Putting People Ahead of Profits.

Putting People Ahead of Profits.

Our founder Ron Slee has spent the last several weeks looking at how people make money. These thoughts have led to tonight’s blog post: putting people ahead of profits.

For some time now, those regular readers of our blogs and listeners to our Podcasts have noticed my focus on customer service and customer retention. Many will have seen the thread through our blogs from various Contributors who have focused on the intuitive truth that customer service enhances customer relationships which results in high customer retention and the data analytics that support that position. The question remains why companies don’t address these issues more.

Recently I was told that I needed to refresh the standards for sales per employee in the product support space. This blog will be the start of that refreshing process.

It is hard for me to imagine that it has been almost thirty years since I wrote several documents addressing job descriptions, standards of performance, best practices, and market opportunities. 

What is harder to imagine is that the standards in those documents have not been updated, in any serious manner, to reflect the changes in technology, in the equipment in use in the filled, and in the materials used. More importantly the use of data analytics and machine learning is available through artificial intelligence. My intent is to update each of these documents in 2025.

Significantly for metrics and operating standards I created a business called the Insight (M&R) Institute with a gentleman named Malcolm Phares. Mac during his career had been the VP of Dealer Development for PACCAR and was one of the creators of “Twenty Groups” for the On-Highway Tracking Industry. 

The two of us created Insight to perform the same function but for the heavy equipment world. We had Insight groups for many of the major OEM’s. We developed a very comprehensive series of standards and defined each of them and provide data sources for information in business systems. It finally ended up that we had two hundred standard metrics for parts, service, sales, rental, and administration. There was truly little that we missed. 

We met our Insight Groups, consisting of twelve dealers in each group, three times a year and did best practices with each of the groups. Mac was an incredibly capable man, and I would not have been able to do this work without him. We also developed a “neutralization document.” This allowed us to present material in a manner that allowed the dealers to be able to compare with their peers even though they had differing financial statement and balance sheet policy differences.

In the 2000’s Dale Hanna and I updated the Insight business after I had purchased Mac’s share in Insight. We created The Capital Goods Sages. www.thecaptialgoodsages.com This is an internet-based business which allows subscribing dealers to submit their data to our financial model and receive their results compared to our standards. In this way I am still able to create aggregated results to maintain operating standards for each of the two hundred metrics. 

As my consulting activity moved overseas so did my ability to aggregate standards for different regions in the world. We report back to the subscribing dealers their results with graphics. A frowny face, a smiley face, a green light and orange light, a red light, and a red cross. 

What many businesses missed in the application of standards of performance is that there is a point at which you are getting a number that is too high or too low depending on the measure. Most dealers just keep pushing the performance higher and higher. This is a bit of a trap. The dealers think their performance is off the chart in a metric without realizing that there is an offsetting metric that is involved. For instance, drive up sales per employee and the result is lower customer service. 

This is what caused the title of this blog. Too many dealers are driving up sales per employee and seeing dramatic increases in Net Profit. What they don’t see is that customer retention is going down. We have a dispute with that statement between dealer executives and I often. They tell me that can’t be true when their overall sales revenues have increased year over year.

I agree with that fact completely. However, at the same time as their sales revenues have increased the number of businesses competing in the market has decreased. In a recent blog I noted that in the years 2000 through 2025 that the number of dealerships competing in the construction equipment market has decreased by 75%. From 2000 dealers in 2000 down to five hundred, or less dealers, in 2025.

The Time is Now.

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Nurturing the Future of Leadership: A Path Toward Collaboration and Empathy

Nurturing the Future of Leadership: A Path Toward Collaboration and Empathy 

Our founder Ron Slee is back this week with a piece on leadership in today’s world, “Nurturing the Future of Leadership: A Path Toward Collaboration and Empathy.”

In a world where the dynamics of the workplace are ever evolving, the traditional models of management and leadership are being challenged and reshaped. The call for a transformative shift towards more collaborative and nurturing approaches in leadership has never been louder, particularly as we delve into the complexities faced by young leaders in today’s workforce. We will explore the essence of this shift, drawing upon a variety of insightful perspectives and examples, including the remarkable career of Tom Brady as a metaphor for unwavering dedication and work ethic.

The Urgent Need for Evolution in Leadership

Recent statistics shed light on a concerning trend: a sizable portion of men aged 20-35 are opting out of the workforce. This alarming data points towards deeper issues within our organizational structures and leadership models. It suggests a pressing need for leaders who not only inspire but are also willing to invest in the development of their teams, recognizing that the growth of individuals within an organization is crucial for long-term success.

Embracing the Tom Brady Work Ethic

Tom Brady’s illustrious career is not just a story of athletic success; it’s a testament to the power of dedication, resilience, and leadership. Brady’s journey beautifully illustrates what it takes to lead with commitment, highlighting that a similar level of dedication is essential for those aspiring to be successful leaders in any field.

The Challenges of Talent Development

One of the key discussions revolves around the challenges of developing talent within organizations. It’s noted how perceptions of individuals can vary dramatically at various stages of their careers. This variability underscores the importance of nurturing talent with a keen focus on mitigating weaknesses and bolstering strengths. The transition of top sales performers into managerial roles, a common scenario in industries like United Rentals and OEM dealerships, is fraught with difficulties, including high turnover rates. This situation highlights the critical need for managers to truly invest in their team’s development, ensuring that each member feels valued and supported.

Prioritizing People Over Profits

A significant critique is raised against the inefficient assignment of technician jobs and the prevailing lack of empathy and effective communication with customers. Drawing from a Harvard study, the discussion advocates for a leadership approach that prioritizes customer and employee satisfaction over mere profit. This principle is not only ethical but also strategic, as it fosters a loyal customer base and a motivated workforce.

Learning from Industry Leaders

The text brings to life the mentorship approach of Matt Gaffett and others who exemplify credible leadership. Through personal anecdotes and industry examples, it illustrates the profound impact of genuine concern for employees, effective feedback, and the implementation of process improvements. Such leaders not only champion open communication but also embody the empathetic and strategic planning required to navigate today’s complex business environment.

The Call for a Paradigm Shift

Incorporating insights from Charles Handy’s “shamrock” organizational model and Peter Drucker’s thoughts on distribution channels, the discussion extends to strategic organizational structures and strategies. It emphasizes the necessity of understanding customer expectations and adapting workplace conditions to meet these demands. A notable partnership in the material handling industry serves as a case study for the importance of aligning organizational strategies with customer needs and conditions on the ground.

Conclusion: Cultivating a Culture of Empathy and Collaboration

The narrative weaves together a compelling argument for a paradigm shift in leadership and management practices. It calls for a move away from hierarchical, transactional models towards a more nurturing, empathetic, and collaborative approach. By focusing on the development of individual employees and fostering a positive organizational culture, leaders can pave the way for long-term success. In embracing these principles, we not only create more resilient and adaptive organizations but also contribute to a more inclusive and empowering workforce.

The Time is Now.

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Our Virtual Garage

Our Virtual Garage

The second installment of information this week comes from our Founder, Ron Slee. Please read on to learn about “Our Virtual Garage.”

The image of the virtual garage brings to mind the humble beginnings that have started an individual journey. It is through relationships that this journey is carried through to success. The virtual garage resonates with the marketplace.

At Learning Without Scars, we have Colleagues, Associate, and Partners who collaborate to help our collective clients to realize their full potential. This collaborative team is Our Virtual Garage.

The garage environment supports this collaborative culture, where the members of Our Virtual Garage often oversee, or manage, everything from product development to marketing and sales. This direct approach can be instrumental in shaping an association’s culture and values. Working in close quarters with others in the virtual garage fosters formidable team dynamics and encourages a shift towards collaboration and solutions.

At Learning Without Scars we are dedicated to assessing skills, providing comprehensive training, and testing your employee’s knowledge and abilities to consistently meet and exceed your customers’ needs and expectations at every point of interaction.

Our holistic approach ensures that your team is well equipped to deliver exceptional customer service with confidence and proficiency. We work closely with your organization to develop customized training programs that align with your brand values and customer service goals, fostering a customer- centric culture that builds long-lasting relationships.

By identifying skill gaps in providing targeted training, we equip your employee teams with the necessary knowledge and tools to excel in their roles. Our training programs are designed to enhance communication skills, problem-solving abilities, and emotional intelligence, enabling your employees to manage diverse customer interactions with empathy and professionalism.

At LWS, we measure our success based on your ability to retain customers and increase customer transactions profitability. We understand that satisfied customers are the key to sustainable growth, and our ultimate goal is to help you achieve higher customer retention rates and improved profitability.

Through our proven methodologies and ongoing support, we partner with you to unlock your organization’s full potential and create a loyal customer base that drives your business forward. 

We use cutting edge Zintoro Analytics to measure the impact of our training programs, providing you with data-driven insights and actionable recommendations.

Our analytics program tracks key performance indicators, such as customer satisfaction scores, retention rates, and revenue growth, allowing you to quantify the ROI of our training programs. By continuously monitoring and analyzing these metrics, we can refine our strategies and ensure that your employees are consistently delivering outstanding service that sets you apart from the competition.

Partner with LWS to equip your employees, enhance customer experiences, and achieve sustainable growth in today’s dynamic business landscape. With our expertise, customized training solutions, and data-driven approach, you can build a high-performing team that exceeds customer expectations and drives your organization’s success.

The Time Is Now.

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How We Teach – How You Learn

How We Teach – How You Learn

Our founder, Ron Slee, is back this week with a blog post that goes straight to the heart of our mission here at Learning Without Scars: How We Teach – How You Learn.

I have taught for many decades. During that time, I was primarily in classrooms, although sometimes it was in swimming pools, or tennis courts or golf courses. Not only did the venue change but also the age group of students changed. From infants who were taught to be able to swim and survive when on the water from the age of six months old to senior citizens who were afraid to swim. However, primarily I was in classrooms or lecture halls or auditoriums. A typical class size ranged from twenty-four students at round tables to several hundred. 

I started teaching in the 1960’s so a lot of time has been involved in teaching and trying different methods to get students to “get it.”

I have always been interested in learning and understanding and not memorizing. I still want to be able to reconstruct my learning years and years later. If I don’t understand something, will I be able to remember it?

Which brings me to the specific subject of this blog. I want you to learn – to understand. So, I will never tell you the answer. I will ask questions of you. I will coax you into working it out on your own. I found out years later that this was called the “Socratic” way of teaching.

The Socratic method is a dialogue between individuals based on asking and answering questions. This method, attributed to the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates, aims to probe, and examine beliefs, leading participants toward a deeper understanding of truth and coherence.

Here’s how it works – the following comes from a google search.

Questioning Common Beliefs. 

The Socratic method begins with commonly held beliefs. Socrates engages in dialogue with others, questioning these beliefs to uncover inconsistencies and contradictions.

Internal Consistency and Coherence. 

Through a series of questions, Socrates scrutinizes beliefs for internal consistency (whether they hold up logically) and their coherence with other beliefs. The goal is to bring everyone closer to the truth.

Midwifery of Understanding.

 Socrates likens his method to midwifery, helping interlocutors develop their understanding in a way analogous to a child developing in the womb.

Pedagogical Contexts.

  1.  Modified forms of the Socratic method are employed today in various educational contexts.

In summary, the Socratic method is a powerful tool for critical thinking, encouraging self-examination and intellectual growth. 

As Socrates famously said, “I know that I know nothing,” emphasizing the importance of questioning and seeking behavior. 

I am sure I drove my students crazy. I used textbooks but never followed the sequence of the textbook. The students, conscientiously, would ask at the end of a lecture what the section or pages were going to be that I would cover in the next class. They wanted to be prepared. I never told them. In fact, I used to jump around in the book deliberately so that they could not prepare. I wanted them to listen to the lesson. I wanted them to have to think.

That caused me problems as a student. I didn’t want to memorize, and it cost me. In High School I took Latin and Geometry. There are certain things you do have to memorize. Like Theorems in Geometry. Like words in a new language. I got 38% in the first semester in both. The family wasn’t happy. So, I lost some privileges. Like weekends at the lake. 

I spent the next three months with my grandmother. She worked my proverbial off. I completed the year with a 76% average. So, I learned a valuable lesson. One size doesn’t fit all.

Anyone who has been in a classroom with me knows how I work. I wander through the room. Watching everyone. I can see when people get it and when they are lost. I keep talking until I see the lights go on in everyone’s eyes. That really turns my crank. I still teach. Not every month like I used to but enough to know that things in the learning world are still the same. Once you get someone into a learning environment, they are subject to their teachers. They care about learning only if the teacher cares about teaching. 

All our subject specific classes cover five plus hours. They have around twenty segments. Class segments and Support Material Segments. Each segment has a quiz at the end. The student must achieve a 60% score on the quiz to proceed to the next segment. We start every class with a pretest to determine the knowledge and skill level of each student before they start. We end every class with a final assessment. The students must achieve an 80% score to earn a certificate. 

We are in the lifelong learning business. Learning is hard. It requires desire and discipline. If every person were to strive to be the best that they could be they would be learning every day.

The Time is Now.

Audio Tracks

 

French

 

Polish


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Ho’oponopono

Ho’oponopono

Learning Without Scars’ founder, Ron Slee, is back today with a blog post on Ho’oponopono, the Hawaiian Principle of 100% Responsibility.

Seneca, one of the most important Roman Stoic philosophers, said “Luck is what happens when preparation comes across opportunity. Thomas Edison said his work was 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration. Louis Pasteur among many others felt the same way.

In every case I suggest it is much more important to be ready when opportunity comes to you more than anything else. That leads me to thinking about our lives and our work. How much of our lives is under our control? As someone who is known to be a control freak this is a nasty question. 

In Hawaii we are a society that is further away from any other on the planet. It is 2500 miles to the nearest population center of any kind. Our culture has a lot of different influences. From Asia, the Americas, Oceania obviously. But there are others that cause us to wonder. It seems that using language as our tool on determining origins the Hawaiian people originally came from the middle east. That too follows ancient historical thinking.

But let us go back to Ho’opononpono and one of its foundations which is the principle of 100% responsibility. The kahunas, the priests of our culture, state that each human being is 100% responsible for their own reality. That it is useless to blame other people. We are not victims unless we choose to be victims.

Ho’opononpono says that if you don’t like your reality then you must change it. Desmond Tutu, the archbishop for South Africa had a saying that I go back to often. “If it is to be it is up to me.” In other words, we control our own destiny.

That brings me to Learning Without Scars and our purpose for being. We are here to help people identify their individual potential both personally and professionally. We are here to open your Ho’oponopono and let you take control of your destiny, of your future. 

There is a problem with this line of thinking though, isn’t there?

This is a challenging work. Learning and developing and growing as a person are demanding work. For most of us it is too much work.

Let me digress for a moment. Dr Gail Matthews, of the Dominican University of California conducted a major study of “The Impact of Commitment, Accountability and Written Goals on Goal Achievement.” She found that writing down our goals increases the percentage of achieving those goals in a major way. It seems that psychologically when we write down our goals it is as though we are signing a contract with ourselves. So, let’s provide you with a simple little exercise now. Choose an area of your life in which you would like to correct something. Select from this list: 

  1. Love and Relations
  2. Money and Finance
  3. Goals and Work
  4. Health
  5. Learning and Personal Growth.

Now write down several phrases with the first thing that comes to your mind about one of the above list. 

I would like you to select Learning and Personal Growth.

Don’t worry about the order. Next look at what you have written and create at most three specific goals or actions. They must be positive. Put that piece of paper on your refrigerator. 

The Ho’oponopono means to correct an error. That makes sense, doesn’t it? Given that we are 100% responsible for our life if there is something we are unhappy with we must correct the mistake that got us to where we are now. However, that means that we must accept the reality that WE are 100% responsible for it.

This is one of the most critical elements of this process. Until you accept, you’re responsible, it will be difficult for you to change. Deep down everything depends on us and we must stop making excuses or blaming circumstances and get to change our lives. Here comes something that I understand and believe in. From this point on it has nothing to do with being lucky. It becomes a personal choice.

One other observation please. 

The easiest person in the world to lie to is your reflection in the mirror – AND – that is the last person in the world you should ever lie to.

We are never victims unless we allow ourselves to be victims. When I say this, I am speaking of our choices – not situations involving crime. Whatever your job is, your career, you can control your outcome. You can be open to learning. You can go back to school. You can ask for help. You can go to counselling. You have many opportunities. It is a matter of making a choice.

You can apply this principle of one hundred percent responsibility to all aspects of your life. Start with the premise that everything is created in your mind before it becomes reality. SO. Change the way you think and act. It will change your reality.

In Hawaii this is called “cleaning.” We will continue to repeat the same painful episodes and circumstances because they are all coming from our subconscious.

To overcome the subconscious, Hawaiian’s, use a string of four expressions: Forgive me, I’m sorry, I love you, Thank you. You must accept it is your responsibility and when you do you have to forgive yourself deep in your subconscious for the choices you have made that got you to where you are today.

Try it. You will be surprised. It works.

The Time is Now. 

This blog was provoked by a book with the title “Maneki Neko” by Nobuo Suzuki. For me it is a follow up to the book Ikigai. This book covers the Japanese Secret of Good Luck and Happiness, it is a terrific read.

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Changes in Learning

Changes in Learning

Today, our Founder Ron Slee writes a blog post on the many changes in learning. He also makes a few grumbles about how his family gives him a hard time!

It has been some time since I wrote a blog on employee development. It is unusual for me not to be sharing my thinking with someone, in some cases anyone. I have been confronted on two fronts recently: My daughter Caroline who is a teacher in the desert in Southern California and my granddaughter who is pursuing her master’s degree in Hawaii.

Both love to provoke me. I can’t imagine why. 

My granddaughter was excited to share a book they are using in one of her classes this semester – “The Narrative Gym.” It is about Communications. It is an amazing read and a more amazing subject to be teaching students in a master’s program. Of course, communication is one of the keys to life. We are social animals after all. COVID set us back somewhat in the communications area. Working from home is another example of how we reacted, or perhaps responding is a better way of saying it. Many businesses found that they could redesign their work. I know many people started to redesign their lives. 

My daughter recently suggested another book – “Ruthless Equity: Disrupt the Status Quo and Ensure Learning for ALL students.” Talk about a powerful book. Many of us have become tired of the status quo when either protecting it or attacking it seems to be tearing apart everything that we have believed to be true. This book restores my soul. “All men are created equal” but then everything we do stresses the inequalities.

At Learning Without Scars we are aiming to help everyone identify their individual potential. That is an extremely difficult thing to do. People’s eyes glaze over when I talk about it. What I am trying to do though is provoke people to think. To think about everything and anything that they do. You know how envious I am of the Japanese societal approach to Kaizen. Make everything you do better every day. This is a view of work that in my mind allows people to become more engaged as people in what they do. They can CHOOSE how to do their job. They can CHOOSE to make their lives better by how they do their job. In the world that I grew up in, that was not the primary goal. Let me show you how this is done. Let me tell you what I just showed you. Then let me tell you again what I showed you. Now you try. I will be here to help so don’t worry. But just do it. Do it my way. Then practice it and get better at it. Make fewer mistakes and do it faster. Now you are doing the job. Just keep on doing it.

That is what I rejected in my early thirties when I started in the consulting world. I knew there were better ways to do things. 1980 when I opened R.J. Slee & Associates in Edmonton, Alberta was also when America was invaded by the Continuous Improvement Revolution. Total Quality Management arrived. Edward Deming and Joseph Duran brought their thinking back to America from Japan where they had been implementing it.

For a long time, I have used a tool I developed called “Five Things” that is aimed directly at the Continuous Improvement objectives. I ask people to list five things that they would like to change about their job that would make things easier for them personally. Then five things that they do that are a real pain to do. Finally, five things that they would like to change in their work to make things better for the company. Normally I do this in a group setting. We then take the individual items and put them on a flip chart, a blackboard or a screen so everyone can see them. You can imagine their surprise when many had the same thoughts. Not just that but their true shock at how many were on all three lists. So, something that would make their lives at work better, eliminate something that is a pain for them to do and at the same time is beneficial for the company. Of course, my questions are always the same. If that is true, then why haven’t we already addressed it?

I have a request please. Go get either of these books. Better still get both. Read them and think about the concepts and positions taken. Then send me an email with your thoughts. Let’s have a mini book club in the ether. Online.

In the meantime, for those of you who haven’t subscribed to our quarterly newsletter there is still time. The last one was published October 1st. You can subscribe at www.learningwithoutscars.com

At Learning Without Scars we offer one hundred and thirty-eight Workforce Development classes. That is six hundred and eighty hours of learning. It provides sixty-nine academic credits.

At Learning Without Scars we offer twenty-eight Technical Schools classes. That is five hundred and sixty hours of learning. It provides fourteen academic credits.

At Learning Without Scars we offer two lecture series covering twenty hours of lectures which produces two academic credits.

That is one hundred and sixty-eight classes, which is one thousand two hundred and sixty hours of learning.

To say we have been busy with product development is a serious understatement. Not only are we interested in helping you identify your potential, but we also provide you with learning tools to help you achieve it. All the best in your pursuits.

The time is now. 

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The National Groundwater Association

The National Groundwater Association

We at Learning Without Scars are pleased to introduce our newest colleague: the National Groundwater Association. The NGWA was formed in 1948, as the National Well Water Association. This association was founded in order to bring together groundwater professionals, thereby improving methods and standards within their industry.

The mission of the National Groundwater Association is to advance groundwater knowledge and the success of our members through education and outreach; advocacy; cooperation and information exchange; and enhancement of professional practices.

They advocate for the responsible development, management, and use of water resources. One of the cornerstones of their mission and vision is education. As a colleague, we are proud to partner with the NGWA to help them further their goals through education.

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How Does Someone in High School Know What to Do?

How Does Someone in High School Know What to Do?

Welcome back to our series on Lifelong Learning! The founder of Learning Without Scars, Ron Slee, is looking ahead to the future of education and the future of the working world in, “How Does Someone in High School Know What to Do?”

Caroline, my daughter, and I were having a conversation yesterday about Learning Without Scars and the needs of the people who were in school or working. It brought me to ask her – “how does someone in high school know what to do?” Her answer was the school guidance counselor, along with a program being implemented in her specific district (not nationwide). Through the program, students complete career profile quizzes to suggest careers that might suit their learning styles, interests, and strengths. From these career suggestions, students can explore the pathway to reach the career. I found that to be interesting and I pushed back with more questions. How does the advising aspect work with the guidance counselor? One of our good friends was a guidance counselor for most of her career in education in Canada. My grandchildren both accessed their guidance counselor. In the case of my grandchildren, it was more advice on which classes to take and why. I was wondering more about the guidance that the high school students received in their lives. On their individual careers. The question “what do you want to do with the rest of your life?”

Earlier today I was having a Teams Meeting with Steve Clegg, from Zintoro, and John Carlson, from Reflective, and we got into the same subject. There were some interesting options we touched on. 

  • Some States are offering scholarships to high school students who want to take Advanced Placement or College classes. 
  • Many of the Deans and School Presidents I talk with indicate that there is a challenge with High school graduates going to university in several areas: – Critical Thinking Skills, Analytical Skills, and Communications Skills. 
  • Several mention the lack of Leadership Skills

John Carlson has been involved in continuous improvement engagements for many decades. He is a “Systems Thinker.” He has a product that allows an individual to do an evaluation of themselves and how they would fit into the world around us. It starts with an awareness evaluation, then they proceed to a “Gamification. tool” 

On another front David Jensen, Johnny Creek Consulting, has developed a “Tabletop Exercise” to assist with evaluating the match of skills and job function needs. Learning Without Scars has Job Function Skills Assessments. We are talking about developing a tool to assist students in high school to answer my opening question.

With the leadership of Steve Johnson, at Learning Without Scars we are developing a network of Centers of Excellence across the US and Canada to carry our classes and assessments for both the Academic Credit and Workforce Development programs in their syllabus. We have developed an intensive library of skills assessments for our classes as well as for our subject specific class reading lists and our homework assignments. This allows us to provide our students with the results that they obtain from increasing their skills and knowledge. With the changes in education continuing to proceed at an extremely fast pace we are looking at extending the assessment process to high school students. 

 

This group, David, Steve, John, and I are trying to tie the skills and performance of the employees with the performance level of the businesses that employ them. 

We have data analytics on the transactions of a business. Transaction level data. We have employee skills and knowledge assessments for those employees working in Product Support, the distribution side of the business. We have reflective analysis data on the probability of performance of employees in a business. Now we must tie all of this together.

Ross Atkinson, who keeps our IT and systems needs under control, works with our Learning Management Software, Litmos, on their reporting engine. Between Ross and Steve, we are building Portals for our Schools, Manufacturers, Dealers, Associations and State Certification programs to allow our clients, their employees, and students to be able to track their progress through our classes and assessments. 

I find this work to be especially stimulating. As most of you know I am personally invested in helping people find their potential and then providing tools to those people that will assist them to reach their personal and professional potential. It is in keeping with my constant pursuit to get better at what I do.

I grew up spending hours and hours in the swimming pool training. I got to be good at it. There is one profoundly serious lesson that I learned from swimming that has served me well in my years in the business world. You see, in swimming the competition isn’t the issue. Winning races isn’t the issue. Being better than your best time – now that is THE issue. Beating my best time finishing last in a race was a win. A HUGE win. 

I learned at an early age that competing with others was not that important. Sure, you felt good if you performed well. But the real competition is within yourself. We must constantly get better at what we do. I wonder who is passing that message along to the high school students that are about to embark on the journey of their lives.

The time is now.

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The Trends in Workforce Development for 2023

The Trends in Workforce Development for 2023

For this week’s blog on Lifelong Learning, Founder Ron Slee writes about the trends he sees in workforce development for 2023.

At Learning Without Scars we believe that the leadership of business plays an essential role in helping their employees reach their personal and professional potential. In fact, we believe that it’s CRITICAL. To go further, employee development has been one of those “discretionary” expense areas in many companies. We completely DISAGREE with that.

It is the employees of a business that create the relationships with the customers on whom we depend for our success. Without talented employees who care about what they are doing it would be extremely difficult for any company to remain in business let alone succeed.

The first thing on our minds in 2023 is the rapid change of technology. This is true in many directions: 

  • how the equipment operates
  • remote tracking of the condition of equipment
  • process improvement
  • communications
  • business systems
  • artificial intelligence
  • virtual reality

According to a Price Waterhouse Workforce Hopes and Fears in 2022 one in five workers was likely to change their jobs from one employer to another.

In 2023 it becomes even more important that learning programs are critical to success. This involves the new skills that are required for the work. It also requires that we “upskill” many of the current workers to enable them to continue to be valuable contributing employees. Process improvement through business systems and the use of new equipment requires further training and learning opportunities. In this time of rapid change we need to be able to provide “stability” for the employees. They need to feel wanted and that their opinions are listened to by their team leaders. It directly relates to the culture of the business.

Melissa Daimler, the chief learning officer at Udemy says: “Learning is an ongoing process of building skills, experiences and knowledge through our work, NOT around or on top of it. A company is not automatically a learning Organization when it offers training programs. It may even be the opposite. True Learning Organizations are clear on their purpose, strategy and culture. They ensure the connection between those and the skills they are building.”

That is a tough statement to think through. It is a comprehensive and complicated issue. This is clearly something that must be created and implemented that is specific to a department within a company. Yet it needs to be in alignment with the company strategy and purpose.

Udemy Business learner data shows that many employees are seeking to learn personal skills that better enable them to be more effective in their jobs and drive business results.

That statement takes me back to the time when the “boss” used to tell me that they did not want to spend any money on their employees to make them better. All that would happen is that the talented people would leave and get a better job with someone else. My response was “So you want to keep the people that don’t know how to do their jobs then?”

To me what is interesting is that the “pandemic” pushed us forward to some future that happened much more quickly than we were ready to realize. It forced many people and businesses to reevaluate how they did things. Just look at the working from home situation.

In 2021 Deloitte Human Capital Trends identified “the ability of their employees to adapt, reskill, and assume new roles” as their top-ranked requirement to navigate future disruptions successfully. Now many of you will tell me that this does not apply to us. We are a local retailer serving a specific market of people. We just must be good at what we do and not worry about disruptions. They do not happen here. Really? So increasing interest rates don’t affect you? Or your business?

When we take our eye off the ball and just continue to do what we have always done we are at risk. The leadership of a business has a huge responsibility to provide a safe and secure place for talented people to work. Too many of today’s leaders are simply protecting the status quo and waiting for their turn to retire. They are forgetting their most important asset class. Their employees.

I often come back to my friend Alex Schuessler who created the phrase “paper to glass” to describe the changes with business systems. All we have done is replace a paper form with a screen template. We no longer write on a form we type on a keyboard. Things are just processed faster. 

Let’s look at what we believe are the most critical elements in employee development in 2023. As many of you know, or will assume, we talk to a lot of people in the education community. The same issues keep coming up. 

  • Personal Communication Skills
  • Leadership
  • Business Communications
  • Meetings
  • Management Skills

Similarly operational related skills and tools:

  • Project Management
  • Agility
  • Business Analysis
  • Critical Thinking

Let me wrap up this paper with some data obtained from Udemy Business. This is also consistent with the schools we are engaged with in the creation of our Centers of Excellence.

The Top Ten Used Business Skills:

  1. Communication Skills
  2. Project Management
  3. Leadership
  4. Agility – a philosophy about delivering software
  5. Scrum – helps people and teams deliver value.
  6. Project Management Professional Certification
  7. Business Communication
  8. Business Analysis
  9. Meetings
  10. Management Skills

In closing, one of the metrics that should be in place with every organization is employee turnover. We are all exposed to this very difficult workforce that is in place today. There continues to be almost two jobs open, companies seeking to hire someone, for every person that is not working in America today. 

The primary cause of employee turnover continues to be the “boss.” We persist in resisting conducting performance reviews frequently enough, if at all. How do you stack up here? Have a look at your success in onboarding new employees. What is your turnover rate for employees in the first six months of employment with you? 

We have a lot of work to do in the area of employee development. We cannot continue to do what we have always done. That would truly be insanity.

The Time is Now.

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Operating a Business in the “Learning Space.”

Operating a Business in the “Learning Space.”

For the week’s blog on Lifelong Learning, our Founder Ron Slee addresses the topic of operating a business in the “Learning Space.”

Our backgrounds, Caroline and I, are in education. More specifically in Classroom Face-to-Face Teaching. As teachers we are concerned with our students and their growth and learning in the specific subjects that we are teaching. We have tests, quizzes, and discussion groups to help us in tracking the learning levels and growth of each student. And, please, never forget that all of these different aspects of teaching allow us to understand what is working and what is not. Many people overlook that aspect of tests and report cards.

In the e-learning world there are many more challenges in the creation of products that will help in employee development. The first question we must ask ourselves is “does our current offering, the assessments, classes and lectures match what the market needs?” This is an ongoing challenge as the market is constantly changing. The question becomes “are we delivering the proper learning products to the proper people in a manner that they find interesting and productive?”

Of course, we have to first define our purpose which with us is very straightforward “We want to assist people in the identification of their individual potential.” However, as you will no doubt realize, that is a challenge all by itself. We also add that our goal goes further in that we want to offer products and services that allow each of the interested people to realize that potential.

That meant that we had to identify the specific aspect of the employee population that we could help with the most. Our conclusion was that we wanted to touch everyone who led people and everyone who interacted with customers or supported people who did interact with customers. That covers nearly everyone in the product support disciplines, the distribution channel, in the capital goods industry. We recognized that although there is different jargon and some different practices that most of the capital goods industries needed similar things. Construction, Agricultural, Light Industrial, Material Handling, Engine, On Highway Truck and Trailer, Marine are some of the industries we are focused on today.

We have a lot of operational experience in these industries and we have multiplied that experience with our large group of Contributors who contribute to our market with blog posts and podcasts and assist in our newsletters. These Contributors, all forty eight of them, have deep understanding of all aspects of the operations of dealers and distributors.

One of our challenges is to bring our product to the market. It is a rather daunting task to attempt to cover all of these companies by ourselves. In order to penetrate this huge market worldwide we have created a smaller group of specialists to help us. They are aimed at educators, the industry associations, the manufacturers of the equipment as well as influential dealers and distributors.

We first communicated directly with industry associations. This is, of course, where I was first teaching in the distribution channel, with the Associated Equipment Distributors (AED). I personally did all of their parts and service operational training from the early 1990’s through 2015. We did Parts Management, Service Management, Product Support Selling and Parts and Service Marketing training. We also provide training services to manufacturers, in some cases worldwide. Companies such as Caterpillar, Deere, Komatsu, Volvo, Ditch Witch and Vermeer to name a few. I also was involved in many industries convention and annual meetings. 

We recognized that we need to have a community of influencers. 

We were very fortunate to have the help of Steve Johnson. Steve, until he retired was the Vice President of the AED Foundation. This foundation was the area of training and employee development for the association. Steve has been in touch with a large number of schools across the US and Canada establishing, what he calls, Centers of Excellence. These are the schools that he has selected to represent Learning Without Scars across Canada and the United States of America. We are extremely excited about this aspect of our business. 

We have established two streams of learning products: one for academic credit and the other for workforce development. For the academic credit stream, we have created classes that will earn seven academic credits (that is fourteen classes as two of our classes earn an academic credit). For the workforce development stream, we have one hundred and eight classes; thirty-six for the parts business, thirty-six for the selling and marketing businesses, and thirty-six for the service business. We also have eighteen job function skills assessments for the workforce development stream. We are currently working with university professors to create a selection of Lecture Series. We hope to have the Lecture Service earning Academic Credits as well. There is a lot of work involved and a lot of effort put in by a lot of people. This is not an easy thing to get done.

One of the challenges for industry is being able to identify the individuals who are the best fit to help companies succeed in their businesses. Universities do this will various tests, such as the Executive Function Test. Businesses do this with various personality profiles such as Briggs Meyers, Personalysis, Caliper and many others. Associations do this with their individual “certification” programs. Manufacturers do this with their technician training and certifications.

As an Accredited Provider with IACET, The International Accreditors of Continuing Education and Training. We are the only ones in the world with this accreditation. We are going to be pursuing further accreditations this year to make our products even more unique to the marketplace. 

I hope this gives you a more complete understanding of the “business” we have been building for the parts thirty plus years. I would like to extend my thanks to all of the students, the more than twenty-five thousand of you, that we have had in our classes all around the world. I sincerely mean it when I tell you that this would not have been possible without the contributions that each and every one of you have made I the classrooms with me. Thank you all so very much.

The Time is Now.

Did you enjoy this blog? Read more great blog posts here.
For our course lists, please click here.