Balancing Skills in the Workplace

Balancing Skills in the Workplace

Imagine if you will, it is the middle 1980’s and I am working with a John Deere dealer and we are looking at their Service Department. We were reviewing processes and systems and methods and work flows. We also determined that there was a need to review the skills of the technicians and all support functions in the department.

In those days we didn’t have much in the way of personnel management practices in the Industry. We didn’t have a way of balancing skills in the workplace. We had to build the complete structure and reporting criteria. We created three data files; current employee personnel and payroll information, the skills required to each of the job functions, and the determination of the actual skills of each of the employees. To determine the skills of each employee we created what I called a “Skill Set Inventory.” This inventory consisted of questions with multiple choice answers that the employees they completed and submitted the forms to me.

Then we catalogued the answers and grade ranked all of the employees – we matched these results with the payroll records. The final step was to sit with the management of the department to discuss the skills of each of the employees, without the benefit of the employee’s personal thinking, and grade rank them – again we matched these results with the payroll records.

How do you think the management compared with the employee scores and the payroll records? It was very revealing. The management was embarrassed. There was some matching of the results but very little. It turns out that the management had favorites and seniority had an outsized influence on the results. They had not learned the art of balancing skills in the workplace.

This was an extremely important exercise for me. I conducted these types of reviews with several dozen dealers across many different manufacturer dealers. The results were the same. That took us to the place where we needed to develop an objective assessment tool for dealers.

There are many companies within our Industry who have created assessments, we are not alone in this arena. There are manufacturers, personnel companies, associations and others involved, which cover many aspects of the individual jobs; however, you need to be the judge of the value of the results from any job assessment. You need to do your own due diligence.

Our assessments relate to the specific jobs, for instance, the counter and telephone sales employees, or the service office employees, or the product support sales person. There are six job functions within the parts department, eight in the service department and four in the product support selling and parts and service marketing groups. Let’s review how our assessments were created for a moment. For each class we have conducted for the past thirty years, and the more than ten thousand employees we have had in our classes or webinars, we have had questions and work groups, and evaluations throughout. From our classrooms and webinars, we created our subject specific classes, and in each of these subject specific classes which we called “Learning On Demand (LOD)” products we had assessments and tests. This is the foundation of our Skills Assessments programs. We selected for each job function assessment, from the pool of over one thousand questions, the job function assessment questions. Then we have had more than thirty-five hundred people take these assessments so that we could put the job function assessments into the marketplace with confidence.

I am excited by the assessment programs. We have received more than thirty registrations today and I am expecting more than two hundred this week. The same again next week. The market seems to be rewarding us with their orders. We thank them and will continue to provide leading edge tools for dealers to improve their processes, procedures, systems and methods. We aim to assist each employee working in this Industry with products that will help them realize their potential.

We believe that is our mission and our life’s work.

The time is now.

Building the Foundation of Learning

Building the Foundation of Learning

Building the Foundation of Learning

Our initial training business was called Quest, Learning Centers. We incorporated Quest in 1992. This is where we first deliberately began building the foundation of learning. Originally our classes spanned fifteen hours, over two days, and was designed to cover four subjects; operations, selling, management and standards of performance. In each four-hour time block we covered two specific learning subjects. That provided a learning platform of four classes. Then we created additional learning levels to end up with three different levels of classes. That developed a total of 24 classes for each of parts, service and selling. In the middle we created a marketing class and a customer service class. That gave us a total of 88 classes.

In the early 2000’s we moved to webinars. Each webinar was around forty-five minutes. I was not happy with webinars as I could not see my students. We adjusted our delivery and used a HD camera connected to our computer. We alternated power point slides with live talks using the camera. It was better but didn’t make me very happy as a teacher. Still, it was another step in building the foundation of learning.

In 2016 we decided to transition all of our learning products to the internet. We incorporated Learning Without Scars and started to build the curriculum. Today we have thirty classes up and available in both parts and service with five classes in each still under construction. For Selling and Marketing we have twenty-four classes up and available.

These subject specific classes are each approximately three hours duration. We start with a pretest to understand the prior knowledge of each employee before they start the class. We then have power point slides with audio tracks which was developed and evolved from our classroom training. Into this learning we inserted film clips that accentuated a specific point. At the conclusion of the class we had a final assessment on which the student had to achieve a score of 80% to pass. Then a short survey upon completion of everything after which the student could get their certificate of achievement.

In recent learning research and development, it has been proven that with a quiz or break in learning every ten or so minutes that learning retention goes up by 50% so we are in the process now of updating all of our classes to reflect this truth. I am sure that our classes will be in a constant state of development as more evidence comes forward regarding how people learn. I am committed to helping each individual to be able to achieve their potential.

Each step along the way, in our quest to help each person achieve their potential, is our need to listen to our clients and their employees and respond to their needs and wants just like every other business. They suggest additional classes and learning tools. This has allowed us to develop a series of, what we are calling, Learning Paths for each Skill Level achieved in our Job Function Skills Assessments. Initially we designed our training programs and we determined the structures that the individual students were to follow. We called them Planned Learning Programs and Planned Specific Programs and Video Classrooms. Now we are providing our students with the tools to be able to design their own learning path. They, more than we, know what they need in order to become better at what they do. More on that tomorrow.

The time is now.

For more information about what classes are right for you, please visit our website at learningwithoutscars.com

What Subject Specific Classes Can Do For You

What Subject Specific Classes Can Do For You

Moving from the role of an employee in an equipment dealership to being a consultant was an interesting transition. I started at Hewitt Equipment, the Caterpillar Dealer in Quebec, in March 1969 on a one-year contract. While with Hewitt I was given the opportunity to learn and grow my skills. I never forgot that. In 1978 I moved to Western Canada and worked for Finning Tractor and Equipment. In 1980 I moved back to Alberta where we started our consulting business. Through those twelve years I was given the opportunity to learn. I could never have done the work I did as a consultant without all of the training I received while working for those two Caterpillar dealerships. That opportunity for learning is what our subject specific classes can provide for you.

I don’t think I was very different then than the millennials and younger generation today. I needed to learn. I HAD to learn to progress in my work. I think the younger generations today are in exactly the same frame of mind as I was at their age. If I am not learning and progressing, I am wasting my time and should be looking for something else. I continue to be in awe at the knowledge of these younger generations. They have so much more knowledge than we Baby Boomers had at a similar age. I suppose that is a normal progression in society but it is one that needs to be respected. These younger generations are what we older generations have to rely on in our dotage.

In the consulting business I would be involved in identifying opportunities, negotiating solution options and implementing change. This invariably involved teaching people how to do things the “new” way. Before I started at Hewitt, I taught education at McGill University in Montreal. I absolutely love when I see the lights go on in a students’ eyes when they “Get” it. That really turns my crank. In the early 1990’s most of the OEM’s (Original Equipment Manufacturers) and business associations (AED Associated Equipment Dealers) stopped doing any management training in the Parts and Service business. I thought I could fill that void.

I spent the summer of 1992 creating three “text” books for management in Parts, Service and Product Support Sales. In other words, I created the foundation from three management training classes. I set up the classes to take place over three days and split the learning into six distinct categories. Selling, Operations, Asset Management, Finance, Leadership, and Standards of Performance. This was the beginning of Quest, Learning Centers. In 2016 we incorporated Learning Without Scars and transitioned to the internet. We now offer the largest selection of internet-based employee development classes in the Industry. We have ninety-four subject specific classes available to the parts, service and selling aspects of Product Support.

Last week the focus of our blogs was on the assessments. This week we are moving to our classes. The foundation question for the assessments, is what is the department that you are interested in reviewing. We start the same way with the classes. You select a department and then we take you to the class options for that department. We will take you to the next step tomorrow.

The time is now.

For more information on our programs and what we can do for you, please visit our website at learningwithoutscars.com

Performance Reviews

Performance Reviews

I believe that performance reviews are a terrific opportunity to discuss, with the employee, what is necessary for the employee to do to become better at what they do and open up more opportunities for them in the Company. Further I believe, that for most dealerships this a missed opportunity. Most dealerships don’t do annual performance reviews. In my thirteen years working at two dealerships I never had a performance review. One of my bosses, when I asked him for a review, told me he didn’t believe in them. He asked me “did you get a raise, did you get more money,” I said yes, and he said “well that is your performance review.” Now think about that. This was a man in his sixties, and experienced business executive, who didn’t believe in evaluating an employee’s performance. You have to ask yourself what is going on don’t you?

Perhaps we should consider Patrick Lencioni and his book “The Three Signs of a Miserable Job.” (if you haven’t read it, you should) The three signs are Anonymity, Irrelevance, and “Immeasureability” – (there is no such word). The key sign in this discussion is immeasureability. The individual employee does not know how to measure their performance. Many of you will conclude, like my boss, that it is not that important. I believe it is crucial. People want to please other people. It is human nature. People want to do a good job. BUT someone has to tell that what doing a good job looks like. And MOST do not tell them.

The Performance Review is a perfect opportunity to deal with everything and anything that the employee and the Company wants to talk about. The LWS job function skills assessment provides an objective review of the employee skills and knowledge. What better platform than to have a discussion about how the employee can improve themselves and make them more valuable as a person and as an employee. In my consulting life, and also in some classrooms, I used to use a device I called “Five Things.” Five things that are the most significant in the following categories; to improve operations, that are a pain to do, to make your job better. I start most of the performance reviews I am involved with those five things subjects. Then we talk about them. Think about that list. It turns out that there were a lot of “things” that were on all three lists. The employee and I agreed with what needed to be done to fix those that were on all three lists. That is really positive. It helps the employee and it helps the company. That is the goal of a performance review.

Start with the employee completing the assessment that matches their job. Sit down and talk about it. How did they do? Was that what they expected? Review the classes that we recommend for that skill level. Then conduct a Five Things review. Both you and the employee will feel a lot better about each other, about the performance of the employee and your caring as the leader in the department for that employee. Is there anything wrong with any of that? I didn’t think so.

The choice is yours.

The time is now.

For more information on how our assessments can build Performance Reviews, please visit our website at learningwithoutscars.com

Why Do We Need to Change?

Why Do We Need to Change?

Robert Quinn says “One key to successful leadership is continuous personal change. Personal change is a reflection of our inner growth and empowerment.”

It’s important to evolve and to adjust as we grow deeper in the knowledge of ourselves and those around us too.

But why are people afraid to change? Why is change so difficult when we all know it’s inevitable?

James Belasco and Ralph Stayer, authors of the book “The Flight of the Buffalo,” couldn’t have said it any better “Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.”

This week let’s think about the changes we’re afraid of making in our own lives. Are we overestimating the value of the very things we hold near and dear to us? Are we underestimating what the future may hold? Something to think about. Let’s be more aware of the need for change.

Today we finished an upgrade to our Learning Without Scars website.

We would like to invite everyone to come take a look at our new layout here.

Brian Shanahan, of Shanahan Strategy, with whom we have been working on our websites for ten plus years, has done a terrific job for us.

This change allows our clients to utilize e-commerce to purchase any of our Learning Without Scars products. It also shows a different focus on learning by utilizing our Skill Assessment Tools. From the scores achieved on the Job Function Skills Assessment we now offer a “Learning Path” recommendation of classes to take in order to improve their Skills Level. Those classes have been reorganized and the layout of their presentation has also been re-imagined here.

With the change to the website we have focused on getting in place many of the things that our clients have requested of us so far:

  1. Simplicity
  2. Ease of Navigation
  3. The ability to complete transactions online
  4. Excitement on the site

You will ultimately be the judge. But we are pleased. You will be hearing a lot more about this each day. We hope you take some time and look at the new site and give us any feedback you wish. We would welcome your help in keeping us as the most comprehensive and current employee development platform in the Industry.

The time is now.

All offerings are available at learningwithoutscars.com. Contact ron@learningwithoutscars.com if you would like to plan for a custom program.

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.

Learning and Knowledge Retention

Learning and Knowledge Retention.

Since my early days in teaching athletics first in a Country Club setting and then at University, I have always been intrigued by how people learn. In the earliest form of learning, as a parent or a preschool teacher, the tried and true methodology: – Show – Tell – Show – Try. We start by showing you what we are going to teach you. Then we will tell you what we just showed you. Telling a story is usually the best method here. Then we will show you again. Finally, you will try it yourself. Depending on risk and degree of difficulty we might even get into a “with assistance” – “to assistance” – “solo” type of structure.

It works. It has always worked. But today we have a lot more knowledge and examples of learning methods to draw upon. And they really help, if we design the learning experience properly.

Some points to start with and consider: – Chanty Hyder, an intern at Survey Anyplace provides us six high level results of their surveys.

  1. The storage capacity of the human brain is virtually unlimited.
  2. The mind needs to be exercised like any other muscle in the body.
  3. Our attention spans are getting shorter. We are bombarded with more things online.
  4. You are never too old to learn
  5. After one hour, people retain less than 50% of the information presented
  6. To learn. The brain builds on existing knowledge

I started teaching in a classroom at a very prestigious University. I was teaching students in the Physical Education Majors how to coach and teach water sports. We used seventy-five-minute lectures, followed by seventy-five minute “in the water” case examples of the lecture content. Two and a Half hours, three days a week. Tough duty. I had a class size of between 16 and 32 students, with one sometimes two teaching assistants.

At Learning Without Scars we started with a three-day classroom format, eight hours each day. That evolved to a two-day, fifteen-hour format. Within that structure we had four blocks of specific operations learning.

Then webinars arrived when everyone tried to reduce the cost of learning for equipment dealers. The webinars were first seventy-five minutes which we then shortened to one hour. I really didn’t like the webinar approach as a teacher as I could not see the students. As a teacher I rely on visual signals, facial or body language, to determine actual learning and comprehension.

Then we used a 3D camera and we broke the learning sessions down to ten to fifteen-minute increments, sometimes these increments were as short as five minutes BUT never more than fifteen minutes. At those breaks I would turn off the audio-visual presentation and appear in camera and talk to the group of students.

Today, we have Skype, and Zoom, and Microsoft with Teams and Google providing software that allows us to see each other and share screens and emulate a classroom type of experience. This has helped in the learning process.

That still requires a schedule that the students and the teachers have to fit in to their daily lives. That is where internet-based learning takes over. Learning is available when you want it and where you want it. You can fit the learning into your life and your schedule.

So back to Ms. Hyder and her points in the paper “7 Facts You Didn’t Know About Your Memory and Knowledge Retention” I referenced above. This is how we have designed and continue to refine our classes.

Each class follows a similar format. We have a Pretest to ascertain the understanding each student has about the course content before they start the class. Then we will assign reading materials, then they enter a slide show with embedded audio tracks. This segment will end or sometimes will have a film clip inserted into the segment. Then there is a short quiz. Then another segment sometimes with a quiz or perhaps a short survey or a short essay. Each segment is approximately ten to fifteen minutes in length and a class consists of eight to ten segments. Finally, there is an assessment of the learning of each student at the end of the class. We require a score of 80% in order to pass out of each class and go on to another. The student can repeat the class as many times as they want, however, they can only take the final assessment three times before we block them if they haven’t achieved the 80% score.

This is in keeping with the current “learning and retention” theory in use today. At Learning Without Scars we are constantly researching and adapting. As new techniques and methods are identified that provide better results, we adjust our programs.

I believe, more than ever, that in today’s work environment the dealership must be more involved in training. This training has to be in the most effective and efficient method possible. That way they will be able to attract more talented and motivated employees. One of my Core Beliefs is that Passionate People Perform. Your employees will make or break your business. With talented people you will prevail and provide long lasting high levels of customer service and loyal customers. Without them you won’t. It is as simple as that.

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

 

The CSA – Comprehensive Skills Assessment

The CSA – Comprehensive Skills Assessment

Our Comprehensive Skills Assessments (CSA) are job specific and specialized subject matter evaluations of the skills and knowledge of the individuals on the job today.

Comprehensive Skills Assessments (CSA) from Learning Without Scars offer a structured tool to evaluate the specific knowledge of each employee in the dealership. Following the introduction of our learning programs and the use of a class ending “Assessment” many dealerships have noticed the benefit to a clear understanding of the job-related skills and knowledge of each employee. As a result, dealers asked us to produce a product that will help them determine the specific training needs for each employee. The Comprehensive Skills Assessments (CSA) is that program.

The CSA can serve a variety of needs within a dealership.

  • These assessments can be used, in conjunction with background checks and interviews, to screen applicants before they are hired.
  • They can also be used in the annual performance review with each employee.
  • They can even be used as a foundation piece of information related to the wages and salaries paid to the employees.
  • Finally, and this is the genesis of the creation of the Comprehensive Skills Assessment, the assessment has been developed to be used to create a specific employee development program for each employee in the parts and service business teams.

These skills assessments are only available through our online learning platform. The following film will give you a deeper understanding of the many benefits of our CSA programs.

The Time is Now.

 

Building Blocks – the LOD program

Building Blocks – the LOD program.

Last week we gave you an update on “Where Are We Now” with Learning Without Scars. This week we show you our Learning On Demand product – LOD. This is our learning structure which uses “building blocks.”

Learning On Demand is a subject specific class, there are currently 81 subject specific classes. This class requires the student to make an investment of about two hours, of their time, to continue their path of learning and getting better at what they do professionally.

The film you are about to see will give you an explanation of the LOD. Program. Enjoy.

The Time is Now.