Caroline. The end customer of education is society. School is the vehicle which every community uses to develop the people that will create the social and economic activity that will better society. BUT, the primary customer of the school systems, of education, is the student and their family. Too often that fact gets lost in the bureaucracies of the education community: the Federal Government, which does not have a role in education enumerated in the Constitution; the State Governments, who have primary responsibility, the School Boards with elected Administrators, many of whom have never taught in a classroom in their lives, municipal governments, who receive the taxes to pay for schools and on and on. Who is thinking about the customer here? Of course, it is the teacher. But who supports that teacher?

Now look at your business. WHO is YOUR customer? That should be a very easy question to answer. I would like you to think about that for when we come out of this economic shutdown. WHO is YOUR customer? Is it the person coming in to order parts? Is it the person who calls to schedule maintenance or a repair on a machine? WHO is it? In many of these cases it is an employee of a business who uses equipment. But one more time please – WHO is the CUSTOMER?

I am hopeful that every distributor and dealer will come to a different conclusion than what has been true the past three to four decades. I am hopeful that they will begin to operate in a radically different manner than they have recently. I am hopeful that the employees will be given more and better tools to serve the machine owners. But then again, I am an optimistic person.

Things won’t be any different coming out of this economic shutdown unless we make them different. And that means some serious thinking about WHO that CUSTOMER really is that you are serving.

The Time is Now.

Business Models

Business Models

Since 1980 when Ronald Reagan and Paul Volcker fixed the high levels of inflation with a drastic increase in interest rates we have been operating on a “cost control driven” business model.

This model now needs to have a dramatic review and update.

  • I don’t believe anyone can make money by reducing costs alone.
  • We are driven by sales per employee metrics to the point of obsession.
  • We have beat up supply chains to extract costs.
  • Just in time inventories supply chains are the norm.
  • We have “computerized” business processes, moving a paper form to an input screen. We have not improved them.
  • We have concluded that market coverage is too expensive and seen precipitous reductions in market share as competitors have taken our customers by simply calling on them.
  • We have taken on incredible levels of risk thinking low interest rates are with us forever.
  • Rental inventories have grown and money has been made without the offset to risk abatement.
  • With market changes the escape valve for too much inventory is nowhere in sight.

Now is not the time to have the technocrats and managers, alone, determine what needs to be done to improve business. Now is the time to include and involve every single employee in this effort. Never forget that the employee doing the job should be the one that knows that job better than anyone else and to ignore them is not only wrong but truly a shame.

The Time is Now.

Competence and Recognition

Competence and Recognition

With so many learning opportunities available over the internet and very few of these classes earning University or Colleges credits directly many institutions have devised a method to recognize individual student competencies.

They are using badges.

While with our accreditation by IACET we will be able to offer Continuous Education Units, which lead to college and technical school credits, we fell it is necessary and important to recognize specific skills within our learning programs.

We have identified five skill sets that need further recognition. They are Sales, Finance, Operations, Leadership and Customer Service. We are using the same approach as was used to develop our Skills Assessments. We are selecting 60 questions from the 2,400 questions used in our Skills Assessments and selecting them according to their relevance to the skill sets listed above. We will offer Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze Skill Set Badges.

Each learner then will be able to follow classes related to their job function, perform a skills assessment related to that same job as well as be able to be recognized as to their individual level of competence on specific skills sets.

This will be a first in our Industry. We are proud of this accomplishment and hat it will mean to our hardworking heroes in the parts, service and product support sales world.

The Time is Now.

 

Continual Individual Employee Development

Continual Individual Employee Development

One of the challenges we face as a society today, which is in my opinion the most daunting of all, is the ability that we have, as employers, to find, attract, hire and retain talented employees.

As an employee in this environment there are also serious challenges. The world is changing at a rate that is unprecedented. When I was in University, I took a class in number theory as part of my major in mathematics and physics. That was my first year. At the same time, in California, children in grade school were being taught the same theory. It was obvious then that I had a head start of roughly ten years.

In the STEM learning programs in the schools today changes are even more rapid. With Artificial Intelligence, Artificial Realties, 5G networks, data streaming and data analytics, autonomous transportation, and the like the younger generations today are confronted with the truth that their learning, their formal schooling, is not going to last through their lifetime like it has been so far.

The need for each individual to continue to learn, and grow, and read, is paramount. Further we will need to have a second cycle through “schools.” This is leading to more “internet based” learning programs. There will be many changes to deal with in business. This is the truth of this “New Reality.”

Each individual employee’s ability to adapt and overcome challenges will become more critical than at any time in history. Welcome to the new year, 2020, and even more importantly welcome to the new decade.

The Time is Now

 

So, What Are We Doing?

So, what are we doing?

When we looked at our mission in the internet-based learning business we had to face a series of questions:

 To whom will we be providing our learning products?
 How will we be able to reach the student base?
 How will we measure our ability to provide learning to the student base?
 What will be the learning objectives for each of our programs?
 How important will our learning business become to the employers?

These questions, and many more, caused us some serious reflection time.

We had come from a classroom setting with Quest, Learning Centers. We offered traditional training in two, and three day, programs. We were focused on the management and supervision at equipment dealerships. We had started providing this training in the early 1990’s when most of the OEM’s (Original Equipment Manufacturers) stopped providing their dealers with their own management training classes. They stopped providing this training due to costs. We decided we enter this market and satisfy what was still an important need; training managers and supervisors in parts and service to improve their performance for them personally and for their dealerships.

We created a lot of content. Each of our classes covered 15 hours in the classroom and we provided a “text” book each of which were approximately 250 pages. We had nine such text books and offered nine different classes. In the more than twenty years that we did the classroom training we covered North America, Europe, Asia, South America, Russia and the Middle East. We had several thousand people taking classes.

Then dealer needs for training evolved.  There were different vehicles that management wanted to try to reduce the costs of training. Along came the webinar. As a teacher I wasn’t very excited about teaching online via a power point with me talking to a group of people who were looking at my screen and hearing my voice. I had no idea if they were “getting it” or perhaps they were doing other things at the same time. However, one of the things it did do is that if forced us to develop products that had a shorter duration. We developed webinars that were designed for 45 to 60 minutes in length.

At last we arrive at the place where we were confronting what the future of learning was going to look like. I wasn’t that interested in travelling all over the world to teach in classrooms and webinars didn’t strike as a good vehicle from which to teach people.
• We chose the internet as the delivery system.
• We chose slide shows, audio tracks and film clips as the vehicle.
• We chose pre-tests, final assessments, and opinion surveys as measurement.
• We chose “badges” as our “certification measurement tool.”

The goal was to keep the cost down and employee learning time investment at the lowest level possible. Then, based on customer input, we determined that the learning programs should be job function related not management and supervision related.

We have plans to be offering 117 two-hour Learning On Demand (LOD) classes, then there are 25 job function programs we call Planning Specific Program (PSP) classes. Each of these programs covers four two-hour classes, and we also have leadership classes we call Planned Learning Programs (PLP). Each of these programs covers ten two-hour classes. We will introduce our Virtual Classroom (VCR) programs in 2019. These classes are for fast track employees and consist of five classes requiring ten hours of learning.

We are redesigning the LOD’s to break the two-hour class into three sections, each section will be about 30 minutes ending with an essay question. We are introducing this in 2019 with our third-year programs, The Final Staging, within the PLP’s then we will redo each of the programs for the Building Blocks and finally The Framework.

We have also changed our reporting to the clients. Each month we send out a progress report to each dealer showing each student and four or five steps or progress. Program Progress, Pretest Results, Final Assessments, Surveys, and Certificates. This allows the students and their employer to track the progress of the individual learning path. We are sincerely interested in providing each student with an employee development program.

We are finalizing our badge structure which we will introduce to you in a later blog.

The Time is Now.

Make It Visible.

Make It Visible.

We have written often about Goals and Objectives and Management Measures and Key Performance Indicators. And rightly so. It also ties into my management philosophy of Understanding, Acceptance and Commitment. We MUST have clarity, everyone has to Understand what it is we are trying to do, everyone has to ACCEPT that what we are trying to do and that leads to everyone being committed to getting it done. I call that UAK, from my friend Malcolm Phares, who felt it was more memorable that way.

I want to address now the reporting of the progress towards meeting or surpassing the goals, objectives, management measure and key performance indicators.

Some time ago I was on a board of a manufacturing company. They did fusion welding on cylinder heads and line boring and rebuilding of various components as well as resurfacing camshafts and crankshafts. It was a good business. The owner wanted me to see what we could do about improving throughput. We went about the project in the usual manner and had UAK. But what really made a difference was in how we presented the results of everyone’s efforts. We put up graphic and table results every day in the employee break room.

We had a quick team meeting in which we explained what we were going to do and how we were going to collect the data and how we were going to present it to them. I was a little surprised at the level of interest in this reporting approach. There was very little interest.

The first few days, we started at the beginning of a month, there was rather disappointing interest. It started picking up toward the end of the first week. By the time the second week was finished the employees had figured out how their efforts could influence the results. They started trying out different methods to achieve the results, some that worked and some that did not work. But they quickly figured out how to have the maximum results in how they approach their work.

No one told them what to do, they figured it out themselves. I have always said that the employees doing the job know how to do their job better than anyone else. It has always been rather easy for me to explain to employees what is needed and you will be surprised at what comes out of it. This is standard best practice management isn’t it? That sure happened in this example.
By the end of the first month the improved results were very obvious to everyone. No additional spending, no changed written procedures, and no-one standing above every employee pushing them. Just management and supervision helping the employees out when they wanted assistance.

By the end of the first quarter under this program the throughput nearly doubled, open work orders were down by more than 50% and as you can imagine profit increased. The customers had improved results as well. Lower invoices as the times to do the work went down and the invoices were produced within a day of the jobs being completed.
I believe it was simply the reporting of the results. Made the results visible, explain how you get the information and how you produce the results and then just let it go.

If you already are doing this you know what I am talking about. If you don’t what have you got to lose? Try it out you will be surprised by the results.

The Time is NOW.

e-Learning

e-Learning

Twenty years ago, in 1999, John Chambers, then CEO of CISCO Systems said, “Education over the internet is going to make email usage look like a rounding error.” The renowned Clairmont Professor and business guru thought that “Knowledge has to be improved, challenged, and increased constantly, or it vanishes.”

As those of you who read this blog know we are serious proponents of providing tools for employees whereby they can reach their potential. Learning to me is a lifelong pursuit. You really only start to learn once you leave the structured education system that we have in place. Too many people, however, act as if that is the end of their education.

We are extremely pleased to be in the final stages of certification by the IACET, the International Association of Continuous Education and Training. They have a very rigorous certification process that we have completed and are in the final review process. You will hear more on this in the near future when we get all of the documentation completed.

This is the final step in our platform for training in the Heavy Equipment, Light Industrial, Material Handling, Trailer, and Ground Water Industries with which we are associated. We will be the only certified company in these Industries in the world.

We ran a brief review of our offerings within the past month and it is quite substantial. We currently have around 90 people taking classes on line every day. We have enrolled over 600 people in the past two years. It is starting to take hold.

What we offer is an employee development structure for each job function in the Parts and Service world. We assist dealers and distributors and some manufacturers now in creating a learning path for specific jobs. A career path if you will. We are in the final stages of announcing our “badge” program.

The Physical Universities and Vocational Schools are the only ones who can provide a “parchment” that says University Degree. The internet-based learning world is “not allowed” to offer degrees. We offer and provide badges. In our programs the badges cover; Operations, leadership, Sales, and Finance. Each class earns a badge and after accumulating Badges taking classes there are four levels of achievement; Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze. Each student can share their learning results from us with their prospective employers which provides, we believe, a much more complete picture of the knowledge of each individual who has followed our programs.

A study done in 1000 by WR Hambrecht + Co called “Exploring a New Frontier” provided the following list of factors driving e-Learning:

• Rapid obsolescence of knowledge and training
• Internet access if standard at home and at work
• The need for just in time training.
• Technological advances enable interactive and media rich content.
• Efficient means to train a global or national work force
• Increasing bandwidth allowing more streamed content
• Increases in skills gap and demographic changes
• Growing selection of e-learning products and services
• Demand for flexibility for lifelong learning
• New standards to facilitate compatibility, usability of e-learning product
• Wide variety of topics addressing business objectives
• HR, Management, Customer Service and Compliance Topics
• Simple access point and integrated data
• AICC and SCORM standards for inter-operability

I believe that e-Learning is now starting to hit its stride. All of the above points are even more pronounced today.

We are hitting our stride as well:

 We have created our platform – the learning management system
 We have developed the products – over 112 different programs
 We are in the final stage of accreditation – IACET
 We are finalizing the recognition programs with our badges

Now it is time to sell the program and get more people learning on a daily basis.

We highlighted a quote from Peter Drucker at the outset of this blog “knowledge has to be constantly improving or else it vanishes.”

Where are you in your learning?

 Are you reading books and taking classes constantly?
 Or is your knowledge becoming dated and no longer current?

I think we all can do much more in our lives and in our careers. In fact, with the rapid rate of change in the world around us I believe it is absolutely critical for us to continue to learn. What do you think?

The Time is NOW.